Arroz con pollo, the classic rice and chicken one-pot dish, with regional variations from all over Latin America, is easy to make kosher once you mix up a quick sazón seasoning. My version is Colombian style, with lots of vegetables and optional saffron.Yum
Thanks to a Colombian restaurant around the corner from one of my New York City apartments, I think of arroz con pollo in their version: spiced, saffron-yellow rice studded with peas and carrots, shredded chicken embedded within and sliced avocado on top. As a person who is not overly fond of chicken, it says something that I could barely bring myself to order anything different. Arroz con pollo is comforting but also moreish, homey but also restaurant fare. To recreate my old Colombian favorite in a kosher version required tracking down sazón seasoning and learning the method for making it: first, poaching the chicken, then using the resultant stock to simmer the rice and vegetables. For arroz con pollo, the aromatics and rice get briefly sauteed before their simmer.
About sazón seasoning, and how to make your own
Sazón is an all-purpose seasoning blend used widely throughout Latin America. The common brand in the US is Goya, which unfortunately is not kosher. However, it's fairly easy to make your own sazón, if you can track down achiote (annato), which is a type of seed used as a spice and natural coloring agent. They seeds are earthy red and sort of tooth-shaped. I was only able to find the whole seeds kosher certified, so I ground them myself in a spice grinder.
Other than achiote, you will need coriander, cumin, oregano (Mexican oregano is preferable here, if you can get it), garlic powder, onion powder, and salt and pepper. Some sazón blends include saffron, but I didn't include it in mine. To add saffron to your arroz con pollo (which makes it incredible), you can add a pinch to the broth.
Sazón is essential in arroz con pollo, but it's also great as an all-purpose seasoning, especially for meats.
Step 1: Poaching the chicken and making the broth
While some versions of arroz con pollo include bone-in chicken or boneless thighs, I prefered to use chicken breasts. You can easily substitute thighs if you prefer. A cool part of the method for arroz con pollo is that you poach the chicken in water with onion and spices, then use the resulting broth to cook the rice. It adds wonderful flavor and has that grandma kitchen ingenuity built right in. Then, the chicken gets shredded (nothing like two ordinary forks for this task) and the stock goes into the toasted rice for cooking it.
Step 2: Sauteing the aromatics and rice
The next step for arroz con pollo is to cook down the onions and peppers until they're nice and soft and browning. Then, the spices and tomato paste get stirred in, followed by the raw rice. Toast the rice along with everything else for a few minutes.
Step 3: Simmer the rice and vegetables
Finally, you ladle in the stock and simmer away. The frozen veg and shredded chicken get folded in towards the end of the rice's cook time, and the fresh herbs go in last. Then all you have to do is garnish your one-pot meal with some sliced avocado.
Looking for more kosher Latin American + Caribbean recipes?
- MozzArepa - One of the most popular recipes on my blog, this is a New York fusion of the Colombian/Venezuelan corn arepa with stretchy Italian mozzarella.
- Jamaican Meat Patties - Curried inside and out and stuffed with spiced beef filling.
Arroz con Pollo (meat)
Chicken and stock:
- 1 lb chicken breasts - 2-3 breasts
- 5 cups water
- ½ onion - reserve the other half for the rice
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ Tbsp ground cumin
- ½ Tbsp sazon seasoning
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and pepper
- Pinch saffron - optional
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- ½ onion
- 1 garlic clove - minced
- ½ red or orange bell pepper
- ½ mild green - or bell pepper
- 1 cup long-grain white rice
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- ½ Tbsp chicken bouillon
- 3 cups chicken stock - from above
- ½ Tbsp sazon seasoning
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 ½ cups frozen peas - carrots, and green beans mix, or ½ cup of each
- Avocado - sliced, to serve
Prepare the chicken and broth:
- Place the chicken breasts, 5 cups water, onion, garlic, and spices in a medium Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer for another 25 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave covered until ready to use.
Meanwhile, prepare the rice:
- In a large skillet or pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Dice the onion and bell peppers finely and add to the skillet. Cook until softened and browning, 5-7 minutes.
- Add the spices and tomato paste. Stir, then add the rice. Stir to combine and toast the rice for a minute or two.
- Measure out 3 cups of stock from the chicken pot, reserving the rest. Add to the rice, then simmer, covered, over low heat for 15 minutes.
Assemble the dish:
- Meanwhile, shred the chicken into large pieces using two forks. Add to the rice along with the frozen vegetables and cilantro. Simmer for another 7-10 minutes, adding more stock if needed.
- Serve with sliced avocado.