Arroz con Pollo

Cinco de Mayo is this weekend– the 5th of May– a date observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. It’s a common misconception that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day– it’s not. Mexico’s national Independence Day is celebrated on September 16. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Vastly outnumbered and up against the very strong and better-equipped French army, 4,000 Mexican soldiers defeated 8,000 French soldiers at Puebla. It marks the last time in history that a European military force invaded a country in the Americas. The day is celebrated with traditional Mexican festivities– music, dancing, drinking, and eating… lots and lots of eating!

A 1901 poster commemorating the Siege of the Puebla (El Sitio de Puebla). Image courtesy of the Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library

With Cinco de Mayo on the horizon, I’m gearing up for a weekend full of Mexican food. Luckily I have one of my best friends to guide me. Sandra is my right-hand girl, one of those friends that has become like family over the years. We’ve been through a lot together– her kids are like my nieces and nephews. She is most definitely one of my BFF’s (best friends forever). Sandra was born in Mexico and she’s an awesome cook. Who better to teach me a traditional Mexican recipe for Cinco de Mayo? After talking about it for a couple of days, we settled on Arroz con Pollo, a simple, delicious one-pot meal. The recipe produces a wonderful, comforting meal that my whole family enjoyed. It’s easy, healthy, and affordable, too!

This is one of my favorite pictures of Sandra, sipping a fruity cocktail in Maui. Yeah, my BFF and I went to Hawaii a few years ago. That’s how we roll.

Because of the low and fairly slow cooking process, the rice in this dish becomes quite soft. Back in Mexico Sandra’s family sauteed the rice in pork fat. While tasty, it’s not kosher, nor is it particularly healthy. Here she opts for healthier vegetable oil instead (we used grapeseed). I’m guessing you could use schmaltz (chicken fat) if you wanted something a little more flavorful– and of course, if you’re not kosher, feel free to make it the way her Mexican family would, “con puerco.” Dotted with the sweetness of corn, peas, and carrots, the rice provides a perfect base for tender slow-cooked chicken. This dish doesn’t require a lot of prep work– once everything is in the pot, you can just leave it alone, checking on it a couple of times during cooking to make sure it’s not getting dry. When it’s finished, you’ll have a pot full of soft aromatic rice topped with delicious and tender chicken. Enjoy! Or, as Sandra would say “en Español”… buen provecho!

Recommended Products:

Mesh Strainer


Non-Stick Pot

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Arroz con Pollo


  • 2 cups white rice
  • 1 1/2 lbs roma tomatoes, halved
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 medium onion, peeled
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (we used grapeseed)
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (mild)
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen - not canned)
  • Salt
  • 6 pieces chicken - legs and/or thighs
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

You will also need

  • 2 mesh colanders, blender, 5 quart nonstick pot (or larger), large bowl
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Servings: 6
Kosher Key: Meat
  • Rinse the rice well in a mesh colander, then shake to drain. Let the rice continue draining over the sink while you blend together the cooking liquid.
  • In a blender, combine the roma tomatoes, garlic, onion, and 1 1/2 cups of water.
  • Blend till the mixture is smooth. Pour the tomato mixture through another mesh colander or sieve into a large bowl, pushing the solids to extract as much flavored juice as possible.
  • Reserve the juice and discard the solids.
  • Heat up 2 tbsp of oil in a nonstick pot over medium high heat. Add the rice to the pot. Saute the rice, stirring almost constantly, for 10-15 minutes till the grains of rice start to turn golden. Be careful-- when they begin to turn golden, they can easily go to brown/burned if you don't watch them carefully.
  • Measure the reserved tomato liquid into the pot by cupfuls. You will need 6 cups of liquid total. First measure the tomato liquid and pour into the pot (there will be about 3 cups). Once you know how much tomato liquid there is, you can measure out the remaining amount of liquid needed-- in our case, we needed 3 more cups. Add that amount of water to the pot to make 6 cups of liquid total.
  • Stir in the diced carrots, corn, and peas along with 1 tsp of salt.
  • Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt (skip salting the chicken if you're using kosher meat) and chili powder. You can use up to six pieces of chicken in one pot. We took the skin off of our chicken before cooking to make the dish a bit lighter. You can leave the skin on if you prefer, which will add more flavor to the dish.
  • Place the chicken pieces on top of the rice and vegetables, covered in the tomato liquid. Bring the mixture to a slow boil.
  • Reduce heat to a slow, even simmer over medium low heat and cover the pot. Let the mixture simmer for 1 hour till all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Check at 30 minutes to see if the pot looks too dry. Add additional liquid as needed, and additional salt to taste, if desired. We ended up adding another 1 cup of water to the pot after 30 minutes-- the liquid absorbs pretty quickly into the rice. Check the rice again for dryness at 45 minutes. When all of the liquid has absorbed and the rice, vegetables, and chicken are tender, remove from heat.
  • Serve the chicken over the rice, garnished with chopped cilantro if desired. I decided to debone the chicken and cut it into pieces before serving for a prettier presentation. You can serve it on the bone if you like. The rice will be quite soft-- this is the correct texture for this dish. It all comes together in a very warm, cozy, filling one-pot meal. It's simple, homey, healthy Mexican comfort food.

Comments (33)Post a Comment

  1. I’m not a fan of dark meat; could you make this with chicken breasts? Would you put them in later?

    1. Yes! I asked Sandra and she said she makes it that way sometimes. Just put the whole breasts in at the same time you would put the dark meat chicken in. She said it won’t get dry because it cooks on low in lots of juice. Sometimes she dices it after it’s cooked, or sometimes she cuts it into smaller pieces/shreds (like you see in the picture). If you try it let us know how you like it!

  2. Arroz con pollo is my absolute favorite dish in the world. I have it at every restaurant that puts it on their menu. But, I have to say, mine is still the best one I’ve ever had :)

  3. Arroz con pollo reminds me so much of home! I am from Venezuela and we make arroz con pollo in a lot of different ways there, but this one looks very similar to the one I used to eat all the time, minus the chili powder.

  4. I would brown the chicken in a small amout of olive oil after seasoning the chicken in a skillet to increase the amount of flovor instead of just putting raw chicken in the rice pot and then cook through, also deglaze the chicken pan with small amount chicken stock, wine or broth and add to the rice to bump up the flavor.

  5. Thanks, dorothy, for your response. This is the first time I have logged onto a food blogg. my family & my husband’s was in the restaurant and catering business our whole life, so cooking is in my blood. thanks for the comment.

  6. My fiancee who is on the mend post-surgery will love this! She is quite in touch with her Mexican roots. I think this is just the thing to perk her up after a week of recuperation. Many thanks!

  7. Hello! Making this recipe tonight. I was wondering if the rice is cooked at the start of the recipe (before it is rinsed,etc). The pictures look like it’s cooked but since it will be absorbing a lot of liquid I wasn’t sure! Thanks!

    1. Hi Angelica, you did nothing wrong. The rice in this dish is supposed to be very soft (it says that in the introduction). It’s the traditional way that Sandra grew up eating it in Mexico. It happens because the cooking process is low and slow with lots of liquid.

  8. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful recipe! As well as some Mexican history. I did not know that about Cinco de Mayo. I’ll be preparing this for my family tonight.

  9. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Would you happen to have a good recipe for enchiladas?? I’ve tried but my enchilada sauce never comes out so great….. here’s to hoping!!

  10. We are located here in NC. At our restaurants they serve this with broccoli, mushrooms, and zucchini with a heavy white cheese sauce over all of it. Can you make a suggestion as to what type of cheese sauce to use?

    1. Hi Christina, you might try the cheese sauce from this recipe: link to but use a white cheese like gouda, gruyere, havarti or jack cheese. Since I haven’t tried the sauce myself I can’t tell you exactly which cheese they used, but all three of those white cheeses will melt nicely using the sauce from the gratin recipe. It may also be a white cheddar cheese. Maybe you can call the restaurant to ask what kind of cheese is used in the sauce?

  11. Tori,
    Thank you so much for posting this, as it reminds me of the Cuban countryside. You gave me a piece of home, and for that, I thank you.

  12. Looks delicious! Could this be finished in the oven and at what temperature rather than the stove top? Covered very well of course. I usually use heavy duty aluminum foil fitted well into and across the top of a casserole pot before fitting on the lid. Thank you for all your yummy recipes Tory.

    1. Hi Sheila, I have not tested it this way. If I were to do this I would cook it at 350 degrees F covered, but can’t give you an accurate time estimate without testing it myself. Good luck, and enjoy!

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