Chicken Breast

Arroz Con Pollo Panameño

September 13, 2021
0 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland Prop Stylist: Suzie Myers Food Stylist: Yossy Arefi
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

Though I was raised by a working single mother, we ate plenty of home-cooked meals. I first had Panamanian-style arroz con pollo when we lived in Hawaii and Japan, where bottles of olives and spices were shipped to us from the other side of the world. Despite being born in Panama, my family hails from Cuba; my grandmother was a dancer from Havana. Arroz con pollo is a one-pot dish found throughout all of Latin America, varying from country to country. Some countries, like Colombia, add bell peppers. Others add corn or celery. Chicken is slowly cooked in a paila (a large shallow metal pan used throughout Central and South America) with vegetables, tomato sauce and paste, Latin American spices like sazón, and long-grain white rice. The Panamanian version is bedecked with Manzanilla olives and garnished with fancy jarred peppers. Saffron is added for color, as well as a whole bottle of dark beer for a hint of earthy, malty, robust, aromatic flavor.

My mother would doctor up her arroz con pollo using local ingredients, like the Japanese version of Del Monte tomato products, or short-grain Japanese rice instead of the longer grain typically used in the recipe. She carried Panamanian, Cuban, and Latin American recipes with her across the world, using the ingredients available to re-create them as closely as possible to how they were made in Central America. And one of her greatest hits is certainly her Panamanian-style arroz con pollo, flecked with peas and generous spoonfuls of green olives. It's a dish she made delicious through sheer effort, tenacity, and persistence, despite the limitations of geography, time, and money—the same mindset she used to raise her daughters.
Marisel Salazar

What You'll Need
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (about 2½ pounds)
  • 3 cups long-grain rice
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sazón
  • 1 dash adobo powder
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
  • Pinch saffron (3 threads)
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup Manzanilla olives with pimiento
  • 1/2 cup nonpareil capers in brine, drained
  • 1 (8.5-ounce) can peas and carrots, drained
  • 1 (12-ounce) can dark beer, such as stout, dark lager, English porter, Modelo Negra, or Munich dunkel
  • Jarred pimientos morrones, for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of water with the bay leaves to a boil; add the chicken breasts. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the chicken is completely cooked through (reaches 165°F on a thermometer).
  2. Remove the chicken from the water and set aside in a separate bowl, reserving the poaching liquid in a separate bowl. (Remove and discard the bay leaves from the liquid.) Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat using a fork and knife or your hands and discard the bones.
  3. Rinse the rice in a fine sieve until the water runs clear, then shake off the excess water. Warm the canola oil in a large paila, nonstick pot, or Dutch oven (avoid stainless steel, as the rice tends to stick and burn) over medium heat. Add the rice to the paila and stir with a large stainless-steel spoon (or a wooden spoon, if using a nonstick pot or Dutch oven) frequently until it turns pale yellow, about 5 to 8 minutes.
  4. Add the onion, garlic, parsley, sazón, adobo powder, Worcestershire sauce, and saffron. Stir to combine, folding the seasonings into the rice. Stir in the shredded chicken and tomato paste. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, uncovered, over medium to low heat, stirring occasionally so that the rice does not burn or stick, scraping as you go, until the tomato paste has begun to stick to the pot.
  5. Add enough of the reserved poaching liquid to cover the rice (2 to 3 cups), then stir in the salt, tomato sauce, olives, capers, and canned peas and carrots. Save any excess poaching liquid until you’re finished with the recipe, then discard. Should you run out of liquid, use premade chicken stock or water.
  6. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes over medium heat, or until the liquid has evaporated (it can vary based on your cooking vessel). Stir in 9 ounces of the beer. (If the pan seems very dry, add the remaining beer. If not, drink the rest!) Tightly cover the paila with a large piece of aluminum foil and then cover with a lid. Simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice grains are split open. At this stage you may find that some of the rice grains are still not opened—if that’s the case, add a little bit more of the poaching liquid, mix, and cover again for about 10 minutes. The rice should be soft but not too sticky.
  7. Garnish with pimientos morrones. Serve warm. Store leftovers in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator or vacuum seal and freeze in individual portions.

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1 Review

507Sazon October 25, 2023
This recipe is all but Panamanian.
Most of the ingredients aren't even used in our country. Stop saying this is the panamanian arroz con pollo, this recipe is an insult!!!!