Arroz Con Pollo (Garlic-Citrus Chicken and Saffron Rice)

Arroz Con Pollo (Garlic-Citrus Chicken and Saffron Rice)

Arroz con Pollo is beautiful and festive Latin soul food. There are many versions of this dish from across the Latin diaspora, and "ACP" can be found on many a restaurant menu from Boston to Miami; North Carolina to Los Angeles.   (A great read is Gustavo Arellano's exploration of the popularity of Mexican-style ACP in the South.) 

This Carribean-inspired one-pot wonder features deeply flavorful, saffron-scented rice and succulent chicken which has been marinated in citrus and garlic.   The coriander and cinnamon, though not typical ACP flavors, add even more depth of flavor and are a nod to saffron's spice trade origins. The rice crisps up on the bottom of the pot for an extra tasty treat.

This is a two-step recipe, so start it earlier in the day or the night before.  The chicken needs to marinate at least two hours, but after that it will take you only about another hour to get this to the table. This is a fantastic Sunday dinner.


For chicken:

3 -4 fat garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

black pepper to taste

4 pounds skin-on chicken pieces (I prefer legs and thighs, but you can use a whole chicken cut up)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

For the rice:

1 pound Spanish onions, chopped

1 1/2 cups chopped green pepper

3 fat garlic cloves, smashed

2 cups long-grain rice

1 generous pinch saffron threads

1/4 cup white wine

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1/2 cups water

15 oz. can of diced tomatoes, or home-canned fresh whole tomatoes, crushed

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 bay leaf

1 lime leaf (optional)

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup pimento stuffed olives, halved

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped fine

1/4 cup chives, chopped fine


1. Place the chopped garlic, orange juice, lime juice, cumin, salt, and pepper in a food processor and puree.

2. Place chicken pieces in a large bowl or gallon-sized ziplock bag.  Pour the citrus and garlic marinade over the chicken and seal tightly (if in a bowl cover with plastic wrap.)  Refrigerate for at least two hours.


1.  Preheat oven to 350F.  

2.  Remove the chicken one piece at a time from the marinade and place on paper towels.  Set the marinade aside - you will use it later.

3.  Heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy bottom, oven-safe pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  When the butter is melted and starts to sizzle, add one layer of chicken pieces, skin side down.  Brown on one side, then turn over and brown on the other side.  Place the browned chicken on a plate and cover tightly with foil, then add another batch of chicken and repeat the process.  Continue to brown chicken in batches - when finished do not pour off any of the fat in the pot!

4.  Add the onions to the pot and stir once or twice, then cover and turn the heat down to low.  Let onions caramelize on low for 15 minutes.

5. Add the saffron, coriander, cumin, and cinnamon to the onions, stir once or twice, then place the lid back on the pot and let cook on low for another 5 minutes.

6. Remove the lid and turn the heat back up to medium. Add the garlic and green peppers and cook for 2-3 minutes.

7.  Add the rice to the pot and stir to coat with oil and vegetables.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes.

8.  Add the wine, water, chicken broth, tomatoes, bay leaf, lime leaf (if using), salt, and reserved marinade to the rice. Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen any stuck on bits.

9.  Place the chicken on top of the rice  and pour in the juices that have collected on the plate.     DO NOT STIR.  Lower to a simmer.  Cook on stove top, uncovered, for ten minutes.

10.  Cover the pot tightly (you can use a sheet of parchment paper between the pot and the lid to help hold in moisture).  Place the pot in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

11.  Remove the pot from the oven.  Uncover and scatter the frozen peas and olives over the top.  DO NOT STIR.  Put the cover back on and let sit for 5 minutes.  

12.  Remove the cover and sprinkle over the chopped cilantro and chives.  Again, do not stir!

13.  Serve hot, keeping an eye out for the bay leaf and lime leaf to discard.