Arroz con Pollo Cubano

Plated arroz con pollo cubano on blue placemat

A Rice and Chicken Everyone Can Enjoy

Arroz con Pollo Cubano translates to Cuban Rice with Chicken, just one of many unique takes on the well known Spanish dish. There are many different varieties across Latin America and Spain, but I especially enjoy this Cuban style recipe. It can be dressed up or down if you’re serving for a crowd or just your family, and it is loaded with fun, sometimes unexpected flavors.

I specifically use bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks so that they can get the full effect of the marinade and not dry out during the cook time. Leaving the skin on also adds fat to the dish, which helps make the rice extra fluffy. And for the marinade I use citrus juice, oil, and garlic as the primary ingredients. The citrus juice adds flavor while tenderizing the chicken, helped by the oil which also helps to make the chicken tender. The garlic adds flavor and the small amount of salt brings out the chicken’s natural flavors. This results in juicy, perfectly cooked chicken pieces even after 45 minutes of cooking.

Angle shot of arroz con pollo with spoon on reed mat, tomatoes, and parsely

A couple of the unexpected flavors in this dish come from olives and ham. Olives are commonly found in arroz con pollo recipes all over Latin America, though if you’ve never had  it before, it can be a surprise. The olives add delicious salty bites to the meal. In fact I recommend cutting them in half so that there are more of those salty bites spread throughout. Even more interesting, and making this recipe specifically Cuban is the chopped ham. Fried with the onion and pepper, it’s a surprising yet delightful addition to the meal.

Arroz con Pollo Cubano is a Meal Prep Star

Something that I’ve always loved about this recipe is just how much food it makes. The rice alone makes so much that I needed 2 large tupperwares just to get it in the fridge. And 8 pieces of chicken (or more if you choose) already sets you up for more than a week at a time. Not to mention the chopped ham gives your dish some added protein, on top of what’s in the chicken.

Another reason this Arroz con Pollo Cubano is so great for meal prep is that it’s really a complete meal. There’s protein from the chicken and ham. There are vegetables in the form of bell pepper and peas. And you’ve got more than enough rice to fill you up. It can also be made in just a few dishes, which you’ll appreciate when it comes time to clean up. 

Speaking of cleaning up – in my recipe I recommend browning the chicken in a skillet separate from the dutch oven that will cook the rice. This is entirely optional. I find that I’m able to brown more pieces of chicken at one time in a skillet with less burning on the bottom of the skillet than I can in my dutch oven. If you have a larger or wider bottomed dutch oven, this may not be an issue for you.

Plated arroz con pollo in front of serving dish

Serve a Crowd

This recipe makes a lot of food. The 3 cups of rice alone will bulk up to about 6 cups of cooked rice. If you’re feeding a crowd, there’s no need to worry about everyone getting enough to eat.

Another reason this recipe is great for a crowd is that you can always add more chicken to it (as long as your pot is big enough). Brown up additional thighs and drumsticks and stack them to the top of your pot to make sure you have enough. Or if you’re hosting a party with other meats, you could add that to the table too and use excess rice from the pot as a side dish.

A Few Notes on Ingredients

Almost every ingredient in this recipe is customizable, from the marinade to the vegetables. Read below for some suggestions to make this recipe suit your tastes and pantry.

  • The Marinade: Even if you forgot to buy orange juice, you can still make this recipe. Just increase the quantity of lime juice to a half cup and add in a quarter cup of lemon juice. Or if you don’t have lime juice, you can substitute in lemon juice.
  • The Bell Pepper: You can always change the color of the bell pepper in this recipe. Use red, orange, or yellow instead of green and the dish will be just as good. You could also double the quantity of bell pepper if you want more of it in the dish.
  • The Ham: I purchased a vacuum sealed package of ham steaks from the refrigerated meats section to make this dish. But if you have leftover ham from a recent dinner or holiday, you could chop that up instead for a wonderful flavor. You could even use ham lunchmeat if that’s all you have.
  • The Peas: Peas are the traditional vegetable to add to Arroz con Pollo Cubano, but they are not the only option. You could substitute with corn instead for a different color and flavor.
Arroz con pollo with tomatoes and parsley

How to Serve Arroz con Pollo Cubano

One of the less obvious benefits of this recipe is that you don’t necessarily need a side dish to serve with it. You’ve got chicken, rice, and vegetables all in one. But if you want a side dish, or are just looking for a different way to get your Latin American food fix, try these suggestions:

Plated arroz con pollo cubano on blue placemat

Arroz con Pollo Cubano

Arroz con Pollo Cubano is a tasty chicken and rice dish with a Cuban flair. Marinated dark meat chicken pairs with rice, peppers, onions, olives, and ham to make the perfect dinner.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Course Dinner
Cuisine Cuban, Latin American
Servings 4
Calories 538 kcal

Ingredients
  

For the Marinade

  • ½ cup Orange juice
  • ¼ cup Lime juice
  • 4 tbsp Minced garlic
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • ¼ cup Olive oil
  • 3-4 lbs Chicken legs and thighs (I used 3.5 lbs)

For the Arroz con Pollo Cubano

  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp Minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp Canola oil for frying
  • 1 Green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup Ham, chopped (I used 1 ham steak)
  • 3 cups Long grain rice
  • 1 cup Tomato sauce
  • 3.5 cups Water or chicken stock
  • ½ cup Green olives, halved
  • 1 cup Frozen peas
  • 2 tsp Oregano
  • ½ bunch Cilantro, chopped
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl or zip top bag large enough to hold all of the chicken. Place the chicken in the marinade and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
  • Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry with a paper towel. It’s important that it be very dry before being browned. Use a knife to trim any excess skin from the bottom of the thighs.
  • Heat a skillet over high heat and sauté the chicken until the skin is well browned and the bottom of the thighs are nicely browned too. You won’t be able to brown all of the skin on the drumsticks.
    Browned chicken thighs and drumsticks on a plate
  • Add ½ – 1 tablespoon of oil to a dutch oven and fry the onions, peppers, and chopped ham until they all begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for another 1-2 minutes.
  • Stir in rice and cook for 1-2 minutes. Some pieces of rice will start to brown. If it starts to burn, move on to the next step.
  • Stir in the tomato sauce, olives, peas, oregano, and water (or chicken broth if using). Mix very well. Lay the chicken pieces on top, pressing them down into the liquid slightly. Keep the skin of the thighs facing up.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil. This will likely happen quickly, within 2-5 minutes. Cover the dutch oven with a lid, then reduce heat to low and cook for 45 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, but leave the lid closed for 10 minutes. Open the lid and remove the chicken to a plate. Add the chopped cilantro to the rice and fluff the rice, stirring in the cilantro as you do. Return the chicken to the pot and serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 538kcalCarbohydrates: 70.5gProtein: 34.2gFat: 12.2gSaturated Fat: 2.5gCholesterol: 82mgSodium: 417mgPotassium: 556mgFiber: 4gSugar: 5.1gCalcium: 65mgIron: 6mg
Keyword arroz con pollo, arroz con pollo cubano, rice with chicken
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