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Authentic Extremaduran Arroz Con Pollo

This authentic arroz con pollo recipe from Extremadura was made without colorants. It has a lovely thick broth that pools around the cooked rice.

This authentic arroz con pollo recipe from Extremadura was made without colorants. It has a lovely thick broth that pools around the cooked rice.

This authentic arroz con pollo (chicken with rice) recipe has been in my mother-in-law's family for generations. Her father taught her, and his mother taught him—and the story goes back for centuries. The dish comes from Extremadura, which is a region in the west of Spain that borders Portugal.

My mother-in-law graciously taught me how to make this recipe nearly a decade ago, when I was just visiting my then-boyfriend during the summer. I made it so often after we got married that she joked that she'd have to teach me a new guiso, or stew. Still, this dish shows up every month on our dinner table.

In the past, people used saffron to make this dish. Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world—so if it was unavailable, which was common, they just served it white, but this was not considered to be correct (because it wasn't yellow). In the past century, people have used chemical colorants. I choose to use turmeric, as it does not alter the flavor, fights against inflammation, and gives a beautiful yellow color.

This Spanish dish has zero things in common with the Mexican arroz con pollo that you would order at an American Tex-Mex restaurant. This Extremaduran version is more soupy and savory, and the type of rice that the recipe calls for is completely different.

I truly hope you enjoy this Extremaduran arroz con pollo.

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Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

15 min

35 min

50 min

4 to 6 bowls


  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or mashed)
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1/4 chicken with bones in, cut in 4 to 6 portions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (for color)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 carton organic chicken broth
  • 1/4 to 1 cup water (to control consistency)
  • 12 fistfuls Arborio rice (2 per guest, closed fist)


  1. Start by making your "sofrito," which is the base of any good Spanish dish. In a large skillet or frying pan, cook onion, bell pepper, and zucchini in olive oil until all are tender and fragrant. Add in 2 cloves minced garlic last so it does not burn, since it cooks much faster than the other vegetables in your sofrito.
  2. Add portions of chicken to the pan and cook a few minutes on each side. While cooking, mash (or mince) two more cloves of garlic. I use a "mortero," which is a wooden bowl with a tool to pound the garlic into a paste. Into my mortero, I put the salt, pepper, parsley, and wine. I mix this all together and pour it over the chicken and let it all cook up a few more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the turmeric and bay leaves to your concoction. Heat the chicken broth in the microwave or a saucepan to the side. Once warm, add into your pan and bring to a slow boil.
  4. Skim off the fat from the top of the "guiso" with a large, metal spoon and put it into a glass. Do not take too much broth when you do this.
  5. Add two "punados" of arborio rice per guest, plus one for the pot. If you are having 4 people, do 9. If you are having 6, you may want to do 13 and add 1/2 cup water if you want it to be more soupy. My mother-in-law, of course, always achieves the perfect consistency, but I never hit the nail on the head. My rice is always deliciously flavorful, yet I can never get the soupy "caldo" (broth) that she gets. The rice should cook in 18 to 20 minutes. Start checking it at 17. You do not want the rice to cook too much. Then it turns into mush and is not appetizing at all!
  6. Serve a few minutes after cooking is finished and the dish is removed from the heat. It's best served in a bowl or deep plate and with French or ciabatta bread and a glass of Merlot.

Be Spanish for a Day!

Go ahead and make a tortilla de patata as your first plate, break out the loaf of bread and the wine, and make this arroz con pollo for the main dish. Also, don't forget the dessert. A nice flan will do! Enjoy this recipe and let me know in the comments if it worked nicely for you.

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Some of my red peppers from the garden last year.

Some of my red peppers from the garden last year.

© 2018 Audrey Lancho

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