Spanish Chicken & Rice (Arroz con Pollo)

Updated: Jan 17

Delicious, easy to make and full of flavor. This traditional Spanish dish will be a new favorite!

Prep time: less than 20 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 4 to 6 people

Arroz con Pollo is probably the most traditional dish you will find in most Spanish speaking countries in the Americas: from Mexico to Argentina. Every country has a version of this Spanish staple. Why? Because it really easy to make, can be made in large batches that feed entire families, and above all: it is truly delicious!

I‘ve been lucky enough to have tasted different versions of this dish, but to be honest, I love my mom’s recipe the best. So, I took mom’s recipe and tweaked it a little to add a hint of heat —which I love!

I have seen this made with chicken on the bone, shredded chicken, diced chicken, and sliced chicken breasts. The later is my way to make it because I live with people that are picky eaters and cannot stand meat on the bone. Besides, by using chicken breasts I cut the cooking time in half.

The best way to describe Arroz con Pollo is to compare it to a Paella. But instead of using a paellera to make it, you can use a cast iron skillet or a big pot.

What is the flavor profile?

Complex, bold, tangy with sweet notes. The vegetables give the dish a nice balance while the spices awaken the taste buds.

What ingredients will I need to make this dish?

Chicken breasts, rice, bell peppers, onions, garlic, saffron or anatto powder, white wine, peas, adobo, water or chicken stock, salt , Manzanilla olives, paprika, pepper, and olive oil.

What else will I need to make this dish?

A large skillet or pot with a lid, a knife, cutting board, measuring cups and spoons, and a wooden spoon.

Can I make substitutions?

You can use chicken on the bone. Keep in mind that the cooking process will be a tad longer. Also, you can use turmeric or anatto powder(achiote molido) instead of saffron.

What is saffron?

Crocus Sativus L., otherwise known as saffron, is one of the most expensive spices in the world. As a rule of thumb, the deeper the color of saffron threads, the better the quality. Deep red with orange tips is considered to be the best. Real saffron threads are fine and evenly sized, with a thin yellow tendril on one end and what looks like a flute on the other side.  The color of saffron threads is a deep red. The highest quality saffron threads have the most minimal yellow stem and the highest amount of Crocin, one of saffron's key essential oils.

Saffron is native to Southern Europe and is cultivated in Spain, Iran, Greece, Turkey, Afghanistan and certain Indian states. Saffron is often used in the production of cosmetics, pharmaceutics and textile-dye industries, as well as cooking.

At a price of $3,000 to $8,000 per pound, saffron is by far the most expensive food on earth. Saffron is infamously expensive, but as just a pinch of good saffron will enliven a dish, it won't break the bank. 

First, an explanation of saffron's expensive price. Saffron threads are the stamens of the crocus, a high-maintenance flower with difficult, generally low yields. Each flower blooms only one week each year and produces 3-4 stamens, which must be picked by hand, then dried, making the entire process extremely labor intensive and, thus, expensive.

You can buy 0.06 oz (1.7 g) of saffron from less than US$ 20.00 at your local grocery or spice store. All you will need is a pinch and the rest can be stored until needed.

What does saffron taste like?

Saffron has a subtly earthy & grassy flavor & aroma, yet sweet, similar to floral & honey. No spice is more special than saffron. With an unmistakable scent and flavor,  saffron straddles sweet and savory effortlessly, and it bestows a striking golden hue on every dish it graces. A few strands of saffron will transform a long list of dishes, adding a mysterious allure to everything from risottos and milk puddings to rich curries and fish stews.

Are there other recipes on this website that call for saffron?


Paella, the traditional Spanish dish here.

Saffron & Seafood Soup here .

Chicken & Saffron soup here.

What is Anatto?

Annatto is a plant. The seed, leaf, and root are used to make medicine.

People take annatto for diabetes, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fluid retention, heartburn, malaria, hepatitis, fever, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. They also use it for heart health, and to clear the lungs. It is used as an aphrodisiac and for prostate and urinary health. In foods, annatto is used as a coloring agent.

What is Adobo?

Adobo is a combination of seasonings and spices used in Latin cuisine. It is used to impart flavor to fish, poultry, beef, pork, and vegetarian dishes. Keep in mind that Latin Adobo is different from Adobo from the Philippines.

Is store-bought Adobo gluten free?

Most of the time it is not. Thus why I will teach you how to make your own. It is very easy to make and it can be stored for months.

What will I need to make adobo?

Salt, black pepper, onion and garlic powder, cumin, paprika, turmeric, and oregano.


  • 2 pounds of boneless chicken breast

  • 3 cups of long grain rice

  • 1 red bell pepper (seeded and chopped)

  • 1 large yellow onion (chopped finely)

  • 6 cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed)

  • 1/4 cup pr white wine

  • 1/4 cup of frozen peas

  • 1/4 cup of sliced manzanilla olives

  • 4 cups of Swanson GF Chicken Broth

  • 1 cup of water

  • Adobo seasonings (recipe below)

  • Salt and Pepper to taste

  • Saffron, anatto powder, or turmeric


  • 5 tablespoons of salt

  • 2 tablespoons of black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons of onion powder

  • 2 tablespoons of garlic powder

  • 2 tablespoons of cumin

  • 1 tablespoon of turmeric

  • 1 tablespoon of paprika

  • 2 tablespoons of crushed oregano


  1. Mix all the adobo ingredients together in a container with a lid. Shake well. Set aside.

  2. If using saffron start by adding the saffron threads to a 1/4 cup of white wine and let it soak for about 20 minutes. The saffron will release it bright orange color into the wine. If not, start with Step 2.

  3. Cut the chicken into strips or medallions. Season generously with adobo (about 2 tablespoons).

  4. In a large skillet or cast iron skillet over medium high heat, add 4 tablespoons of oil. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes, turning half way. Remove the chicken and set aside.

  5. Add more oil to the pan if needed and sauté the onions and bell pepper until onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.

  6. Introduce the rice, saffron infused wine, chicken broth, and olives. If not using saffron, add 2 teaspoons of anatto power or turmeric.

  7. Reintroduce the chicken and add 1/2 tablespoon of adobo, olives, peas and 1 cup of water. Incorporate all ingredients gently.

  8. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and let it cook for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender.

  9. Once the time has elapsed, remove from heat and serve.


Printable PDF Recipe File below:

Spanish Chicken & Rice (Arroz con Pollo)
Download • 17.88MB

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