Pollo Guisado

"The soup all abuelitas make their grandchildren, cooking a ojo, or by feel, with a million variations," says 2019 F&W Best New Chef Kwame Onwuachi of this comforting recipe. "I didn't have a Puerto Rican grandmother, so this version is a re-creation of the flavors I remember from places like Caridad and Louie's on Gun Hill Road, 188 Cuchifritos, and all the other lechonerias, cuchifritos, lunch counters, full-on restaurants, and street food vendors that nourish and restore the Bronx's massive Nuyorican population. The soup is a festival of comfort. At its base are the annatto and sofrito that define much of Puerto Rican cuisine, plus a touch of cumin and, because it's me who's making it, a bit of house spice to give just the merest hint of heat."

Pollo Guisado
Photo: Photo by Greg Dupree / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen
Total Time:
2 hrs 45 mins



  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 3 cups diced (1/2-inch cubes) yellow onion (from 2 medium [10-ounce] onions)

  • 5 tablespoons Ginger-Garlic Puree (see Note)

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon tomato paste

  • 1 tablespoon ají amarillo paste

  • 2 teaspoons coriander-annatto seasoning (such as Goya Sazón con Culantro y Achiote) (from 2 [5-gram] packages)

  • 3 ½ cups diced (1/2-inch cubes) plum tomatoes (from about 7 medium [3 1/2-ounce] tomatoes)

  • .3333 cup diced (1/2-inch cubes) red bell pepper (from 1 small [about 7-ounce] bell pepper) 

  • 1 medium (3/4-ounce) jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced into rounds

  • ¼ cup packed roughly chopped fresh culantro (may substitute with cilantro, if needed), leaves and tender stems only

  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

Marinated Chicken

  • 1 tablespoon annatto powder

  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano

  • 2 (5-gram) packages coriander-annatto seasoning (such as Goya Sazón con Culantro y Achiote) (about 2 1/2 teaspoons)

  • 1 ½ teaspoons House Spice (see Note)

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 medium-size (10-ounce) yellow onion, cut into 1/8-inch slices (about 2 1/4 cups)

  • 1 medium-size (3 1/2-ounce) plum tomato, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

  • 10 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 3 1/2 tablespoons)

  • 4 (12-ounce) chicken leg quarters

Additional Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon canola oil

  • 3 large (8-ounce) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced (1/2-inch cubes) (about 4 cups)   

  • 2 medium (3-ounce) carrots, peeled and diced (1/2-inch cubes) (about 1 cup)

  • 3 cups chicken stock

  • 2 fresh or dried bay leaves

  • 1 (6-gram) chicken bouillon cube (such as Knorr), crushed (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • Perfectly Steamed Rice (See Note)


Make the sofrito:

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium until shimmering. Add onions; cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add ginger-garlic puree, tomato paste, ají amarillo paste, and coriander-annatto seasoning; cook, stirring often, until mixture has darkened somewhat and oil has separated, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes; cook, stirring occasionally, until some liquid from tomatoes has released and evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add bell pepper and jalapeño; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add culantro; cook, stirring constantly, until softened and wilted, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low, and let come to a simmer; simmer, stirring often, until mixture is thick, glossy, and deep red and oil has risen to the surface, about 1 hour. Stir in salt. Remove from heat. Transfer sofrito to an airtight container, and store in refrigerator up to 1 week or in freezer up to 6 months.

Make the marinated chicken:

  1. Stir together annatto powder, dried oregano, coriander-annatto seasoning, house spice, cumin, and salt in a large bowl. Add onion, tomato, and garlic; stir to combine. Add chicken leg quarters, and toss to coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate 12 hours.

  2. Remove marinated chicken from refrigerator; scrape excess marinade from chicken, reserving marinade in bowl. Heat canola oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high until shimmering. Add chicken, skin side down, to skillet; cook until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate; set aside. Do not wipe skillet clean.

  3. Reduce heat under skillet to medium. Add reserved marinade and 1 cup sofrito. (Reserve remaining sofrito for another use.) Cook, stirring often, until caramelized and thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in potatoes, carrots, stock, bay leaves, and bouillon. Return chicken to pot, nestling chicken, skin side up, in vegetable mixture. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium; simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until sauce is thick and deep reddish-brown, potatoes and carrots are tender, and a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of chicken registers 165°F, 40 to 45 minutes.

  4. Remove and discard bay leaves from chicken mixture. Stir in salt, and serve alongside perfectly steamed rice.


Associated Recipes: Ginger-Garlic Puree, House Spice

Perfectly Steamed Rice

Make Ahead

Pollo guisado can be stored in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 4 days. Sofrito can be stored in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week or in freezer up to 6 months.

Suggested Pairing

Medium-bodied, lightly earthy Pinot Noir: Grochau Cellars GC Commuter Cuvée

Related Articles