From the Cuban Kitchen: Arroz Con Pollo – Chicken With Rice

rice-89014_640I wanted to create a recipe that tasted like the classic Latin comfort food, but was safe for the dysphagia diet.

The great secret to puree in the Essential Puree Guidebook is that the sauce is the medium of flavor. This dish has a flavorful sauce. I intentionally added a little more liquid than was necessary to create a flavorful sauce for the puree. As I say to the purists in all the cuisines represented on the Essential Puree blog posts on this website, it is better to have a tweaked version of the dish for the dysphagia patient than not to have the dish at all. This is as close to the Cuban recipe as I can get.

This is how I adapted the classic dish to puree: Instead of using a whole chicken cut up into pieces, I used boneless and skinless breasts. One could use boneless and skinless thigh meat or a combination of the two. Also, it is difficult to puree chicken skin, so it has been eliminated from this dish. This shortened the cooking time. I cubed the chicken and used the classic technique of Chinese cooking, the stir-fry.

I used an electric wok. You can use a good skillet with good heat conduction on the bottom. The pieces of chicken cooked faster and remained tender, and, as an added bonus, they were also the perfect size to place in the blender or food processor for puree. Annatto, found in the spice aisle of the supermarket, is traditional to color the dish. One can use saffron, although saffron is more expensive. Annatto is generally used in the Americas.


I have found that many ingredients in dishes prepared in the dysphagia kitchen are best prepared separately, and then combined for maximum flavor. The reason for this is insuring that the texture is correct. You have to make allowances in the cooking process in order to have a smooth texture, in the final product, with no issues for the swallow.


I cooked the rice in an electric pressure cooker before adding it to the chicken and sofrito for the final 10 or 15 minutes of cooking. When using an electric pressure cooker for rice, follow the instructions for the rice. Cuban recipes call for Valencia rice, but this is a white rice colored with saffron or annatto. I use brown basmati rice because it has a softer outer coating on the rice grain but is a whole grain. The choice is up to the cook.

The other cooking method for making tender rice that is safe for the swallow is in the mini rice cooker or regular rice cooker. Either of these tools helps in creating a tender whole grain rice. Fluff with a fork. Taste. Make sure your rice is very tender, without a fibrous husk.

Note: Every family has its own version of this dish. Please tweak the ingredients to suit your family tradition. The sofrito is the flavor base for the Cuban kitchen and other cuisines of the Americas as well.   Various cuisines of the Americas add different ingredients to this dish, such as olives or capers. There is no reason you cannot get clearance from your healthcare provider to include regional or national variations of the sofrito and the dish.

Because I cubed the chicken, I did not need as long of a cooking time as for the traditional preparation. By cubing the chicken and pressure-cooking the rice, the two components can finish at the same time. The tender rice finishes in the sauce and absorbs the flavor. This technique insures the correct texture for the safe swallow.

I did use a cup of white wine, but broth could be substituted if the individual is restricted from alcohol. I used lower sodium vegetable broth on the day I tested this in my kitchen, but chicken broth is traditional. I used red pepper bruschetta topping packed in olive oil, a tablespoon or two. This added richness to the dish to make up for the flavor lost in eliminating the skin. Usually one uses jarred pimentos. Again, the choice is up to the cook. Tweak to suit your palate.

Traditional Prep

If the person with swallowing disorders lives in a family setting at home, and your household makes this dish for the family in the traditional way, for the puree, simply remove the meat from a piece of chicken in the desired portion for the loved one. Puree it in a good blender or food processor until it is smooth. Add sauce or broth to achieve the desired consistency. Add rice and veggies. That’s the secret to the puree.

Prep Time: 15 mins – Cook Time: 30 minutes – Total Time: 45 minutes


  • 3 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, about 2 pounds, cut into one-inch cubes.
  • 6 ounces of Valencia or basmati rice (the amount of the cup for the mini rice cooker)
  • Sliced red pimientos for garnish, or ½ jar of red pepper bruschetta topping from diLallo or some other similar purveyor
  • 1 cup frozen green peas (Petit Pois) for garnish


  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

Sofrito and Broth:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small tomato, seeded and diced
  • 2 cups broth, vegetable or chicken
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • ½ tsp annatto seeds, or ¼ tsp saffron threads
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste
  • 6 ounces of Valencia or basmati rice (the amount of the cup for the mini rice cooker) or 1 cup for an electric pressure cooker
  • Sliced red pimientos for puree Or ½ jar of red pepper bruschetta topping from diLallo or any similar purveyor
  • 1 cup frozen green peas (Petit Pois) for garnish and puree


First marinate the chicken: Combine oregano, cumin, white pepper and vinegar in a large stainless steel bowl. Add the chicken and stir into the marinade. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Rice Prep:  Wash the rice until the water runs clear. Place the rice and double the amount of water plus double the amount of water and a pinch of salt in the electric pressure cooker. Use the timing recommended by the manufacturer for your type of rice. I use forty to forty-five minutes for brown basmati rice. The time is shorter for white rice. When the timer dings, allow the pressure to come down or vent to bring down the pressure. Fluff with a fork. Allow rice to stand while you prepare the chicken part of the dish. I stress the softening of the rice to allow for a smooth puree with no harsh parts of the rice grain left in the food. To me this is preferable to using cream of rice recommended by some experts. The whole grain contains more nutrients and fiber, both good for the patient if the swallow is safe.

Prepare the dish: Heat the oil in a large electric wok on high. Sear the chicken, stir-frying, about five minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate, leaving behind any oil and fat.

For the sofrito: Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic to the oil in the casserole, cook over medium heat until soft, but do not brown, 3 minutes. Add the tomato, and cook for one more minute. Return the chicken to the casserole with the sofrito, and cook for about 2 more minutes.

Add the rice. Add the water, wine, saffron, tomato paste and salt and pepper. When the rice and chicken boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Five minutes before the dish is done, add the frozen peas. Turn off the heat and allow the dish to cool.

For the Puree

When the arroz con pollo has cooled, place a cup of the dish, with extra sauce, in the bowl of a mini food processor or the pitcher of a blender. Pulse a few times to get it broken down. Then puree until the mixture is smooth. Place in a dish and serve. This dish has a nice color.

Muy sabroso! Swirl Away! Andale!


Featured photo credit: Republica via Pixabay, cc