SAN ANTONIO – What Is Pollo de Coco?
This brightly yellow-colored chicken dish doesn’t get its cheery hue from turmeric or curry — rather, a blend of deeply pigmented sazón and creamy canned coconut milk create a pop of color, flecked with red and green bell pepper. Sazón is a staple ingredient in Latin American cooking: It adds a reddish to yellow color to food thanks to the spice achiote or annatto. The flavor is garlicky and umami.
Bone-in, skin-on pieces of chicken get simmered in coconut milk. But first, they are sauteed until golden brown in a coating of adobo, another Latin American spice blend made from salt, garlic, turmeric, black pepper, and oregano. After dousing chicken in full-fat coconut milk and a shake of sazón, colorful bell peppers and onions are added for the slightest hint of sweetness.
Coconut Milk Chicken Recipe
- 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- 2-3lbs bone-in, skin on chicken (breasts, thighs or legs)
- Adobo powder to taste
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- ½ chopped red bell pepper
- ½ chopped green bell pepper
- 1 teaspoon sazón
- 1 (1.5 oz) can full-fat coconut milk
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Prepare the chicken
Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with adobo. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan skin-side down. Cook, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from skillet and transfer chicken to plate. Cover with foil to keep warm.
Cook the vegetables
Add remaining oil to the pan. Stir in onions and bell peppers and cook until vegetables are softened about 7 minutes. Add sazón to vegetables and cook until fragrant around 30 seconds.
Simmer chicken in coconut milk
Pour coconut milk into a pan with vegetables. Add chicken to the pan skin-side up, in a single layer; do not overcrowd. Bring coconut milk to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, bathing chicken occasionally with sauce, until chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes.*
Finish cooking the sauce
Transfer chicken to a platter and loosely cover with foil. Increase heat to medium-high. Simmer coconut milk sauce until sauce thickens slightly stirring occasionally so it does not curdle or skin form. Stir in half of the cilantro.
When ready to serve, pour sauce over the chicken, and top with the remaining cilantro.
What to Serve with This Chicken
As with almost any Latin American chicken dish, serve with freshly made rice.
Tips for Making Pollo de Coco
*Internal temperature will register 165˚F on a quick read thermometer when inserted into thickest part of the piece of chicken without touching the bone. Undercooking chicken can make it tough while overcooking chicken makes it drier.
I recommend full-fat canned coconut milk for a more pronounced cream coconut flavor.
You can find premade sazón and adobo spices at most grocery stores or make your own. To make your own sazón, mix the following together. Keep in an airtight container.
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon ground annatto seeds (achiote)
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
(Recipe courtesy of Marisel Salazar)
For more recipes from Marisel Salazar, click here to check out her Instagram page.