Pollo en Leche de Coco - Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk with Rice & Beans

Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk

Hey, I’ve got a treat of a recipe for you. Easy & quick, healthy and just full of flavor. A little creamy, a little spicy and probably a little different than your everyday fare, unless you’re from Guatemala, where the dish Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk is from.

Pollo en Leche de Coco - Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk

Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk


I fell hard for this gorgeous dish from the first taste. It was at a restaurant that served mostly Mexican foods with a few Guatemalan specialties of the owner who originally came from there. Knowing that I can get pretty much all the same old standards at any Midwestern Mexican restaurant, I was all over her specialties.

About Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk:

So I can’t claim a lot of familiarity with this dish, being I’m from Minnesota and all, eh. It’s not like I’ve had the dish in Guatemala or tasted it in someone’s home from a recipe handed down through generations. I can claim this is every bit as good as the dish in that restaurant. I can claim that I’ve made it a number of times, that’s how much I love it and that every time I’m back in that town, I stop at that restaurant and order it again. Just to be sure, lol.

I feel like I want to describe Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk in some kind of poetic words that will give it justice but sometimes words just fail me. It’s crave-worthy and every food adjective I can think of! It has flavor for days and a bit of heat. Not, hot, hot just enough to barely ride over the top of the creaminess; the heat is tamed by the coconut milk. The chicken is juicy and tender and it’s one of those dishes that’s actually simple to make but so beautiful and complex in taste that you’ll look like a genius when you bring it to the table.

So here it is, Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk, an absolutely gorgeous dish, with a lovely presentation. I’ve served it as they did at the restaurant with Guatemalan Rice and Beans and a few pickled veggies, Escabeche. The restaurant also served their Pollo en Leche de Coco with a couple of plantains and some warmed tortillas, but I just wasn’t about to be cooking for hours! I’m all about easy these days!

Pollo en Leche de Coco - Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk

Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk

Making Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk:

There is a potentially hard to find ingredient in the dish, Annatto, the seed from a small shrub, the Achiote plant.  It has a subtle taste and aroma but is prized for the beautiful color it gives food. If you love cuisines from Latin America, pick up a package; it’s cheap and keeps just about forever in the seed form. There is a quick substitute: 1/2 teaspoon turmeric & 1/4 teaspoon paprika.

Being from the Midwest, I can’t get Guatemalan peppers and maybe you can’t either; I just use a couple of jalapenos for some mild heat and a little habanero for fruitiness. Adjust to your preferred heat level; keep in mind the coconut milk brings down the heat. About the only way you can go wrong with this dish is to discount how important a little zip from those hot peppers is, especially the fruitiness of the habanero. Without those peppers, your dish will NOT be all it could be. Trust me on this!  :dance:

To get a neat little pile of the beans and rice, line a small bowl, custard cup or measuring cup with plastic wrap, pack the beans and rice in, turn over and give it a tap. With a little luck it will come out intact and you can peel off the plastic wrap.

Annatto Seed

This is whole Annatto Seed

Saving Money on Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk:

This dish is fairly inexpensive, especially if you don’t have to buy the Annatto especially for it. Chicken breasts generally reach a low price each quarter. Watch for it on sale and buy in quantity and freeze in sizes good for your family.

You might see bell peppers sold by the pound or per pepper; buy the largest if priced by the pepper. If bell peppers are on sale, pick up enough for the current week and the next; they’ll last in the fridge for a while Watch the checker closely when buying any of the smaller hot peppers; they’re usually priced by the pound but weigh so little the scale may not read them. More than once I’ve seen the checkers put a finger on the scale to get a weight.

Watch for low prices on coconut milk and stock up when its on sale. You might find coconut milk in various areas of the store at different prices, especially in large supermarkets with multiple sections divided by different cuisines. Check out the discount bin where gourmet items might be priced for a quick sale; sometimes coconut milk ends up there as it’s nearing its sell-by or best if used by date. You’re likely to find coconut milk at any Asian or Latin American market, and probably for less than you’ll find it at a grocery store.

Pollo en Leche de Coco - Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk with Rice & Beans

Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk with Rice & Beans


Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk

  • Author: mollie kirby
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided plus a little more if necessary
  • about 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small bite-sized pieces (use thighs if you prefer)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon annatto seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon turmeric & 1/4 teaspoon paprika)
  • 1 large onion, diced finely
  • 2 to 4 jalapenos, seeded and cut into a fine dice
  • 1/2 to 1 habanero, finely minced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into strips, then into 1 1/2″ pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed coriander seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 213.5oz. cans coconut milk; may use less for a thicker stew
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro or parsley for garnish, optional


Working in batches, if necessary, in a heavy pot over medium-high heat, heat one tablespoon olive oil. Add chicken and cook turning as necessary, until chicken is golden brown. Remove to a plate and tent to keep warm.

Turn heat down to medium-low and add the remaining tablespoon oil. Add annatto, stirring for a minute. Remove the annatto. Add the onion and peppers and cook several minutes until the onion is translucent and the peppers are softening. Add garlic and spices (including the turmeric and paprika if you didn’t use the annatto) and cook, stirring for about a minute.

Return chicken to the pot and stir to coat chicken. Add coconut milk, anywhere from 1 1/2 to 2 cans according to your preference. Simmer about 10 minutes to blend flavors. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Garnish with parsley or cilantro and serve with rice.

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I’ll be bringing Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk to Fiesta Friday, hosted this week by Laura @ Feast Wisely. Make sure to visit Fiesta Friday this week – I’ve already seen several wonderful St. Patrick’s day recipes among the recipes and do visit Laura and her delightful blog.





29 thoughts on “Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk

  1. Catherine Farmer

    I was searching for some Gautemalan recipes and came across this one. It looks fabulous! I was wondering if it would freeze well if I made a double batch. Have you ever tried freezing it?

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Catherine this is one of my favorites!! I do not think it would freeze well with coconut milk in it but you might be able to make the recipe to the point that coconut milk should be added amd then freeze it like one of those meal kits that you can buy these days. When you are ready pull it out and then finish it with the coconut milk.

      Just a thought! Mollie


    Hi, what is the name of the restaurant you visited in Guatemala city or Antigua Guatemala? Was it in the city or somewhere in the suburbs?

  3. Barb Clough

    Used this for my Global Table Adventure #68 – Guatemala! Thanks for the recipe! Very tasty! Made some red beans and rice to go with it.

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Barb, I’m glad you liked it! It’s one of my very faves on this site. I was intrigued by your “Global Table Adventure” and wondered if it is some kind of a challenge you’re doing?
      I googled. And found this marvelous site: http://globaltableadventure.com/

      When my kids were at school I always made a point to find out what countries they were studying and try to find and make recipes, although some of that time was pre-internet!! I thought it helped us all understand the culture and there’s nothing like food to bring ppl together!!

  4. I made this last night and we loved it! I used boneless skinless chicken thighs and your sub for the Annatto. I visited Guatemala in 1976 but I don’t remember what we ate. I am looking forward to exploring more of your site.

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Ellen – thanks for stopping back and commenting! I bet the boneless thighs were even better (we have a dark meat hater, here, so I usually use breast) and I think the sub for the annatto is every bit as good, if not even the teensiest bit more flavorful than the actual annatto. My daughter spent quite a bit of time in Guatemala years ago, she went with a church group and worked on an irrigation system and she doesn’t remember what she ate, either! Thanks for stopping by and visiting, Ellen! I’ll be by to check out your site, too.


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