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. Probably unless you’re from Guatemala, where the dish Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk is from.
I fell hard for Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk from the first taste. It was at a restaurant that served mostly Mexican foods with a few Guatemalan specialties of the owner’s, who originally came from there. And 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 Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk, being I’m from Minnesota and all, eh. It’s not even like I’ve had the dish in Guatemala or tasted it in someone’s home from a recipe handed down the 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 lots of flavor; 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! 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.
Making Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk:
Of course, when I developed the recipe, my ideas for the flavors are straight up from the dish I fell in love with at that restaurant. I gotta say, since Stefanie, below in the comments, mentioned Sazon Goya, a spice blend (you’ll want the one with coriander and annatto) that’s an easy way to go with this recipe, and you can check out the Sazon and their recipe on their post for Guatemalan Chicken. I’ve always been wanting to make a copycat Sazon; maybe sometime but I think you’ll love the spices in Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk even more.
Depending on where you live, you might not even be able to buy Sazon, but my version of Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk with the “homemade” spices comes together quickly, with a minimum of chopping or effort and a bit payoff. Fair warning, you’re going to crave this dish and so is anyone you serve it to!
There is another potentially hard to find ingredient in the dish, Annatto seed (there’s a substitute in the recipe – I like it even better, I think, than the Annatto) which is more readily available. If you love to cuisines from Latin America, pick up a package of Annatto; it’s cheap and keeps just about forever. Annatto is the seed from a small shrub, the Achiote plant is used for its subtle taste and aroma, but prized for the beautiful color it gives foods. I’ll stress here, that the Annatto in this recipe is dropped into the oil to flavor and color and then removed. It’s crazy hard, so make sure not to leave a stray behind.
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 that to your preferred heat level, keeping in mind the coconut milk really does bring 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, especially the fruitiness of the habanero is. Without those peppers, your dish will NOT be all it could be. Trust me on this!
Saving Money on Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk:
Pollo en Leche de Coco – Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk is a pretty inexpensive dish, especially if you use the Annatto seed substitute in the recipe. If you are using the Annatto, buying spices in the whole form, especially spices that aren’t used often, is one of the ways I maximize my grocery budget; they generally keep for a good long time in a cool, dark cupboard without losing flavor. For more hints, See my post on Spice, Herbs or Flavor Packet Substitutes.
Watch for low prices on coconut milk and stock up. You might find coconut milk in various areas of the stores, especially if you’re in a large supermarket that has multiple sections divided by different cuisines and I often see coconut milk in the carts or shelves at the store full of gourmet ingredients priced for a quick sale. 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.
Chicken breasts generally reach a low price each quarter. Watch for it on sale and buy and freeze. Depending on where you are, you might see peppers on sale by the pound or per pepper; figure out the best deal and buy the largest if they’re priced by the pepper. Since bell peppers last a good long time in the fridge, when they are on sale, buy what you need for the current week and a couple for the following. I always watch the checker if I’m buying small peppers like jalapenos or habaneros;; since they weigh so little I’ve seen several checkers put a finger on the scale to get a weight! While they might be pricey “per pound” and individual pepper will be just pennies.
Pollo en Leche de Coco - Guatemalan Chicken in Coconut Milk
- 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
- 2 – 13.5oz. 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, 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.
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.