Updated: Sep 14, 2020
This VEGAN “ARROZ CON POLLO” is so close to the real thing, it got me reliving my childhood!
If (like me) you grew up in Puerto Rico, then Arroz Con Pollo (Rice With Chicken) was something you had on a regular basis. It’s not only a complete meal, it tastes amazing, it’s quick (and cheap) to make, and it feeds a crowd! So, yes, it is a staple alright!
Puerto Rico is not the only country blessed with this dish as part of its culinary repertoire. This is a quite common dish in a lot of Latin American countries, and even Spain. Each country has its own twist on flavors and seasoning, but the recipe is pretty much the same.
Since I became a vegan, this is one of those dishes I simply could not eat anymore. Besides the fact that it has chicken in it, a lot of people also use chicken broth for the rice. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make a vegan version and still have it taste amazing!
Today was my Mom’s birthday, and the whole family was getting together for a celebratory meal. The menu was set: Arroz con Pollo. So, of course, I made my own batch so that me and my niece (who is now starting her vegan journey) could eat. I decided to make a vegan version of the actual course to be served because I had never made it before and I also wanted for everyone to feel like we were sharing the same meal. It worked!
There are a few options you could try for substituting the chicken in this recipe. I would imagine soy curls would be great, and even some tofu. But I wanted to keep this recipe for this occasion as close to the original recipe as possible, so I opted for Gardein Chick’n Strips. These come with a teriyaki sauce that you can omit.
The result is a true-to-taste meal with no animal products! If you’d rather keep your recipe whole food plant based, opt for the soy curls or tofu and they should work perfectly. I always keep some of these mock-meat options in my freezer in case I’m too rushed or too lazy to prepare anything else. They work great... like on this recipe!
So, let’s get started!
VEGAN “ARROZ CON POLLO”
WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
1 Tbsp sofrito (omit if you don’t have it, but it does wonders for flavor. I use this kind, or you can make your own!)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 bag of Gardein Chick’n Strips, without the sauce (or sub with soy curls or tofu)
2 Cups uncooked rice
2 1/2 Cups vegetable broth
1 tsp cumin
1 to 2 tsp sazón (I make my own. Find the recipe at the bottom of this post)
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Olive oil for cooking
HOW TO MAKE IT:
Wash and rinse the rice well, then drain and set aside.
In a medium to large pot with a lid, heat a bit of oil over medium high heat. Once hot, add the chicken strips and season with a bit of salt and pepper or whatever seasoning you prefer. The idea is to cook and brown them a bit. Once done, remove from the pot and set aside.
Add another bit of oil to the same pot (no need to wash it) and add the sofrito and diced onion and bell peppers. Sauté over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they begin to soften.
Add the minced garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Then, add the tomato paste, cumin, sazón and rice. Sauté for another minute, mixing everything together so that the rice is coated with the spices and tomato paste.
Then add the veggie broth, cooked chick’n strips, salt and pepper, and bring to boil. Once it starts to boil, lower to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes, untouched. Do not remove the lid, do not stir.
After the 30 minutes, taste a bit of the rice from the top to see if it’s cooked. Do not stir the rice!
If the rice is not done, place the lid back on and check every 10 minutes until the rice is tender. If most of the liquid has evaporated and the rice is not done add a couple tablespoons of water at a time until the rice is tender. Add very small amounts of water only if all the liquid has evaporated until the rice is tender. Do not stir.
Once the rice is tender, you can stir the rice, but not too much!
Garnish with fresh asparagus, or you can use red pepper or peas or fresh parsley. Serve immediately.
Here’s my recipe for Homemade Sazón. If you don’t know or have never used sazón before, you are in for a treat! It is a magical mix of spices that is frequently used in the preparation of traditional Puerto Rican and Latin American dishes. It not only provides flavor, but it also helps to color the food due to its annato content. Though you can buy this seasoning already mixed at a regular store, I like making them myself because, most of the time, these will have MSG. If you make it yourself, you’ll have none of that bad stuff in there! So, make a batch and keep it in your pantry in an airtight container. If you like this one, you’ll also like my Homemade Adobo seasoning recipe, which you can find on this post.
(makes about 6 Tablespoons)
• 1 Tbsp Coriander powder
• 1 Tbsp Cumin powder
• 1 Tbsp Annato powder
• 1 Tbsp Garlic powder
• 1 Tbsp Salt
• 2 tsp Oregano powder
• 1 tsp black pepper
Mix well and store in an airtight container.