Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Arroz Con Pollo ala Pelancho's

Most Latin American and Spanish cultures have their own version of Arroz Con Pollo.  After all, "chicken with rice" is pretty much open to a wide range of interpretation, right?

One of my favorite renditions of Arroz Con Pollo is at a place in Knoxville named Pelancho's.  Is it strictly authentic Mexican food made using traditional old world methods with ingredients picked by hand?  No, Pelancho's seems to be pretty much a blend of Tex-Mex and US styled Mexican food like most such places in the US and I'm okay with that.  We've eaten there for going on 14 years and have enjoyed it so I'm not picky about labels.

Pelancho's version of Arroz Con Pollo is their fajita chicken with sauteed peppers, onions, tomatoes on a bed of Mexican rice and topped with a thin white queso sauce.  I had a craving for Arroz Con Pollo a few weeks back and thought I'd make a version like theirs on my kamado grill. This is what I came up with.

arroz con pollo, Pelancho's, Tex-Mex Big Green Egg recipe, grill dome tex-mex recipe, texmex recipe

The sazón seasoning adds a savory flavor and bright color to the dish.  I haven't used it much before although I have used it's component ingredients of annato seed, corriander, and other seasonings. I used Baida's Tropical Sazón that I bought at our local grocery store.  You can make your own too, but my guess is that if a store doesn't have the sazón, they probably won't have ground annato seed either.

The recipe is actually several in one, including a fajita marinade, a queso sauce, and a Mexican rice.  If you have your own favorite versions of those, you can substitute those recipes to be used in this dish if you like.  You can also do this on your stove top but I like the extra flavor that grilling brings out in the chicken and veggies.

Arroz Con Pollo ala Pelancho's

  • 1.25 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced 
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup tomatoes, 1/2" dice
  • 1 cup fajita marinade (recipe below)
  • 3 cups Mexican rice (recipe below)
  • 1 cup queso sauce (recipe below)

For The Fajita Marinade
  • 1 ounce silver tequilla
  • 2 ounces lime juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sazón
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup oil

For The Mexican Rice
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, 1/4" dice
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/4 teaspoon sazón
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup peas
  • 1/3 cup Mexi-corn
  • 5 slices cooked bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup water


  1. Mix together the marinade ingredients.  Place the chicken, peppers, and onions in a large zip top bag, pour in the marinade, press out the excess air, seal, and let marinate refrigerated for 4-6 hours.
  2. Option 1: Set up your kamado grill with a "raised direct" (see below) set up and preheat it to 350°F.  Once heated, add a cast iron pan with a tight fitting lid and allow it to preheat for 5 minutes.  Option 2: If you don't want to use a raised direct set up, use a direct set up and reduce the heat to 300°F. Option 3:  Alternatively, you can preheat a cast iron pan over medium high heat on your stove top.
  3. Add the oil and wait a minute until it heats.  Add the rice and stir until it becomes lightly toasted.  You'll see the exterior start to turn golden brown and get a fragrant nutty smell when it is ready.  Add the tomato and stir for one minute.  Pour in the stock, salsa, 1/4 teaspoon sazón, salt, and pepper.  Cover the pan with the tight lid, shut the kamado grill, and let the rice cook for 15 minutes.
  4. While the rice cooks, make the queso.  Put the cubed Velveeta and chicken stock in a small sauce pan on medium heat and stir frequently until the cheese is melted and blended.  Stir in the pepper flake, chile, and oregano.  Reduce heat to low and keep warm.
  5. After the rice has cooked for 15 minutes, carefully open the lid and stir in the peas, corn, bacon, and water.  Recover and cook until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, about 10 more minutes.  Remove, keep the lid on, and set aside to stay warm.
  6. Change the kamado to a regular direct set up (remove the raised rack used in Step 2) and increase the heat to 400°F.  Place a grill wok (available from our friend Chad Ward) on the grill to preheat.
  7. Remove the chicken, peppers, and onions from the marinade and drain.  Lightly oil the preheated grill wok and add the chicken, peppers, and onions.  Stir fry the mixture, tossing or stirring every few minutes, for 10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and cookuntil the chicken is cooked through and the peppers/onions slightly charred, another 5 to 10 minutes.
  8. Open the rice pan and fluff the rice with a fork.
  9. Serve the chicken and veggies over a bed of the rice and top with the queso sauce.

The "raised direct" set up just means that you are cooking on a grill grate a few inches higher then the normal grate position as pictured below.  Normally the grill grate on a kamado rests on the fire ring about 3-4 inches lower.  Here I am using a Raiser from Innovations by Chance (available at kamado dealers) but you can make your own raised grid easily.  Being higher up keeps the bottom of the rice from burning. 

skillet on Big Green Egg, kamado skillet

arroz con pollo, Pelancho's, Tex-Mex Big Green Egg recipe, grill dome tex-mex recipe, texmex recipe
Mise en place for the rice.

The color change in the rice during toasting isn't drastic, just enough to notice. 

arroz con pollo, Pelancho's, Tex-Mex Big Green Egg recipe, grill dome tex-mex recipe, texmex recipe
I wouldn't try cooking rice on just any grill, only one with tight temperature controls like a kamado style or other high end grill capable of holding stable cooking temps.

arroz con pollo, Pelancho's, Tex-Mex Big Green Egg recipe, grill dome tex-mex recipe, texmex recipe
It will smoke a good bit when you first put the meat mixture on, because oil from the marinade will drip into the coals.  No worries.  Close the dome lid between stirs to keep the temps stable and control flare ups.

arroz con pollo, Pelancho's, Tex-Mex Big Green Egg recipe, grill dome tex-mex recipe, texmex recipe
You can do this recipe on the stove but the burning coals add so much flavor this way.
arroz con pollo, Pelancho's, Tex-Mex Big Green Egg recipe, grill dome tex-mex recipe, texmex recipe
Add the tomatoes and you're ready to go!

arroz con pollo, Pelancho's, Tex-Mex Big Green Egg recipe, grill dome tex-mex recipe, texmex recipe

It isn't an exact knock off of Pelancho's but it is similar to theirs and I think, a bit better.  This reheats great for lunch the next day too.

[Standard Disclaimer]  I received no compensation for this post. Whiskey Bent BBQ Supply is run by a friend of ours and they are a reputable source for your BBQ needs.  I have no business affiliation with them.


  1. Looks awesome Chris - a must try. I haven't been to Pelancho's in years, but the bartender there had a major impact on my margarita recipe.

  2. Mmmm mmmm good! This is the kind of dish that I crave - it's my kind of comfort food. Love that you made the chicken fajita style!

  3. How many people can say they have made rice on their BGE!? Awesome! Love it- this looks delish!

  4. Uh oh, now I craving Mexican and I bought trout for dinner. Sounds like Pelancho's is a great place.

  5. I love my mom's arroz con pollo! It's one of my favorite Colombian dishes, but this version looks delicious, Chris!

  6. I love my authentic beef tongue taco trucks here in LA, but Mexican food (that is more Americanized) is still pure comfort food to me. GREG

  7. Oh my, that sure looks delicious! I suppose you don't deliver? ;)

  8. Perfect Fall Football food. Might be what's on the menu for the Denver/Seattle game this week. I was just reading about arroz-con-pollo in a magazine and when I see something twice in one week, I always think it's some sort of weird sign. :)


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