Jose garces’ aguado de gallina (chicken & rice soup w/ achiote)

blog_garcesThis kind of chicken and rice dish is typical in Latin home cooking, though the name aguado (meaning “watery”) usually implies something soupier than this particular version, which is more of a hearty stew. Made from achiote (annatto) seeds, achiote paste is a deep reddish-brown and often comes in large blocks; it lends robost color and flavor to many Ecuadorian dishes.


Chicken Ingredients:

  • 8 chicken pieces (preferably bone-in, skin-on legs and thighs)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil, divided


Rice Ingredients:

  • 1 Spanish onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 Tbsp whole cumin seed, toasted and grounded
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp achiote paste
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups Chicken stock
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and small dice
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 cup of fresh English peas (shelled and blanched) or thawed frozen peas
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Aji Costeno or your favorite hot sauce for serving (optional)



  1. Generously season the chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a large pan or Dutch oven over high heat and sear the chicken in batches until the skin is crispy and golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer the chicken to a plate.
  2. Lower the heat to medium and pour in the remaining oil.  Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper to the pan and cook until the vegetables are translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the cumin and paprika and cook for 1 minute.  Then, add the tomato and achiote paste and cook for 3 – 5 minutes stirring to make sure it is incorporated.  Stir in the rice and mix well into the vegetable/paste.
  3. Add the chicken stock and make sure to scrape up any brown bits that have formed at the bottom.  Finish by placing the plum tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and bay leaves in the pan.  Arrange the seared chicken pieces on top of the rice.  Cook, covered, over medium heat until the chicken is tender, stock has evaporated, and rice is fully cooked, about 40 minutes.  Do not stir.
  4. Stir in the peas, oregano, parsley, and cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately with Aji.

Reprinted with permission from The Latin Road Home by Jose Garces, © 2012 Lake Isle Press