How to Make Pollo de Coco, Step by Step

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This step-by-step recipe for pollo de coco (aka coconut milk chicken) will take your taste buds on a trip!

This bright chicken dish doesn’t get its cheery hue from turmeric or curry powder—rather, it’s made with sazón, a popular Puerto Rican spice.

Sazón is a staple ingredient in Latin American cooking; it adds a bright red-yellow color to food thanks to the spice achiote, also known as annatto. Ready to make pollo de coco?

What Is Pollo de Coco?

It’s a dish made with spiced chicken simmered in creamy coconut milk. The bone-in, skin-on pieces of chicken are sauteed until golden brown in a coating of adobo, a Latin American spice blend made from salt, garlic, turmeric, black pepper and oregano. Then, the chicken is doused in full-fat coconut milk and a shake of sazón, and colorful bell peppers and onions are added for the slightest hint of sweetness.

This dish is popular in Colombia and Guatemala, but family cooks in the United States make pollo de coco, too.

Coconut Milk Chicken Recipe

Pollo De Coco IngredientsMarisel Salazar for Taste of Home

Ingredients

  • 2-3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken (breasts, thighs or legs)
  • Adobo powder, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • ½ chopped red bell pepper
  • ½ chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sazón
  • 1 (13.5 oz) can full-fat coconut milk
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Editor’s Tip: You can find adobo at this specialty spice shop.

Tools You’ll Need

Directions

Step 1: Prepare the chicken

Preparing Chicken For Pollo De CocoMarisel Salazar for Taste of Home

Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with adobo. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces to the pan skin-side down. Cook for about 10 minutes, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover to keep it warm.

Step 2: Cook the vegetables

Cooking Vegetables For Pollo De CocoMarisel Salazar for Taste of Home

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to your pan. Stir in onions and bell peppers and cook until vegetables are softened, about seven minutes. Add sazón to vegetables and cook until fragrant, around 30 seconds.

Step 3: Simmer chicken in coconut milk

Coconut Milk For Pollo De CocoMarisel Salazar for Taste of Home

Pour coconut milk into the pan with vegetables. Add the chicken back to the pan skin side up, in a single layer. You don’t want to overcrowd the pan here. Bring the coconut milk to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, bathing chicken occasionally with sauce, until the chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes.

Editor’s Tip: The internal temperature should register 165˚F on a quick-read thermometer when inserted into the thickest part of the piece of chicken without touching the bone.

Step 4: Finish cooking the sauce

Finishing Sauce For Pollo De CocoMarisel Salazar for Taste of Home

Transfer chicken to a platter and loosely cover with foil. Increase heat to medium-high. Simmer coconut milk sauce until it thickens slightly, stirring occasionally so it does not curdle or form a skin. Stir in half of the fresh cilantro.

Step 5: Serve warm

When ready to serve, pour the sauce over the chicken and top with remaining cilantro.

What to Serve with Your Chicken

As with almost any Latin American chicken dish, serve with freshly made rice. Learn how to make perfect rice for dinner.

Tips for Making Pollo de Coco

I recommend full-fat canned coconut milk for a more pronounced cream coconut flavor.

You can find premade sazón and adobo spices at a grocery store, spice shop or on Amazon. You can also make sazón at home! To make sazón, mix the following spices together:

  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground annatto seeds (achiote)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Keep stored in an airtight container.

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Marisel Salazar
Marisel Salazar is a New York City-based food, lifestyle, and travel writer. She is a member of the Newswomen's Club of New York and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She is the host of United States of Spirits on the Spirits Network and Driven to Dine on MSG Networks. Due West is her private brand communications agency. Find her at @MariselMSalazar (24k+) on Instagram account or @MariselSalazar on Twitter.