Island Flavor: Chicken Pelau


Today, a stew.

Yes.  I know what you’re thinking- that there’s something fundamentally wrong with me since I hate hot weather and here I go making a stew when it’s 90 bazillion degree outside.

In my defense, it’s not really a stew. It’s more like a chicken and rice pot thing, but depending on how much liquid you add, it really could be stew-like.  Whatever you want to call it, it’s definitely got that comfort food feel about it.


Now, before you click away, hear me out.  I know that right now we all prefer to eat things like salads and farm-fresh tomatoes and juicy-juicy mangos and ice cream, and the thought of something rib-sticking is honestly a little horrible.  I thought so, too, until I ate cassoulet for lunch yesterday.

Not wanting to cook during my weekend of sloth/birthday, I resorted to the freezer stores for lunch.  Cassoulet, my fall/winter favorite meal, came forth. And despite the hot weather, I couldn’t get enough. Was sad it was gone. Contemplated making a huge pot when I got home last night.  I think it’s because I go outside as little as possible and spend most of my day in an office slightly chilled thanks to the wonderfulness of air conditioning.  And for those days, rib-sticking is welcome.

The point of the above is to tell you that despite the fact that it’s summer, there is still a time and place for stew-like things.  

Back on track in the Caribbean, today’s dish, Chicken Pelau, is a one-pot chicken dish popular throughout Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean.  However, the recipe is different depending on where you land.  I found those from Barbados had more Asian flair, whereas the one that I made is more West Indies. No matter, it’s super flavorful and despite mixed feelings of disgust during prep, it came out quite nice.  Sweet and spicy with freshness thanks to the herbs and citrus, me like. You will, too.


Some prep notes

The recipe I adapted had me almost “frying” (for lack of a better word) the chicken in brown sugar.  It’s weird, but works.

Do marinate the chicken for a bit. The spices give it such a lovely color.

Some ingredient notes:  

I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs which lead to more of a two-step process to not over cook the chicken. No need to remove them from the pot as the rice cooks if you buy bone-in.

I also used brown rice rather than the traditional parboiled because I had some in the house, and already have too many types of rice in house to buy one more. It just has to do with cooking time, and since I didn’t have to worry about overcooking chicken in this instance, I just let it rock on the stove until the ‘taters were soft and the rice was chewy in the way brown rice should be.  For more info on the benefits of parboiled vs. regular rice, check it.

Citrus is my addition because I put citrus in everything. Plus, it’s tropical-like, right?




Chicken Pelau
Serves 4
A one-pot Caribbean style chicken and rice dish
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For the chicken
  1. 1 TB Ground ginger
  2. 1 TB Cumin
  3. 1 TB Smoked paprika
  4. 1/2 TB Ground black pepper
  5. 1/2 TB Kosher salt
  6. 1 pound Chicken thighs and legs
For the pelau
  1. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  2. 1 TB vegetable oil
  3. 3 TB water
  4. 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  5. 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  6. 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  7. 1 cup petite peas, frozen
  8. 1 cup short grained brown rice
  9. 1 TB crushed red chili flakes
  10. 3 cups low sodium chicken stock
  11. 3 – 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  12. 1/2 cup chives, diced
  13. Salt & Pepper to taste
  14. ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  15. 1 lime, juiced
  1. Add chicken to large bowl and season generously with spice blend and oil then season with salt. Let stand covered for 1 hour or overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Remove chicken from refrigerator and let stand to room temp.
  3. Add sugar, oil and water to large sauté or sauce pan on medium or low medium heat. Stir the sugar around then let it caramelize until a dark golden caramel color has been reached. Add the chicken pieces to the pan. Stir around until the caramel has been absorbed and picked up by the chicken. Cook chicken about 3 minutes per side, and remove from the pot.
  4. Add the garlic, potato and onions and cook for 4 minutes. Stir well, and add the rice and stir very well until the all the rice is evenly coated. Add the chili flakes and the stock. Add salt and seasoning to taste. Stir well.
  5. Add the thyme and chives. Cover the pot and allow to come to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer on medium low heat. Dish is done when liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender. Once the liquid is about 3/4 absorbed, add the chicken back to the pot to finish cooking until the rest of the rice is absorbed. Once that's happened, add the peas and the lime juice. Turn off the heat and let the dish sit covered for 10 -15 minutes.
  6. To serve, use a fork and fluff the rice. Spoon serving on a plate or bowl, add a few cilantro leaves as garnish and an extra squeeze of lime if you desire.
  1. If you use bone-in chicken, leave it in the pot to cook all the way through with the rice.
  2. Coconut milk would be pretty awesome in this.
  3. No chives? Use green onion.
Adapted from Taste the Islands
Adapted from Taste the Islands
The Hungary Buddha Eats the World



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    • So far the peanut gallery on this end gives it a thumbs up, so I hope you try it! And thanks for the birthday wishes!