Though there must be at least a thousand recipes for chicken in Costa Rica, this recipe for Costa Rica Chicken is OMG so good! I tried this dish at a restaurant that serves traditional Costa Rica food and I was blown away by the rich flavor and tender, juicy chicken. I couldn’t stop gushing to the cook in my broken Spanish, and he was kind enough to share the ingredients and basic prep instructions.
This dish is generally made with whole chicken parts of breast, thigh and legs, but for ease of serving I use deboned chicken pieces – handy if you can get them. I also add a couple more boneless legs or thighs.
In the original recipe, the pieces of chicken are cooked as full pieces, but another adjustment I’ve made is to cut my boneless pieces to bite-size, for ease of serving and eating.
Serve it up with rice and black beans and you’ve got a traditional and oh-so-special Costa Rica meal.
Costa Rica Chicken
- 2 pounds deboned chicken cut to bite-sized pieces
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 cup chopped green pepper
- 1 red bell pepper sliced to bite-sized strips
- 1 medium onion chopped to bite-size strips
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms button or crimini
- 4 garlic cloves finely chopped, not minced
- 1 cup cilantro coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp achiote paste (see Notes following the recipe)
- 2 tsp Better Than Bouillon Chicken (see Notes following the recipe)
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup tomato sauce (see Notes following the recipe)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Wash the fresh ingredients and cut according to the ingredients list.
- Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces, remembering they'll shrink a bit during cooking.
- On medium-high heat, melt the butter in a large, deep skillet or pot.
- Add the peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro and mushrooms and cook until they soften – about 4-5 minutes.
- Add the achiote paste and cook until the vegetables turn red – about 2 minutes.
- Move the vegetables to the outside edge of the pan. Add the chicken and cook until the outsides look mostly done (not seeing much pink).
- Add the Better Than Bouillon, water, and tomato paste, mix it into the chicken and veggies and bring it to a boil.
- Lower the heat to simmer, cover the pot and cook for 50 minutes so the chicken gets nice and tender. Spoon off any excess fat (the achiote will have colored it a deep red).
- Serve with rice and black beans.
1 Tbsp white vinegar,
3/4 tsp dried oregano,
1 tsp garlic powder,
1 tsp oil,
1/4 tsp ground cumin. Better Than Bouillon – In Costa Rica, the recipe actually calls for 2 small packets of Maggi brand “chicken color and flavor,” or Caldo Sabor a Pollo. When using the Maggi powder bouillon, I find I need to add additional salt to enhance the flavor – but only a smidge, no more than a teaspoon or so. The Better Than Bouillon chicken base doesn’t seem to need additional salt; I believe this is because it’s more concentrated than the Maggi powder. Halfway through simmering, test your juices and add salt to taste, if needed. Tomato Sauce – The recipe doesn’t call for a whole lot of it, but I find that instead of using tomato sauce, substituting 1/2 cup of tomato paste mixed with 1/2 cup of water adds a richer dimension to the dish.