This Cuban style fricase de pollo (chicken fricassee) is made with dark meat chicken that is stewed in a flavorful tomato sauce and finished with potatoes and olives. It’s the ultimate in Cuban comfort food and fairly simple to make using affordable, easy to find ingredients.
Fricassee is a cooking method, where meat is cut up into pieces, braised and served with the sauce it was cooked in. Chicken is a popular meat used to fricassee, but any meat, including seafood can be made fricassee style.
This is a Cuban style chicken fricassee. It starts with browning chicken pieces, then making a sofrito in the drippings. The sofrito is the base for the flavorful sauce the chicken is stewed in. Then the whole thing is finished with salty olives and potatoes. It is a hearty dish and a great way to cook chicken that won’t get you the “chicken again” comment.
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- Chicken – Bone in, dark meat pieces work best.
- Spices – Salt (we use kosher salt), cumin, oregano, black pepper and a bay leaf flavor the fricassee sauce.
- Oil – We are not cooking at a very high temperature so olive oil works well, but you can use your favorite cooking oil.
- Produce – Onions and garlic flavor the sauce. Potatoes go in at the end to make this a stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal.
- Pantry – Tomato paste for the sofrito, white wine to deglaze the pan and Spanish olives to give the fricase de pollo a salty kick.
Things move quickly in the beginning of this recipe so have everything ready to go before you start. I use glass nesting bowls to keep the ingredients separated and organized.
- Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Prepare a seasoning mix for the sauce. Add ½ teaspoon salt, oregano, cumin and black pepper to a small bowl, stir to combine.
- Dice the onions. Do a small dice, so they mostly dissolve in the sauce.
- Mince the garlic.
- Gather and measure out the tomato paste, white wine, tomato sauce, water and olives.
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1-2 inch pieces. The potatoes can be prepped now or later. There is a 15 minute window before they go in the fricassee. I prefer to get them ready with the other ingredients so that I can clear away the cutting board and get it washed up.
Keep peeled and cut potatoes in a bowl covered with cold water if not using right away. This keeps them from browning too quickly. Just remember to drain the water before adding them to the pan.
- It is best to make fricase de pollo with dark meat chicken. Preferably bone-in and skin on. Dark meat is will not dry out with the cooking time, plus the bone and skin add a ton of flavor.
- If you prefer to use chicken breast in this recipe, use bone-in so they don’t dry out too much.
- Make a seasoning mix for the sauce instead of standing over a hot skillet or pot measuring out ingredients.
- Deglaze the pan with chicken broth if you don’t use wine, or don’t have any on hand.
- The cooking time in this recipe should get the chicken to at least 165°F, but use an instant read thermometer to verify. Take the internal temperature of largest piece at its thickest part without touching the bone.
We’re going to brown the chicken before we start the sauce. This will add a ton of flavor because the sauce will be started in the drippings.
Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet (or a large, wide pot) over medium heat. Use a pan that has a tight-fitting lid and is large enough to fit the chicken without overlapping with room for the sauce and potatoes.
Add the chicken to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes, turn each piece and cook another 5 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the heat so that the oil and bits on the bottom do not start to smoke. I just move it over to a cold burner. Use tongs to remove the chicken from the skillet and place them on a pan or plate. Keep warm by covering the pan loosely with a piece of aluminum foil, and/or place the pan in the microwave or oven to keep away from drafts.
At this point, the chicken will not be cooked through. Don’t worry, it will finish cooking in the sauce.
Start the sauce
Place the skillet back over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Next, add the garlic, tomato paste, ½ teaspoon salt, oregano, cumin and black pepper. Cook for 1 minute while stirring constantly.
Carefully add the wine, stir, while gently scrapping all the bits off the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon or spatula. Cook for 1-2 minutes until most of the liquid has cooked out.
Add the tomato sauce, water and the bay leaf to the skillet and stir.
Place the chicken back in the skillet, including any juices collected on the plate and arrange them in the sauce so they are not overlapping.
When the sauce comes back to a simmer, lower the heat to medium-low and cover the skillet. Cook the chicken for 15 minutes. Give the skillet a quick shake occasionally to make sure the chicken isn’t sticking to bottom. Stir the sauce about halfway through the cooking time.
Finish the dish
Uncover the skillet, give the chicken and sauce a quick stir. Add the potatoes and the olives. (If a little olive brine happens to make its way into pan, that’s a good thing!) Arrange the ingredients so they are not mounded and everything has its own space.
Cover the pan and cook for another 15-20 minutes. Keep the sauce simmering, but not boiling too vigorously. Lower the heat if you need to and give the skillet a quick shake occasionally to move the ingredients around.
The potatoes should be fork tender and the chicken at least 165°F. Use an instant read thermometer to take the internal temperature of a couple of the larger pieces to be safe. Use tongs to fish out the bay leaf and discard.
How to serve
Typically, fricase de pollo is served with white rice. I know what you’re thinking, potatoes and white rice? Yes, it’s a Cuban thing. This stewed chicken is good on its own if you would rather skip the rice. Just include a piece of crusty bread or some crackers so the delicious sauce doesn’t go to waste.
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Fricase de Pollo (Chicken Fricassee)
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 8 pieces Chicken legs, thighs, or a combination (bone-in and skin-on, about 2 pounds)
- 1 Small Onion finely diced
- 3-4 Garlic Cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
- 1½ teaspoon Salt divided (1 teaspoon to season the chicken and ½ teaspoon for the sauce)
- ½ teaspoon Ground Cumin
- ½ teaspoon Dried Oregano
- ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
- ½ cup White Wine
- 16 ounce Can Tomato Sauce
- 1 cup Water
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 10-12 ounce Potato peeled and cut into 1-2 inch pieces (roughly 1 large or 2 medium potatoes) we used a russet potatoes
- ½ cup Pitted Spanish Olives
- Season the chicken on both sides with 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet (or a large, wide pot) over medium heat. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes, turn each piece and cook another 5 minutes.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and remove the chicken from the skillet. Place it on a pan or plate and keep warm. Cover the chicken loosely with a piece of aluminum foil, and/or place the pan in the microwave. It will stay warm away from drafts.
- Place the skillet back over medium heat. The oil should still be hot, but if it’s not give it a minute or two over the heat.
- Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the garlic, tomato paste, ½ teaspoon salt, oregano, cumin and black pepper to the skillet. Cook for 1 minute while stirring constantly.
- Carefully add the wine, to the skillet. Stir, while gently scrapping the bits off the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon or spatula. Cook for 1-2 minutes until most of the liquid has cooked out.
- Add the tomato sauce, water and the bay leaf, stir.
- Add the chicken to the sauce, including any juices collected on the plate. Arrange them so that they are not overlapping.
- When the sauce comes back to a simmer, lower the heat to medium-low and cover the skillet. Cook the chicken for 15 minutes. Keep the sauce at a simmer, if it’s boiling too vigorously lower the heat a bit.
- Give the skillet a quick shake occasionally, to make sure the chicken isn’t sticking to bottom. Stir the sauce about halfway through the cooking time.
- Uncover the skillet, give the chicken and sauce a quick stir. Add the potatoes and the olives. Give everything a good stir to combine. Arrange the ingredients so they’re not mounded.
- Raise the heat a little if the sauce does not come to a simmer right away. Cover the chicken fricassee and cook for another 15-20 minutes. Keep the sauce at a simmer, lower or raise the heat as necessary. Give the skillet a quick shake occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking.
- The potatoes should be fork tender and the chicken at least 165°F. Stir gently with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon so the potatoes do not break apart.
- Use tongs to remove the bay leaf and discard. Taste the sauce and add salt if needed. As a reference we did not add any to ours. Serve the fricassee on a bed of white rice, or with bread or crackers, if desired.