Picante de Pollo is a Creole dish originating in Western Bolivia consisting of chicken, sautéed or fried, doused in a traditional spicy sauce that is thickened with potatoes. It is known for its spicy aroma and flavor, and is a popular food to eat on long winter nights. It is often served alongside a bed of rice and potatoes, and spice can be easily adjusted according to preference.
While Bolivian cuisine is not commonly known for its spice, Picante de Pollo encapsulates the Creole food culture of the country through its use of traditional indigenous ingredients such as potatoes and ajíes panca alongside Spanish-style preparation methods.
This recipe is flexible by nature and has a number of variations that one can try, adjusting spice and ingredients to one’s taste. It can be served with rice, potatoes, pasta, and any combination of sautéed vegetables. The ajíes panca, the main ingredient of the sauce, can be exchanged for ají amarillo, should you want more heat.
How you prepare the chicken can also change. While some choose to fry and cover the sauce in the chili sauce in the pan, others prefer to boil it in the chili sauce or use their slow cooker. These variations will lead to a more tender, pull-apart chicken.
Origin & Cultural Significance
Picante de Pollo, aside from being a staple dish made in many Bolivian households, is also a food of cultural significance. When made in the traditional way, the chicken is served alongside chuño, or freeze-dried potatoes, whose cooking method has evolved over the past several centuries of Bolivian history as Spanish and Indigenous traditions have combined.
The dish is often served as a part of a larger feast during special occasions in Bolivia. It is a centerpiece of the feasts made on Bolivian Independence Day every August.
Bolivian Picante de Pollo
- Chicken thighs - 6
- Vegetable oil - 2 tbsp
- Red bell pepper, cut into strips - 1 large
- White onions, chopped - 3
- Roma tomatoes, chopped - 2
- Garlic cloves, minced - 3
- Ajíes panca peppers - 3
- OR Ají panca paste - 5 oz.
- Green peas, cooked (firm) - ½ cup
- Chicken broth - 3 cups
- Chicken stock cube (or vegetable stock) - 1
- Salt - ½ tsp
- Pepper - ½ tsp
- Cumin - ½ tsp
- Oregano - ½ tsp
- Potatoes, small - 6/7
- Your choice of side (chuno, long grain white rice, pasta) - optional
- Breadcrumbs (optional) - ⅓ cup
- In a pot, boil water and leave potatoes in to cook, skins still on.
- In a separate pot or Dutch oven, add ¼ cup oil and heat.
- Fry chicken in the Dutch oven until golden.
- Remove the Dutch oven from heat and set aside. Save the used oil.
- In a saucepan, add the remaining ¼ cup oil and turn on low heat.
- Sauté onions until translucent. Stir often.
- Add the garlic, bell pepper, tomatoes, cumin, oregano, and ají panca peppers or paste. Saute on low heat for 3-4 minutes, until aromatic.
- Add broth. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Take the mixture from the saucepan and add into the Dutch oven, mixing with the chicken well.
- Put Dutch oven onto low heat, season with salt.
- Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and add already-cooked peas.
- Serve with cooked potatoes and long grain rice, or your choice of side dish.
If you would like to thicken the sauce, you can add ⅓ cup breadcrumbs at step 8, when the sauce is simmering. If you would like to try a more traditional take, boil 7 potatoes at the beginning and take one from the water at step 8, mashing and stirring into the sauce mixture.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 443Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 170mgSodium: 990mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 3gSugar: 8gProtein: 36g