One of my missions for this trip to Belize was to enjoy more traditional food. I started with the most logical option…finding the best Belizean Stewed Chicken with Rice and Beans. In the first week of my stay in Belize I probably ate WAY MORE Stewed Chicken with Rice and Beans than any human should, but it was for a good reason…right? Special note: Rice and Beans are mixed together…Beans and Rice are separate. It’s important to know this…they serve both and when you are asked ‘Do you want Rice and Beans or Beans and Rice?” they’ll definitely know you are a tourist if you hesitate…but it doesn’t matter anyway since Belizeans seem to love tourists.
Where to start? How about our drive from Belize City to San Ignacio? Seriously…we arrived in Belize about 1130am, so once we got to know our driver a bit I asked if she would mind stopping along the way for us to get lunch. We stopped at a grocery store along the Western Highway. The little old lady with a covered area setup in the parking lot was selling just what I wanted. In hindsight I wish I would have got her name or the exact location so that I could share the information with all of you, alas I did not get those details. Later that evening…yep…Stewed Chicken again. This time it was at Hodes in San Ignacio. I ate at Hodes several times last time I visited Belize, but I have to admit I was a bit disappointed this time around. Of course, their tortillas were still AWESOME. I ate Stewed Chicken with Rice and Beans a couple more times while in San Ignacio…Ko-Ox-Han-Nah (also known as Hana) and Flayvas. And, once while in Hopkins as Tina’s. None of the Stewed Chicken with Rice and Beans was bad, but a few were a little dry. So, you are probably wondering if I had a favorite. I did.
The little old lady on the Western Highway definitely wins for the best Stewed Chicken, which is why I’m so disappointed that I didn’t get her name or more details. So sorry!
Hana gets second place for Stewed Chicken and definitely first place for the rice and beans.
As much as I hate to say it, Hodes takes last place. You just never know. They were great last year and pretty dry this year. I’m hopeful that we just hit them on a bad day.
My over-all impression of this traditional Belizean fare…EAT IT…you won’t be disappointed.
One more point about this traditional dish…it’s usually served with fried plantains and either potato salad or coleslaw. Best fried plantains goes to the Little Old Lady on the Western Highway.
Stewed Chicken with Rice and Beans
Left to right…Little Old Lady, Hodes, Hana, and Flayva’s.
The last part of this mission was to get the traditional recipe. I tried to get recipes off the internet last year, but they just didn’t work out. Turns out our transportation from the airport, Tosh (aka Sandra), was more than willing to give me her recipes. I didn’t ask, but I didn’t get the impression that she would mind me sharing. Please keep in mind, I was scribbling while she was telling me what to do so these instructions are very sketchy. Although, I think I at least captured the key ingredients and/or instructions.
Rice and Beans
1 package of Coconut Powder for 2 pounds of rice.
Red, Black, or Kidney Beans (I’ve noticed they use a lot more rice than they do beans, but Tosh says the ratio is not too important).
¼ teaspoon Salt.
Keep 1 ½ inches of water above the rice.
Cook low and slow.
***That’s all she told me. We later got a ride from her daughter from San Ignacio to Hopkins. Danielia admitted that it took her several attempts to get it right, so not be discouraged.***
Chicken parts (I noticed they usually use chicken with bones and skin…I will try chicken breasts, but it might not work out…we’ll see).
Recado (it’s a Jamaican spice…she also mentioned something that sounded like Actota which is a Mexican spice…spelling may be completely wrong).
Cook chicken slowly.
***Yep…that’s all I got. As for the Recado , I have no idea how much to use so I’ll experiment. In place of Recado she recommended making a substitute (see recipe below).***
½ Spoon of Sugar
***Surprise, surprise…nothing overly specific about the recipe. I can understand why her daughter, Danielia failed a few times before getting it right. Maybe I’ll post a follow-up once I get the details ironed.***
If any of you get brave and decide to use these very cryptic recipes let me know how it comes out. Coming soon…my lobster tasting blog post and Raggamuffin’s ceviche recipe.
In this video, I do a remake of my very first video called "Belizean Stew Chicken" I wanted to give more information about the cooking process.
Belize BBQ Chicken
A popular and simple way to make a whole chicken, this Belizean dish is found at street vendors, restaurants, parties, and at family dinners.
The first step to making a Belizean BBQ Chicken is important to many Belizean Chicken recipes: washing the chicken. The chicken is rubbed with limes or sour oranges and then allowed to soak in water with limes.
The Chicken is then quartered.
Washing the Chicken with Water and Lime
Quartering the Chicken
Quartered, Washed Chicken
Substitute for Sour Orange, Tip: This Bitter Orange Contains alot of Salt
Red Recado (Recado Rojo) is an original mayan spice blend popular in Yucatan and Belize. The most important ingredient, which is also responsible for the red color, is the annatto seed, the other spices are: Mexican oregano, cumin, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, all spice, garlic, and salt.
Red Recado (Recado Rojo)
Red Recado Mixed With Water
Chicken Pieces Marinating in the Recado Mixture
Many people also add 1/4 cup of Lea Perrins sause and season with salt.
Although there are many variations on Stew Chicken, most traditional recipes keep it simple – just chicken, red recado, onion, and water. I added bell pepper, Habanero, and lime juice because this variation seems a little more lively.
2 lbs chicken (I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs because I didn’t want all the work of a whole chicken this time)
1/2 cup red recado (see recipe)
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 Habanero, optional
a splash fresh lime juice or vinegar to taste
1. Marinate chicken in red recado overnight (or for at least 1 hour)
2. Heat up oil in a pot over medium. Add chicken and brown in batches as necessary.
3. Remove chicken and add bell pepper and onion and cook until soft.
4. Return chicken to the pot. Toss in optional Habanero (whole for mild spice, or cut up for an intense heat). Cover chicken with water.
5. Stew chicken until meat is falling apart (or off the bones, if you use bone-in meat). Add a splash of lime juice or vinegar to brighten up the flavor. Adjust seasonings as necessary.
Serve hot on top of Johnny Cakes or with Rice and Beans. Fried plantains make a quick and easy side dish.
1 whole chicken or 4 leg quarters (4 thighs, 4 drumsticks)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 pointer finger-sized sliver of recado
1 sliced onion
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
2 cups chicken broth (or water)
2 tsp. brown sugar
1.5 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Put the recado in a gallon-sized ziploc or small plastic bag and mash it up with a teaspoon or so of vegetable oil. It’ll be hard to mash up but it beats having your hands stained red. Its okay if you still have large chunks–it’ll still smear on the chicken just fine.
Separate the legs from the thighs if they’re still attached
Put one piece of chicken at a time into the bag to coat with the recado mixture and set aside; season onions with recado mixture as well
Season chicken with salt & pepper
Brown chicken in hot oil and set aside
Pour off excess fat. Add vinegar, chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar to pan and bring to a boil, deglazing the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon
Add sliced onion to the pot until they cook down a little
Add chicken to the pot and simmer until the stewed chicken is to your liking, making sure to rotate the chicken once in a while so each side gets equally saucy.
A big part of Belize’s national dish is the stewed chicken that accompanies the coconut-flavored rice and beans. Chicken cuts stewed and simmered in rich gravy add richness to a meal that used to be a traditional Belizean Sunday lunch. Nowadays, with restaurants serving this dish as an everyday special, you can have your fill any time the desire hits.
Of course, if you want to recreate this marvelous meal at home, this recipe can certainly come in handy! Bear in mind that each district of the country has its own tweak to the basic recipe, but you just cannot go wrong with a few key ingredients and a little patience.
1 large chicken (4lbs) cut into pieces
Seasonings of choice: seasoned salt, chili powder, complete seasoning/sazon complete, fresh cracked black pepper
1 medium bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cube of recado (about a 1-inch cube for this size chicken)
Limes for washing chicken
First of all, yes, we Belizeans insist on washing our chicken, with limes or sour oranges, and in a pinch, vinegar works fine too. Just a quick rinse: soaking the meat in the acid, rinsing off with fresh water, then it’s ready for seasoning with what you have at hand.
I use seasoned salt, a little chili powder and complete seasoning generously, as they make the gravy much more flavorful – even to the point that you don’t even need salt!
Once the chicken is seasoned, dice up the onions, peppers and garlic and throw them in a large pan with a heated tablespoon of vegetable oil.
Sautee the veggies (smell that wonderful trio as it cooks up nicely!), then toss in the chicken cuts, moving around the pieces of meat so that each touches the bottom of the pan for a little browning ahead.
Cover the pan and let it steam and sizzle.
After about 5 minutes, stir the meat around a bit, turning each piece to get a little sizzle on both sides, then cover again.
Lower the flame to medium and cover the chicken again to let out its own gravy (brought on from the steam). While that happens, be sure to grab your piece of recado and in a small bowl, add some water and slowly break down the recado. This happens as you pinch it between thumb, index and middle fingers, melting it into the water. The water will turn a rich red, and it will give the gravy the color and that ‘extra’ flavor.
The chicken should be sizzling away in the pan and the juices will have dried up somewhat. If the pan still looks like it’s got quite some liquid, don’t add too much of the recado water. Wait till the liquid in the pan has evaporated slightly, which means you might have to take the lid off the pan to monitor this (don’t worry, you’re looking at 5 minutes max!).
Add the recado-water and cover up the pan once more, letting the color adhere to the chicken and flavoring every piece!
After about 20 more minutes of simmering away, and that chicken is good to go! Taste the gravy and if you feel it’s needing some salt, add a tiny pinch at a time, stirring and adjusting.
Of course, I cook the dark meat with the skin on. For health (ha) reasons, just strip the skin off before serving on your rice and beans! The best way to serve this full meal is accompanied by fried ripe plantains, some potato salad, and the hot stuff!
You can serve this chicken with white rice, that gravy will add major flavor to it! A nice green salad on the side would make it a much healthier option too!
This Belizean combination is without a doubt the most abundant meal in Belize. From north to south, east to west and out on the cayes, you won’t go anywhere without coming across a plate of Stew Chicken with rice and beans.
With our easy to make recipe you can enjoy some Belizean flavour in the comfort of your home.
1 4-lb. Chicken cut into small pieces
1 Clove garlic
1 tsp. Thyme, salt, pepper
1 tiny sliver of ginger
2 tbsps. Chopped onions
1 tbsp. Chopped green or red sweet pepper
1/4 tsp. Cumin ( cominos)
1 tsp. Brown sugar
1 small ripe tomato
Dime size red recado
Vinegar or lemon juice
Wash chicken pieces
Season with, vinegar or lemon juice, red recado, salt, pepper, thyme, cumin, cilantro.
Heat 2 tbsps. Cooking oil, add brown sugar and watch carefully to avoid burning. Let sugar cook until completely melted and turns dark brown.
Add clove of garlic that has been smashed and chopped as fine as possible.
Add ginger and fry, stirring, remove ginger when it gets brown.
Add chicken and brown properly on all sides.
Add remaining seasoning from chicken, chopped onions, sweet pepper and tomato and add about a half cup of water.
Reduce heat to medium and cover pot. Let simmer, adding water so that pot is never completely dry.
Cook for about 1 hour until chicken is very tender.
Rice & Beans:
1 lb. red kidney beans
1 medium onion sliced
2 lbs. rice
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. Salt
2 plugs garlic ( crushed)
1 dried coconut (grated)( to give 1 cup milk)
6-8 cups water
Collect all ingredients
Soak beans for 4-6 hours
Boil beans with garlic, onion, until tender.
Season soften beans with black pepper, thyme & salt
Add coconut milk. Stir & taste. Let boil
Clean /Wash rice
Add rice to seasoned beans. Stir, then cover. Cook until water is absorb or rice is tender. If necessary add more water gradually and continue cooking until rice is tender
This goes perfect with an ice cold beer. Preferable a Belikin Beer if you have one!
1 Chicken (about four pounds) cut into small pieces 1 clove garlic 1 onion chopped salt, pepper (about a teaspoon of each) Cumin ( a good pinch ground or about a teaspoon whole) Thyme (a good pinch) Black pepper (good pinch to taste) Recado or Paprika (a half teaspoon piece of recado or a big pinch of Paprika as a substitute for recado and to add colour) Vinegar or lemon juice (a few splashes or squeezes)
Chopped bell pepper (red or green) One ripe tomato Cilantro Tabasco 1 teaspoon Brown sugar
Wash chicken and rub in the vinegar or lemon juice.
Season with salt and set aside.
Heat the oil in a heavy pan or deep skillet and sprinkle flour, stirring to dissolve (like a thin roux) before adding chicken pieces.
Add onion and garlic, stirring until onion softens, being careful not to burn.
Add remaining spices, stir, and begin adding water until chicken is almost covered. If you have the recado, mix with water until just runny and add with spices.
Reduce heat and cook slowly to stew, about 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally and adding water as necessary.
A note on the seasoning. As mentioned, every cook has his or her own spicing tricks. Thyme is one favourite, and many Belize cooks use Season All instead of salt when initially seasoning. Bay leaf, oregano, basil – whatever strikes your fancy probably won’t go amiss. Some people add a small tin of tomatoes, a big splash of beer, dashes of Worcestershire and other personal favourites.
While delicious when served immediately, this is a dish that can be made well ahead of time and reheated – in fact, it seems to get better as it matures.
Serve alongside your rice and beans and Belizean potato salad, homemade flour tortillas or whatever you like.