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Ecuadorian seco de pollo or chicken stew

Seco de pollo or seco de gallina is an Ecuadorian chicken stew cooked slowly in a sauce of beer, naranjilla, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, herbs, and spices.

Ecuadorian chicken stew with yellow achiote rice, fried ripe plantains and avocado

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Seco de pollo or chicken stew is another delicious recipe from Ecuador. It is one of dishes that you crave on a day when you want a nice home-cooked meal. It’s the type of meal that not only satisfies your stomach but also gives you that overall happy satisfied soul feeling. This dish is also known as seco de gallina criolla.

If it is made with a young chicken it is called seco de pollo, and if it is made with an older hen it is called seco de gallina criolla. Traditionally, it was a way to cook those older tougher hens and soften the meat by cooking it slowly in a sauce of onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, herbs and spices.

Ecuadorian seco de pollo chicken stew with yellow achiote rice, fried ripe plantains and avocado

The traditional preparation also uses chicha – a fermented corn drink – instead of beer, though most people today prepare it with beer because it is much easier to find and tastes great. Sometimes naranjilla juice is also added. I recommend using a light and mild-flavored beer, if not the flavor might be on the bitter side.

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If that happens, you can offset the bitterness by adding some citrus (orange, sour orange, lemon/lime, naranjilla/lulo juice) until you have the right balance. You can also use a mix of beer and citrus juice, like naranjilla or lulo juice.  Other options for the liquid include a mix of half white wine and half orange juice.  I find the flavor of chicha similar to a semi-dry apple cider, so apple cider is also another alternative to beer for this recipe.

Ecuadorian seco de pollo or chicken stew

Seco de pollo is an easy recipe to make, but it can be time-consuming if you are cooking a hen or gallina, since you have to wait for the chicken meat to get very tender – about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. My mom usually makes it in the pressure cooker if she’s making it the traditional way with an older hen.

Recipe for Ecuadorian seco de pollo

A regular pollo or young chicken will cook much quicker, but the sauce might need more time to thicken. In that case, I recommend removing the chicken pieces and increasing the heat to thicken the sauce quickly. Seco de pollo is usually served with arroz amarillo or yellow rice -just add some achiote to the rice preparation -and fried ripe plantains. Those are the two must-have sides. I also like to serve it with avocado slices, a small salad, and if you need extra starch some whole potatoes sauteed in butter. 

Video Recipe

Ecuadorian chicken stew cooked in beer sauce
Ecuadorian seco de pollo chicken stew with yellow achiote rice, fried ripe plantains and avocado

Seco de pollo {Ecuadorian chicken stew}

Seco de pollo or seco de gallina is an Ecuadorian chicken stew cooked slowly in a sauce of beer (or chicha), naranjilla juice, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, herbs and spices.
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Course: Main dish
Cuisine: Ecuadorian, Latin American
Keyword: Beer, Chicha, Chicken, Chicken stew, Comfort food, Naranjilla, Seco de pollo
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 4 to 5 lbs of assorted chicken pieces
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground achiote or annatto can also use paprika (if you can’t find ground achiote you can use the seeds, they will need to be simmered in the oil until they release their color)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 onion cut into chunks
  • 6 to 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 to 2 cups of beer or chicken broth/wine/chicha
  • 1 cup of naranjilla lulo juice, can use the frozen concentrate (can be replaced with fresh orange juice as an alternative)
  • 4- 6 tomatoes 1 pound, quartered
  • 2 bell peppers seeds removed and cut into chunks
  • Optional: 1 aji or hot pepper jalapeno or serrano, can also use chili powder
  • 1 bunch cilantro reserve some to chop finely to add at the end
  • 1 bunch parsley leaves only, reserve some to chop finely and add at the end
  • 2 tsp dry oregano or 2-3 fresh oregano sprigs
  • Juice of 1 orange optional
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Side dishes

Instructions

  • Rub the chicken pieces with the ground achiote, cumin, salt and pepper.
  • Blend the beer and the naranjilla juice with the onion chunks, whole garlic cloves, tomatoes, bell peppers, hot pepper, cilantro, parsley, oregano to obtain a smooth sauce or puree.
  • Heat the oil and brown the chicken pieces.
  • Pour the blended beer vegetable mix over the chicken. Bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat and cook on low for about an hour (if you were using an old hen it would take longer, but most supermarket chicken will be tender in an hour or less).
  • If the chicken is tender, but sauce isn’t thick yet, then remove the cooked chicken pieces, turn up the heat and cook the sauce until it’s nice and thick, about 10 to 15 minutes. At this point I also like to taste the sauce and adjust salt/spices, if the flavor is slightly bitter from the beer you can neutralize it by adding some freshly squeezed orange juice/lemon juice. Once the sauce has thickened add the chicken pieces back to the pot and mix in the remaining chopped cilantro and parsley.
  • Serve with arroz amarillo or yellow rice and fried ripe plantains. Can also be served with avocado and a small salad.
Ecuadorian chicken stew
Chicken stew cooked in beer with achiote rice, plantains and avocado

Side dish recipes:

Arroz amarillo or yellow rice

Fried ripe plantains

Whole potatoes sauteed in butter

Preparation photos for Ecuadorian seco de pollo chicken stew:

Cilantro and parsley for seco de pollo
Seco de pollo preparation
Seco de pollo with side dishes
Seco de pollo or seco de gallina
Seco de pollo recipe
Seco de pollo or chicken stew
Seco de pollo or Ecuadorian chicken stew
Chicken stew or seco de gallina
Seco de pollo or chicken stew

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Beef stew in tamarind sauce {Seco de carne con tamarindo}
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{Fritada de gallina} Ecuadorian chicha braised chicken
Fritada de gallina is a delicious and tender Ecuadorian chicken dish prepared by cooking chicken in a sauce made with chicha or fermented corn drink, garlic, onion and cumin until the liquid is gone and the chicken is golden brown. Adapted from Michelle O. Fried’s Comidas del Ecuador: Recetas Tradicionales para Gente de Hoy
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Braised goat stew {Ecuadorian seco de chivo}
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66 Comments

  1. Laylita,
    I remember my mom every time I cook one of your recipes. Your recipes have added to my repertoire of Ecuadorian recipes, I remember many of the foods she made for my and my siblings. Cooking her food helps keep my mom’s memory alive for all our family. She cooked foods from all over Ecuador. When you publish your book I will buy one for all my nieces to help them remember our heritage. I was born in Manta, Ecuador, came to the U.S. when I was 2 years old with my folks and siblings.Thankfully they took us to visit Ecuador when we were young and we went all over.
    I appreciate your blog and use it as a reference anytime I forgot a recipe, and enjoy how you have modernize some recipes.
    Que Dios te bendiga, y mucha suerta en tu libro!

    Amelia

  2. I made this with pork/cerdo today and it was great. I had to use some tomato paste because I was too lazy to walk to the mercado. It tasted just like what we had last week in Puerto Ayora in the Galapagos for Sunday breakfast. (I live in Cuenca.)

  3. Wow! Thank you for this! I was skeptical it would come out great, I was so wrong! This dish was delicious. I’m half Spaniard and half Irish and my husband was born in Cuenca. He loved this dish. Licked his plate clean! Thanks so much for all your awesome recipes Layla!

  4. Hola Laylita,
    Mi nombre es María Gracia y vivo en Mary Esther, FL. Quiero hacer el seco de pollo; pero me preguntaba si de repente lo puedo hacer en una olla de cocción lenta (trabajo mucho), y cómo me lo recomendarías cocinar si es el caso? Muchas gracias!

    1. Hola María Gracia – Si, se puede hacer en la olla de cocción lenta, el proceso es similar a esta receta. Yo le puse 6-8 horas de tiempo en la olla de cocción lenta. Lo unico es que el liquido no se espesa mucho, entonces si lo quiere un poco mas espeso, al final puede sacar las presas ya cocidas e incrementar la temperatura para reducir y espesar los jugos del seco. Tengo fotos del proceso y espero subirlas dentro de poco.

  5. Hi! i made many of your recipes, especially plantain ones! really good!!!
    Today i was gonna make this seco de pollo because it looked so good! i did everything like the recipe said, the food looked and smelled great but when i tasted it, it was very bitter. I think it was the cilantro. Is it supposed to tase that bitter?
    Thanks a lot!

    1. No, it shouldn’t be bitter at all and the cilantro won’t make it bitter.. I’m guessing that the bitterness might have come from the beer, what kind of beer was used?

      1. Thanks for responding! I used Heineken, but it wasn`t the first time i used this beer in a stew, other times tasted good. i was sure it was from the cilantro sticks( the harder part). I also looked at other recipes of seco de pollo and everyone just tosses the whole cilantro bunch in the blender. hmm…

        1. It could be, I usually use very young cilantro so the the stalks are very soft. I made it once with Heineken and did find that beer flavor was stronger than when I use Corona.
          If you still have the seco de pollo, you could try to neutralize the bitterness by adding some orange juice/and or blended tomatoes, and cooking it a little more (remove the chicken pieces and cook the liquid mix until it reduces/thickens, then add back the chicken pieces).

  6. I was just in Ecuador for 6 weeks, and this was my favorite thing I ate while there. Thanks so much for the recipe!!

    By “bunch” of cilantro and “bunch” of parsley, do you mean the entire bundle we buy at the store? I made up some sauce this morning with the entire bunch of parsley and cilantro and my sauce looks too green to me.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Ami – Yes, I mean a whole bundle (medium sized). The sauce will be green when you blend it, but the combination of achiote/annatto plus cooking it will turn into a brownish red color by the time it’s done.

  7. Hi Laylita,

    I was wondering if I could make this with chicken breast?? Please let me know. Thank you so much!
    I love your other recipes, they always turn out amazing!!

    1. Yes, of course. I usually use an assortment since people have different preferences, and in Ecuador you usually buy a whole chicken and cut it up, but using just chicken breast (or any piece you prefer) will work also.

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