Sephardic Recipes With A Modern Twist

Sephardic Spice Girls


Arroz con Pollo is a classic Spanish chicken and rice recipe. It is a fragrant, flavorful dish that can be found throughout Latin America, with minor variations of ingredients. Like the famous Spanish paella, the rice is subtly infused with the flavors of the spices and tomatoes. But unlike paella, no shellfish or pork sausage feature in the ingredients, making it perfect for the Jewish home.

An uncomplicated recipe that includes lots of vegetables, Arroz con Pollo makes for an easy and nutritious weeknight meal. The first step is to sear the chicken till it is lightly browned, which ensures that the juices are sealed in. The onions and vegetables are gently sautéed and the rice is glazed until golden. Diced tomatoes and liquids are added to cover the rice and then the chicken is gently nestled in the pot. The steaming process softens the rice and fuses the flavors making for a one pot wonder.

The dish adapts to whatever spices and ingredients the chef has on hand. While saffron and paprika are the trademark spices of this dish, turmeric and red chili powder or coriander and cumin can easily stand in. Nowadays, even Trader Joe’s sells an affordable, quality saffron, an indispensable ingredient in the Sephardic kitchen. Rachel’s family recipe calls for carrots, celery, zucchini, peppers and peas, but when she wants to make the arroz really special, she adds canned or frozen artichoke hearts. You can also add vegetables like cauliflower and asparagus for a delicious change.

Whatever you decide to include, don’t leave out the green olives—they give it that signature tangy Spanish flavor.


Arroz con Pollo is the perfect dish for this time of the year when we crave homemade comfort foods. An added bonus is that the leftovers store easily and taste even better the next day!

Rachel’s Family Arroz Con Pollo Recipe

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 3 1/2-4lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 cup finely sliced celery
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 cup long grain rice, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups saffron water (or 1 teaspoon turmeric and 1 1/2 cups water)
1 8oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup sliced green olives
1 cup frozen baby peas
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf

  1. Sear chicken in 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat till lightly browned, about 5 minutes each side, then set aside.

  2. Sauté onion in the remaining olive oil till it becomes translucent.

  3. Add garlic, celery, carrots, zucchini and pepper until the vegetables are lightly glazed.

  4. Add rice and saffron water and bring to a boil.

  5. Stir till the rice has a golden color and reduce heat.

  6. Add tomatoes, olives and peas and all the spices and stir well.

  7. Nestle the chicken pieces into the rice.

  8. If rice appears too dry, add a little water.

  9. Cover tightly and simmer for twenty minutes.

  10. Turn off the heat and let sit for ten minutes.

  11. Fluff with a fork and serve.

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