Soupy Rice with Free-Range Chicken (Arroz Caldoso de Pollo de Corral)

February 24, 2014 (Last Updated: June 29, 2020)
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a wide bowl of soupy rice with a cooked chicken thigh in the center

This month’s challenge for the Creative Cooking Crew is rice. As an Armenian, rice pilaf is a serious staple in my kitchen, but considering this month’s challenge I definitely wanted to step outside of my usual rice box to create something totally different. I considered doing something Asian with rice, but finally settled on Spanish instead.

a large sac that says Arroz Calasparra Traditional Paella Rice, and a small jar of saffron

I recall a wonderful dish of Soupy Rice with Lobster that I enjoyed last year in Puerto Rico. It’s truly unforgettable and has been on my mind since the trip. This past fall, I received a review copy of Spain by Jeff Koehler which contains recipes for both Soupy Rice with Lobster and also Soupy Rice with Free-Range Chicken.

closeup of a spoonful of soupy rice in a wide bowl with a chicken thigh

Although the lobster variation is still on my to-do list, it’s a bit more time consuming and complicated than the chicken version, and so I decided to start with chicken instead.

closeup of a wide bowl of soupy rice with chicken with a spoonful scooping some up

The recipe calls for free-range chicken legs, which are larger than typical chicken legs. In order to save some time and effort, I purchased bone-in chicken thighs, removed their skins and simply used these instead. I used 8 thighs in total, delegating 2 thighs per serving.

a closeup of short grain white rice

Bomba rice, or other short or medium-grain Spanish rice is required for this recipe. These types of rice are typically used for paella (another Spanish rice dish I considered for this challenge). I ordered some Calasparra rice from and it turned out to be really convenient.

a closeup of a spoonful of soupy rice sitting in a bowl of broth

This rice is really special, and a necessity for this dish. It is starchier than other rice, and yields a great al dente type of bite to the dish, even after absorbing tons of delicious liquid. This particular type of rice absorbs a lot more liquid than traditional rice, which really sets it apart.

a closeup of a small jar of saffron

I was also really excited to use some Spanish saffron my best friend had actually brought for me from a trip to Spain this past year. It was the perfect occasion to crack open the bottle for this truly authentic Spanish rice dish.

overhead view of a shallow white bowl of soupy rice with shredded chicken

It’s not exactly soup and it’s not exactly rice, but more like a stew featuring fork-tender, fall-off-the-bone chicken, al dente rice, and a stunning broth featuring onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, saffron, and even almonds which are used to thicken it.

a closeup of a spoonful of soupy rice with chicken resting in a shallow bowl

This dish is so flavorful from the broth to the chicken to the rice, that we couldn’t stop eating it! Just beware that it really is best served immediately, as the rice will continue to absorb liquid as it sits, making it less soupy over time.

a shallow bowl of soupy rice with shredded chicken
overhead view of a shallow white bowl of soupy rice with shredded chicken

Soupy Rice with Free-Range Chicken (Arroz Caldoso de Pollo de Corral)

The definition of comfort, this is a Spanish dish that is somewhat a cross between a soup and a stew.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 50 mins
Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine Spanish
Servings 4 servings
Calories 530 kcal


  • 2 whole free-range chicken legs* (I use 8 regular skinless bone-in chicken thighs instead)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I use less)
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 sweet Italian green pepper or 1/2 small green bell pepper finely chopped
  • 2 ripe medium tomatoes halved crosswise, seeded and grated down to the skin, skins discarded
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 12 unsalted toasted almonds without skins (I use an equivalent weight of about 14 grams almond meal instead)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/3 cups (265 g) bomba rice or another short or medium-grain Spanish rice
  • 1 pinch saffron threads


  • Remove the skin from the chicken. Split the legs into drumsticks and thighs, and then cut each in half crosswise through the bone to get eight bone-in pieces. Pick out any small bone shards.
  • In a Dutch oven or another heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken, onion, green pepper, and tomatoes. Season with salt and cook until the chicken is browned, about 12 minutes (I allow the chicken to brown on one side and then flipped the pieces over before adding the vegetables, otherwise the chicken won’t really brown). Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in the wine and simmer for 10 minutes. Cover with 8 cups water, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and gently simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes, until the chicken is tender and the liquid has reduced by about one-third.
  • Meanwhile prepare a picada by adding the almonds, parsley, and 1 or 2 tablespoons of the simmering liquid to a small food processor and blending until smooth.
  • To the simmering pot, sprinkling in the rice and the saffron, crushing it between your fingers, and stir in the picada. Cook uncovered until the rice grains are nearly tender but still have a definite al dente bite to them, 14 to 16 minutes, depending on the rice. Add more water if needed to keep it nice and soupy.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit covered for 3 to 4 minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately. The rice will continue to absorb the liquid the longer it sits.

Notes & Nutrition

  • Free-range chickens tend to be generously sized, weighing up to 8 pounds. I use regular (not free-range) chicken thighs, which saved some of the prep for the dish and still yielded an amazingly delicious and comforting result.
  • To shake things up a bit, in autumn, add a handful of mushrooms, or in the spring add some trimmed artichokes or fresh shucked peas or fava beans.
  • This soupy rice is best the day it is made. The rice will soak up the broth the longer is sits and become less soupy.
Adapted from Spain
Servings 4.0 * calories 530 * Total Fat 19 g * Saturated Fat 3 g * Monounsaturated Fat 10 g * Polyunsaturated Fat 2 g * Trans Fat 0 g * Cholesterol 0 mg * Sodium 439 mg * Potassium 386 mg * Total Carbohydrate 61 g * Dietary Fiber 4 g * Sugars 6 g * Protein 24 g
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*

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