International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Pollo Encebollado

Yellow onions

(Central American chicken simmered with onions)

Average: 4.1 (56 votes)

Chicken smothered with onions, or pollo encebollado, is a popular homestyle dish throughout Central America. It's an incredibly easy dish to make and full of flavor.

The red meat variety, bistec encebollado is also a favorite, and both versions are found on most Central American restaurant menus.

4 to 6 servings


  • Chicken, cut into serving pieces -- 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
  • Salt and pepper -- to season
  • Oil -- 3 tablespoons
  • Onions, sliced thinly -- 3
  • Water or stock -- 1 cup
  • White wine -- 1/2 cup
  • Bay leaf -- 1
  • Salt and pepper -- to season


  1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large saute pan or pot over medium-high flame. Working in batches, brown the chicken pieces in the hot oil and remove to a plate.
  2. Pour off all but 2 or 3 tablespoons of oil and add the onions to the same pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and saute until cooked down and just beginning to brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high and return the chicken pieces to the pot. Add the water or stock, wine, bay leaf, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and tender.
  4. Adjust seasoning and serve with rice.

Pollo Encebollado Variations

  • Bistec Encebollado (Beef simmered with onions): Use 2 pounds of beef filet or other steak. Season and saute until cooked to your liking. Set aside and keep warm. Proceed with the recipe, but don't add the beef back to the pot and eliminate the water. Simmer the sauteed onions only 3 to 5 minutes to reduce the liquid somewhat. Serve the simmered onions over the sautéed steaks.
  • Many recipes use sour orange juice, lemon juice or even vinegar instead of white wine. The acidic nature of these liquids is balanced out by the sweetness of the sauteed onions.
  • Add 2 or 3 cloves of minced garlic with the onions if you like.
  • You can use some breadcrumbs to thicken the sauce at the end.


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