If you’ve ever been to Peru or eaten Peruvian food, then you know that there is one thing they love more than anything else — chicken.
The country has an incredible variety of chicken dishes, but none of them can compare to what they serve up at their restaurants.
It’s not just fried chicken either!
There are many different types of chicken served in Peru like ceviche de gallina (which literally translates as “chicken in vinegar”), pollo al curry (spicy chicken stew) and pollo pescado (fish-flavored chicken).
What Are The Ingredients In Pollo Saltado?
Pollo Saltado is a dish made from tender pieces of chicken marinated in lime juice and oregano, which are then cooked over hot coals on skewers until crispy.
The end result is juicy meat infused with flavor.
Pollo Saltado gets its name from the combination of crunchy French fry and creamy tomato sauce it’s served in.
A traditional version of this dish uses only onions and tomatoes, however, modern versions often feature other vegetables such as zucchini or potatoes added into the mix.
There are two main methods used to cook your pollo saltado.
You can use a grill pan or skewer the chicken directly onto the coals and cook it over direct heat.
This method results in a crispier skin that will be easier to bite through, while leaving the inside moist and flavorful.
Alternatively, if you have access to a gas stovetop, you can place your skewers on top of the burner and sear the chicken by turning occasionally.
This way, the outside of the chicken takes longer to get charred, resulting in a slightly less crispy texture, but all the juices stay inside for a delicious meal.
How Do You Make Pollo Saltado?
Pollo Saltado is a popular dish from Peru that consists of sautéed boneless chicken breast pieces seasoned with onion, garlic, oregano, coriander seeds, and chili pepper.
The result is tender, juicy meat cooked on top of crunchy potatoes and topped off with spicy tomato sauce.
This recipe uses boneless chicken thighs because it cuts down on prep time while also ensuring that all of your chicken will be used up.
You can use boneless skinless chicken breasts instead if you prefer, though this will increase cooking time slightly.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons minced green onion
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly cracked black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
- 2 pounds boneless chicken thigh tenders
- Saltine cracker crumbs, for topping
What Is The History Of Pollo Saltado?
Pollo Saltado was created by a chef named Jose Pizarro who worked at the restaurant chain La Cantinita back when it had only six locations.
The idea behind this dish came from his mother who wanted her son to learn how to cook so he could take over the family business someday.
When he opened his first restaurant on El Caminito street in Lima, Peru, he decided to create a new menu item called pollo saltado which would be made using traditional Peruvian ingredients including onion, tomato, potatoes, and French fries.
He also added two other spices to the mix — cumin and paprika, both of which were available fresh in the local markets where his customers lived.
His creation became very popular and today, Pollo Saltado is known all around the world thanks to its unique combination of flavors and easy preparation process.
What Are The Different Variations Of Pollo Saltado?
There are actually two main versions of pollo saltado, depending on where it originated from.
The first version comes from Lima, Peru and was created by street vendors who would fry up some French fries and toss them into a pan along with some sliced onions before adding cooked shredded chicken pieces and tomato sauce.
They call this combination of ingredients ‘criolla’ which means creole in Spanish.
The second version is from Piura, Peru and is made using raw potatoes instead of French fries.
In both cases, the end result is similar, however the method varies slightly.
Pollo Saltado Criolla
- Ingredients: 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 8 ounces diced white onion
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 1 fresh green chili chopped
- 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
Pollo Saltado Piuran
- Ingredients: 2 pounds peeled waxy potato cut into small cubes
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed powder
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion sliced thin
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 medium ripe tomatoes seeded and finely diced
- 1/2 cup water
- Optional garnish: Fried plantains, avocado slices, lime wedges, etc.
Why Is Pollo Saltado A Popular Dish?
Pollo Saltado originated from the coastal regions of northern Peru where it was originally used as a way to preserve chickens before being sold on the black market.
The process involved salting, drying, and smoking the birds which gave them a unique flavor profile.
These preserved chickens were later cooked by fishermen who would fry them in oil until crispy and toss them into soups and stews.
In the 1960s, this practice began to take off and people started serving these delicious snacks at bars and cafes around the city.
Today, pollo saltado is still prepared using the original method but now it’s made fresh each day instead of salted.
You will find that most places use only fresh ingredients including potatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, and spices.
A few common recipes include pollo con papas (fried chicken with mashed potatoes), pollo relleno (stuffed chicken), pollo en salsa verde (marinated grilled chicken), and pollo al curry (stewed chicken with coconut milk and chiles).
You may have also noticed that the word ‘pollo’ means ‘chicken’ in Spanish.
That’s because Peru actually uses two words when referring to their national bird.
They call the white meat pollito while the dark meat gets called carne colorada meaning “red meat.”
How Did Pollo Saltado Get Its Name?
In order to explain how this delicious Peruvian chicken dish got its name, we first need to understand what it really is.
Pollo saltado is a combination of two things — a traditional Peruvian dish called pollo a la brasa, which is roasted chicken with potatoes and vegetables, and French fries.
Although it may seem unusual to combine these two dishes together, it actually makes sense when you think about it.
The original version of pollo saltado was introduced by French immigrants who brought the potato to South America during the 18th century.
They were known for making French fries from scratch using only fresh ingredients and cooking oil.
Eventually, the restaurant owners took notice of the popularity of the dish and decided to make it even better by adding some crispy French fries on top.
Pollo a la brasa is typically made with whole chickens, but because pollo saltado is so popular, most people prefer eating this type of chicken with french fries instead.
In fact, if you want to try out this classic Peruvian chicken recipe, check out our other post here.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large white onion, diced
- 3 ripe tomato, diced
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Salt pepper, to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 5 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 10 ounces frozen french fries, thawed
- 8 cups vegetable oil
- Optional garnish: sour cream, shredded cheese, lime juice, hot sauce, etc.
Start off by heating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Next, place 5 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs into a roasting pan and drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over each piece of meat.
Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Next, add 4 cloves of minced garlic to the bottom of the roasting pan followed by 2 chopped onions.
Then, pour 3 tablespoons of chili powder and 1 teaspoon of cumin onto the mixture before sprinkling with 1/4 cup of kosher salt.
Finally, toss the seasoned chicken pieces with all of the vegetables inside the roasting pan until everything is well coated.
Bake the chicken covered with foil for 35 minutes per pound of chicken, remove the foil and bake the chicken uncovered for another 15 minutes.
Once cooked through, remove the chicken from the oven and let cool slightly.
Once cooled enough, cut each thigh apart into four pieces and set aside.
Now comes the fun part — frying those chicken pieces!
Place 10 ounces of thawed frozen french fries inside a deep fryer pot along with 8 cups of vegetable oil and heat the oil to 365 degrees Fahrenheit.
Using tongs, carefully lower the chicken pieces into the boiling oil and cook for approximately 6 to 7 minutes before removing the chicken from the fryer and placing them on paper towels to absorb excess grease.
When the chicken is done frying, season with additional salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Garnish with sour cream, shredded cheese, lime juice, hot sauce, etc., if desired.
Serve immediately while still piping hot.
This simple yet hearty meal will definitely satisfy everyone’s appetite whether they have any experience with Peruvian cuisine or not.
And don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with Peruvian foods, because pollo saltado is easy to prepare.
If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a shot today!
What Is The Cultural Significance Of Pollo Saltado?
Pollo Saltado is a dish that originated from the Andes Mountains region of South America.
The word ‘saladito’ comes from the Spanish language which means something small or insignificant.
For this reason, it was also known as ‘little salad’.
However, when the restaurant first opened in the early 1900s, there were no salads on the menu because people didn’t eat lettuce back then.
Instead, it was used to make pickles using vegetables such as carrots, cabbage, turnips, cucumbers, and radishes.
As time went by, the restaurant started serving other foods too, including salad.
When customers asked about the lack of lettuce, the owner decided to add it to the menu as well.
But since most Peruvians don’t have access to fresh produce, he had to use frozen iceberg lettuce instead.
This is where the term ‘saladito’ came into play because it meant little piece of lettuce.
In the United States, we refer to all kinds of salads as ‘salads’ even if they aren’t made out of actual leafy greens.
In Peru, however, it’s considered rude to call a salad a ‘salad’ so they say ‘saladito’ instead.
What Are Some Tips For Making The Perfect Pollo Saltado?
There are so many ways to prepare a dish like this depending on your own personal tastes and preferences, but if you want to get it right, here are some basic pointers from our team.
- Choose fresh, well-raised chickens which have never been frozen or treated with chemicals.
- Do not overcook the meat: The best way to do this is by using a digital thermometer.
- You should aim to eat the meat before it reaches 145º F / 63º C in order to avoid drying out the meat.
- Use fresh ingredients: If using canned tomatoes, be sure to drain off any excess liquid first.
- Make sure the oil is hot enough: When frying, it’s important to use high heat to ensure that all sides cook evenly.
- Fry in small batches: Once the oil starts smoking, reduce the temperature slightly to prevent splatters.
- Drain the cooked chicken pieces immediately after removing them from the pan: To keep the meat crispy, don’t allow it to cool down too much.
- Don’t forget to season the finished product!
- Add plenty of freshly ground black pepper: Chili peppers give the chicken its signature flavor, and without them, the pollo saltado wouldn’t taste half as good.
What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make When Making Pollo Saltado?
When I first started cooking Peruvian cuisine a few years ago, I had no idea how complicated it was compared to other cuisines.
So many things have to be done right, especially if you want your dish to taste authentic.
The good news is that most of these steps aren’t difficult to do once you get used to them.
- Not using enough oil: When you cook any type of meat, the key is to use enough oil to create a nice crust on top without burning it.
- If you don’t add enough oil, your meat will end up dry and flavorless.
- Overcooking: You need to cook your food until all the juices run clear from the meat.
- Overcooked chicken is tough, so you should always err on the side of caution here.
- For example, if you see little bits of pink in the middle of your chicken pieces after 30 minutes of cooking time, take it out immediately.
- Adding too much garlic: Garlic goes great with almost everything, including meats.
- But adding too much makes the dish overpoweringly garlicky.
- Try to balance between the amount of garlic you put into the pan and the amount of salt you add to bring out its natural flavor.
- Using dried herbs instead of fresh ones: Fresh herbs are essential to giving your sauce depth of flavor and aroma.
- Dried herbs tend to lose their potency over time, which means they won’t necessarily give off the same flavors that they did back when you first bought them.
- Saying ‘no mas’ when someone asks you for another helping: Some Peruvians say “no mas” when someone offers them a second helping of their meal.
- They believe saying this phrase prevents bad karma from entering the dining room.
What Are Some Interesting Facts About Pollo Saltado?
Pollo Saltado is a dish from the Andes region of South America where it is typically made using only three ingredients: chicken, potatoes, and onion.
The name comes from the Spanish word ‘salteador’ which means “dishwasher” because this simple combination of ingredients gets washed down by copious amounts of hot sauce.
As you might expect, the flavor combinations are extremely varied depending on who makes it and how they prepare it.
In fact, this dish was inspired by two popular Peruvian fast foods called Chicharroncito and Pollo Vamonos.
Since these dishes are so well known, we decided to create our own version.
In addition to being delicious, pollo saltado also happens to be super healthy since all of its main ingredients are low in calories.
Chicken contains very little fat compared to other meats and it’s high in protein too.
Potatoes and onions have no cholesterol while tomatoes contain vitamin C and potassium.
On top of everything else, pollo saltado contains plenty of B vitamins and iron, both of which help keep your body functioning properly.
So if you want to try out this unique dish without having to travel halfway around the world, here’s how to make it right now.
For the Chicken:
- 3 medium chicken breasts boneless and skinless , sliced into 2-inch strips
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon cumin ground
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon chili paste such as aji panca or diced fresh chile pepper, or to taste
For the Fries:
- 3 cups vegetable oil divided; for frying fries and chicken
- 2 cups french fries frozen steak cut
- Salt to taste
- black pepper freshly ground, to taste
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 medium red onion sliced
- 2 medium red bell peppers sliced
- 1 medium tomato diced
- Cilantro leaves for garnish
- 4 cups rice cooked, white or brown
- Collect all of the marinade ingredients.
- Combine the chicken breast pieces, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, cumin, paprika, and aji panca paste in a plastic zipper bag.
- Seal and mix thoroughly, then set aside to marinate for at least 2 hours, but up to 12 to 48 hours.
- Gather the ingredients for the french fries.
- In a heavy skillet with tall sides, heat 1 to 2 inches of vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot.
- Fry the french fries in batches until golden brown, if necessary. Allow to cool on paper towels. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Collect the Saltado ingredients.
- Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat until it is smoking hot. Add 1–2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Brown the marinated chicken on both sides quickly, working quickly and carefully as the pan may smoke.
- Add the marinade to the pan, being careful not to splash the cold liquid on the hot pan. Cook the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes more, or until it is no longer pink on the inside. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
- Sauté the garlic and onion in the remaining marinade in the skillet where the chicken was cooked until soft.
- Sauté the red peppers and tomato over medium-high heat until they begin to brown.
- Return the chicken to the skillet. Taste and season with more soy sauce if necessary.
- Add the french fries to the skillet and toss everything together gently but quickly. Turn off the heat.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve immediately over cooked hot rice.