Chicken Recipes


Chicken is the most popular meat in Central America and Panamanians consume more then any other country in the region approximately 78 pounds per capita annually.  But again remember that most Panamanians don’t eat a great deal of meat because it’s too expensive.  A current wikism posted on several vegetarian sites holds that the American housecat eats more meat protein daily then the average Central American.  So when meat is available it’s usually in minuscule portions in comparison to what we might have consumed in the old country.  A typical meal might be comprised of ounces of meat, often in the form of a hot dog, with 8 ounces of rice, 6 ounces of yucca, potato salad or other tubers and perhaps a few fried plantain chips. The meat, fish or bones that may be used to cook rice or other starch is often removed from the bulk item and then fried for another meal or embellishment. Chickens came to Hispaniola with Columbus and, as sailors were known to do, he populated almost every port he visited with his fowl European offspring. Turkeys had been domesticated; almost any bird of the rainforest was, and in the interior still is, welcomed for dinner.  Today’s paleo gastronomists think a chicken, a cross breed from a Chilean origin that lays red and blue eggs, called araucana did, and still does, exist in lower America probably coming from Polynesia well before Columbus.

The chicken is thought to have been domesticated about 5000 years ago in India or Southeast Asian and was originally raised for religious ceremonies of divination not Sunday picnics or McNuggets. The bird being scavengers were forbidden food for many early cultures while today they out number humans by about 4 to one but of course this population needs to be constantly replaced. Today’s chicken takes only 9 weeks to reach the common two and a half pound harvest weight any birds over four pounds or months should be either roasted or stewed for a long time. Chicken consumption is decreasing world wide under the duress of bird flu while a recent president of McDonalds called nugget like preparations “the new frontier” citing a 38% growth factor.


Here we’ll apply a technique used by many local Chinese restaurants for their “executive lunch” that would be like our daily special sold at an attractive price around 3$ that would of course include rice and perhaps a small salad of cabbage and tomato.  Anyway this poached then deep fried chicken uses many of the spices the Spaniards brought with them and they make it a really simple but flavorful family dish. The recipe also provides you with a master stock that you can utilize in a lot of other constructs especially soups and can even freeze for later use.

            1 whole bodied chicken, or your choice of pieces

            A large pot with enough cold water to cover the bird

            4 ounces each ginger and garlic roughly sliced

            10 star root anise or 2 tablespoons five spice powder

            1 teaspoon each achiote and curry powders

            To taste granulated chicken base

  1. Place the chicken in a large stockpot and cover with cold water
  2. Bring to a boil, removing the residue that floats to the top
  3. Add the ginger, garlic, anise, achiote, curry and chicken base
  4. Return to the fire, bring to a simmer for 5 minutes then remove
  5. Let the chicken steep in the stock until it cools  then remove
  6. Refrigerate the stock for future use, add ramen and you have soup
  7. Drain the chicken chill until your ready to serve or cook it

Split the bird in half and either barbecue or deep fry in enough oil to cover until browned. When the bird is cooked cut it into small portions and place on a platter for service “Peking Duck” style.  Serve with coconut, fried or plain rice as well as store bought mu shi pork wrappers or thin flour tortillas and hoisin sauce. Conversely you can also serve the cut chicken cold with ginger vinaigrette.



Here’s a series of great authentic video recipepart two from Panama

This preparation appears all over the lower Americans in uncountable guises and since it’s not codified you can add or delete any item you wish. This soup can be richly sophisticated with a variety of different meats, or quite homey utilizing just chicken, and in its richer mode it’s served for special occasions and family/holiday celebrations. Further more you can use a whole chicken or just boneless breasts or thighs if you wish.  When I’m using meats I like to marinate them in adobo overnight then blacken on the grill to obtain a nice smoky flavor. Sancocho can stand as a meal by itself and is often made in quantities to last a few days. The adobo can also stand in as a “jerk” if you add some ground allspice and hot chilies to the mix and when making the Sancocho you don’t need to spice the additional meats you can just throw them in the pot with the chicken if you cut them up.  The choice of cuts is also entirely up to you use what you have in the freezer or what available from the market no rules. Much as with your own preference for meat so lies the decision as to what type and number of starches you include you can use those listed or whatever is available and additions  like peas, tomatoes or green beans are certainly permissible and welcomed.   With a bowl of rice, some plantain chips and one of the previously described condiments or sauce and you’ve got a Tipico Panamanian meal!

   2 chicken leg quarters cut 2 so you’ll have 4 pieces

   1 blood or Spanish chorizos, grilled and sliced OPTIONAL

   8 ounces pork ribs or chops, adobo marinated, grilled rare

   2 beef steaks, chueleta (bone in) thin, marinated and grilled rare

    4 ounces each your option; Jamaican pumpkin, name-yam, yucca- cassava, camote-sweet potato, 

                 ……..yautia-otoe-taro and a firm plantain all ¼” cubed

   4 ounces sundried tomato diced

   4 ounces leek whites and green long peppers diced

   1 ear corn cut into rounds or one small can of corn

   1 teaspoon minced, scotch bonnet-habenero

   To taste granulated chicken base and black pepper

  1. Place all the meats in the soup pot large enough to hold everything
  2. Add about 1 gallon of stock or water and base/sazon
  3. Bring the soup to a boil then skim the protein raft from the top
  4. When the vegetables/starch are still a little firm remove from heat
  5. Adjust  seasonings with base and freshly ground black pepper


After nations emancipated their slave holdings various groups where imported into the Caribbean as bond labors and a substantial number of them came from India to the English controlled islands, and when their contracts expired they opened stores and food stalls. This accounts for the heavy use of curry on the Caribbean side and the roti is definitive of the area and it  After 1833 indentured east Indians began replacing the slaves in the British west Indies both Hindi and Muslim.  Between 1838 and 1917 over half a million east Indians came to the Caribbean.  Roti bread is something like a flour tortilla, and very much like a hojaldre in fact you could easily use either for the flatbread.  But we’ll also examine a more authentic preparation using garbanzo bean flour and you can readily find premade hojaldre dough and mixes in Panama City along with besan (garbanzo bean) flour at King Market.

Roti Bread

The difference amongst various flat bread recipes lies in the flour type and the spice, if any, used.  Besan flour is made from garbanzo beans and is also known as chickpea, cici or channa flour and is can be used solely or amended with regular flour or a little corn meal. You can also use a tortilla or even the ubiquitous hojaldre fried bread of Panama so don’t stress. The roti itself is usually about a foot in diameter but you can make then any size you wish and you can add dried cumin, garlic or onion powder to the mix.


      4 cups whole wheat or besan flour or a combination

      2 tablespoons baking powder

      1 tables spoon curry powder

      1 teaspoon granulated chicken or shrimp base

      2 tablespoons oil, butter or lard

      1 cup +/- water or, preferably, chicken or vegetable stock

  1.  Combine and mix the dry ingredients by hand or machine
  2.  Add enough water or stock to produce a firm dough
  3.  Rest the dough for one hour,  divide into six, then relax 15 minutes
  4.  Roll into six  circles matching the diameter of your cooking pan
  5. Separate with plastic wrap, do not stack unprotected
  6.  Cook on both sides with  or without oil till browned

You can stuff these puppies with just about anything you want, meat, fish, vegetables or perhaps a rotisseried chicken from the local market with a little store bought chutney.



Chicken in usually served on the bone it roti’s but you can certainly debone it or use boneless thighs or breasts.  I prefer cooking it on the bone then removing the meat for a better flavor profile.  You could also make your own curry powder (garam masala) but not really necessary unless you’re a purist who uses it a lot.  Just be sure to purchase a brand from India not from the US and you can always embellish with your favorite flavors as we have in this rendition


      2 tablespoons imported curry powder, to taste

      1 tablespoon chili powder or smoked paprika

      1 teaspoon ground cumin, allspice and whole thyme

      1 onion or leek chopped

      2 tablespoons minced garlic

      1 teaspoon or more minced hot chili if you like spice

      1 chicken cut or several boneless thighs and or breasts

      2 cups chicken stock or half stock and coconut milk

  1. Heat a suitably sized pan, add the dry spice and toast lightly
  2. Saute the onion or leek, garlic and minced chili in oil till soft
  3. Add the chicken pieces and the water or stock/coconut milk blend
  4. Cook until the meat is tender and sauce has thickened
  5. Adjust seasonings with base, fresh pepper chopped cilantro or culantro
  6. Served wrapped in the roti bread


Semi boneless quail are available in the better markets of Panama and hard cooked quail eggs are a common offering in most deli cases.  If you’re a little squeamish about the little birds try using a chicken breast or thigh, bone-in or boneless, and you could even stuff the peppers with pressed tofu or half a game hen.  You could use leftover beans and rice in the stuffing, prepare them fresh or opt for canned gandules.

     4 ounces cleaned chicken livers optional

     1 small onion minced

     1 tablespoon minced garlic

     1 teaspoon oregano  

     1 cup prepared masa following package directions

     4 ounces each olive oil, diced pepperoni and Queso Blanco  

     4 large sweet bell peppers, top, placenta and seeds removed

     4 semi boneless quail, washed

  1. Sweat the onion, garlic and chicken livers
  2. Add to the prepared  masa
  3. Add and mix oregano, onion, olive oil, pepperoni &  crumble cheese
  4. Fill each pepper half way then insert quail legs first
  5. Place the peppers into a ovenproof dish with a lid
  6. Add 2 cups of chicken stock and bake covered for about 40 minutes
  7. Thicken the stock in the pan as a sauce or served au natural


In Panama a patio chicken is one that is raised uncaged and allowed to roam freely what we would call barnyard in the US. Of course you can use a regular chicken, game hen, quail, turkey quarter or even a pre cooked duck from the Chinese market if you wish. In the interior the local will consume almost any bird be they endangered or not perhaps providing an answer to the PETA query of whose more important man or animal since hunger is not democratic.  Chocolate emigrated from the New World to the old and then returned in this Spanish influenced preparation that certainly resembles mole. Caveat: some of these birds are really tough, read old stewing hen, and require many horas to cook so act accordingly and maybe if use your pressure cooker!

            1 patio chicken quartered and well coated with seasoned flour

            1 large leek, white only, or onion diced

            4 ounces diced sweet, roasted red, pepperoncini or wax pepper

            4 ounces diced sundried tomatoes

            1 tablespoon minced garlic

            1 dozen small peeled white boiling, or 1 jar cocktail onions

            1 teaspoon, to taste, each ground cinnamon and cloves

            4 ounces dry vermouth or white wine

            1 quart chicken stock

            To taste granulated chicken base and fresh ground pepper

            1 ounce baking chocolate or powdered cocoa and sugar

  1.  Dredge the chicken in seasoned flour and sauté till brown in olive oil
  2.  Place in an ovenproof casserole.
  3.  Sauté the diced leek, pepper, tomatoes and garlic add to casserole
  4.  Add cocktail or boiling onions, cinnamon and cloves to casserole
  5.  Add the chicken and stock, cover and bake 25 minutes
  6. Remove from oven, adjusts with chicken base and pepper
  7. Add chocolate or cocoa and sugar, simmer till tender



Hojaldres are simple fried bread much like the kind you’d get at a Pow Wow in the states. You can make your own or, in Panama you can buy them refrigerated and preformed or in a mix. You could substitute Panamanian tortillas, which are thick polenta like circles, or pita bread with equal success. To prepare Hojaldres you just fry them till they puff in an inch or so of oil then drain. Tortillas and pita can also be either nuked, broiled or shallow fried although I prefer the open flame stove top method. I use a small stainless rack and place it over the open burner to heat tortillas, roast peppers and toast bread for bruschetta its great cause it imparts that nice smoky nuance.

            1 chicken split, or 4 bone in chicken quarters or breasts

            Enough adobo or jerk rub to coat the chicken

            4 hojaldres (leafs), pitas or 8 Panamanian tortillas

            Either alcaparrado, recaito or aji sauce

            6 ounces local queso blanco crumbled

  1. Rub the chicken with jerk/adobo  marinade and chill overnight
  2. Broil-barbecue the chicken, cool de-bone and shred
  3. Fry your base of choice and drain
  4. Top each base with  chicken, a sauce and crumbled cheese


Not the one from the states with pearl onions, cream and mushrooms but instead peppers, sweet potatoes, chayote, orange juice and raisins hold sway here.  It’s very much like the old style chicken Creole in the American South because all the ingredients are there too. I really don’t like the texture of raisins so I puree them with the orange juice for the marinade to get their sweet nuance. In addition I like to grill the chicken slightly to bring out the smoky flavor before I add it to the pot but you can forgo that step. If you decide to grill the chicken you can also do some pineapple, mango and chayote at the same time to reheat later and serve with the fricassee.


 1 chicken cut eight or just leg or breast quarters

4 ounces of your own or store bought adobo

2 tablespoons each, oregano, cumin and caper 

6 ounces orange juice preferably Seville

4 each ounces each rum and raisins

To taste brown sugar

2 cups chicken stock or fortified water

4 ounces tomato paste or sauce

1 large yellow or red onion diced large

3 carrots cut into rounds

1 large camote, sweet potato or yam

  1. Combine adobo, oregano, cumin, capers and juice then process 
  2. Add rum, raisins and sugar process again 
  3. Place in a large stock pot, add chicken, bring to a simmer 
  4. Remove from heat, refrigerate and marinate overnight 
  5. Remove the chicken from the marinade. reserve 
  6. Mark the chicken over a hot barbecue until lightly caramelized 
  7. Place chicken in a Dutch oven, add reserved marinade
  8. Add the stock, tomato product, vegetable and potato
  9. Cook until the vegetables and potato are soft




 This construct could rightly be called a Fricassee, and another riff would be to add a little imported curry powder to the sauce giving it a Caribbean smack and it also has Thai nuances. This recipe also features three of panama’s favorite starches the chayote, calabaza or West Indies pumpkin and name or true yam.  Lots of starch but the locals would eat this stew accompanied by rice and perhaps some fried plantains so if you’re counting carbs you may want to forgo these staples. Again any poultry will do including boneless turkey breast, game hens, quail or even a rotisseried chicken from the market.

            1 large chicken cut 8, well coated in seasoned flour

            The whites of 3 medium leeks sliced one large onion diced

            1 tablespoon each minced ginger and garlic

            1 tablespoon each curry powder and cumin

            1 pinch saffron or 1 teaspoon achiote powder

            1 cup each coconut milk and chicken stock

            8 ounces calabaza or acorn squash large dice

            8 ounce peeled name/yami/yam large dice

            8 ounces peeled, seeded and cubed chayote or yucca

            To taste granulated chicken base, pepper & lime juice

  1. Sauté the chicken in olive oil till browned
  2. Remove chicken, reserve
  3. Add  leeks, garlic and ginger saute till fragrant
  4. Add curry, cumin and saffron/achiote mix and sauté
  5. Add coconut milk, stock and browned chicken pieces
  6. Add cubed calabaza and name, cover simmer for 30 minutes
  7. Add cubed chayote/ yucca simmer 10 minutes covered
  8. Adjust seasonings with chicken base, pepper and lime juice
  9. Serve with basmati rice, raw yellow onion slices and cilantro



This is a larger family sized version of the smaller empanada or Cornish pasty found in Central America and the Caribbean.  You could make empanada dough using any number of available recipes or do it the easy way and use premade frozen shells or puff paste dough from the market.  I make dough when I haven’t planned ahead and purchased the prepared version on a trip for provisions.  In Panama you could also use either premade hojaldre dough or the readily available mix.  The protein component can be you choice of meats; cold cuts like ham, vegetables or seafood and you can use any shaped dish you wish to bake it in or, if thoroughly chilled, freeform.  The finished product can be served cold, room temperature or hot and you can decorate the dough as you would a pie with any number of shapes. Traditionally most chicken in Panama is cooked on the bone and then later separated if at all which makes for a higher flavor profile and if you wish you can stew, fry or purchase a cooked bird from the market for this recipe. 

            8 ounces Spanish chorizo or pepperoni diced

            1 cup chopped whites of leek

            4 ounces each roasted red and canned Anaheim peppers diced

            1 can Italian plum tomatoes with juice

            1 teaspoon each thyme and oregano

            4 ounces alcaparrado chopped

            2 tablespoons each minced culantro and garlic

            1 teaspoon achiote powder or 1 pinch saffron

            One cooked boned chicken or 1pound cooked thighs or breasts

            Fresh ground pepper and granulated chicken base to taste

            2 frozen pie shells, hojaldre or pie dough for two crusts

  1. Sauté the chorizo/pepperoni, leeks, and chilies till soft
  2. Add  tomatoes thyme, oregano, and alcaparrado
  3. Add the culantro, garlic, achiote and chopped chicken or protein
  4. Cook the filling till moist season with chicken base and pepper
  5. Line your  baking vessel with dough, add mix, cover and egg wash
  6.  Bake in oven till browed, serve hot, cold or at room temperature

You can also fashion these into the smaller handheld version or something     even smaller for hor’d oeuvres in the customary half circle shape.  They      can also be made with corn, yucca, name or camote masa and virtually any type of stuffing you prefer.


A tamal is a larger tamale in Mexico but it this reference it’s a form of tamale pie that made it’s debut around 1911 in the US and we’ve all probably sampled either in the school cafeteria or at the kitchen formica table back home.  The version I fondly recall had ground beef, cheddar (Tillamook) and sliced black olives which basically are only grown in California where the little pest called the olive fly doesn’t exist, as it does in other olive growing areas, which means the olive can soften and ripen on the tree without chemicals. Also the Mexican version is made with corn that has undergone the nixtamalization process where the skin or pericarp is loosened by soaking in a wood ash- alkaline solution used in antiquity and calcium hydroxide today.  This process not only makes the corn easier to process but also releases nutrients that otherwise would not be available in the digestion process.  But in Panama the corn used is either fresh off the cob, rehydrated dried whole kernels or ground meal that has not been slacked. You could use beef, pork, chicken or fish in this construct and in this case will use readily available pork cecina.  Meat in Panama is often cooked in a stove top pressure cooker; you’ll see them in every smaller market especially outside the city, because it’s an energy efficient method of producing tender meat.


           2 pounds of cecina, corned or chipped beef

            8 ounces Spanish chorizo or pepperoni

            2 cups diced onion lightly dusted with flour

            2 cups diced peppers your choice of varieties

            1 cup pimento stuffed green olive chopped

            3 tablespoons minced garlic

            2 tablespoons each cumin, oregano

            1 tablespoon achiote powder

            1 large can of Italian plum tomatoes with juice

            1 can hearts of palm sliced

            2 cups camote, sweet potato, dice and nuked for 5 minutes

            To taste granulated chicken base and fresh ground black pepper

  1. Process the cecina and chorizo till shredded, reserve.
  2. Sauté onions, peppers, olives, garlic cumin, oregano, tomatoes and achiote
  3. Add the meat, simmer and reduce slightly then remove from fire

Add the camote and hearts of palm, mix, adjust seasoning reserve


3 cups chicken stock simmering

2 cups masa or cornmeal

2 teaspoon baking powder, optional

3 ounces lard, olive oil or butter

2 beaten eggs

8 ounces canned corn kernels or fresh, optional

6 ounces crumbled queso blanco or cheddar or 6 of each

To taste chicken base, white pepper

1. Gradually mix the masa into the simmering stock, remove from heat

2. Beat in baking powder, lard/oil, eggs and corn kernels

3. Spread half the masa over the bottom  and up the sides of a baking dish

4. Add the filling, top with cheese and the remaining masa

5. Bake covered for 25 minutes


Milanese is another rather nebulous term in Latin American cuisine since it’s applied to any type of pounded meat cutlet that is then breaded and sautéed. Milanese, meaning in the style of Milan, postures as a meat cutlet breaded in Parmesan cheese in Italy but in the lower Americas it usually means a cutlet composition like chicken fried steak or if you’re German a schnitzel. Any how you could also use fish, or other protein instead of the chicken and serve with one of our earlier table sauces or condiments since by now you’ve probably noticed that a lot of thicken sauces are part of the Panamanian plates unless they’re part of a stew. This recipe requires a procedure called paillarding which simply means flattening the protein between two pieces of plastic wrap, or a zip lock bag by using a weight. You can use a meat mallet, small fraying pan, ketchup or wine bottle or even a river rock. The seasoning in the crumbs can include items like cumin, oregano, basil, allspice in fact almost anything you’d like and can also top these cutlets with a tropical fruit something.

   4 ounce portions of boneless, protein your choice, pounded thin

   Seasoned flour, chicken base, garlic powder, white pepper

   1 beaten egg

   Bread crumbs, seasoned as above, either Panko or make your own


1.   Place the selected protein between plastic, pound from the center out

2.   Dredge the cutlet in the seasoned flour, shake off excess

3.   Immerse the floured cutlet in the beaten egg

4.   Dredge the egged cutlet in season bread crumbs

5.   Saute till browned and serve with rice and lentils

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