Dominican Pollo Guisado: Stewed Chicken with Soy Sauce & Sugar

Pollo guisado Dominican Belqui

Pollo guisado was one of my favorite meals growing up in Puerto Rico. I loved how the braised tender meat slid off the bone of the chicken (usually thigh, although I secretly preferred white meat, which is pretty much a sin on the island). The jugoso sauce the pollo simmers in was a delicacy we savored, spooning it generously over the mandatory side of freshly steamed white rice. Add sweet plantain maduros, a slice of avocado sprinkled with salt and olive oil— and you are living la vida deliciosa, Boricua-style.

So you can imagine I was pretty curious when I first learned this stewed chicken staple is cooked slightly differently in the other Latino nation that loves this dish as much as we Puerto Ricans. I’m talking the country a couple hundred miles to the west. That’s right, our Caribbean neighbor al lado: Dominican Republic.

Belqui Millili-Ortiz of the popular cooking blog Belqui’s Twist is one of Familia Kitchen’s favorite Dominican homecooks, so who better to ask? She is a humble person, usually. But not when it comes to this recipe. “My pollo guisado honestly is one of the most amazing-tasting chicken dishes I have ever had in my life,” Belqui tells me. “This is the way that I grew up cooking pollo guisado, and it’s the recipe I cook for all my non-Dominican friends because I know they will be super-impressed. So much so, that it is the top-requested dish when they come to visit. So that goes to tell you something!”

Watch Belqui Millili-Ortiz of Belqui’s Twist make Dominican pollo guisado, what she says is ”honestly, one of the most amazing-tasting chicken dishes I have ever had in my life.”

Belqui grew up in Washington Heights, a historically Dominican neighborhood in New York City (it’s where Lin-Manuel Miranda set his beautiful musical In the Heights). Her parents both worked long hours at factory jobs, so she took on cooking dinner for the family from a young age. Pollo guisado is one of her mom’s family recipes she made sure to get down pretty early on, she remembers. It was one of her favorites.

Here’s how the Dominican version of pollo guisado differs from the Puerto Rican classic I grew up loving. For one, the stew calls for 1 tsp of soy sauce, an ingredient you never see in traditional Puerto Rican recipes. It uses tomato paste, not that little can of tomato sauce with “Spanish”-style spices we mix into everything. It does not use sofrito. And, it adds 1 Tbsp of white sugar.

“Yes! Sugar helps give that golden color to the chicken because when you put sugar in hot oil, it caramelizes. The color it gives the chicken is amazing,” says Belqui.

“I also make a pan-seared version of this recipe with all white meat,” she adds. ”It is how I cook this dish most of the time, because I have a ton of white-meat lovers at my house. But I always prefer this version combining dark and white, using the whole chicken. I love how the dark meat absorbs so much flavor from the adobo and other spices. I also love having the choice of using drumsticks, wings and/or thighs, because I love me a good thigh!”

When I make Belqui’s family-famous pollo guisado, I will start with this whole-chicken recipe. But I’m betting right now I’ll probably end up (just like the rest of her family) favoring the white-meat version. Sacrilege, I know. Then again, this version looks exceptionally rico. Using soy sauce likely sweetens and breaks down the thighs and drumsticks to savory deliciousness. Maybe I’ll reconsider and stay on the dark side.

Dominican Pollo Guisado: Stewed Chicken with Soy Sauce & Sugar

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Belqui Ortiz-Millili Cuisine: Dominican


Prep time


Cooking time


Marinade for

6 to 12



  • 1 1 whole chicken, chopped into dark and white pieces

  • 1 1 lime, juiced

  • 1 Tbsp 1 adobo seasoning

  • 1/2 packet 1/2 chicken bouillon, powdered

  • 1 tsp 1 ground oregano

  • 1 Tbsp 1 salt

  • 1/2 tsp 1/2 black pepper

  • 1 tsp 1 soy sauce

  • 1/2 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced

  • 1/2 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced

  • 1/2 1/2 red onion, large, sliced

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 corn oil

  • 1 Tbsp 1 sugar

  • 1/2 cup 1/2 water

  • 1/4 tsp 1/4 tomato paste

  • 2 Tbsp 2 Mazanillo olives, chopped

  • 2 Tbsp 2 fresh cilantro, chopped, divided in half


  • Wash and Chop the Chicken
  • Chop the whole chicken into breasts, legs, thighs and wings. Belqui likes to chop the breasts into 2 pieces.
  • Remove the skin from the chicken , except for the wings and drumette, keeping just a little bit of the fat on each piece. This helps enrich the flavor of the sauce when you stew the chicken.
  • Wash the chicken. Place the chicken in a large bowl. Fill the bowl with water and swirl the pieces it it for about 1 minute. Drain the water.
  • In the same bowl, add the juice of 1 lime. Add water to cover the chicken parts. Work the lime and water mixture into the pieces for about 1 minute. Drain the water but do not rinse the chicken pieces this time.
  • In the same bowl, add the adobo, oregano, chicken bouillon powder, salt, black pepper, and soy sauce. Stir well. Cover the chicken.
  • Marinate the chicken in the fridge for 6 hours minimum. Overnight is preferred to obtain maximum flavor.
  • When You’re Ready to Cook
  • Remove the marinated chicken from the fridge.
  • Clean, seed, remove the membranes and slice the green and red bell peppers. Slice the onion.
  • Finely chop the cilantro and salad olives.
  • Add the bell pepper and onion slices and 1 Tbsp of the chopped cilantro back in the the bowl with the marinated chicken. Mix together.
  • In a large skillet or Dutch oven, pour in the corn oil and set to high heat.
  • Immediately add the sugar to the center of the pan.
  • One you notice the sugar is beginning to caramelize, turning a deep brown and smoking, add the first piece of chicken right on top of the sugar and move it to the side.
  • Continue the same process with the rest of the chicken pieces until they are all in the skillet or Dutch oven, cooking.
  • Let the chicken pieces cook for about 4 to 5 more minutes.
  • In the meantime, add 1/2 cup water to the bowl with the chicken marinade, still filled with the sliced green and red bell peppers and red onion.
  • Turn over each of the chicken pieces. They may look dark brown and slightly burnt, but it’s just the sugar doing its job. The caramelized sugar will eventually distribute to the rest of each chicken piece, and give the entire dish that great golden color.
  • Add about 3 Tbsp of the seasoned liquid from marinade bowl to the skillet or Dutch over the chicken now cooking.
  • Lower the heat to medium low.
  • Add about 2 Tbsp of the seasoned liquid to the chicken every 5 minutes or so for a total of 30 minutes. If you run low on seasoning liquid, just add more water to the marinade bowl.
  • When the 30 minutes are up, add the bell peppers, onions, tomato paste and olives to the pot.
  • Stir well and let the stewed chicken mixture cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t dry out too soon.
  • After the 15 minutes, when the liquid is fully absorbed, the dish is done. Sprinkle with the rest of the chopped cilantro and serve with a side of white rice for a classic Dominican dish Belqui promises will become your new favorite chicken.


  • Time in the fridge is key after marinading the chicken, says Belqui. “Refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours. For optimal flavor, marinate the chicken overnight. Heck, even 24 hours is good. Trust me on that one!”

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Suggestions and questions from our readers

  1. I lived in Barahona and La Romana Dominican Republic for 4 years back in the early 80’s. Since that time, I have desperately tried to find recipes for basic Dominican dishes. I am more than thrilled to have stumbled upon Belqui Ortiz-Millili’s recipes.

    Here is my actual question. When she refers to ‘Adobo”, what exactly is she referring to? Also, she refers to “Adobo Seasoning”, but again, I’m not sure to what she is referencing? I currently have and use Goya Adobo All Purpose Seasoning (con Pimiento)…perhaps that is the Adobo Seasoning? I also have and use Sazon Goya (con Culantro Y Achiote), is this any of the seasonings she is referring to?

    I greatly appreciate any assistance you can provide and when you see Ms. Belqui, please thank her for putting out those recipes…can’t wait to try the Pollo Guisado as well. Help and God Bless! Bart

      1. Hi Bart, we just heard back from Belqui. She says muchas gracias for your great q (she loves talking about adobo and sazon, she says). “Hi! The adobo used in this recipe is the powdered kind like the Goya that you mention. Sazon is also granular and it’s normally used to add color to the food and a bit more flavor. Sazon I use more for color. I make my own if I run out.” Here is a link to Belqui’s own recipe for sazon and adobo.