Chicken in Almond Sauce Recipe (Pollo en Pepitoria) - Spanish Sabores

Chicken in Almond Sauce Recipe (Pollo en Pepitoria)

This traditional Spanish chicken stew is called pollo en pepitoria and has a unique almond and saffron sauce that’s creamy and delicious. It’s one of my favorite Spanish chicken dishes for any occasion.

A must try Spanish chicken in almond sauce recipe.
A must try Spanish chicken in almond sauce recipe.

Cooking is my therapy. I love every minute of it— from buying the right ingredients to chopping and mincing, boiling and baking, and, finally, serving and eating. The only part I despise is cleaning up (does anyone like that part?).

But one of the best parts of cooking is the first time you try “a keeper”. You know– a recipe that in the old days you’d clip out and paste into your recipe book, and that nowadays goes onto your favorite recipes board on Pinterest.

A keeper is a recipe you love enough to make again and again, one that you aspire to learn by heart and pass on to your offspring. I recently discovered a keeper.

The Origin of Pollo en Pepitoria

I’ve eaten pollo en pepitoria many times as part of a menú del día. Yet despite having it in some very traditional restaurants, it never made a strong impression. More often than not, it was bright yellow, surely colored with colorante (food coloring powder) instead of traditional saffron. For years I lived in ignorance of what this dish could really be.

The Mystery of Cinnamon

But as I cook my way through Claudia Roden’s The Food of Spain, I was captured by her version of pollo en pepitoria, which includes cinnamon as an ingredient. I love cinnamon in savory dishes and had to find out more.

It turns out, there’s lots more to know about this traditional Spanish dish. The Spanish dictionary defines pepitoria as a:

  • Stew that you make with all edible parts of a bird, or only with the offal, and whose sauce includes egg yolk. (Guisado que se hace con todas las partes comestibles del ave, o solo con los despojos, y cuya salsa tiene yema de huevo.)
  • A combination of diverse things without order. (Conjunto de cosas diversas y sin orden.)

It’s thought to be of Moorish (Arab) origin (due to the almonds and saffron in the dish) and it’s worth noting that the original ingredients were all available pre-colonization of the Americas. There are no new world ingredients (like potatoes, tomatoes, or peppers) in the dish– a somewhat rare phenomenon nowadays.

Claudia’s version strays quite a bit from the classics. She uses chicken thighs instead of offal (fine with me!) or the popularly accepted traditional version of the last hundred years which is made with hen (gallina). And she adds cinnamon.

While this is what drew me to her recipe from the start, it’s the part that’s the most mysterious. The majority of my favorite Spanish recipe blogs have a version of pollo en pepitoria that is pretty basic when it comes to spices– just saffron, salt, and pepper.

BUT… the oldest recipe I found includes quite a few more– nutmeg, cloves, and ginger to be exact, and here’s the thing, it is specifically ANTI cinnamon!

Here’s the recipe, from Arte de Cocina, Pasteleria, Vizcocheria y Conserveria de Martinez Montiño (published in 1763) source:

Pelarás las aves, y le cortarás los alones, y los pescuezos; estos alones, y pescuezos pelalos en agua, porque salgan blancos; y cortarás las puntas à los alones, y à los pescuezos les quitarás los picos y los gaznates, y les darás dos golpecitos sin acabarlos de cortar: el uno en medio del pescuezo, u el otro en la cabeza; porque cuando se coman, puedan comer los sesos de la gallina, y los pies se pelen en la misma agua caliente. Todo esto se echará à cocer con agua, y sal, y un pedacito de tocino gordo, y unas cebollas enteras; y en estando cocido el tocino, y las cebollas, sacalo al tablero, y picalo con mucha verdura asi caliente: y después que este muy bien picado, vuelvelo à echar en la olla, y sazona con pimienta, jengibre, y nuez, y cueza. Luego toma un poco de buena manteca de puerco en una sarten, ò cacito, y ponla à calentar; y cuando esté bien caliente, echale un poco de harina floreada, y sea tan poca la harina, que no se haga masa en la sarten, sino que haga unas ampollitas blancas, y que se quede muy blanca, y echala así con la sarten dentro en la olla de la pepitoria, y echale un poco de vinagre, y un poco de azafrán. A estas pepitorias no se han de echar huevos batidos, sino cocerlos, y asentar las yemas doradas encima del plato. Y advierte, que los higadillos no se han de cocer, sino asarlos, ó freirlos, y asentarlos por encima de los platos, y las madrecillas de las gallinas las podrás rellenar, y adornar los platos con ellas y con los higadillos. Este plato ha de estár un poco subido de sal, especias, y vinagre, porque de otra manera esta la carne dulce. Advierte, que todas las veces que digo que sazones con todas especias, se entiende pimienta, clavos, nuez, jengibre y azafrán; porque la canela no ha de entrar en cosa que no lleve dulce, y en todos, ó en los mas dulces ha de entrar canela; porque está puesto al revés en otro libro.”

To summarize the above for those of you who don’t read 18th century Spanish, there are a few fascinating points to note:

  • He uses lard instead of olive oil (this is more typical than many think in traditional Spanish cooking). Though obviously, if this recipe is indeed of Arab origin, olive oil was likely used in the original versions.
  • He says: “Warning– when I say to season with “spices” what I mean is black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and saffron– because cinnamon shouldn’t be a part of something savory, however, it should be an ingredient in sweets.” (this is a rough translation FYI). He then mentions that another book has this backward.

So what’s the deal? Would cinnamon be a part of the first pepitorias or not? I may never know the answer! (And you may be thinking I’m a bit of a food geek– I know…).

But what’s really important is that I made Claudia’s version with cinnamon and loved every last bite. It’s most definitely a keeper in my book.

Key Ingredients

Ingredients for pollo en pepitoria laid out on a wooden tray: chicken stock, white wine, saffron, olive oil, bay leaves, salt, almonds, garlic, cinnamon, onion.
chicken thighs on a white plate

Key ingredients: Chicken stock, white wine, saffron, almonds, olive oil, bay leaves, salt, garlic cloves, cinnamon, diced onion, chicken, and egg.

Ingredient Notes & Substitutions

  • Chicken stock: use the best quality stock you can! If it’s homemade, great, but if not just buy the best you can find. In a stew like this one it really makes a difference.
  • Wine: You can use any dry white wine (I often use Rueda or Albariño, Pinot Grigio also works well). If using sherry make sure it is a dry style such as fino, manzanilla, or amontillado. 
  • Almonds: Make sure to use raw almonds that don’t have any skin, which would give the stew a bitter flavor. If you can use Marcona almonds, even better!
  • Saffron: This stew gets a great deal of its flavor from the saffron, so please use the real stuff. If you take a shortcut here you will miss out on taste! 

Pollo en Pepitoria: Step by Step

Cooking chicken pepitoria step by step: browning the chicken, adding onions, adding wine

Steps 1-4: You begin by simply browning the chicken on both sides in olive oil. Then you add the diced onion to the oil and sauté until golden. Finally, you add the white wine.

Chicken in a pan of sauce with cinnamon

Step 5: Once the wine is added, you add the chicken back to the pan, cover with chicken stock, and add the cinnamon and bay leaves. 

Three photos of the pepitoria cooking process: chicken in sauce, hard boiled egg with whites separated from yolks, and a bowl of diced hard boiled egg whites

Steps 6-8: About halfway through cooking, flip the chicken to make sure it cooks evenly on both sides. While it’s cooking, make some hard-boiled eggs and separate the yolks and white. Dice the whites for later. 

Four photos of the pepitoria chicken process: Almonds and garlic cooking in olive oil, fried almonds and garlic, blended almond and garlic paste, almond and garlic paste in the pan with the chicken

Steps 9-12: Make the almond and garlic paste which will thicken the stew by first frying the garlic and almonds in olive oil and then blending them with the hard-boiled egg yolks and a bit of the cooking liquid. Add the paste into the stew along with a pinch of saffron. Stir to mix it evenly into the stew and let it simmer for about fifteen minutes until the sauce is thick and delicious! 

Pollo en pepitoria on a white plate.
The finished dish!

Tips & FAQs

  • I made this using chicken thighs, but you can use whichever part of the chicken you prefer. If using chicken breasts don’t brown too much at the beginning so that they aren’t too dry.
  • If you want even more yellow color from the saffron, add a few strands to the white wine about 15 minutes before adding it to the stew. It will release more beautiful yellow color (and saffron flavor!) to the dish. 

Serving Suggestions

I really love this dish with rice, which my mother-in-law always cooks with a bit of garlic (there’s never too much garlic here in Spain). But you could also serve it with homemade french fries (my husband’s choice) or any baked or mashed potato dish

More Easy Spanish Chicken Recipes

If you like this easy stew, bookmark these recipes for next time!

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Spanish chicken in almond sauce; Spanish pollo pepitoria

Chicken in Almond Sauce (Pollo en Pepitoria)

This delicious recipe for chicken in almond sauce is called pollo en pepitoria in Spanish. It’s one of my favorite Spanish recipes!
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Course: Chicken
Cuisine: Spanish
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 610.46kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-6 large chicken thighs with the skin attached I use free-range chicken
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine or sherry
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1/2 cup of raw almonds
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • Pinch of real saffron threads

Instructions

  • First, cover the bottom of a large heavy skillet in olive oil and heat over a medium heat.
    Aluminum pan with olive oil
  • Season the raw chicken with salt and pepper and add to the hot pan, browning for a short time on each side.
    Browning chicken thighs in olive oil
  • Remove the chicken from the pan, lower the heat and add the diced onion.
    Diced onion in an aluminum pan
  • Sauté the onion for about 5 minutes until golden, and add the white wine.
    Diced onion and white wine in an aluminum pan
  • Return the chicken to the pan and cover in the chicken stock, then add the bay leaves and cinnamon.
    Chicken in white wine sauce with cinnamon on top
  • Cover and simmer for 25 minutes, turning the chicken over about halfway through.
    Chicken in white wine sauce on the stovetop
  • In the meantime, make the hard-boiled eggs and remove the hard-boiled yolks from the whites.
    Hard boiled eggs with whites and yolks in two separate bowls
  • Save the yolks and dice the whites for later.
    Diced hard boiled egg whites
  • In a frying pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil and add the garlic and almonds. Some recipes also add stale bread for a classic
    picada
    . Fry until golden brown and remove onto paper towels to drain excess oil.
    Garlic and almonds frying in olive oil
  • Blend the almonds, garlic (bread if using) and hard boiled egg yolks in a food processor until you have a thick paste. If necessary, add some of the liquid from the chicken to help blend.
    Blended almond and garlic paste on a red spatula
  • Stir the paste into the stew and add a pinch of saffron.
    Almond and garlic paste on top of chicken in aluminum pan
  • Simmer slowly, uncovered, stirring frequently until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is cooked through.
    Chicken in almond and saffron sauce on the stovetop
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve with something to sop up extra sauce (this is not traditional, but I made rice– potatoes or a nice loaf of bread would also work!). Garnish with the chopped egg whites.
    Pollo en pepitoria on a white plate served over white rice.

Notes

  • Chicken stock: use the best quality stock you can! If it’s homemade, great, but if not just buy the best you can find. In a stew like this one it really makes a difference.
  • Wine: You can use any dry white wine (I often use Rueda or Albariño, Pinot Grigio also works well). If using sherry make sure it is a dry style such as fino, manzanilla, or amontillado. 
  • Almonds: Make sure to use raw almonds that don’t have any skin, which would give the stew a bitter flavor. If you can use Marcona almonds, even better!
  • Saffron: This stew gets a great deal of its flavor from the saffron, so please use the real stuff. If you take a shortcut here you will miss out on taste! 

Nutrition

Calories: 610.46kcal | Carbohydrates: 14.86g | Protein: 32.11g | Fat: 42.51g | Saturated Fat: 8.88g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 300.84mg | Sodium: 398.57mg | Potassium: 650.11mg | Fiber: 2.9g | Sugar: 4.94g | Vitamin A: 357.16IU | Vitamin C: 3.73mg | Calcium: 108.05mg | Iron: 2.66mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @spanishsabores on IG and hashtag it #spanishsabores!

Update note: This recipe was originally published on July 28, 2015 and was republished with new photos and information on November 13, 2020.

Have you ever tried pollo en pepitoria? And do you like cinnamon in savory dishes?

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