Belizean Stew Chicken

This classic Belizean dish features deliciously tender chicken stewed in a rich and slightly sweet gravy! Serve your stew chicken with a side of rice and beans for a hearty and incredibly comforting meal!

Almost two years ago we spent a week exploring the spectacular jungle and beautiful beaches of Belize. And while a lot of our time there was spent devouring fresh seafood, one of my favorite meals was a delicious plate of stew chicken! The recipe for this comforting Belizean classic varies from household to household (and it seems like everyone has their own special ingredient), but today we’re sharing a simple version that we love to make at home when we want to bring a bit of tropical sunshine to our own kitchen.

stew chicken with rice and beans

cooking with achiote paste

Before we get to making the stew chicken, let’s talk about one ingredient you might not be super familiar with: achiote paste (which is also called red recado in Belize). The paste, which is a staple in kitchens across Belize, is made with ground annatto seeds and various other spices such as oregano, cumin and coriander. The bright red annatto seeds come from achiote trees native to tropical Central and South America and are what gives the paste its characteristic color.

To use the slightly peppery and almost earthy achiote paste, we like to first mix it with a bit of liquid (such as water, vinegar or lime juice) to make it easier to work with. Then you can use it as a marinade or even add it to tortilla or empanada dough for a bit of flavor and beautiful color!

You can definitely make your own achiote paste, but we generally buy it either at our local Mexican grocery store or online. We’ve used several brands and our favorite has been El Yucateco.

platter of chicken with red sauce

making stew chicken

After briefly marinating your chicken thighs in achiote paste mixed with lime juice, soy sauce, cumin and oregano, it’s time to brown the chicken in a mixture of brown sugar and coconut oil. Heat the coconut oil and brown sugar over medium heat until it forms a nice bubbly syrup. If it’s cooking too fast, reduce the heat to prevent it from burning. Then reserve the marinade (there won’t be too much, but you’ll still want to add it to the stew later) and fry the chicken quickly on each side to get a deliciously caramelized crust.

Next, brown the onions and then add the rest of the ingredients to the pot (garlic, chopped tomatoes, chicken broth, fresh thyme and any reserved marinade). And finally, return the chicken to the pot and let it simmer away for about 40 minutes or until tender! I like to let the chicken cook covered for the first 20 minutes and then I uncover it for the remaining time in order to reduce the sauce a bit.ย 

slice of stew chicken

what to serve with stew chicken

We love our stew chicken with rice and beans to soak up all of that delicious gravy. And if you’re up for it, you could definitely make classic Belizean rice and beans, which are generally cooked in coconut milk and flavored with pig’s tail or bacon.

And if we have any leftover stew chicken, we always make salbutes the next day! Salbutes are small puffed fried tortillas that are super popular in Belize. They’re great served with a bit of stew chicken, tomatoes and maybe some avocado slices or cabbage slaw!

platter of chicken with red sauce

If you love this recipe, you should definitely try some of our other favorite stews from around the world!

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stew chicken with rice and beans

Belizean Stew Chicken

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  • Author: Brit Kapustina
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4
    • Prep Time: 10 minutes
    • Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
    • Category: Dinner
    • Method: Stew
    • Cuisine: Belizean


  • 2 pounds (900 grams) bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) achiote paste (also called red recado)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups (500 ml) chicken broth
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • kosher salt to taste


  1. Dissolve the achiote paste in the lime juice. Mix in the soy sauce, cumin and oregano. Cover the chicken with the marinade.
  2. Melt the coconut oil over medium heat and add in the brown sugar, stirring until completely mixed.
  3. Reserving the marinade, brown the chicken on both sides. Remove and set aside.
  4. Add the sliced onion to the pot and cook until soft and slightly browned (about 10 minutes).
  5. Add the garlic and chopped tomatoes and cook an additional two minutes.
  6. Add the chicken broth, reserved marinade and fresh thyme to the pot and stir well.
  7. Return the chicken to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes, uncover and simmer an additional 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender.
  8. Season with salt to taste.

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  1. Ok, let me try to find out whether I can buy the achiote paste somewhere… never heard about that ingredient, but maybe I can order it online somewhere. This stew looks too good to pass by without trying to cook it ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I’m so excited to try this. Ever since my husband and I went to Belize on our honeymoon I’ve been on the search for a good Belizean stew chicken recipe! I remember it being sweet and so many of the recipes I’ve seen aren’t sweet at all, so I’m excited to try yours! We make the coconut rice and beans frequently, and I’ve been dying to have it with stew chicken and some Marie Sharp’s hot sauce to really recapture that flavor!

  3. I hope you love it, Katie! Coconut rice and beans are sooooo good with this and now you have me craving some Marie Sharpโ€™s hot sauce! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I’ve made this twice now, after having stew chicken in Belize. My husband and I were there this past October and we miss it. The 1st time I made it he said it tasted almost exactly like the stew chicken we had in Belize, and this time was even better! We plan to go back and take our preschooler next year so we’re prepping her taste buds now! If you’re on the fence about making this, do it!!! It’s so yummy!!

  5. Hi Jenni! I’m so glad you loved this one – such a comforting stew! Belize has some of my favorite food! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Fascinating, I will have to try this soon. I’ve never had any real Belizean food and I’ve actually been there! I only recall some type of chicken and rice dish I had that I don’t think was particularly memorable or representative of the cuisine.

    Is the reserved marinade like the small amount leftover after removing the chicken to cook it or more like some remains/juices to use after browning the chicken??

  7. Hi Eric! The reserved marinade is just the small amount leftover after removing the chicken to cook — the achiote paste adds a lot of flavor so I like to make sure it all ends up in the final dish. I hope you enjoy it! ๐Ÿ™‚

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