Spicy Chicken Nuggets (Chicharrones de Pollo)

We first encountered these spicy chicken nuggets in a special issue of Gourmet (Sept 2007) that focused on Latin American cuisine. “Chicharrones” (cracklings) are usually made with pork, and in Mexico with pork rind. These chicken chicharrones are a specialty of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic; they are made with chicken pieces that have been marinated in a lime juice mixture, dredged in flour and paprika, and deep fried. We’re not that big into deep frying here, but the chicken nuggets cook up perfectly well in half an inch of oil, you just have to turn the pieces halfway through the cooking. Very tasty with a little hot sauce and fresh lime juice squirted on them.

Spicy Chicken Nuggets (Chicharrones de Pollo) Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • Vegetable oil (canola oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil or other high smoke point oil)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika (hot or sweet)
  • Lime wedges
  • Hot sauce

Method

1 Prepare marinade, stirring together lime juice, rum, soy sauce, and sugar in a bowl until sugar has dissolved. Add the chicken to the marinade and let marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature (can marinate longer chilled, but allow to come to room temp for 30 minutes before cooking).

2 Pour enough oil in a skillet so that it comes up the sides at least a half an inch. Heat oil on medium high until it is shimmering, and a little pinch of flour sizzles when you drop it in the pan.

3 While the oil is heating, whisk together the flour, paprika, and salt in a bowl. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture and transfer to a plate.

4 Fry the chicken in batches (about 3), about 3 minutes on each side, until deep golden brown and the chicken is cooked through. (If the chicken is browning too quickly, reduce the heat a bit). Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil.

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Recipe adapted from September 2007 issue of Gourmet magazine.

Links:
Chicharrones de Pollo with Paprika Onions from Appetite for China
Chicharrón - in the Wikipedia

36 Comments

  1. JH

    I’m just curious as to why you wouldn’t just go ahead and deep fry them if you are going to use 1/2 inch of oil anyway.

    You don’t have to throw away as much oil at the end of the cooking, so it’s less expensive this way. Also, hot oil is dangerous. The less of it you have in your kitchen (outside of a deep fryer which we don’t have) the better. ~Elise

  2. Deb

    I like the sound of this recipe. I checked out the Appetite for China link, too, and think the mention of adding cilantro as a topping is a good one. I’m wondering what I could substitute for the rum in the marinade that would still give the recipe flavor? Thanks for another unique recipe, Elise!

  3. janice

    This recipe sounds great! Could you bake the chicken rather than fry it? At what temperature in the oven?

    Then you would have baked chicken and not fried chicken. There is a difference in taste and it would be a completely different recipe. But of course you can do it. You still need the fat though, so I would dip the chicken pieces in oil (after patting them dry), then dredge in flour, then broil for a few minutes on each side. ~Elise

  4. Alisa - Go Dairy Free

    Heavenly! Thank you for the great recipe idea, always looking for new ways to make chicken that my husband will enjoy.

  5. Kris

    This recipe looks great!

    Can you post a link to the original recipe from Gourmet Magazine? I’m just curious as to what tweaks you made.

    I’ve looked throughout epicurious and gourmet.com for the recipe and I’m afraid it’s not there or I would link to it. Very few tweaks, just more explanation and specificity in the instructions, and I’m allowing breasts as well as thighs, I’m frying in less oil, and I’m not shaking off excess flour. ~Elise

  6. Bob

    Those look fantastic! I’m copying that recipe right now.

  7. Celeste

    Oh yum! We love spicey (and chicken) at our house. I’m literally salivating. I can’t wait to make this for my family. ;) C.

  8. Dallas from Bitchin'Kitchen

    I love the combo of rum and lime, and the suggestion to use less oil. Less oil sounds less scary, both in terms of fat, and of grease spattering all over the kitchen!

  9. Jeanne

    Oh elise, I *love* the sound of these! Although I don’t realyl eat fast food I do sometimes have a craving for something like this that I can make at home and that approximates the slightly forbidden qualities of fast food :)

  10. Veronica

    This sounds great! Can I do away with the rum and the soy sauce? Or is there a substitute I can use? I’m not too keen on using rum for the kids (is it okay though? won’t taste too ‘rummy’?) and one of them is allergic to soy.

    Otherwise, I’ll make it for myself! :o)

    It won’t taste rummy. The rum is needed to help the marinade penetrate. It is totally okay for the kids as there is practically no alcohol left at the end of the cooking process. As for the soy sauce, you could substitute Worcestershire sauce. ~Elise

  11. Deb

    I did some sleuthing to find a rum substitute and came across this link on Gourmet Sleuth.

    (http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/alcoholsubstitutes.htm)

    I’m going to try this for sure!

  12. jane

    If you used pork belly instead of chicken, would the recipe be the same?

    Try this recipe from Nikas Culinaria for deep fried pork belly. ~Elise

  13. GrillGuy

    Elise, I am super stoked to see this recipe. This is an appetizer at the local Peruvian restaurant. They serve it with a diakon soy sauce dip. I fell in love with them and scoured the internet for a recipe. After many fried chicken skin recipes I came up with very little to work with. Now that I have yours I am all set to make this at home all I want. Funny, I was just craving these last week and couldnt find a date for the restaurant! Note: they went great with Lomo Saltado.

  14. arcey

    This sounds good! Should the skin stay on the chicken?

    By the way, there’s a Jewish version of chicharones — the pork rind type, that is. It’s chicken fat and skin cut up and rendered slowly with some onion slices and a little bit of water. You get rendered chicken fat to use for frying or sauteing (keeps well in refrigerator for a long time), and delicious, crispy-fried pieces of chicken skin and fried onions. Sprinkle the “gribines” with kosher salt and enjoy! (That’s what it’s called — pronounced gri-bin-ess, accent on first syllable.) Not good for the heart or the waistline, if eaten regularly. ;-)

  15. j

    These sound delicious! Any suggestion on a dip to go with them? I’m sure they’re great plain, but I love dip! I think I’m going to make these tomorrow instead of wings.

  16. maggie (p&c)

    Oh, yum. These look really tasty. The last time I fried chicken it created a bit of a mess, but this looks worth it.

  17. Mercè

    Una muy buena receta,como todas las tuyas!!!

  18. CindyCindy

    I’ll bet you could make it a fabulous salt-free recipe, too. There are so few really tasty/spicy ones.

  19. Mely

    Putting rum on the marinade sounds interesting.
    This looks like a good option instead of chicken wings.

    Thanks for the recipe.

  20. Erica

    What a fabulous recipe, and so easy to make! A few modifications I will make: honey in place of sugar (or I may try maple syrup), maybe sea salt instead of soy sauce since we don’t eat soy, and another type of flour – maybe splelt or almond flour. Thanks, Elise!

  21. Cait

    My favorite cuban restaurant serves these alongside onions pickled in some kind of mojo marinade. The combination is unbelievably delicious.

  22. salma

    We have chicharon in the Philippines, too. Pork skin and chicken skin are the popular ones. I will definitely try this. Thanks!

  23. Loren

    Good recipe! This is popular in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Its not served as an appetizer but as a main entree with spanish beans and rice.

    Many of us use a marinade called Mojo Criollo as an alternative. Its pretty much the same thing sans the rum. You can find this at goya.com

    enjoy!

  24. john G

    My mother and I made these at her house the other day. They were pretty good I suppose. My friends devoured them, but the flavor was nothing too spectacular… Pretty much just a fried chicken nugget. I liked the taste of the squeezed lime on the finished product though. And the hot sauce, for me, was a no brainer. Not quite as wonderful as most of the other recipes I’ve tried from this site, but still, very edible. Keep em coming Elise.

  25. amy

    Ok, I know this is probably veering too far from the way these are intended to taste but I didn’t have any rum on hand so I used beer instead and they were very flavorful and delicious. Thanks for the recipe! I even like them leftover and cold.

  26. Matt

    I made a batch of these superbowl night. I’d have to agree with John G though, without the extra lime and hot sauce (I used tabasco) drizzled across the top, the flavour would have been fairly subtle. I think next time I would add a bit more lime for marinating and I would “toss” the chicken with hot sauce and extra lime after cooking,rather than just drizzling. All in all though, as an Australian doing my bit on superbowl night, this still went down very well with everyone and within minutes of putting these out, they were gone.

  27. Drea

    These looked so good, I made them for my fiance and a friend the other night. Big hit! The marinade is really yummy too, I’ll probably try it on some grilled meats this summer! Thank you :)

  28. Ricardo Fernandez

    I’m a little tardy on the chicharrones, but again I have to point to Cuban restaurants in Miami…
    It is true, chicharrones are traditionally made with pork or pork rind, in Cuba as well as in Mexico.
    But in Miami, where even the traditional fried foods are being re-thought for healthier living, chicken chicharrones are served in most Cuban restaurants. They are, of course, delicious…and the method of preparation makes them virtually as flavorful as pork chicharrones. They are usually served smothered with a mound of sauteed till translucent, but not browned, onions (in Spanish, “reahogadas”).

    The traditionalist can still ask for pork chicharrones or “masitas de puerco.”

    Another good re-think is “filete de pollo a la plancha,” a chicken fillet that has been pounded thin and prepared like a “bistec de palomilla” or thin steak. This is a grilled chicken fillet seasoned with garlic, served with translucent onions and garnished with parsley. Mmmmm….

    Ricardo

  29. Daniel

    Wow these spicy chicken nuggets look amazing. When I make my carnitas instead of frying the pork in the end I usually broil it to make it crunchy. I wonder if this would work for this recipe. I’ll let you know how it turns out when I get around to it. Cheers!

  30. Jennifer

    These came out exactly like the Dominican restaraunt in NYC makes them. Now I can make them at home instead of driving to the city to have them…Thanks Elise

  31. Edward De Bruin

    We had tried this soon as we saw it, must say, it had been the most delicious chicken nuggets we ever tasted! Well done and thank you! I sent it to my friends in South Africa and Australia, waiting to hear their response!

  32. Rossella

    Wow, these were so good I had to prevent my boyfriend + 1 guest from eating the whole before I even reached the table (they were cutting me out of the enjoyment session…ME, THE COOK!!)! The delicate aroma the chicken flesh got after it was marinated, wonderfully blended with the “picante” twist of the paprika (even tho I cut the amount of that a bit because we are not into really spicy foods). Next time I think I will let the pollo marinate a little longer in the fridge…can’t wait to make the scents of soy, rum and lime a little more persistent in these awesome nuggets. grazie Elise! :)

  33. AL

    The recipe is nice, for “heat” and enhanced flavor I generally spread a thin layer of tobasco a night before and leave the chicken overnight in a sandwich baggy. The morning of is when I pour into the baggies the marinade for the day. Marinade time makes a big difference, although 30 minutes is better than nothing. Also, for presentation I’d skewer these shish kabob style with fried peppers, slices of pineapple and cherry tomatoes. Cucumber dip. A Case of Beer and a dozen friends would also be good to go with these. they go fast, make a few pounds for your parties.

  34. Myrna

    Dominican people (my family is Dominican) make chicharrones de pollo and is much more simple than this. Cut the chicken in very small parts, and marinate them overnight with lots of lime juice, salt and pepper. Coat them with flour and in a big skillet deep fry them. They are very very good…

  35. joe

    Awesome blog, great recipes and instructions!
    Can the chicken be fried in batches in a deep fryer? If so, at what temperature? Thank you!

    I don’t see why not. I would guess a 350°F for the oil in the deep fryer, isn’t that typical? ~Elise

  36. Angie

    Why does half an inch of oil sound so much more manageable than “deep frying”? These look good. Thanks for the idea!

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