Arroz Caldo (Filipino Chicken and Rice Soup) Recipe

A hearty, congee-like chicken soup topped with eggs and crunchy fried garlic.

An overhead photo arroz caldo (Filipino chicken and rice soup).

Serious Eats / Melissa Hom

Why It Works

  • Starting the garlic in room-temperature oil and slowly increasing the heat crisps it without burning.
  • Chicken thighs add more flavor and stay more tender compared to breast meat.
  • Fish sauce adds a robust, savory flavor to the dish.

About seven years ago, my wife asked me to make this recipe from The Washington Post for dinner, and with that, the backbone of our winter diet was sealed.

The recipe was for arroz caldo, a Filipino chicken congee that was nothing short of pure comfort to my wife. But while she'd grown up with it, I had never even heard of it before. Still, the recipe by White House chef Cristeta Comerford seemed easy enough, so I made it that very night. From that moment forward, I was certain arroz caldo would be a fixture of my recipe rotation going forward.

There were a lot of attractive elements to the dish. For starters, it was quick to put together: From store to plate, I had it done in under an hour. The flavor was appealing, even to my then uninitiated palate—with the addition of ginger, garlic, and fish sauce, it basically tastes like a really good chicken and rice soup with a distinct Filipino profile. It was also incredibly hearty, making it suitable as an entire meal or a starter or snack in smaller portions.

Today, arroz caldo is such a part of my life that I associate it with all sorts of everyday things, like winter weather, rainy days, and even the common cold (yup, chicken soup has a challenger at my house). I honestly can't imagine my life without it. It's also one of those dishes that I feel no need to significantly change or improve upon, so here's how I've been making it, which more or less follows that original recipe and most traditional preparations, with a few tweaks here and there.

Making the Crispy Garlic Topping

Minced garlic, frying in a saucepan.

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Trust me, you want crispy fried garlic to top arroz caldo. I skipped this step for years, and still do sometimes when I'm lazy, but it's not nearly as good without it. Cristeta Comerford's recipe required the garlic to be sliced, soaked in milk, then fried in two cups of oil, which is a little more effort than I'm generally up for with this kind of rustic dish.

Close-up of golden bits of fried garlic, draining in a fine mesh strainer.

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Instead, I fry the garlic the way my family does it—simply adding minced garlic to cold oil, slowly cooking it until it's a light golden brown color, then draining. The process takes all of five to 10 minutes, and the added crunch and bite it gives the final dish can't be understated.

Preparing the Soup

Sliced onions and minced garlic and ginger cooking in a Dutch oven.

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

I begin the soup by softening some thinly sliced onion in a bit of oil over medium-high heat. Then I add about a tablespoon each of minced garlic and ginger and cook it all together until fragrant.

Bite-sized pieces of chicken have been stirred into the Dutch oven.

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Chicken goes in next. If I had my way, I would always use chicken thighs, which are more flavorful and remain more tender than breast meat. My wife is one of those misguided white-meat people, so I end up making this more often with chicken breasts, which work well enough. Either way, I cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and cook them until browned on the outside.

Rice is stirred into the chicken-onion mixture.

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

After that, I stir in black pepper and fish sauce, followed by a cup of jasmine rice—unwashed because the starch on the rice's surface helps thicken the stock.

Stock is added to the Dutch oven.

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Once the rice is well coated in the small amount of fat and liquid in the pan, I add the chicken stock. Homemade is preferable, but there's so much added flavor from the ginger, garlic, and fish sauce that even ho-hum store-bought stocks are transformed into something incredible.

Author stirring the arroz caldo midway through cooking. The grains of rice have begun to get plump.

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

I've found six cups of stock to be the magic number for the arroz caldo to reach the right consistency just as the rice has cooked all the way through, which takes about 20 minutes, covered, at a bare simmer. When ready, it should still be a bit soupy, so if it has thickened up too much, I add a bit more stock or water; if it's not thick enough, I simply let it cool a bit, which does the trick.

I like to add a tablespoon of fresh squeezed citrus at the end for a touch of brightness. Ideally this would be juice from acidic calamansi—a small fruit related to the orange and prevalent in Filipino cuisine—but with no reliable source for them, I usually use lime or key lime juice. A final seasoning of salt and pepper, and the soup is done.

Finishing Touches

A plated bowl of arroz caldo, garnished with half a calamansi and topped with the fried garlic and thinly sliced scallion.

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

After ladling the arroz caldo into bowls, I top it with plenty of thinly sliced scallion, crispy garlic, and lime wedges. Sliced hard boiled egg is traditional, but not used by my wife's family. When I suggested adding eggs at least for the photos here, I was told unequivocally by some unnamed force that eggs were to go nowhere near my wife's bowl. The way my wife wants her comfort food is the way she gets it.

That's the power of these kinds of dishes that are such a part of our lives. I may not have grown up with arroz caldo, but it's something I've come to love just as fervently, and I'm sure it will fill your heart with warmth too.

March 2015

Recipe Facts

4.6

(10)

Cook: 65 mins
Active: 25 mins
Total: 65 mins
Serves: 4 servings

Rate & Comment

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

  • 1/4 cup freshly minced garlic (about 12 medium cloves), divided

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces (see notes)

  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced

  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced ginger

  • 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

  • 1 cup uncooked jasmine rice

  • 6 cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium broth

  • 1 tablespoon calamansi, key lime, or lime juice (see notes)

  • Kosher salt

  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, cut into 1/4-inch slices (optional)

  • 2 fresh limes or calamansi, quartered

Directions

  1. Place 1/2 cup oil and 2/3 of the garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic turns light golden brown. Transfer garlic to fine-mesh strainer and drain. Spread garlic out on a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

    A collage: frying garlic in oil; fried garlic on paper towels

    Serious Eats / Melissa Hom

  2. In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 6 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring and scraping, until onions soften and release their liquid, about 3 minutes. Stir in ginger and remaining garlic and cook until onions begin to brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in fish sauce and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add rice and stir until well coated.

    A collage: browning chicken; adding vegetables and aromatics; everything cooked together and nicely browned; white rice added

    Serious Eats / Melissa Hom

  3. Stir in chicken stock, running spoon along bottom of Dutch oven to release any browned bits. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until rice is completely tender and stock has thickened, about 30 minutes. Stir in lime or calamansi juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Arroz caldo after rice has been added and cooked on the stovetop.

    Serious Eats / Melissa Hom

  4. Ladle arroz caldo into bowls. Top with scallions, fried garlic, and egg slices, if using. Serve immediately with additional lime or calamansi wedges on the side.

    A small bowl of arroz caldo topped with sliced limes and boiled egg.

    Serious Eats / Melissa Hom

Special Equipment

Dutch oven or soup pot

Notes

While we prefer this dish with tender chicken thighs, you can substitute an equal quantity of breast meat.

Calamansi, a very sour citrus fruit, is typical in Filipino cooking, but can be hard to find fresh; fresh lime or key lime works well in its place.

Read More

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
497 Calories
24g Fat
25g Carbs
49g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
×
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 497
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 24g 31%
Saturated Fat 5g 25%
Cholesterol 208mg 69%
Sodium 1728mg 75%
Total Carbohydrate 25g 9%
Dietary Fiber 3g 9%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 49g
Vitamin C 24mg 120%
Calcium 103mg 8%
Iron 4mg 22%
Potassium 975mg 21%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)