Arroz Aguado: The Nicaraguan Chicken Stew That's Sure To Warm You Up

It's common knowledge that chicken soup is the only proper cure for the common cold, but this isn't just folk wisdom. According to Science Daily, studies have shown that many different properties in chicken soup can help fight cold symptoms.

WebMD points out that chicken soup contains a compound known as tryptophan which boosts the production of serotonin and can produce a literal feeling of comfort. On top of that, the abundant carbohydrates can boost energy levels when you're feeling sluggish, and the water content of the broth will help you stay hydrated. The nutrition can be boosted even further by adding bone broth to the stock.

With all of these health-boosting properties, it's no surprise that using chicken soup to treat a cold is a concept in many cultures. Taste Atlas reports that the preferred medicinal soup for Nicaraguans is known as arroz aguado. Serious Eats says that this translates to "soft rice" or "watery rice" because the rice is added early on for a lusciously soft grain, which adds to the soup's overall texture.

Arroz aguado's key ingredients

Serious Eats notes that one of this dish's key features is its fluffy swollen rice. It recommends using a long grain white rice in the dish, but Que Rica Vida prefers arborio rice, a shorter grain. Arborio rice is a short, starchier rice traditionally used in risotto. The best type of rice may come down to preference, as arborio or other starchier kinds of rice will lend a thicker body to the soup the same way a slurry would thicken the gravy. My Nica Life points out that this change in texture isn't abnormal and that the consistency can range from being as thick as oatmeal to a more light, watery soup depending on how it's prepared.

No particular vegetables define a bowl of arroz aguado, making it a great way to serve up a ton of in-season vegetables. It can simply suit individual preferences as well, per My Nica Life. Serious Eats recommends using a bone-in chicken to add more savory flavor to the broth. Arroz aguado can also be spiced using mint (or yerba buena if you can find it), cilantro, and lime. My Nica Life says that one of its favorite flavors to add is achiote. According to Spice and Life, achiote is a spice that is made by grinding annatto seeds that lends a peppery aroma and smoky, earthy flavor to the soup.

How to make arroz aguado

Assembling a pot of arroz aguado is a fairly simple task. Serious Eats says it is best to start by cooking your vegetables with some oil in a soup pot. Then boil and simmer the chicken for 25 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients. Let the chicken cook completely before removing it with the cilantro and mint.

My Nica Life says it's best to let the chicken cook whole in the soup before removing it, shredding it by hand, and putting it back in the pot. The rice should also be added at the same time as the broth so it has plenty of time to cook and soak up the fluids. If the rice seems to be soaking up too much liquid after 15 minutes, you can add more water to keep it from drying out.

Serious Eats says once the soup has finished cooking, it can be served with avocado, jalapeno slices, and lime juice. This soup is great to make ahead of time, but you might need to add more broth when you reheat it because the rice can continue to soak up the fluid.