Pollo Saltado (Peruvian stir-fried chicken) is a Chinese-Peruvian fusion dish in the Chifa style. Tender chicken breast is stir-fried with red onion, ají amarillo chile pepper, and tomato, and served with potatoes and rice. This savory and delicious dish is so quick and easy, it’s sure to be a new family favorite!
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks – About Chifa and Pollo Saltado
Chifa is a culinary tradition originating in Peru that combines Chinese Cantonese cooking methods and ingredients with Peruvian ingredients. The Chinese immigrants began arriving in Peru (mostly around Lima) in the 1920s, and came with only the most basic ingredients like soy sauce. Because they didn’t have access to many of the ingredients required to cook the traditional dishes of their homeland, they learned to adapt.
Soy sauce, ginger, and scallions make their way into many Peruvian Chifa dishes. Quinoa chaufa is the Chifa version of fried rice, and my recipe includes all three. Soy sauce, ginger, and scallions make their way into this pollo saltado, and the flavor is complemented by Peruvian chile – ají amarillo – and ground cumin.
Lomo saltado is by far the most common “saltado” (stir fry). “Lomo” is beef. We limit beef consumption at Andersen casa, so I decided to focus on pollo saltado/chicken stir fry. At some point, I’d like to do saltado de mariscos (seafood) because I live near the Gulf of Mexico, and we have amazing seafood available. Vegan saltado using portobello slices in place of the chicken is also an intriguing possibility!
This Peruvian stir-fried chicken is really a simple dish. After the chicken and vegetables are stir-fried with garlic, ginger, and cumin, an ultra simple sauce is made with soy sauce and vinegar. Peruvians always serve it with both rice and potatoes (french fries). Yes, Peruvians love their carbs! Of course the rice and potatoes absorb the sauce!
I’m a little averse to anything fried, so I cut my fries, tossed them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and air fried them. Feel free to splurge if you’re so inclined!
📋 Ingredients Notes
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
Peruvian Chicken Stir Fry Ingredients
- chicken – You can use either boneless chicken breast or thighs according to preference.
- red onions – I would not suggest you can’t use a different onion, but Peruvians use a LOT OF RED ONION, and the color is so appealing on the plate! Cut thick slices to prevent them from getting over-cooked and mushy.
- ají amarillo – On photo day, I had a jar of water-packed ají amarillo peppers, and they worked out beautifully. I have never seen the fresh ones in the US. Frozen peppers would be another option. Lastly, you can substitute another fresh pepper like Fresno chiles, or you can use a little ají amarillo paste and a sweet bell pepper.
- tomatoes – I like roma tomatoes for this stir-fry as they hold up well to the high heat. I take the extra step of removing the seedy core to reduce the amount of liquid going into the hot pan. I quarter them lengthwise, and use a paring knife to remove the core. I haven’t tried it yet, but tiny tomatoes left hole might be a good alternative. I love them blistered in a hot pan!
- potatoes – I use Yukon gold potatoes and hand cut them, but you can use prepared french fries if you want to save the time.
- rice – I use basmati rice, but you can use your preferred long grain rice. Cook according to package directions.
- fresh ginger – Either grate fresh ginger root, or add a scoop of minced ginger (a great time saver!).
- ground cumin
- soy sauce – I use tamari soy sauce which has the added benefit of being gluten free.
- saltines – Saltines are the traditional thickener for huancaína sauce. If gluten is a problem, omit or substitute with gluten free saltines. It will still be plenty thick.
- Start the Air Fryer Potatoes and Rice – Preheat the air fryer to 380°. Spray the pan with non-stick spray. Toss the prepared sliced potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Cook 14 to 16 minutes, turning halfway, until they’re crispy and brown.
- Cook 1/2 cup rice according to package instructions. While both sides cook, make the pollo saltado.
- Sear the chicken – Add a drizzle of oil to a wok or cast iron skillet on high heat. When the pan starts to smoke a little, add the chicken in a single layer, and sprinkle the cumin over the top. Don’t touch the chicken for 1-2 minutes so that you get a solid sear on the bottom side.
- Stir-fry the chicken – Stir the chicken pieces to finish cooking. Scrape the chicken with its juices into a bowl, and set aside.
- Sear the red onion – Get the pan smoking hot before adding the red onion. Like the chicken, let the onion pieces rest 1-2 minutes to sear before stirring. Once you see some deep brown color, you can start stir-frying the onion until it barely begins to soften – total of about 3 minutes.
- Stir-fry the other veggies – Add the tomatoes, ají amarillo (or other peppers), scallions, minced garlic and ginger. Stir-fry 1-2 minutes until fragrant and crisp tender.
- Finish the chicken stir-fry – Add the chicken and red onions back into the pan on medium-high heat. Stir to combine.
- Finish the pollo saltado – Add the soy sauce, vinegar, and a little broth if desired. Let the mixture come to a boil and remove from the heat.
- vegan saltado – Substitute strips of portobello mushrooms for the chicken.
- kid-friendly – Ají amarillo peppers are spicy. Try substituting sweet bell peppers for a mild version.
- gluten free – Use tamari rather than soy sauce. Most soy sauce has wheat in it. Tamari is typically brewed with all soy beans. Be sure to check the label if gluten sensitivity is an issue.
Given the simplicity of this saltado recipe, it is important to use the freshest ingredients, and good quality sauces (soy sauce and vinegar).
Freezer potatoes/fries are a great time saver.
Air frying or roasting the potatoes reduces fat and calories.
Batch stir-frying results in seared food rather than the steamed food you get in a crowded pan. If you like the slightly charred edges, you’re more likely to be happy with the results.
A wok is a great piece of equipment for stir-frying, but I’m often happier with the results I get using my large cast iron skillet. It really holds the high heat well!
Thick slices or wedges of red onion will allow you to sear/brown them without making them soft and mushy.
What can I substitute for the ají amarillo pepper(s)?
Are the leftovers good?
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Stir-fries have always been a “go to” weeknight meal because they come together so quickly. This pollo saltado is no exception. I hope you’ll give it a try!
Pollo Saltado (Peruvian Stir-Fried Chicken)
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- 1 tablespoon vegetable, canola, or peanut oil
- 8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast - or thighs, cubed
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 red onion - cut in thick slices or wedges
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced - about 3 cloves
- 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
- 2 roma tomatoes - cut in quarters lengthwise and cored
- 1 ají amarillo peppers - stem and seeds removed, sliced thin
- 3 scallions - cut in 1" pieces
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sherry, red wine, or apple cider vinegar
- cooked rice
- potatoes - fries or wedges, cooked
- cilantro - chopped
- Start the air fryer fries if using. Preheat the air fryer to 380°. Spray the pan with non-stick spray. Toss the prepared sliced potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Cook 14 to 16 minutes, turning halfway, until they're crispy and brown.
- Start the rice.
- After getting the wok or skillet smoking hot, add the oil. Add the cubed chicken, and sprinkle with cumin.
- Add a drizzle of oil to a wok or cast iron skillet on high heat. Sear then stir-fry the chicken. Remove from the pan with its juices.
- Get the pan smoking hot again before adding the red onion. Sear and stir-fry the onion.
- Add the tomatoes, ají amarillo (or other peppers), scallions, minced garlic and ginger. Stir-fry 1-2 minutes until fragrant and crisp tender.
- Add the chicken and red onions back into the pan on medium-high heat. Stir to combine.
- Add the soy sauce, vinegar, and a little broth if desired. Let the mixture come to a boil and remove from the heat.
- To serve: Plate the pollo saltado alongside the rice and potatoes. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.