Pollo Saltado – a classic Peruvian Chicken Stir Fry Recipe made with onion, tomatoes and a Pisco, tamari and vinegar based sauce. A perfect 30 minute weeknight dinner that cooks in minutes. International flavor right in your house. Healthy weeknight meal. Gluten Free + Dairy Free
I have not quite yet been everywhere in South America but between travels through Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, I can hands down say that the food in Peru was the best.
Peruvians know their food. As a local couchsurfer told us, “we [Peruvians] don’t sing, dance, or play football, but we do cook” and I can with confidence confirm that to be true. The diversity in Peruvian cooking is incredible – as is the international, especially Asian, influence.
To learn a bit more about the various dishes I of course had to sign up for a cooking class. The class at Arthur’s Restaurant in Arequipa seemed the most professional as we would be cooking in the actual restaurant kitchen and each participant would be able to make everything from scratch themselves. I’m not a fan of cooking classes where the whole class dissects the recipes and each person only preps a single ingredient – I’m just not getting the full experience that way.
The menu that I chose included Peruvian ceviche and Peruvian pollo saltado.
What is Pollo Saltado?
Pollo saltado is a spin off the Peruvian class, Lomo saltado, a stir fry with Asian influence. Lomo means tenderloin in Spanish and the saltado indicates that it is a stir fry. The Chinese came over to Peru in the 1800s and greatly influenced and inspired modern day Peruvian cuisine.
In Peru they have a special name for Chinese restaurants – Chifa, which you can find in every city. Being a lover of Asian food and cooking techniques, it’s no surprise that I am a sucker for both ceviche and lomo saltado. While this dish is traditionally made with alpaca or beef I choose to make this with chicken instead, making this a pollo saltado, since pollo means chicken in Spanish.
Why this pollo saltado is the best:
- Only 9 ingredients
- ready in under 30 minutes
- Delicious blend of fusion Asian Peruvian flavors
- Internationally inspired recipe
- Easy to make with minimal prep
- Rich and flavorful sauce that ties all the ingredients together
How to make pollo saltado:
The ingredients required in this saltado de pollo are:
- red onions
- balsamic vinegar
In standard stir fry recipes it is an absolute must to have everything prepped before you turn on the stove. The ingredients cook in minutes, if not seconds so prepping as you go is not an option.
You will need to coarsely chop the veggies and chicken, into large pieces. The tomatoes and red onions should not be finely diced here.
Since this is recipe has Asian influences it is prepared in a wok.
The garlic and ginger are minced and cooked first in hot oil, before adding the chicken. Then the tomatoes and red onion, cut into large wedges, are added.
For the sauce you only need three ingredients: Pisco, tamari and balsamic vinegar.
Pisco is the classic alcohol of choice in Peru (though Chileans will argue that they introduced Pisco to the world). This is a grape brandy made by specifically sweet grapes that are turned into wine and distilled into Pisco. With an average alcohol percentage of 35-40% this stuff is strong, and quite necessary for the country’s national drink – the classic Pisco sour.
In a traditional Peruvian kitchen they are working with gas flames, so if you have a gas stove you will be able to create a flambe effect – a cooking procedure where alcohol is added to a hot pan and there is a momentary burst of flames.
In the cooking class it was indeed as fun as it looks. Unfortunately you can only achieve this effect over a gas flame. If anyone has managed this with an electric or induction stove please let me know!
Once you add the Pisco to the pan, if you’re cooking over a gas flame you just need to shake the pan a bit back and forth and the whole things lights on fire.
On an regular electric stovetop this is unlikely to happen so you can just proceed to add the tamari, vinegar and splash of water.
Give everything a good stir and the pollo saltado is ready to be served!
- If you don’t have Pisco (which I had never tried before a trip to Peru) you can use brandy or cognac instead. The Pisco + tamari + vinegar creates an amazing glaze sauce, especially when mixed with the juicy sauce of the plump tomatoes. If you don’t Pisco, cognac or brandy you can omit them.
- Instead of chicken you can use beef tenderloin
- To make this recipe Paleo use coconut aminos instead of tamari
- To make this recipe low carb and keto serve over cauliflower rice instead of potatoes or regular rice
- Best to prepare this recipe in a wok.
- If you have a gas stove you can recreate the flambe effect!
- Instead of balsamic vinegar you can also use red wine vinegar
This Peruvian chicken pollo saltado is without a doubt one of my favorite Peruvian recipes and a must make. This chicken saltado comes together in less than 30 minutes with minimal prep and cook time required.
Traditionally, this dish is served over both rice and fries for the ultimate carb heavy meal, but feel free to just serve this over a side of rice or oven roasted potatoes for a healthier take on this classic.
How cool do those colorful potatoes look though? Fun fact: Peru has over 4000 different varieties of potatoes. Another reason it’s the country for me – I am a potato lover.
Pollo Saltado - a classic Peruvian Chicken Stir Fry made with onion, tomatoes and a Pisco + tamari based sauce. A perfect weeknight dinner that cooks in minutes.
- 2/3 - 1 pound chicken breast cubed (can use beef instead)
- 1/2 small red onion cut into wedges
- 1 to mato cut into wedges
- 2 tablespoons diced coriander
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1 inch piece of ginger
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1/4 cup Pisco can use Brandy or Cognac instead
- 1/4 cup gluten free tamari
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 - 4 potatoes diced, and deep fried (optional)
- 1 cup rice cooked according to package directions
Finely chop ginger, garlic and coriander.
Cut tomato and onion into wedges.
Cut chicken into 1 and 1/2 inch cubes.
Heat pan (preferably wok, over a gas flame) until hot. Add oil, ginger and garlic. Cook until fragrant - 30 seconds.
Add chicken. Saute until chicken is browned and cooked through.
Add onion and tomato, saute for 30 seconds.
Add pisco and shake the pan over the gas flame, until flames come up! Add a dash of salt.
Add tamari, vinegar and a splash of water.
Serve over rice or deep fried or roasted potatoes.
Sprinkle with cilantro.
*This is best when made in a wok over a gas flame. Without the gas flame you will not get that flambe when the Pisco is added and the whole pan is set on fire momentarily. *Everything cooks quickly so make sure to have all the ingredients prepped before you start cooking
Chicken saltado recipe from Peruvian Flavors Cooking Class in Arequipa, Peru