Classic Low-Country Pulao with Chicken and Bacon

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Preparation info

  • Serves

    6 to 8

    as a main dish
    • Difficulty


Appears in

Seductions of Rice

By Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Published 1998

  • About

This easy classic South Carolina pulao recipe yields a huge platter of flavored rice topped with tender pieces of chicken and bacon that easily feeds eight, with a vegetable or salad on the side. The rice is rich with the flavors of simmered chicken and bacon, and made more aromatic with a little bay leaf, parsley, and thyme.

The recipe is an adaptation from several recipes for Carolina pulao that appear in Karen Hess’s facsimile edition of The Carolina Rice Cookbook. Rather than using a whole chicken, as some of the recipes suggest, we use the breasts, legs, and thighs from a large chicken, chopped with a cleaver into smaller pieces. This makes serving easier and also allows the rice to cook more evenly.

The dish begins by frying onions and bacon (mostly lean Canadian bacon, with a little regular bacon for its fat), then sautéing the chicken pieces before adding water, seasonings, and the rice. Several of the original recipes call for boiling the bacon and chicken, then cooking the rice with them in the flavored broth; others start by browning the chicken. We prefer the texture of meat that has been skillet-cooked first, before being simmered in water with the rice. Although traditional recipes that use this method tell us to “brown” the chicken, if you remove the skin, as we like to, chicken does not brown but instead lightens to become almost white.

We like to buy a whole free-range organic chicken, cut off the legs and breasts, and use the rest for making stock. You can also buy just legs and breasts if you wish, then chop them up (or have your butcher chop the chicken pieces). The dish takes about an hour from start to finish, but more than half of that is simmering and standing time. Serve it with one or more salads or with cooked vegetable dishes such as Collard Greens or okra.


  • 3 cups long-grain rice
  • 3 pounds chicken parts or breasts and legs from one 4½- to 5-pound chicken, cut up
  • 1 strip bacon, cut in half
  • About ¼ pound Canadian bacon, cut into 2 pieces
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large sprig parsley
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • teaspoons salt
  • teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper


Wash the rice throughly under cold running water until the water runs clear. Drain in a sieve and set aside.

Rinse the chicken, pat dry, and remove and discard the skin if you wish. Use a cleaver to separate the legs and thighs and chop each drumstick and thigh in half. Chop the whole breasts into quarters.

For the browning stage, it’s easier to use two pans. We suggest that you use a large heavy skillet and the large heavy pot you will be using to cook the whole dish. Put both pans over medium heat and when they are hot, place half the bacon, including a little fat, if any, from the Canadian bacon, in each. When each pan is well greased with melted fat, add half the onion to each pan and fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining Canadian bacon and the chicken pieces, dividing them between the two pans, and fry until the color of the chicken has changed, 8 to 10 minutes, turning the chicken and bacon as necessary.

Transfer the skillet contents to the large pot, then add the water, herbs, salt, and pepper. Bring to a vigorous boil. Skim off and discard any foam. Sprinkle in the rice, bring back to a boil, and stir briefly. Cover, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 20 minutes.

Lift off the lid, wrap it in a tea towel or cotton cloth, and replace it. Remove from the heat. Let stand, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Serve on a platter the traditional way, with the rice on the bottom and the chicken and bacon (cut into smaller pieces if you wish) on top. Discard the bay leaf and herb sprigs if you wish.