Imagine delicious chicken cooked in caramelized sugar and Caribbean seasonings. That’s Trinidad-style brown stew chicken in a nutshell.
It has such an amazing depth of flavor.
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Brown Stew Chicken
Stew chicken means different things in different places.
In Trinidad & Tobago, it means caramelizing sugar before mixing in seasoned chicken pieces and allowing everything to cook down.
This cooking technique has deep ties to Africa. And thank goodness for the men and women that survived the brutality of slavery and kept their cooking traditions alive.
The technique infuses an incredible smokey, rich flavor into the meat. Trust me it’s so good you’ll want to lick your plate clean.
Making brown stew chicken is the starting point to making another trini classic – Trinidad chicken pelau.
Brown stew chicken is an incredibly popular, versatile side dish. It’s almost guaranteed in a Sunday lunch. You can enjoy it with rice, macaroni pie, Trinidad callaloo, beans and salad.
It’s equally delicious with dhalpuri (split peas stuffed roti). Ground provisions and dumplings are other accompanying options.
How to Make Brown Stew Chicken
As with everything in Caribbean cuisine, the ingredients you use in this recipe is based on your own taste preferences. And what you have at home.
The most basic brown stew chicken recipe will have:
- chicken pieces
- Caribbean green seasoning (culantro, cilantro, garlic, chives, etc)
- vegetable oil
- brown sugar
Other ingredients like onions, carrots, ginger, thyme, tomatoes and ketchup can also be added.
Step #1: Season the meat
Much like Trinidad pelau, this recipe starts with seasoning your chicken pieces to your liking.
I explain how I prepare and season chicken here. Again, my recipe is the simplest possible version.
I clean the pieces and wash them with flour and lime. Then, I mix in salt and Caribbean green seasoning.
My seasoning is basic – it’s made with culantro, cilantro, garlic, and pepper. You can add in ginger, thyme, parsley, rosemary and any of your favorite flavorings – even ketchup, tomato paste and a touch of mustard.
Roucou – a bright red sauce made from the seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa Orellana tree) – can also be added to season the meat.
Allow the chicken to marinate for at least an hour to overnight.
Use these pepper sauces from Amazon for extra flavor:
Step #2: Brown the sugar
In a heavy pot, add enough oil to coat the base. I usually use coconut oil but any vegetable oil will do.
When the oil is hot, sprinkle in your brown sugar.
Leave it to caramelize.
By the way, this is exactly how you make browning sauce. You can skip this step if you use the sauce instead.
If you’re doing the sauce from scratch, things will move really quickly from this point until the chicken goes in.
As the sugar begins to melt, it’ll become light brown and frothy. At this point, you should stir often and look on as the sugar turns darker and darker. When it starts to smoke and develop a dark brown color, add in your chicken (more in step 3).
If you move on too quickly, your stew will not develop that smoky flavor and deep brown color. If you wait too long, the sugar will become burnt and will make the stew bitter.
Step #3: Add the seasoned chicken
With the sugar reaching the color you want, mix in the seasoned chicken.
Coat the chicken pieces with that caramelized goodness. That’s the smoky flavor you want to infuse into your chicken.
Cover the pot and allow the chicken pieces to spring their own liquid.
Leave the meat to cook down and the liquid to dry out (to remove any ‘fresh’ taste). This time also intensifies the color. It can take about 15 minutes and you may need to remove the cover after 10 minutes or so.
Excuse the blurriness in this photo – but look at that color!
Step #4: Add in other ingredients
Once the natural juices have boiled off, add in your other ingredients and boiling water. You can throw in onions, carrots, tomatoes, ketchup, and fresh seasonings.
Cook until the boiling water reaches your desired thickness and consistency. If you like a thinner, runnier stew, you can turn off the stove after 15 minutes. If you want it thicker, allow the chicken to cook for longer.
Brown Stew Chicken Recipe
Trinidad-Style Brown Stew Chicken Recipe
- 3 lbs chicken pieces
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp culantro
- 2 tbsp cilantro
- 1 tbsp chives
- 1 tbsp chopped pepper (pimento, habanero, scotch bonnet)
- 1 – 2 tsp salt
- * ginger, thyme, parsley, rosemary, ketchup, tomato paste, mustard (optional)
- 1½ tbsp vegetable oil
- 1½ tbsp brown sugar
- 2 cups water
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- * onions, carrots, tomatoes, fresh seasonings (optional)
- Clean chicken thoroughly. Wash with lime and flour.
- Season with your preferred seasonings.
- Allow to marinate for at least an hour (to overnight).
- Place heavy pot on medium heat.
- Add oil to coat the bottom of the pot and allow to heat up for a minute.
- Sprinkle in brown sugar.
- Allow the sugar to melt and become frothy.
- Stir the frothy sugar until it becomes smokey and dark.
- Add in the seasoned chicken.
- Mix thoroughly to coat the chicken in the browning sugar and to stop the sugar from caramelizing further.
- Cover the pot and cook on medium heat.
- After 10 minutes, remove the cover and allow the natural juices from the chicken to boil off (this can take another 10 mins).
- Once dry, add in boiling water and veggies.
- Cook until the veggies are cooked and the sauce becomes your desired consistency (this can take 10 – 15 minutes).
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