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Cuban Chicken Vaca Frita Recipe

Cuban Chicken Vaca Frita

Cuban Chicken Vaca Frita is a garlic and onion paradise. This recipe is how all Cuban food should be prepared- equal parts onions to protein. So what we are saying here is, this recipe calls for a lot of onions. More onions than you may think are necessary, but don’t skimp on the onions. The onions make all the difference for the flavor and texture of this dish.

Our Tips for Making Cuban Chicken Vaca Frita

The recipe calls for one rotisserie chickens or 4 chicken breasts or 4 chicken thighs. If you have a couple chicken thighs and a couple breasts- yes you can mix and match. If you want to do more chicken, just remember the first rule- don’t skimp on the onions.

If you are cooking your bone-in chicken breasts or thighs, sprinkle with olive oil and salt and pepper and place in a sheet pan.  Then bake in a 400 degree oven for 45 – 60 minutes. Let it cool and then pull the chicken. (You can do this two days before.)

If you have boneless and skinless chicken then you can also use the slow cooker or crockpot for 2.5 hours on high or 5.5 on low. Add chicken, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then enough chicken broth just to cover. (You can also add whole garlic cloves or fresh herbs or bay leaves) 

A big tip when making Cuban Chicken Vaca Frita is to shed while the chicken is still slightly warm. It will give you the best results.

But you do not want to over shred it. You still have to cook in the pan to give it that little fry, and the chicken will break down a little more there. So you don’t want to shred it too small at this point.

When frying the chicken, you do not want to overcrowd the pan. It is best to work in batches, because you want bits of the chicken to get that nice crunch. You can’t get that crunch when there is too much chicken in the pot at the same time.

If you want to move faster, use another pan.

If you prefer to use another protein such as turkey or beef use the same process. Something about the way the lime hits the chicken- perfection.

Cuban Chicken Vaca Frita

Recipe by Abuela's Counter Course: EntreeCuisine: CubanDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 1 small previously cooked rotisserie chickens (discard bones and skin. Pull and shred the chicken meat) OR 4 boneless skinless breasts and 4 boneless skinless thighs) 

  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, divided

  • 3 large yellow onions, thinly sliced

  • 6 garlic cloves, minced finely 

  • 1 tablespoon of sazon

  • 3 teaspoons of salt and freshly ground pepper

  • Zest of two limes 

  • Zest of one orange

  • Juice of 1 orange

  • Juice of the two limes 

  • 1/2 cup of parsley, finely chopped 

  • 1/2 cup of chicken broth (optional)


  • Heat a large non-stick or ceramic sauté pan to high. Add the onions and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add 1/2 tablespoon of the sazon and 1 teaspoon of salt and fresh pepper.

  • Saute the onions until soft in texture and golden brown in color. Then add the garlic and sauté for 2-4 minutes. Once they are ready, move the onions to the side of the pan. (If you have a very small pan, then remove them to a platter and set aside). 
  • Then add 1/2 of the juice from the orange and the lime to deglaze the pan and flavor the onions. 
  • Heat your pan to high. Add the shredded chicken, remaining oil, then sprinkle with the remaining sazon and all of the zest. Mix around again incorporating the spices into the chicken. Again remember if you have a small pan work in batches for this part to ensure you can get the chicken crispy.
  • Mix together to combine let it sit and get hot. This is when you want to get parts of the chicken very crispy. Once all the chicken is crisp, you can put everything back in the pan and incorporate together. 
    If at any point you see it too dry add some chicken stock and the remaining juice to moisten it. 
  • Sprinkle with chopped parsley and lime wedges. 

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