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Mexican-Style Pollo Con Crema (With Pumpkin)

Some dishes leave an impression that lingers on your soul, begging you to come back to taste and enjoy it again and again. You feel that warm feeling of comfort when you partake a second time and a third time, and you hope you will always have access to those feelings and flavors. My husband and I frequent a local restaurant in West Columbia, SC called Casa Oaxaca where we always order the Pollo Chipotle Con Crema, a chicken dish with a creamy, spicy sauce. Below you will find instructions on how to create a similar version of this Mexican delicacy. 

Pollo Con Crema (Chicken with Cream Sauce) is a bold, yet homey meal that will please your tastebuds with its soulfulness and spice. Sometimes humble ingredients create the most delightful meals, and this recipe proves just that. 

Pollo Con Crema
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Ingredients

For The Chicken

  • Peanut Oil (enough to thickly coat your sautee pan)
  • 1 Onion 
  • 1/2 of a poblano pepper 
  • 1/4 Tsp Garlic
  • Chicken Strips (about 10) 
  • 1/8 Tsp Smoked paprika 
  • 1/8 Tsp Cumin 
  • 1/8 Tsp Chili Powder
  • 1/8 Tsp Cayenne
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Optional: Chili De Arbol Molido (to taste – a little goes a long way.)
Overhead view of ingredients for Pollo con Crema.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

For The Sauce

  • 1/8 cup White Wine
  • 1/4 tsp. Garlic
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin
  • 1/2 Can -1 Can of adobo peppers (depending on spice level preference)
  • 3/4 Cups of Con Crema 
  • 1/8 Tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/8 Tsp Cumin
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Optional: A Pinch of Cilantro, Mexican Oregano, and/or a squeeze of lime for topping
Closeup of diced onions. poblano peppers, and garlic frying in a skillet of peanut oil
photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Peanut Oil, Onions, Poblano Pepper, Garlic

Many great dishes begin by sautéing aromatics and peppers in oil to develop flavors and fragrances for your meal. Many people say we “eat with our eyes first,” but I would argue that we eat with our nose first. As soon as I smell a combination of aromatic ingredients sizzling in hot oil, my stomach starts making room for a feast. 

Closeup of a green bell pepper with part of it sliced off.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

The high smoke point of Peanut oil makes it the perfect oil for cooking our chicken. It also adds a slight nuttiness to the chicken (if you have ever had Chick-fil-a, this is their greatest trick.). At medium/high heat the chicken pan-fries quickly, so you can enjoy your delicious Pollo con crema sooner.

Closeup of hands dicing red onion.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Onions, garlic, and poblanos dance together in the peanut oil creating depth and richness for your dish. The pungency of the onions and garlic, mingled with the earthy, fresh poblano peppers make fill your mouth with the essence of savoriness rounding out Pollo con crema with great flavor. 

Closeup of red onion cooking in peanut oil.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Replacements

In Mexican cuisine, canola oil, corn oil, and butter or fat are used commonly to create authentic flavor. Any of these can be used in place of peanut oil. Just be sure to use enough to fully coat the pan for the best-cooked chicken. 

Poblanos taste earthy and zesty, not quite as spicy as some peppers, so bell peppers and other mild peppers can be used as a replacement for poblanos to develop similar flavors. 

Onions and garlic can be replaced with onion and garlic powder if you prefer to avoid some chopping.

Closeup of raw boneless, skinless chicken tenders on a red cutting board.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Chicken Strips (And Replacements)

In this recipe, I used boneless skinless chicken strips for ease in cooking. These strips are typically made from the breast of the chicken, so chicken breast will do as well. Chicken thighs (dark meat) also taste great in Pollo Con Crema. Boneless and skinless chicken pieces are your friend in this recipe if you want to keep things quick and tiny. 

Closeup of hands using a chef's knife to cut raw chicken tenders.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
The Process

Cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks. Season your chicken generously. Cook in sautéed onions, garlic, and peppers for 7 to 8 minutes or until chicken reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Closeup of hands cutting raw chicken tenders into cubes.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Seasoning Your Chicken

While the chicken takes on loads of flavor from the creamy sauce, we also want to cook it with seasonings that flavor the chicken before adding the cream. Salt, pepper, smoked paprika, cumin, cayenne, and chili powder create the perfect blend of spices for your chicken. 

Closeup of pile of seasoned raw chicken tender cubes on a red cutting board.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Replacements

Other chili powders can be used in place of cayenne or chili powder. You can also add oregano or coriander for more freshness and zest.

Overhead view of hand sprinkling spices over chicken cubes in a skillet.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

The Process

When seasoning, practice using the aerial seasoning technique. Lift your hand high above the product you wish to spice, and pour or sprinkle the seasoning evenly across the product. This will ensure the most consistent distribution of your spices. 

Closeup of a measuring spoon of Chili de Arbol Molido spice.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Optional: Chili De Arbol Molido

Warning: Chili De Arbol Molido adds a lot of heat to this dish. Skip this step if you do not love spicy. We used just 1/8 teaspoon to add a little more kick to this beautiful meal. 

Closeup of diced onion, poblano, bell pepper and garlic in a skillet of peanut oil.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

White Wine

After removing the cooked chicken from your sizzling hot pan, white wine helps to deglaze the pan, removing some of the leftover sticky bits, and flavoring them with the richness of the wine. 

Replacements

The acid in wine helps peel every morsel from the pan. Lime, lemon, or other citruses mixed with a little chicken broth will work similarly. 

Skillet with white wine added to the sauteed vegetables and garlic.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Garlic

A little extra garlic sautéed in the sauce brings more flavor to this dish. 

Can of pumpkin puree.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Pumpkin

In addition to the creamy texture, pumpkin adds sweetness to this dish and mellows the spice level. The body of pumpkin puree thickens the cream sauce and gives this dish a beautiful bright color when mixed with the adobo peppers.

Overhead view of pumpkin puree being spooned into a food processor bowl.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Replacements

Roasting and pureeing sweet potatoes, butternut squash, or carrots will result in similar texture, flavor, and color for your Pollo con crema. 

Overhead view of opened can of chipotles in adobo sauce.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce

These smokey, sensational peppers add a spicy chipotle punch to the sauce. They color the sauce with a beautiful dark red hue that even looks spicy. 

If you do not love spicy food, try adding half a can first. These peppers are punchy and should be used with caution. 

View of food processor  bowl with blended pumpkin and chipotles.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
The Process

Toss a can of chipotle peppers in a blender or food processor and blend until they reach a smoothish consistency. Some lumps will remain, but they will break down more in the cooking process. 

Replacements

Any spicy peppers may be used in place of these canned chipotle peppers. Fresh peppers like jalapeños, habaneros, Serranos, etc… all taste great with the other Mexican spices. Their spice level can be tamed a little with added cream, so if you accidentally add too much spice, you can counter the heat with extra cream. 

Closeup of pumpkin and adobo puree added to the sauteed vegetables and white wine mixture.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Quick Tip

If you are serving Pollo con Crema to a group, be careful of your spice level and serve extra con crema or sour cream on the side for guests to find relief from the heat. 

Open container of crema.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Crema

A pillowy, light texture occurs when you add this beautiful ingredient to your pumpkin, chipotle sauce. In addition to that silky, smooth viscosity, you will find that cream adds balance to the spicy flavor of this dish, mellowing the heat of the peppers and giving your palate a bit of relief. Add extra cream for milder spice and less to keep things spicy. 

Closeup of crema added to the pumpkin and chipotle sauce.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Replacements

Sour cream or yogurt can be used in place of Mexican crema. You can even add a little mayonnaise to these ingredients to thicken the textures and add a little more fat. 

Closeup of blend of paprika, cumin, pepper, and salt.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Paprika, Cumin, Pepper, and Salt 

These spices complement the spices used on the chicken and bring more earthy and smokey flavors to your Pollo con crema.

Closeup of chicken added to the sauce.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Optional: Cilantro, Mexican Oregano, and/or a squeeze of lime for topping

To brighten your dish in the final phases of cooking, add cilantro, Mexican oregano, and/or a squeeze of lime to top your Pollo con crema before serving. These ingredients may seem simple, but they amuse your palate when used as an extra fresh element on your dish.

Storage

Leftovers of this dish should be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Like spaghetti or other saucy dishes, the flavors actually integrate more over time and every day your Pollo con crema tastes a little bit better. 

Plated Pollo con Crema over yellow rice.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Pairings

Chips and salsa or guacamole start off a Mexican feast perfectly. Try these delectable dips for the perfect appetizers before your Pollo con crema.

As with many Mexican meals, rice and beans make perfect side dishes for Pollo con crema. The rice perfectly soaks up the leftover sauces, while the beans marry beautifully with all of the spices.

Serving avocados on the side adds another cooling element for an over-spiced palate.  

To embrace more smoky taste, serve your saucy chicken with a mezcal melonritaa cocktail with the perfect blend of citrus and smoke. 

Tempranillo wine beautifully compliments the spices in this meal. While a nice beer like a Corona or a Modelo Negra gives a light, crispy refreshment to your flavorful meal. 

A flan dish or fried ice cream will top off your Mexican meal with a creamy sweetness. 

Flavorful Spices And A Taste of Fall

This warm delight of Mexican cuisine makes my mouth water just thinking about it. I love the way the spices and cream blend together to create a perfect balance of heat, and the pumpkin adds a tiny taste of fall in every bite. If you try this recipe, I am almost certain you will make it again and again. 

Pinterest image of Pollo con Crema.
Mexican-Style Pollo Con Crema (With Pumpkin)

Mexican-Style Pollo Con Crema (With Pumpkin)

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Pollo Con Crema (Chicken with Cream Sauce) is a bold, yet homey meal that will please your tastebuds with its soulfulness and spice.

Ingredients

  • Peanut Oil (enough to thickly coat your sautee pan)
  • 1 Onion
  • 1/2 of a Poblano Pepper
  • 1/4 Tsp Garlic
  • (about 10) Chicken Strips
  • 1/8 Tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/8 Tsp Cumin
  • 1/8 Tsp Chili Powder
  • 1/8 Tsp Cayenne
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Optional: Chili De Arbol Molido (to taste - a little goes a long way.)
  • 1/8 cup White Wine
  • 1/4 tsp. Garlic
  • 1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 1/2 Can -1 Can of Chipotle peppers in Adobo Sauce (depending on spice level preference)
  • 3/4 Cups of Con Crema
  • 1/8 Tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/8 Tsp Cumin
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Optional: A Pinch of Cilantro, Mexican Oregano, and/or a squeeze of lime for topping

Instructions

  1. Set stove eye to Medium-high heat. Dice onions and poblano peppers and add to the hot oil. cook for about 1 minute.
  2. Add garlic. Cook for one minute.
  3. Chop the chicken strips into 1-inch pieces. Season with smoked paprika, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper.
  4. Add Chili De Arbol Molido to your pan if you want an extra spicy kick.
  5. Add chicken to the hot pan and saute with onions, garlic, and poblano peppers for about 7 minutes or until chicken reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Remove chicken to a bowl and tent with tin foil to keep it warm.
  7. Add wine to the pan to deglaze the pan and remove any sticky bits.
  8. As wine cooks down add garlic and let simmer.
  9. Blend pumpkin and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce until all ingredients are integrated.
  10. Add pumpkin chipotle mixture to the pan with smoked paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes.
  11. Turn down your stove heat to a low temperature and stir in cream until well blended. Add chicken and allow to cook for about a minute more. Your food is ready to be served.
  12. Optional: Serve chicken over rice with cilantro, oregano, and squeeze of lime.
  13. Enjoy.

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