There is some debate as to whether it originated in Spain. Puerto Ricans consider it one of their classic recipes. Many Puerto Ricans note that arroz con pollo cannot be made without beer and annatto oil and saffron is no substitute. Beer and annatto are rarely used in Spanish cooking and never in arroz con pollo there. Annatto is frequently used in Puerto Rican cooking especially in rice dishes like arroz con gandules (rice with pork and pigeon peas) and arroz con maiz (rice with corn and sausage). Beer is used in many Puerto Rican dishes like pollo guisado (braised stewed chicken) and asopao de pollo (chicken rice stew). Arroz con pollo and most Puerto Rican rice dishes are highly seasoned with sofrito, which is another key ingredient in arroz con pollo.
Food writer Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz, pointing out the international aspects of the dish, notes the origin of Arroz con Pollo in the Spanish forms of pilaf, already reflecting international influences: chicken was brought from India and rice from Asia; saffron (used for the yellow colour in Spain, instead of annatto) was introduced by Phoenician traders; tomatoes and peppers (also known as sofrito) are natives of the Americas.