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Cooking chicken is an art, and no one knows this better than the Haitians. In Haiti, fresh chicken is used to make all kinds of dishes. The chicken is washed, marinated with epis, boiled, fried, or sautéed, and prepared in a dozen other ways to ensure that the herbs are infused with the meat. This gives the dish an aroma that will have people salivate with hunger.

In restaurants, you will find different variations of chicken. If you want to have a taste of Haiti’s history, then try the chicken in red sauce.

chicken in red sauce

Chicken in red sauce (Poul nan sòs)

Chicken (Poulet en Sauce)

Like every Haitian dish, the chicken in the red sauce also includes a particular ingredient, and that’s the tomato paste. This dish is a specialty in Haitian cuisine because it takes time and a lot of cleaning effort to make it. Some people use distilled vinegar, sour orange, or lime to wash the chicken and then marinate it in epis with sour orange and/or lime juice, which is also used for the sauce. This gives the chicken an extra kick of flavor.

Creole Poulet en Sauce

Poulet en sauce is made in red gravy that contains tomato paste, oil, bell peppers, onions, and Haiti’s secret ingredient ― Epis. This makes the Haitian chicken recipe so delicious. Now, let’s take a look at how it’s made.


  • Hard Chicken (2 Whole – 7 Lbs.)
  • Thyme and parsley (6 sprigs tied)
  • Maggi (1 tablet)
  • Oil (2 Tbsp.)
  • Salt (1 Tbsp.)
  • Epis (2 Tbsp.)
  • Tomato paste (1 Tbsp.)
  • Vegetable oil (3 cups)
  • Water (8 cups)
  • Shallot or onion (1)
  • Bell peppers (1/4 pepper)
  • Scotch bonnet or Habanero pepper (1)
  • Cloves (5)
  • Sour orange (2)
  • Lime (1)
  • Vinegar (1/2 cup) – optional
  • Sour orange juice (1 orange squeezed) or 2 Tsp. lime juice


Prepare the chicken:

  • Squeeze one sour orange and set the juice aside. Save the sour orange. If sour orange is not available, squeeze and save 2 Tsp. of lime juice.
  • Cut the chicken into pieces (neck, thighs, legs, wings, breast, backbones). Keep the gizzard, feet, neck, and liver. Some people also cook the heart. Remove the nails from the feet and throw the nails away. Throw away the intestines and everything else.
  • In a large bowl, add the vinegar or sour orange, salt, and lime. Add the chicken to the bowl and squeeze the other sour orange and lime on the meat. Rub the citrus on each piece of meat and mix well with your hands. Let the chicken sit in the citrus with salt for 5-10 minutes or longer.
  • Heat 6 cups of water with 2-3 strings of parsley and thyme, add a piece of lime to the water, and bring it to a boil. Rinse the meat with cool water and pour the hot water on the meat. Stir the chicken in hot water with a large spoon and drain the water.
  • Add the epis, Maggi, and the sour orange or lime juice and mix with a large spoon or your hands. Taste the epis to make sure it has sufficient salt. Add more salt as needed. Let the meat marinate for as long as possible. Some people marinate their meat overnight.

Cook the chicken:

  • Add the meat and epis to a large pot and cook for 25 minutes on medium heat.
  • You may broil the chicken or fry it. Most Haitians fry their chickens, especially the ones living in Haiti. You may broil the chicken for up to 10 minutes on each side. However, if you choose to fry the chicken, add the vegetable oil to a pan and heat up for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the meat to the hot oil and fry for as long as 8 minutes on medium to high heat. Turn each piece of chicken over and fry the other side for another 1-2 minutes or until brown. Keep the cover over the pan halfway, so you don’t get burned. Remove the chickens from the hot oil and place them on a plate covered with paper towels. The paper towel will soak any excess oil. Continue this process until every single piece of chicken is fried except for the gizzard, feet, and liver. Save the sauce that was used for cooking the meat because you will need it to make the red sauce.

Make the Sauce:

  • Add the olive oil and the tomato paste to a medium pot and cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Stir often to prevent the tomato paste from burning. If the tomato paste is burned, it will turn black. Add the meat sauce that was produced from cooking the chicken and stir some more. Add the pepper and cloves, thyme and parsley, bell peppers, 2 cups of water, and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add the fried chicken and sliced shallot or onion—cover and cook for another minute.
  • Your Chicken in red sauce is ready!

*Serves 4-8 people.

*Serve with rice, cornmeal, plantains, or anything else you like.

Imagine biting into this juicy red chicken as the taste of Epis explodes in your mouth? You are probably drooling right now! So, find a restaurant that serves authentic Haitian cuisine or visit beautiful Haiti and experience its sights, sounds, and flavors.

Try our rice with black mushroom (djondjon) recipe.