Skip to content

Chicken Perlo (pilau)

2012 December 18

My parents had children late in life.  My dad was in his 40th year when I was born.  In my earliest memories of my dad, he’s thin, has a huge smile, and a head full of curly grey hair.  He’s wearing running shoes and holding me close.

My late-in-his-life birth plus the fact that he’s the youngest of four kids in his family meant that I never met his parents, my grandmother and grandfather.  As all Southern boys do, my dad refers to his mom as “Mother.”

My grandmother, Helen, from what I gather, was a classic Southern lady.  She raised her kids and cooked memorable food.  I’d say most of the family, even my mother who married into the family, remember her potato dinner rolls best.  I’ve found the recipe that my mama weaseled from my dad’s Mother but it seems incomplete…I could never recreate it.  An indiscriminate amount of flour is listed along with an unknown amount of salt.  There are no rising times nor tips for preparing the rolls.  Sometimes things are best left to memory.


This meal is one of the few meals I remember my dad cooking for our family.  Like me, he never dared touch the potato rolls, but this chicken perlo is something he couldn’t lay to rest along with his mother when she passed.  The ingredient list and preparation is so simple it almost seems silly to blog.  Could a simple meal of chicken, rice, salt, and pepper really stand out enough?


Some recipes I’ve seen add sausage or aromatics to the chicken broth.  Sometimes a can of tomatoes even bastardizes the dish.  I’ll never do it that way.  The simple goodness of this traditional Southern meal shall not be messed with.

Make this dish on a cold day when the rain doesn’t stop.  Make this dish when you are feeling uninspired and hoping that simple really is better (it is).  Make this dish when your pantry is void of staples but you deserve to eat well.  Make this dish when you’re thinking of your parents and your parents’ parents and realizing that though they may be gone, they are not forgotten.



  • Angie

    This? It sounds fantastic. And it reminded me a lot of my dad and his brothers. They were all late-in-life babies and grew up calling their mom “Mother”. (I just called her Grandma.) Everything about this seems like something my grandma would have made for her three boys.

  • Heather

    What a wonderfully written post! My dad also calls his mom “Mother” :)

    While my grandmother is still living, one of the things I miss most as she gets older is her cooking. She doesn’t cook much these days but I remember her hearty Southern meals and the memories attached to them from when I was a kid. I hope that I will one day be able to recreate her cornbread dressing that she made every year for Thanksgiving. I love that you are able to recreate a dish that your grandmother made, and while you never knew her, you are hopefully still able to feel a connection through the food she once made.

  • Jessica @ Sunny Side Up

    I love the simplicity of this dish! Not everything needs to be fancied up with exotic ingredients. It’s even better because it has such a great story behind it. I’m sure your grandmother would be happy you’re keeping this recipe alive!

  • Kate

    If it makes you feel better, my parents had me really young, and I still never got to meet my grandparents on my father’s side. Although my grandmother didn’t have any wonderful recipes to pass down. Her specialties were tuna melts.

  • Pingback: Herbed Risotto with Chicken and Peas | Branny Boils Over

  • Efruge8

    Share what you have for the potato rolls and let e see if I can”fill in the blanks”

  • Dale Couch

    I am a Southern man now 61. My “Mother” used to make this dish, and called it perlo (Pilau) only when okra was added, in moderate amounts. Otherwise, she called it chicken bog or chicken and rice. It goes back into the 1700s and called perlo though not sure of a spelling. The name comes from French settlers but originates in Persia (Iran). I worked with a great Iranian guy who brought a chicken and rice dish to our Holiday lunch. I asked him about it, and he referred to it as purloo, or something close!!! I have had many manifestations of this dish throughout my extended family in South Carolina, but the simple one is truly comfort food. It might be worth reminding folks that Carolinians grew rice (as did many parts of the South) and it is a common dish for most of us. I grew up eating rice 6 times a week; potatoes, maybe once. Also, add the okra and you are adding the African ingredient. Wonderful how our food culture is a melting pot.

  • missceeeeeee

    This is exactly the way my grandmother (from Augusta, GA) made it except she added celery. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe.