Uncle Joe’s Chicken Kelaguen Recipe

My Uncle Joe had a reasonably successful, family-run catering operation, doing weddings, funerals, christenings, and all sorts of other events.  For as long as I can remember, my family and I helped prepare, cook, staff, clean-up, at catering functions on the weekends.

The below is Uncle Joe’s chicken kelaguen recipe, adapted for serving around 6 people.

5 pounds of skin-on chicken thighs

2 cup of lemon juice (fresh)

1/3 cup of lemon powder (UPDATE: original recipe had 1-1/3 cups)

4 tbsp. of lime juice

4 tbsp. of salt

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 tbsp. of diced hot red peppers

1/2 cup of diced green onions

1/2 cup of fresh grated coconut

Grill the chicken thighs, unseasoned.  Make sure they aren’t overcooked; juices should still be flowing when you pierce it with a knife or a fork.  Let it cool enough to prepare, but it should still be warm for the next steps.

Dice/cube the chicken, about 1/2-inch pieces.  You can skin the chicken if you like, but for most authentic flavor, include the skin in your diced pieces.

Combine the lemon juice, lime juice, lemon powder and salt, making sure the salt is well dissolved.  Set aside half the liquid mixture.

Pour one half of the liquid citrus mixture with the warm chicken and mix so that there is an even coating on all the chicken pieces.  Add the onions and hot pepper and mix again.  (Traditionally, we hand-mixed at this step).

Refrigerate overnight.

Add the rest of the liquid mixture to the chicken and toss/mix again.  Garnish with the coconut and green onions.

Serve cold with hot white or brown rice, wrapped in warm corn or flour tortillas, or by itself. 

You can add more or less salt to taste, and add more or less hot pepper to achieve the desired spiciness.

Hope these instructions were clear enough!  Drop a comment if you have any questions about it.


15 Responses to “Uncle Joe’s Chicken Kelaguen Recipe”

  1. 1 Casey January 2, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    Oh, I love kelaguen. I love it so! I’m so excited to see your family’s recipe so I can make it and enjoy it.

    P.S. What’s Lemon Powder?

  2. 2 guamaniac January 2, 2007 at 12:54 pm


    Lemon Powder is hard to come by, I’m afraid; I’ve only ever seen it on Guam, and my parents send it to me in Care Packages on occasion.

    Without it, I’d say double the lemon juice in the above recipe. It won’t be quite as tart, but still quite good.


  3. 3 bobbleheaded-islander June 17, 2008 at 22:20 pm

    “True Lemon” is a nice crystallized lemon powder sold in the ethnic or international food isles in the local groceries here in TX. We’re not special here, so I’m sure that others sell it too. True Lemon good stuff. They also have a True Lime.

  4. 4 foodnearsnellville March 11, 2009 at 21:01 pm

    I’m glad to have found this site. Nice recipe. My wife is half Chamorro, half Japanese and I spent a couple years at Penn (Biophysics postdoc), lived in West Philly at the time (44th and Spruce).

    Awesome city. My wife keeps asking me to take her back there.

  5. 5 Dallas September 25, 2010 at 4:19 am

    do NOT use 4 tbsp of salt, it is horribly over salted like that. I just wasted 5 lbs of chicken

  6. 6 pcal December 26, 2010 at 14:45 pm

    Re Dallas; Any recipe for food isn’t like the Holy Bible.You transcibe it and never put stuff like salt and pepper into it til you are ready to taste and taste again and when it isn’t quite up to your taste,quit adding because the final product can be seasoned to the individuals taste or health requirements,while they are consuming it.Salt is one of the worse to over use because it can’t be taken back out.If it is under salted then you can say’LOW SALT DIET APPROVED.

  7. 7 Tommy May 9, 2011 at 15:50 pm

    Re: the salt content.

    Most professional kitchens use coarse or kosher salt. It’s easy to sprinkle on foods. Because of the shape of the salt flakes, they don’t pack as closely as table salt. Table salt has twice as much salt per unit volume so it is basically twice as salty. Since the person who posted the recipe said that the recipe came fom a catering operation, I suspect this is what happened. Four tablespoons of kosher salt sounds about right for 5 lb of chicke.

  8. 8 Mary Burke December 9, 2011 at 21:29 pm

    Hahaha, you would have to live on tropical island like Guam to appreciate the level of salt in this dish. If you live stateside, you don’t crave as much salt as you do when you live in the tropics. Born and Raised in Guam – Live in Minnesota now.

  9. 9 Kelaolbai March 13, 2012 at 2:40 am

    Love this recipe. Thanks so much. Attended University of Guam and I love chicken kelaguen and Chicken Kadu Pika. Move back home to Palau after finishing school. Thanks..


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