Spanish Rice

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My mother’s Spanish rice (aka Mexican rice) is a mandatory accompaniment to any Mexican dish we serve at our house, whether it’s with enchiladas or tostadas, or with steak and black beans. This rice is our family’s comfort food. My mom always makes a big batch when she makes it, because we can’t get enough!

Spanish rice is essentially a rice pilaf, but with southwestern flavorings. To make it you brown the raw rice first with onions and garlic, and then cook the rice in chicken broth with added tomatoes. The browning is essential to the nutty, almost toasty flavor of the rice. And although bouillon can be substituted for the chicken stock, nothing beats homemade chicken stock, whose rich flavor is absorbed by the rice as it cooks.

Mom has perfected the art of preparing the rice quickly. She heats the tomato-y stock in a separate pot while the rice is browning, and then combines the two to cook while she prepares the rest of the meal. You could easily make it one pot if you wanted.

Updated from the recipe archives. First posted in 2004.

Spanish Rice Recipe

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  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

My mother browns the rice in a separate pan from the pot she uses to heat the stock. This is just to save time. You could easily brown the rice and onions, and add cold stock and tomatoes to it, bring to a simmer, cover and cook, all in one pot.

If you have homemade stock, use it! That's what will take this Spanish rice from good to great.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (can use up to 1/4 cup)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups of medium or long-grain white rice
  • 3 cups* chicken stock (or vegetable stock if vegetarian)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste or 1 cup of diced fresh or cooked tomatoes, strained
  • Pinch of oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt

*Check the instructions on the rice package for the proportions of liquid to rice. They can range from 1:1 to 2:1. If your rice calls for 2 cups of water for every cup of rice, then for this recipe, use 4 cups of stock for 2 cups of rice.

Method

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1 Heat olive oil in large skillet on medium/high heat. Add the rice and stir it so that the rice is lightly coated with the oil. Cook on medium high heat, stirring often, until much of the rice has browned. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently another 3 minutes, until the onions begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook until the onions are translucent and softened, about a minute more.

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2 To save time you can bring the stock to a simmer in a separate saucepan, with the tomato sauce, oregano, and salt. Add the browned rice to the simmering broth (or broth to the rice, depending on which pan has a cover). Or you can skip the simmering step and just add the broth (and tomatoes etc) to the rice. Bring everything to a simmer, cover the pot and lower the heat to barely maintain a low simmer. Cook for 15-25 minutes, depending on the type of rice and the instructions on the rice package. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

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Fluff with a fork or spoon to serve.

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Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice

Original photo, first posted 2004

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Showing 4 of 157 Comments

  • MitchV

    I’ve made this three times now and tonight will make four. The technique is foolproof (I would know) and delicious. The only minor tweak I make is to use achiote oil to brown the rice for a little extra color and flavor.

    Thank you very much for the tip. This is a great side dish and easy.

  • Mike

    No cumin?

  • Joe

    Elise, had lost my old spanish rice recipe. Did your mom’s. Awesome. Had a yellow pepper so used it up. Added a thitch of sambal to spike it…served it with my Chilean empanadas….
    Thank you for such a great recipe.

  • Melissa M

    I came across this on Pinterest while looking for a rice recipe to add to our dinner tonight. This looks simple and delicious (simple is better, especially with little ones).

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