Confession: I’ve never been a fan of plain white rice.
I understand that rice is a staple that keeps many people fed and full, but in my personal experience with white rice it’s often unnecessary carbs serving as a vehicle for the real flavorful food. I mean, why would I want to eat plain white rice when fried rice exists? When I can make creamy risotto strewn with mushrooms and cheese? When I can have crunchy Persian tahdig with golden potatoes baked into the crust? I prefer rice that can also be enjoyed on it’s own- with lots of other yummy goodies incorporated into it.
When I started living on my own I discovered Mexican red rice or Spanish rice. This rice is anything but plain. Just look at it. Each bite is full of bright acidity from fresh lime juice, sweet bursts of corn, and flecks of juicy tomato. Each morsel made tender with chicken broth, fragrant and gently spiced with the warm flavors of cumin, coriander, and paprika. Yep, I would probably take Spanish rice over plain white rice most days of the week. Here is my go-to recipe for Spanish rice. It’s by no means authentically Mexican or Spanish, but it has everything that makes it especially tasty to me!
Mexican Red Rice (Spanish Rice)
In these pictures I was still using olive oil, but recently I’ve started using annatto oil or achiote oil, as it gives the rice a nice bright orange color and a unique smell and flavor. Annatto oil can be made in a jiffy by heating up olive oil in a pan, adding a few teaspoons of finely ground annatto seeds, letting it cool, then straining the oil through a sieve to remove the crushed seeds. Your best bet is to look for achiote seeds or powder in the “ethnic” aisle of most grocery stores.
- 2 cups of uncooked long grain rice
- 2 cups of chicken broth
- 1/4 cup of olive oil or annatto oil
- 1 cup of corn kernels, about one ear of corn
- 1/2 small white onion, diced
- 1 small green bell pepper, diced
- 1 small roma tomato, diced
- 1 lime
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp fresh minced cilantro
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp ground paprika
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
Heat the oil in a heavy pan over medium heat. Add the onions and bell pepper and cook until they are just translucent. Add the salt, cumin, coriander, and paprika to the mixture.
Pour in the rice, constantly stirring, allow it to toast without burning. The rice should start to turn a light golden color (if you use annatto oil it will already be orange, so try to toast the rice stirring for about 5-7 minutes).
Add the chicken broth, tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir the rice so everything is evenly mixed together.
Let it sit over medium heat until it starts to boil. Then set it to low, adding the corn and bell peppers on top, and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the liquid appears to be all soaked into the rice.
Once done cooking, squeeze one lime over the top and mix the steamed bell peppers and corn in with the rest of the rice.
Top with minced cilantro and crushed black pepper, and enjoy!
I recommend serving alongside other complimentary Spanish or Mexican foods-think tacos, grilled chicken, carne asada, beans, pico de gallo, margaritas and other familiar dishes with warm Spanish or Mexican flavors!