Spanish Rice

I am not sure why we have always called it Spanish Rice, when really it would be more aptly named Mexican Rice, but nomenclature aside, we have always served it as a side dish to pretty much everything at my house growing up. Fried chicken, enchiladas, lumpias, arroz con pollo, or even albondigas, you can pretty much always guarantee that there is either a fresh batch on the stove, or leftovers in the fridge.

My aunt likes to add frozen corn, peas and carrots to hers. My mom likes to use a halved onion, whereas I use chopped. My brother uses brown rice instead of white. Some use chicken bouillon, some use stock, some use water. Some use chopped tomatoes, others use tomato sauce. There are a million minute variations, but the essentials are: browning the rice, and adding a tomato-based seasoning.

Spanish Rice


  • 2 tbsp oil of your choice, up to ¼ cup
    • Vegetable Oil
    • Olive Oil
    • Lard
  • ½ large Yellow Onion
    • chopped or peeled and halved, keeping the root intact
  • 2 cups Long Grain White Rice
  • 4 cups hot or boiling Liquid of your choice
    • Water
    • Chicken Stock
    • Water with Chicken Bouillon
    • Vegetable Stock
  • 1 x 8 oz can Tomato Sauce
  • Salt & Pepper to taste


  1. Heat your choice of oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. I almost always use a combination of olive oil and lard or bacon grease, or just olive oil.
  2. Add onion and rice. If you are adding chopped onions, just toss them in the pan. If the onion is halved, simply place the cut-side down, directly on the pan. You want the halved onion to maintain contact with the pain, and add the rice to be added around it.
    Spanish Rice: rice and onion in the pan
  3. Brown the rice. Allow the rice to brown in the pan, stirring every couple minutes until the majority of the rice is a golden color. Do not rush this step.
    Spanish Rice: browned rice
  4. Once the rice is browned, added the hot or boiling liquid of your choice and ¾ a can of tomato sauce and stir. I almost always add water and a couple heading tablespoons of chicken bouillon. If you have chicken stock, this adds a lovely flavor, but I don’t find it very cost efficient. If you’re out of both, water works fine. If you’re a vegetarian, vegetable stock is an excellent alternative. I like to add most of the can of tomato sauce, reserving a small amount as a topping once the rice is done. This is a personal decision, you can absolutely add the entire can, and even rinse the can with your liquid to be added to the pan as well. My siblings use so much tomato sauce we always end up opening an extra can anyway.
    Spanish Rice: adding tomato sauce
  5. Bring to a boil, increasing the heat if necessary. Cover. Reduce heat to low, maintaining a low simmer. Allow to cook for 30 minutes.
  6. Cook until all the liquid has been absorbed. If there is still liquid, cover and cook longer, checking in 5-minute increments.
  7. Fluff the rice with a large wooden spoon or rice paddle (like this one at Amazon) and serve hot.

Fluffed Spanish Rice



  • I like to serve the rice the way my grandma liked it, topped with fresh chopped tomatoes and sliced hard boiled egg
  • My sister likes to serve the rice topped with extra tomato sauce, directly from the can, and cotija cheese.
  • My aunt likes to add 1 cup of frozen or canned peas, carrots and corn to her rice at the same time as the water. Or some combination of these veggies.
  • I usually run a teapot on the back burner while browning the rice. Since I always keep a teapot on the back burner, this creates no extra dishes, but if you are using stock, then you’ll have an extra pot.
  • My mom adds minced garlic to the pan with the onions.
  • My mom adds 1 green onion stock to the pan right before covering it. This creates a nice, photogenic rice, but I am not sure how much flavor it adds.
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Spanish Rice
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