No Tex-Mex plate is complete without a huge heaping of Spanish rice. That fluffy, orange-hued mound of tender grains, bursting at the seams with the aromatic flavors of chicken broth and succulent veggies. For being such a staple in a food group we adore, it took me quite a while to make my very own version.
I fiddled with recipes over the years, each more lackluster than the one before. I resigned myself to the idea of mastering any version and simply let the pros keep doing what they do at hole-in-the-wall Tex-Mex restaurants. But when we hosted a dinner for some friends with a Tex-Mex menu, it became clear it was high time to work it out.
Here we have the final product of a few attempts at trial and error. What separates Spanish rice from a usual side of rice is how moist it is – just inundated with flavor. That had been lacking in my previous versions, having relied solely on broth and seasoning to get the job done – to no avail. Plus, the satiating undertones of deeply cooked vegetables were missing… the garlic, the onion, the jalapeno, the rainbow of bell peppers.
But no more. See those heaps of chopped veggies, just waiting to slowly cook down in a deep pot, eager for a bath of succulent chicken broth and rice? Those are the winners of this dish. Also see the pretty cutting board they’re happily resting on? That’s a beautiful piece from my friends over at Ode to Wood – it acts as a spinning cutting board or serving piece, and you can remove those little trivets and transform it into all sorts of fancy shapes. I love it for food prep, but also as a spinning station in the middle of the dinner table for bigger dishes like this pot o’ rice.
So those veggies proved to be the game changer. And not just the veggies, but the jalapeno as well. Adding a wee bit of heat to the rice amped up the flavor even more – but no so much that it was unbearable. I loved the spicy tingling flavor of it interspersed with the sweet and savory notes of the rest of the dish, but you can omit it if you’re looking for a purely mild flavor.
The veggies are cooked slowly in a deep pot until intensely flavorful, then doused in a healthy heaping of cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper. Then in goes the rice, lightly toasting itself and absorbing the other flavors in the pot, then the broth AND a half cup of your favorite salsa. I love that addition – it provides the tomato-y sweetness and hue you want, as well as an extra dimension of flavors without scrounging for the can of pure tomato sauce that is certainly not in your pantry. Plus, if you’re making this rice, you likely already have a quality salsa on hand for the meal. Win-win.
20 minutes later, you have a spicy Spanish rice. Just like the restaurant style, it’s fluffy yet still dense with juicy flavor, the perfect bed for a burrito bowl, taco salad, or side to any and every Tex-Mex dish you can think of. This recipe also makes a hefty amount, but rest assured the flavors only improve after a siesta in the refrigerator overnight.
- 2 cups jasmine rice (or similar style grain)
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 white onion, diced
- 1 jalapeno, diced (remove seeds if you dislike heat)
- ½ red bell pepper, diced
- ½ green bell pepper, diced
- ½ cup favorite salsa
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Drizzle about two tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy pot over medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno, and bell peppers. Cook over medium high heat until soft and tender, stirring occasionally - about 8 minutes.
- Add the cumin, paprika, and a dash of salt and pepper. Stir to coat the veggies. Add the rice and stir to coat with the veggies and seasoning. Stir frequently, allowing the rice to warm up and slightly toast - about 4 minutes.
- Add the chicken broth and salsa to the pot. Stir well. Bring the heat to high and continue stirring frequently (so rice doesn't stick to the bottom) until the mixture reaches a boil. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting and place the lid on top.
- Cook on that low setting for 20 minutes. Once done, check the rice to make sure it's tender and fluffy. Remove from heat and serve warm.