History of Spanish Rice (Mexican Rice)

Learn more about this popular Mexican side dish

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Spanish Rice, also known as Mexican Rice is a common side dish in Northern Mexico. It is also popular outside of Mexico, especially in the Southwestern United States, which borders northern Mexico. The names Spanish Rice and Mexican Rice imply the same dish.

How Is It Made?

The dish is made by browning white rice in fat, such as lard or cooking oil. Onions and garlic are added in for flavor while the rice is browning.

After the rice begins to turn opaque and golden brown, it is brought to a simmer in a combination of chicken broth and tomato flavoring. The tomato flavoring can be from tomato sauce, paste or bullion. Parsley can be added for a little color, but does not change the taste very much. Sometimes vegetables are added such as chiles, corn, peas or carrots.

Why Is It Called Spanish Rice?

While there is not a clear story as to why some people refer to it as Spanish rice (this exact dish is not prepared in Spain) there are some very good indications how it came to be known as that. Rice is not native to Mexico and was brought over in the 1500's when Spain started their invasion and take over. The Spaniards began to import cattle, pigs, goats and chickens. As the Spaniards continued their travels around the world, they also went to Asia and from there they brought back to Mexico things like wheat and rice.

So, since the Spanish people originally introduced rice to Mexico, it makes sense that a traditional rice dish would be called "Spanish Rice." Another theory is that because the Mexican people that make this rice dish and speak the Spanish language, it was easily incorporated into the name of the dish.

Why Is It Called Mexican Rice?

In Mexico this type of rice dish is referred to as "Arroz" which translates to "rice." If you order rice in northern Mexico, you most likely will get rice cooked with chicken broth and tomato flavors. In southern Mexico, plain white rice is more common. But adding the broth, tomato, onion and garlic is the Mexican way to add flavor to rice just as if you order rice in other countries, you will get different types of rice. Calling the dish "Mexican Rice" indicates rice that is made in the Mexican style.

How Do I Make Spanish Rice (Mexican Rice)?

It is very easy to make Spanish or Mexican rice. Here is a highly rated recipe for Quick and Easy Mexican Rice If you prefer to see each step, please take a look at this Spanish Rice Tutorial with pictures of each step so you can see exactly what to do.