Is it Spanish or is it Mexican? Clearing the Red Rice Debate

Mexican Arroz Rojo

History, conquests and globalization have made it clear that culture is a broad concept which can be approached from many different angles. Some of them blur the line that defines it more so than others and, in some cases, we can be thankful for that. Yes, of course we can be thankful for the highly influenced and influential cuisines and gastronomy that we can enjoy around the world.

The best of both worlds

Mexico and its gastronomy are not the exception as it has what we can call the best of both worlds. This country is famous for many things which, come to think about it, are as old as the country itself because they are linked to the communities that lived there hundreds of years ago. These communities were pretty self-sufficient, they developed great ways of planting and harvesting and became quite efficient on the topic.

In the same way, truth be told, they succeeded at taking what the conquest brought along and making it theirs. They adapted the new and welcomed everything in a way that seemed their own, as if it had been their way all along. This happened in different areas of culture, but we can definitely point out some evidence of this mixture in their gastronomy. Mexico had the vegetables, the beans and Spain brought along the oils and the rice.

The red rice quandary

Now, we must know a thousand recipes that include rice all over the world and the origins of this particular ingredient can be discussed some other day. But there’s something quite fascinating in how popular rice became after a while.

This ingredient is definitely not Mexican, nor is it Spanish, but they got it first and they definitely introduced it in this area. In spite of this, the communities living there made their own dishes combining both vegetables and beans together with rice.

One of the most popular side-dishes in Mexico: arroz rojo (red rice) helped raise the confusion. Red rice is also called Mexican rice, but it doesn’t stop there. All over the world, if you ask for some Spanish rice, you’ll get the same dish.

Why is that? Well, it probably has to do with two things. First, the fact that rice was indeed brought by the Spanish, but also because that’s the language spoken in Mexico. Spanish in that sense, does not make reference to the country in Europe, it makes reference to Mexico’s first language. Mexico and most of the Americas, for that matter. The reasons for the mix up don’t really matter, the true name of this meal is Mexican rice and here’s the recipe for you to try out!

Mexican Arroz Rojo


  • 1 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil.
  • 1 can of tomato sauce.
  • 1 onion.
  • 2 cups of chicken broth.
  • 2 cups of rice.
  • 2 cloves of garlic.
  • Cumin seeds.
  • Peppercorns.
  • Cilantro.
  • Salt.
  • Pepper.


  1. Under cold water, rinse two cups of rice. Repeat two or three times. Make sure you completely drain the rice.
  2. In a small bowl, place some cumin seeds together with some peppercorns and grind them.
  3. Slice an onion and chop two cloves of garlic.
  4. Take a big-size pan and preheat it to a medium heat. Pour some extra-virgin olive oil and pour two cups of rice. Toast it to a medium-low heat so it doesn’t burn. Cook and stir until it starts turning brown.
  5. Add the previously sliced onion, and saté for a couple of minutes.
  6. Add the chopped garlic cloves and stir. Garlic burns rather quickly so just sauté for a minute or so.
  7. Add the crushed seeds and pepper and keep sauteing.
  8. Add a cup of tomato sauce and mix everything together. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
  9. Add two cups of chicken broth and give everything a good mix. Make sure the liquids blend in.
  10. Simmer the mix and bring everything to a boil, you can cover your pan with a lid. Once it boils, reduce heat to minimum and let it cook for about twenty minutes. Do not take the lid out.
  11. After that time, turn the heat off and, with the lid still on, let it sit for about ten minutes.
  12. Lift the lid, give it a taste and season if necessary. Top it with some fresh cilantro and serve.

This dish goes perfect as an accompaniment for chicken!

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.