Over a decade ago when I was working as an x-ray technologist at a large hospital in southern California, a co-worker told me how she made Spanish rice. I have always remembered the simple ratios for the recipe’s backbone that she told me: approximately 1 can of tomato sauce, 2 cups of rice, 4 cups of broth.
Another co-worker made Spanish rice that I tasted and I remember thinking it was *the best* I’d ever tasted before – and this is from someone who grew up in southern California and was quite familiar with the tastes of authentic Hispanic flavors. Her particular secret? Using chicken broth instead of water. With these pieces of recipe advice in mind, I tried making Spanish rice for the first time ever myself back then. Naturally, it took a few batches to be satisfied with the final result. During the process, I learned:
- You really need to brown the rice, not just think it’s a little brown
- It’s okay to make something without exact measurements
- I finally figured out how to not burn the bottom of the rice on the stove
Since becoming vegan at home and deciding to cook without oil or with as little as possible, my original recipe for Spanish rice has morphed a bit to accommodate our eating habits. I used to use a lot of olive oil during the browning of the rice; now I use none at all or just the teeniest drizzle. I used to use a vegetarian broth mix (McKay’s Chicken Seasoning) but after learning it’s not vegan (darn that milk whey), I’ve switched over to using a combination of mushroom seasoning and vegetable broth seasoning. Unfortunately, red is a notoriously hard color to photograph, hence these pictures don’t look that nice. Considering that I don’t have exact measurements for the spices here, it may take a couple of tries to get the flavor to your taste. But heck, when you do get it right, it’s an easy meal made when you also open up a can of black beans, cut up some lettuce, and eat it all mishmashed together with salsa and chips.
Easy Spanish Rice
Serves 6-8 as a side dish
- 2 cups of jasmine rice (see notes)
- Oil, optional
- 1 medium sized onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced (OR 1/2 to 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
- Ground cumin
- Broth powder/seasoning
- 1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
- 1 4-ounce can of mild or hot diced chilies, drained (optional)
- 4 cups of vegetable broth (OR vegan chicken-flavored broth)
Using a wide pan or skillet on medium high-high heat, place the rice inside (and a small drizzle of oil, if wanted) and keep moving it around every 20-30 seconds or so until it’s uncomfortably browned. Add in the onion, garlic; stir it into the rice so it starts the sautéing process. Add a few light shakes of cumin, even less of cayenne, and a decent amount of extra broth powder (this is completely eyeballed) to the rice as it’s further browning the onions and garlic. Keep stirring until the onion and garlic is sautéed. Add the tomato sauce, chilies if using, and broth to pan and mix. Cover the pan and bring to a simmer for 20-25 minutes.
At the end of that time, peek under the lid and check if the rice appears to be done; if not, replace lid and leave on low for another 5 minutes. After that, turn the heat off and let the pan sit covered for an additional 5 minutes before taking the lid off and fluffing the rice. If the rice seems still a little wet, keep the lid off and leave the heat on low for another 5 minutes. I know this is a lot of “5 minutes” but it works, promise!
- I grew up on jasmine rice and so I always use jasmine rice for anything that calls for “white rice.” I’m sure you can use another white rice, as long as it’s not a “quick cooking” type (i.e. Uncle Ben’s brand).
- I tend to only use red onions these days for the amount of antioxidants they have versus what can be found in white or yellow onions. In my opinion, it doesn’t seem to affect the taste.
- I’ve found that using actual liquid broth (i.e. canned or boxed vegetable broth) results in the best final flavor. If I only have powdered broth that needs to be mixed myself, I add water in the amount of liquid called for and then also stir in broth powder that’s needed for that amount of liquid.
- When browning the rice, keep a close eye on it – it can burn quick! It’ll take a while for the pan to get up to the right heat, but once it does, keep moving things around until the rice is (in your opinion) uncomfortably brown. At that point you’ll add in the spices and onions and it’ll brown even more. Don’t be afraid of browning the rice too much – that’s where all the nutty good flavor comes from. Of course, there is a distinct difference between browning rice and burning it altogether!