What Is Spanish Rice and How Is It Different from Mexican Rice?

Do you love rice? You’re not alone! Studies show that people are consuming more rice than ever.

While we might be a little biased, we’d have to say that Spanish rice is one of the best rice-based dishes out there.

Asking ‘what is Spanish rice?’ might seem strange, but do you actually know its origins and what makes it so delicious?

Keep reading to learn the true history of this delicious dish!

What Is Spanish Rice?

Okay, so that might seem like a pretty obvious question. Everyone knows what Spanish rice is, right?

The dish’s history is actually quite fascinating and dates back hundreds of years. To be more specific, the most popular theory is that rice was first introduced into Spain in the sixteenth century by African slaves.

Since it was so easy to grow and could satiate sailors’ hunger for hours, ship captains packed cargo ships with as many sacks of rice as they could for the long journey back to Spain.

Once farmers figured out how to grow rice, cooks began to put their own spin on it by adding meats, beans, and chopped vegetables.

How Is Spanish Rice Different Than Mexican Rice?

It’s a common misconception that Spanish rice and Mexican rice are the same dishes.

And, to an extent, that’s understandable.

They both get their flavor from stocks, they both go well with traditional Latin and Spanish food, and they can both be quite spicy.

However, there are a few distinctions that differentiate the two popular side dishes. For instance, have you ever noticed how Spanish rice is yellow while Mexican rice has a light red/orange color?

That’s because they use different seasonings.

Spanish rice gets its yellow color from saffron.

Spanish saffron in a wooden bowl
Spanish Saffron

Mexican rice, meanwhile, takes on a unique color thanks to the inclusion of cumin.

Likewise, they have different mouthfeels.

Spanish rice tends to be more firm, whereas Mexican rice is softer and almost melts in your mouth.

Why Is It Such a Popular Dish?

If you ever have the chance to visit Spain, you may notice that just about every meal comes with a heaping helping of rice.

Though you might think people would get sick of it after a while, rice’s popularity is mainly attributed to its versatility.

It goes well with almost anything!

Imagine no paellas, arroz con pollo or arroz con leche?

It’s also cost-effective. Rice costs only a few cents per ounce making it one of the most accessible foods available.

Rice to Meet You: Final Thoughts on the Deliciousness of Spanish Rice

Paella from Spain
Spanish Paella Dish

What is Spanish rice?

On the surface, it’s not much more than a tasty side dish. But when you dig a little deeper, it becomes clear that the story of Spanish rice is the story of Spain.

It’s a rich, hearty dish steeped in tradition. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re getting hungry.

Want to try your hand at making Spanish rice? Click here to learn how you can make your own authentic Spanish paella!

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