How to Make Spanish Yellow Rice


Start to Finish: 50 minutes
Servings: 4
Difficulty Level: Beginner

Turmeric and achiote, two fundamental Latin American spices, each lend color and fragrance to a cornerstone of Spanish cuisine, arroz amarillo, or yellow rice. Achiote and turmeric contribute their own signatures to the dish -- the former a peppery, piquant quality, and the latter a pleasantly bitter, citrus-like character. Spanish yellow rice works as a side or a standalone dish when combined with just about any protein, particularly shredded pork and chicken thighs.


    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric or achiote paste
    • 1 cup sofrito
    • 1 cup long-grain rice, rinsed
    • 2 cups chicken broth
    • Kosher salt, to taste
    • Cilantro, to taste


  • Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes.

    Add 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds, 1 bay leaf and 1 teaspoon of achiote paste or 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric. Stir the oil and spices. Cook the spices until the oil turns yellow-orange, or about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Adjust the heat to medium high.

    Add 1 cup of sofrito to the pan. Saute the sofrito until the liquid cooks out, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.

    Add 1 cup of long-grain rice to the pan. Saute the rice for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently.

    Stir in 2 cups of chicken broth and season it with kosher salt to taste. Bring the broth to a boil and give the rice another stir.

    Set the heat to the lowest setting and cover the saucepan. Cook the rice for 11 minutes, then taste it. The rice should be al dente to compensate for carryover cooking.

    Take the rice off the stove and fluff it with a fork. Discard the bay leaf and garnish the rice with freshly chopped cilantro.

Tips and Serving Suggestions

  • You can substitute achiote oil for achiote paste. Warm 1 tablespoon of achiote seeds in 1 cup of vegetable oil over low heat until the oil turns orange, or for about 10 minutes. Use 1/2 cup of achiote oil in place of 1/2 cup of vegetable oil.

    Spanish rice lends itself well to variation. The inclusion of seeded-and-minced serrano peppers, a three-finger-pinch of freshly chopped Mexican oregano and a generous squeeze of lime juice, for example, play well off both achiote and turmeric, and can tie the rice into dishes served alongside it.

    Serve Spanish rice family-style. Servings and portion sizes are estimates that help you determine the minimum amount of rice per person, not rigid guidelines. You can double or triple this recipe without changing its ingredient proportions.

Achiote Staining

  • Achiote oil and achiote paste stain most surfaces -- cloth, wood and plastics take on a permanent yellow-orange hue after achiote comes into contact with them. Use stainless-steel or glass utensils, plates and bowls when you cook with achiote and when you serve achiote dishes.

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  • Photo Credit photooiasson/iStock/Getty Images
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