Puerto Rican rice aka yellow rice is one of the pillars in the Latin cuisine. Flavorful, fluffy, and filling yellow rice is a canvas waiting to be filled with vegetables or meats of your choosing!
This yellow rice recipe is the easy Puerto Rican rice recipe version. This is the recipe to build upon when you make Puerto Rican rice with corn, or Puerto Rican rice with beans, Spanish rice with coconut, or my favorite arroz con pollo (Puerto Rican rice with chicken).
What is Puerto Rican rice?
Puerto Rican rice is a yellow rice recipe where the rice is cooked in a sauce mixture called sofrito and takes on a yellow coloring through the spices in either Sazon seasoning, turmeric, or through using annato oil.
Cooking rice with sofrito allows the rice to absorb the flavors of the onions, garlic, peppers, and seasonings to create a flavorful yellow rice recipe for the family. Truly, Puerto Rican rice is a pilaf. A pilaf is a cooking term that just means that the Puerto Rican rice has a base of oil, spices, and seasonings that is cooking before adding in water.
Why is yellow rice yellow?
Rice is a canvas that takes on the color of it’s environment. Yellow rice usually is yellow due to annato seed (achiote found in Goya sazon), turmeric, or saffron! The sauce is usually red in the beginning, but as the rice cooks, it takes on a beautiful orange yellow hue!
Puerto Rican Rice vs Mexican Rice
Most people think of yellow rice as Mexican rice. Mexican rice is flavorful, vibrant, and similar -but can be spicy! Puerto Rican rice is not spicy on a heat index (think mild, hot, fuego); it’s flavorful due to the herbs and spices used such as oregano and cilantro, but you don’t have to worry if you have acid-reflux, this yellow rice recipe is not spicy!
How To Make Yellow Rice
Before we step near the stove, let’s answer some crucial questions on how to make yellow rice!
What kind of rice do you use for yellow rice?
Answer: Traditionally long grain rice (such as Canilla brand) is favorited by Puerto Ricans, and some will swear by Goya’s Medium Grain Rice for Puerto Rican Rice. I say either long grain rice or basmati rice for yellow rice. Long grain or basmati rice is always best when making yellow rice or any kind of pilaf!
Do you have to rinse rice?
Answer: Yes, for individual grains of rice that is not sticky or mushy, rinsing your rice is necessary! The starches in the rice is what makes it sticky when it cooks.
You don’t have to rinse rice for intentionally sticky dishes, like our Tres Leches Rice Pudding Recipe!
How do you rinse rice?
Answer: To rinse white rice, you’ll put the raw rice in a big bowl and cover it with water. With your hand, go in circular motions to move the rice around. Drain the water by tilting the bowl to it’s side with your hand on the side to not allow the rice to pass. (This may take some practice!)
Repeat this process until the water of the rice is clear. It takes 3-5 rinses. For the final rinse, I drain my white rice in a colander and give it a quick rinse before adding it to my pot.
What kind of pot do you use to make yellow rice?
Answer: A wide pot! You want a deep pot of about 4-6 inches, but width is what is more important! Puerto Rican’s use caldero’s for their Puerto Rican rice recipes. A caldero is a cast aluminum pot with a tight fitting lid. Here is an image of a caldero and an affiliate link to buy a caldero pot! The most important aspect is that it is wide! Quick tip: Use an oven mitt to hold onto the caldero while cooking, just like cast iron the caldero gets hot!
Ingredients In Puerto Rican Rice
This is the basic recipe for Puerto Rican rice! You can add vegetables such as corn kernels, pigeon peas, or beans such as cooked red beans, or add in green olives and ham if you like!
- tocino (salted pork or bacon, finely chopped), optional
- chopped onions
- chopped garlic
- chopped peppers
- chopped cilantro (These “chopped” ingredients create a “sofrito”, here is a complete homemade sofrito recipe you’ll love!)
- tomato sauce or paste
- seasonings such as salt, pepper, and oregano
- Goya Sazon for coloring, or use turmeric or ground annato seed to color your Puerto Rican rice. (Just a teaspoon or so!)
- long grain rice
- chicken broth or water
How To Make Puerto Rican Rice
- Rinse and drain rice, set to the side.
- Warm oil in a caldero over medium high heat.
- Cook tocino or ham for about two minutes before adding in sofrito. If making fresh sofrito with chopped ingredients, cook until vegetables have softened -about 3-4 minutes.
- Add in tomato sauce, seasonings, and any add-ins. Allow to cook about a minute, stirring occasionally before adding in the rice.
- Mix well to combine. Allow the rice to absorb the sofrito sauce for a minute or two before adding in chicken broth or water. (If you’re using water, add chicken bullion to your rice!)
- Bring the liquid to a boil and lower to a steady simmer.
- Cook uncovered for 12-14 minutes not stirring until the water levels evaporates to where you see the top of the rice.
- Stir, cover, and lower heat to low. DO NOT UNCOVER!
- Covered, allow rice to cook for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes DO NOT UNCOVER YET, remove pot from heat and let it steam for about 15 minutes before uncovering.
- Uncover and gently fluff with a fork before serving.
What To Serve With Puerto Rican Rice
If you’re wondering what to serve with Puerto Rican rice, I’d say it’s important to realize what season you’re in.
Here are some great side dish ideas that go well with Puerto Rican rice:
- Puerto Rican Potato Salad (We give a sweet twist and crunch by adding apples!)
- Shrimp Macaroni Salad
- Chayote Egg Salad (Fresh, light, and delicious!)
- Tostones | Twice Fried Plantains (A classic side item!)
Basic Puerto Rican Rice Recipe
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 2 ounces of salt pork optional
- 1/4 cup of homemade sofrito optional and see note
- 1/2 cup of chopped onions
- 1/2 red bell pepper chopped -if not using sofrito
- 1/2 green bell pepper chopped -if not using sofrito
- 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 1/4 cup of cilantro rinsed and chopped
- 4 ounces of tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons of salt
- 1 tablespoon of dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground thyme optional
- 1 packet of Sazon seasoning packet
- 3 cups of long grain rice rinsed and drained
- 4 1/2 cups of good quality chicken broth or water see note
Rinse and drain rice, set to the side.
Warm oil in a caldero over medium high heat.
Add salted pork and cook for about two minutes before adding in sofrito and onions or chopped vegetables, except for garlic.
Cook vegetables until softened, about 4 minutes, occasionally stirring.
Add in garlic and cook for thirty seconds before adding in tomato sauce, seasonings, and cilantro.
Let sauce come to a bubble and stir in rice.
Stir rice occasionally for two minutes for the rice to absorb the sofrito sauce.
Allow to cook about a minute, stirring occasionally before adding in the rice.
Pour in chicken broth or water with chicken bullion.
Bring the liquid to a boil and then lower to a steady simmer (think medium).
Cook uncovered for 12-14 minutes not stirring until the water levels evaporate to where you see the top of the rice and it the rice looks like craters.
Stir once and cover.
Lower heat to low. DO NOT UNCOVER!
Cook rice for twenty minutes. DO NOT TOUCH OR UNCOVER!
After 20 minutes DO NOT UNCOVER YET, remove pot from heat and let it steam for about 15 minutes before uncovering.
Uncover and gently fluff with a fork before serving.
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