Spanish Rice or Mexican Rice, Which Came First?

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Recipe Submitted by Julia M.

If you are a rice lover, you most likely have eaten countless rice dishes and have a list of your preferred ones. But do you actually know where all those rice dishes you like come from?

Perhaps you can identify the most popular rice meals, but what about those that look and taste the same? For example, Spanish rice and Mexican Rice. Unless you see or hear the demonym, it is impossible to tell one from the other.

Two similar but different dishes

Well, you are not the only one. Most people get confused trying to recognize them. There are even people thinking they are the same rice dish, although they are clearly different, besides their origins. Confusion usually arises due the similarities in their basic ingredients like rice and broth, Latin-inspired taste, and a spicy flavor.

The resemblances end there. Both have slight but remarkable differences that can help you understand the difference: color and specific spices used to get that color and flavor.

While Mexican rice is red due to the cumin and tomato juice used in the cooking process, Spanish rice gets a yellowish appearance thanks to saffron added at the beginning of cooking.

That was easy, right? Now, you can feel and show off all your rice knowledge by properly identifying Spanish rice and Mexican rice. Next time in a restaurant, correct those people who order any of them indiscriminately.

So, which came first?

According to history, Mexico was colonized by Spanish settlers that introduced most of their food traditions to the region. These ingredients include rice, olive oil, coriander, cinnamon, garlic, and domesticated animals like cows, goats, chickens, pigs, and sheep.

Based on this fact, one theory stated that Spanish rice came first. Spaniards then brought it to the country where Mexicans adopted it and made their version using native flavors. But, besides this debate, there is no doubt that they are equally delightful and the perfect side dish for any meal. These two countries had and still maintain their cultural bonds.

Learning more about Mexican rice tradition

Mexico is a country proud of its colorful culture and tasty food. All Mexican preparations mix native and Spanish flavors for making distinctive dishes. The most common ingredients used are fresh vegetables, rice, beans, corn, peppers, meats, herbs and spices.

The results are unique dishes characterized by vibrant colors and strong seasonings. Rice is always there in almost every dish; either as a side dish or the start of the preparation.

Mexican rice is indeed the traditional side dish for all meals. You can find it as part of beans, tacos, picadillo, fajitas, carnitas, and so much more.

The best Mexican rice recipes

For trying the true Mexican rice flavor, one option would be to cook it by yourself, check the following link for getting an idea of what you can prepare:

Or see either of the following two recipes.

Mexican rice (4 Servings)


  • 1 cup of long-grain rice.
  • 1 ½ cups of chicken stock.
  • 1 can of tomato sauce.
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil.
  • 1 finely diced onion.
  • 1 finely diced red bell pepper.
  • 4 minced cloves of garlic.
  • ½ tsp of ground cumin.
  • ½ tsp of oregano.
  • ½ tsp of ground Tumeric.
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.


  1. In a saucepan, pour the olive oil and place it on medium heat.
  2. Add onion, garlic, and red bell pepper. Cook until they are tender.
  3. Incorporate rice and combine very well.
  4. Pour chicken stock, tomato sauce, cumin, oregano, powder garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir.
  5. Put the lid on and cook at low heat for 20 minutes.
  6. Serve with your burritos, fajitas, tacos, or your Mexican preferred dish.

Quick Mexican Rice (8 Servings)


  • 2 cups of instant white rice.
  • 2 cups of chicken stock.
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce.
  • 1 tsp of onion powder.
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder.
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin.
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil.
  • Sea salt to taste.
  • 2 tbsp of finely chopped fresh cilantro.


  1. In a saucepan, heat olive oil. Add powdered onion, powdered garlic, ground cumin, sea salt, and fresh cilantro. Stir very well and cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Pour chicken stock and tomato sauce. Cook until boiling.
  3. Add instant rice and continue cooking until rice is tender.

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