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This light and fluffy arroz verde or Mexican green rice is perfect with dishes such as carnitas, enchiladas, chicken tacos and grilled meats. Packed with fresh spinach, it makes a healthy side dish that’s vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free.
This Mexican spinach pilaf is so versatile, you can even enjoy it for breakfast with fried eggs, salsa ranchera and black beans!
Why You’ll Love This Mexican Spinach Rice
Looking for an easy-to-prepare rice side dish you can feel good about serving, this is it!
When I lived in Mexico, arroz verde was one of my favourite dishes to make. Not only could I whip it up quickly without heating up the kitchen, but it contained loads of nutritious spinach.
This green rice dish is still one of my favourite go-to recipes. Here’s why:
- With just five main and 100% natural ingredients, it’s not complicated to make.
- Virtually foolproof, it takes just 30 minutes to make!
- It makes a delicious side dish that’s much lower in sodium than boxed rice mixes but big on flavour, vitamins and fibre.
- Mexican spinach rice is a dish that goes on giving. It’s tasty as leftovers (tuck a spoonful of green rice inside a tortilla with some black beans) or enjoy it for breakfast with a fried egg and salsa ranchera.
- It heats up in a flash in the microwave so it can easily be made a day in advance.
- Best of all, incorporating fresh greens into your rice is an easy way to add vitamins, minerals and fiber to your diet.
- It also happens to be vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free!
White Rice – For the lightest fluffiest rice, use long grain white rice.
Poblano Pepper – Poblano peppers are dark-green, cone-shaped fresh chile peppers with a rich, meaty flavour. Poblano peppers are on the mild end of the Scoville heat scale, ranging from 1,000 Scoville heat units (SHU) to 1,500 SHU. In comparison, jalapeños range between 2,500-8,000 SHU.
Poblano peppers have a thinner skin and lower water content than green bell peppers.
Spinach – Fresh spinach rather than frozen is the key to making a fluffy green rice that isn’t soggy.
Green Onion – Adds a savoury depth of flavour.
Cilantro – This fragrant herb is a classic in Mexican cooking.
How to Wash Fresh Spinach Prior to Cooking
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that leafy vegetables such as spinach and lettuce are prone to food borne illnesses such as E. coli and other types of contamination.
While cooking with heat destroys dangerous bacteria such as E. coli, it’s worth knowing how to properly wash fresh spinach so you can avoid getting a mouthful of sand, grit (or even insects) in your spoonful of Mexican rice.
Unlike placing fresh spinach in a colander and running water over it (which bruises the spinach and makes it soggy), this method keeps the spinach crisp and also gets rid of all the dirt.
Here are the steps to follow to when washing fresh spinach prior to cooking. You can also use this method for cleaning swiss chard and other leafy greens:
- Loosen a bunch of spinach and place it under a tap of cold running water, holding the bunch of spinach with the stems pointing downward.
- Cut off the ends of the stems of the fresh spinach.
- Clean the sink thoroughly and fill it half full with cool water.
- Plunge the spinach into the water and swish it around for a few minutes, making sure to loosen any spinach leaves that are stuck together.
- Remove the spinach and place it into a colander. Drain the water in the sink, rinse the sink and refill with water and return the spinach to the water. Repeat the swishing of the spinach process above to remove any remaining dirt.
- Drain the fresh spinach in a colander. For this recipe, there’s no need to use a salad spinner or towels to dry the spinach completely.
How to Roast a Poblano Pepper
They’re so versatile and delicious, poblano peppers are a staple in traditional Mexican and Guatemalan cooking. They’re used to make chile rellenos, various salsas and the famous Mexican dish, chiles en nogada.
Although poblano peppers are becoming more mainstream and popular, they can still be difficult to find in supermarkets outside of Latin America. So if you do spot some, it’s worth buying several, charring them and storing them in the freezer. Store them in the freezer for up to three months and enjoy their delicious, smoky flavour whenever you like.
To roast peppers in your oven, place whole peppers on an oiled baking sheet and broil for 10 minutes. Then flip the peppers and broil on the other side for an additional 10 minutes or until skin is blackened. Another option is to char them on the gas stove top or in a cast iron frying pan.
Once the peppers are charred, seal them in a plastic bag or on a plate covered in plastic wrap for about 5 minutes to loosen the skin. Then remove the papery outer skin, pull off the stem from the flesh and slit the chile up the side.
Brush or scrape out the seeds and pull out the long veins. They’re now ready to use in this recipe for arroz verde or our recipe for Spanish Breakfast Casserole.
How to Make Arroz Verde Mexicano – Mexican Green Rice – Step by Step
1. Once your spinach is washed and your poblano pepper charred (see above instructions) roughly chop the remaining vegetables.
2. In a food processor, puree the spinach, cilantro, poblano pepper, green onion, and one cup of water. The puree should equal about 2 cups when done.
3. Next, prepare the rice. While there are many varieties of rice available, the best rice to use for Mexican rice is an American or Basmati long grain white rice. Short and medium grain rice is too moist and won’t produce a light, fluffy rice with separate, distinct grains when cooked.
This article on Different Types of Rice explains more about the varieties of rice and their uses, flavours and textures.
4. Heat vegetable oil in a non-stick pan over medium high heat. Add rice and toast very lightly, stirring frequently so the rice doesn’t burn or stick.
5. Add the 2 cups of spinach puree, 1 cup of water and salt to the rice. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover with a tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.
6. Fluff the arroz verde lightly with a fork, and serve.
Tips and Variations of Arroz Verde
- The key to an authentic arroz verde is allowing it to completely absorb all the liquid. Don’t rush it to the table as soon as it’s ready. Allow it to rest (covered) for at least 10 minutes. You can place a clean tea towel between the lid and the skillet to absorb any condensation that forms.
- This recipe for arroz verde can be made in advance and reheated in the microwave for a few minutes before serving. It can also be served at room temperature at a barbecue as a substitute for a salad.
- Some people aren’t keen on cilantro. If that’s you, a great substitute is a mix of fresh mint and parsley.
- You can also enjoy this green rice dish as a base for a healthy breakfast. Serve it with a poached or fried egg, salsa ranchera and refried beans.
- If you don’t like green peppers or can’t handle any hot peppers at all, feel free to completely omit the poblano pepper.
- If you love spicy heat, then you can substitute a jalapeño pepper for a poblano pepper. Use it in exactly the same way in this arroz verde recipe.
Other Latin American and Mexican Recipes to Try
- Salsa Verde (green tomatillo sauce)
- Easy Guacamole.
- Jocon de Pollo- Cilantro Chicken Stew
- Black Beans and Rice
Frequently Asked Questions
How Does Chipotle Put in Their Cilantro Rice?
Cilantro Lime White Rice is one of the most popular items on the menu at Chipotle Mexican Grill. Their recipe uses basmati rice which makes it especially light and fluffy. They also add lime and lemon juice, a bay leaf and rice bran oil.
What Kind of Rice is Mexican Rice?
According to the International Rice Genebank, there are more than 132,000 varieties of cultivated and wild rice in the world! Milagro Filipino or “Philippine Miracle” is Mexico’s most widely grown variety.
It’s a medium grain white rice that cooks quickly, is rounder than basmati rice and doesn’t get sticky. It’s especially popular in the Mexican-style rice made with tomato sauce.
What is Jade Green Rice?
Arroz Verde or Mexican Green Rice is completely different than Jade Rice or Asian Green Rice. Jade rice is made with bamboo extract and gets its pale green colour from the chlorophyll in the bamboo.
Arroz Verde - Mexican Green Rice
- food processor
- 1/2 pound fresh spinach Washed and trimmed, packed tightly
- 1 poblano pepper Roasted, peeled, and seeded
- 1 cup cilantro Roughly chopped
- 2 green onions Chopped
- 2 cups water
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
- 1 tsp salt
- Wash spinach thoroughly in a sink to remove all grit and sand.
- In a food processor, puree the spinach, cilantro, green onion, poblano pepper and one cup of water. (The puree should equal about 2 cups when done.)
- Heat vegetable oil in a non-stick pan over medium high heat. Add rice and toast very lightly, stirring frequently so the rice does not burn or stick.
- Add the 2 cups of spinach puree, 1 cup of water and salt to the rice. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover with a tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let sit, still covered, for 10 minutes.
- Fluff the arroz verde with a fork, and serve.
How to Roast a Poblano Pepper
- To roast peppers in your oven, place whole peppers on an oiled baking sheet and broil for 10 minutes, then flip and broil on the other side for an additional 10 minutes -- until skin is blackened. Another option is to char them on the gas stove top or in a cast iron frying pan.
- Once the peppers are charred, seal them in a plastic bag or on a plate covered in plastic wrap for about 5 minutes to loosen the skin. Then remove the papery outer skin, pull off the stem from the flesh and slit the chile up the side. Remove and discard the seeds and stem.
- Garnish your finished arroz verde with additional chopped cilantro and/or thin slices of red bell pepper.
- The poblano pepper in this recipe can be substituted for a jalapeno, if you prefer.
- When toasting the rice, be sure to just brown it lightly. Toasting imparts a wonderful layer of nutty flavour. But if the rice is browned too much, it won't be able to absorb the additional flavours in the cooking liquid.
- The key to an authentic arroz verde is allowing it to completely absorb all the liquid. Allow it to rest (covered) for at least 10 minutes. You can place a clean tea towel between the lid and the skillet to absorb any condensation that forms.
- Some people aren't keen on cilantro. A great substitute is a mix of fresh mint and parsley.
- If you don't like green peppers or can't handle any hot peppers at all, feel free to completely omit the poblano pepper.
- If you love spicy heat, then you can substitute a jalapeño pepper for a poblano pepper.
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Dividing her time between Canada, Guatemala and Mexico (or the nearest tropical beach), Michele Peterson is the founder of A Taste for Travel. Her award-winning travel and food writing has appeared in Lonely Planet’s cookbook Mexico: From the Source, National Geographic Traveler, Fodor’s and 100+ other publications.
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