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A Mexican green rice recipe with spinach that’s a fun, fresh, and healthier alternative to plain rice for your next meal
Rice is one of the best food staples in the world. But plain cooked rice can be incredibly boring. So I like to give it some life with earthy cumin and oregano, fresh cilantro and scallion, and spicy poblano and jalapeno (or habanero) peppers.
And if you are trying to trick your kids into eating more vegetables, this is a great way to make them do just that because it loaded with spinach to make it super green and healthy!
What you’ll need to make green rice: Ingredients & Tools
Instantly, makeover ordinary rice with a few fresh ingredients! Transform it into a more vibrant “staple” dish–Mexican green rice or arroz verde (which sounds even sexier)–that is just as versatile as the plain stuff.
- Parboiled rice–this type of rice can maintain its texture without becoming mushy
- Avocado oil or any type of cooking oil is fine
- Butter or margarine (a plant-based type is the best choice to make it vegan)
White Cooking Liquid (to infuse the rice with deep flavor)
- Half of a medium-sized onion
- Scallions, sliced (white parts will be used in the water to cook the rice; green parts will be used in the green sauce)
- Garlic cloves
- A habanero or jalapeno pepper (seeded and white membrane removed so that it doesn’t make the rice too spicy)
- Adobo seasoning is a perfect blend of garlic powder, oregano, pepper, and turmeric
- Ground cumin for warmth and depth of flavor
- Mexican oregano provides a fragrant, earthy, and almost floral essence; but you can use Italian oregano as an alternative
- Ground black pepper
See the Recipe Card at the end of the post for more ingredient substitutions.
Green Post-cooking Liquid (to make the rice vibrant green)
- Spinach (fresh or defrosted)–this makes the rice healthy
- Poblano pepper–also makes it super green and adds that chili flavor without much heat
- Cilantro–of course!
- Green parts of the scallion sliced earlier
- Lime juice for a little zip
- Sea salt to bring out all these yummy flavors
- Blender–You will definitely need one to make the flavorful liquids that will infuse the rice.
- Cutting board and sharp knife
- Glass containers to get organized and store any extra for other recipes
- Large measuring cup for the water
- Measuring cups and spoons
- 2.5 qt. non-stick pot to cook the rice in (or a larger one depending on how much you are making)
How to make Mexican Green Rice: Step-by-step
1. Toast the rice until lightly golden
Building deep flavor begins with toasting the rice. Place a small to medium-sized pot on low-medium heat, and heat up the oil and butter. Next, add the rice to the pot and toast it for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the grains are a light golden color.
Try to avoid over-toasting the rice to a golden brown so that it does not muddy the vibrant green color you want to achieve once the green liquid is added.
2. Prepare the seasoned liquids
Grab your blender and let’s get to some light work! The key to infusing both deep flavor and vibrant green color in this rice occurs in two stages:
Stage 1: White Cooking Liquid
This stage aims to infuse the rice with heavy seasoning during the first stage of cooking to create a foundation of flavor to build upon.
To the blender, add all of the ingredients listed under White Cooking Liquid (i.e., onions, habanero, dried herbs, and spices). Pulverize until smooth.
Pour the white cooking liquid all over the toasted rice and stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for about 15-20 minutes or until the liquid has absorbed and the rice is tender.
Stage 2: Green Post-cooking Liquid
This stage aims to give the rice vibrant color and a dose of nutrition with spinach and green chili.
If the green liquid was simply mixed into the rice prior to cooking it, the green color would become yellowed and the taste would change significantly.
Without rinsing out the blender, add the Green Post-cooking Liquid ingredients (i.e., spinach, cilantro, scallion, poblano, and lime juice) and blend until smooth.
3. Fluff the rice and serve
Okay, brace yourself because we’re about to take it to the next level!
When the rice has finished cooking, remove the lid and gently fluff it with a fork. Pour the green liquid over the rice and continue to fluff as it absorbs. Each grain of rice should be evenly coated.
Top it with fresh cilantro, if desired, and serve. Boom! You are now a green rice-making machine!
Green rice can be used as a side dish or even as an ingredient for other recipes
I most enjoy eating this green rice with Mexican cuisine, but there are many other uses for it to allow it to shine like the emerald star that it is.
The first time I made this rice, I paired it with a bootleg buttermilk grilled chicken (as you can see in the image below). Basically, I marinated some chicken legs in a mix of half and half and vinegar (i.e., bootleg buttermilk), Adobo seasoning, meat seasoning (which can be replaced with paprika, salt, and lime juice), smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and black pepper.
Next, my husband grilled it to perfection! And to bring it all together, I simply cooked the marinade in a small pot and allowed it to thicken, then drizzled it all over the chicken. A few dashes of hot sauce, a dollop of sour cream, and fresh cilantro made it complete.
What to serve with green rice
- Beans (pinto or black would be great)
- Grilled meat or veggies
- Fish (made any kind of way, just not canned in this case)
- Shredded or ground seasoned beef
- Mexican-spiced tofu
- Poached, fried, or scrambled eggs
Ways to use green rice for other recipes like:
- A green version of arroz con pollo
- Burritos or burrito bowls
- Unique stir-fried rice or leftover revival
- A casserole with meat, cheese, and an enchilada sauce
Honestly, this green rice recipe is a fun, healthier alternative to regular rice any day of the week!
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More easy and flavorful rice (or grain) recipes
- Jamaican Rice and Peas
- Fried Onion & Roasted Carrot Rice
- Orange Basil Chicken Fried Rice
- Veggie Quinoa Bowl
- 1 c white parboiled rice
- 1 tsp avocado oil (or any type of cooking oil)
- 1 tbsp plant-based margarine (or butter)
White Cooking Liquid
- 1 1/3 c water
- ½ onion, cut into large chunks
- 3 scallions, sliced (white parts will be used in the water to cook the rice; green parts will be used in the green sauce)
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- ½ jalapeno or habanero pepper seeded and white membrane removed
- 1 tsp Adobo seasoning
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp Mexican oregano (or Italian oregano)
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
Green Post-cooking Liquid
- ½ cups spinach, fresh or defrosted
- 1 poblano pepper, seeded, large dice
- 1 c cilantro
- Green parts of the scallion sliced earlier
- 1 tsp lime juice
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Toast the rice. In a medium-sized pot on low-medium heat, add the oil and margarine/butter. Add the rice to the pot and toast it for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the grains are golden.
- Make the White liquid. In a small blender, add all of the White Cooking Liquid ingredients. Blend until smooth. Then, pour the liquid over the rice and stir. Allow the rice to come to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook for about 15-20 minutes.
- Make the Green liquid. While the rice is cooking, add the Green Post-cooking Liquid ingredients to the same blender. Blend the ingredients until smooth.
- Fluff and serve. When the rice has finished cooking, remove the lid and fluff it with a fork. Next, pour in the green liquid and continue to fluff as it absorbs. Top with fresh cilantro, if desired, and serve.
- Adding heavy seasoning during the first stage of cooking allows the rice to absorb the most flavor in the beginning. So if you are tempted to skimp out on any of the ingredients...just resist the urge.
- Only add the green liquid after the rice has finished cooking. This way, the green color will remain vibrant (not yellowed) and fresh tasting.
Feel free to swap:
- Shallots and chives instead of onion and scallions
- Serrano or habanero in place of the jalapeno
- Green bell pepper rather than poblano
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 107Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 474mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 2g
The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used. I am not a doctor, nor a certified nutritionist and make no claims to the contrary. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health. Please consult your personal physician with any questions you may have regarding your own health and diet.