Spanish Rice

Spanish rice is a long time favorite in my family. We can trace it back six generations. The seventh generation of Spanish rice eaters isn’t old enough to cook yet but they sure do enjoy it! Everyone alive now who makes it has their own twist. My mother likes it soupy and with a lot of tomatoes. My brother makes it even more tomato-y. My Aunt Zoma created a Spanish rice that was yellow, without tomatoes. I failed to get Aunt Zoma’s recipe before she died and regret that. I haven’t had my sister’s rice in so many years I have no idea what she does.

The point it this; my great-grandmother Lydia Boren travelled to California as a young girl in a wagon train with her family. There her mother learned to make Spanish rice and it was handed down to Lydia, then to her daughter Thelma Boren Hargett Dall, and her daughters, Eunice, Zoma, Odessa, and Nona, then on to my generation of cooks, our children and my sister’s grandchildren. It’s a family tradition with all my known cousins – first, second and third.

I prefer my Spanish rice with venison, plenty of garlic, light on the tomatoes, chicken broth is nice and bone dry with long grain rice. Plenty of heat.

This recipe is a guideline. There are plenty of options to choose from as you see with most of my recipes. Take all the liberties you want!

Spanish Rice – the original recipe that came from my mother

1 lb. ground meat

4 to 5 Tbls. oil

1 C. white rice, long grain

1 or 2 large green bell peppers

1 medium onion

1 stalk celery

3 cloves garlic

8 ounces canned tomato sauce

salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder

Brown the ground meat in a skillet and drain off any liquid. Meanwhile chop the onion, peppers and celery in bite size pieces. Mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a larger skillet. Add the rice. Bring heat up till the rice sizzles slightly and adjust heat so it doesn’t burn. Keep the bottom of the pan covered evenly with the rice so it will toast or brown. Stir frequently. Do not burn the rice! If you do burn the rice throw it out and start over. This takes a bit of patience.

Once the rice is browned, add a good splash of oil, turn the heat up a few notches and toss in the onion, peppers and celery. Stir and cook until the vegetables just start to get limp, Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds more. Immediately pour in the tomato sauce and 1 cup of water, add the cooked and drained meat. Stir to mix. Add the spices. Bring to a low simmer. Cover with a tight lid and cook about 15 minutes on low. Check the rice for doneness. Let sit with the lid on for an additional 5 to 10 minutes to finish cooking.

How I have tweaked my Spanish Rice recipe

2 Tbls. lard or tallow to brown the venison in

1 lb. ground venison, or hamburger

4 to 5 Tbls. oil

1 cup white rice, long grain

3 or 4 large sweet peppers, any variety

1 large onion

2 stalk celery

4 cloves garlic

1 – 16 ounce jar of home-made salsa or tomato sauce

salt, pepper, 1 tsp. cumin, 2 tsp. chili powder

Use the same method as above for cooking.


Any ground meat is fine, short or long grain rice will work, use your favorite oil, don’t worry about the exact amount of vegetables – use what you have. Tomato product – can be anything from commercially canned sauce to freshly chopped raw tomatoes. I have even used tomato juice or V-8 when that was all I had on hand. I suppose you could use a can of tomato soup if you wanted. Vary the amount of cumin and chili powder to your liking. Cumin is an acquired taste for some people. Leave it out if you don’t agree with it.

Most importantly – have fun with your cooking! Don’t be afraid to adjust the recipe. If something is critical I will tell you. Don’t burn the rice OR the roux! That is critical.

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bon appetite!
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