Delicious Mexican-style green rice is seasoned with roasted poblanos, cilantro, and parsley. Slightly smokey, and herby, this rice is a less well-known side that you can use in place of traditional red rice. This isn’t a dish you will likely find in any Mexican restaurant. This is true Mexican home-style cooking!
How this recipe came to be
I honestly had never heard of green rice outside of Mexico. And even in Mexico, green rice isn’t all that common. I didn’t eat green rice the year I was in Mexico for an exchange program. And it isn’t a dish that I had tasted in my mother-in-law’s house where many traditional (and not) Mexican dishes are part of her repertoire.
Learning from a Mexican home cook
It wasn’t until we hired Señora Lorena to help us in our home that green rice became one of my new favorite side dishes. Lorena helped with the cooking and cleaning as I juggled a toddler and a new baby. One day she suggested we make green rice. I was intrigued. I had never heard of green rice and asked her what she needed to make it. The ingredients were simple and many I already had on hand. I picked up the missing ingredients the next time I went to the store and she made it that same week.
After the first time, I was hooked. The roasted poblanos impart a delicious smokey flavor. The cilantro and parsley provide a lovely herbal note to the rice. Plus, the vibrant green color elevates any plate. If you love the taste of poblanos and Mexican food, you should give this rice a try.
Where to find green rice in Mexico
Like I mentioned above, green rice is not something that you will likely find in any Mexican restaurant, in or out of Mexico. This dish is more common in Puebla since the rice uses poblano peppers (poblano in Spanish means “from Puebla”). Arroz verde is also called arroz a la poblana in Mexico due to the use of poblano peppers to flavor the rice. This dish is real Mexican home cooking. Therefore, your best chance of eating this is to make it yourself or get invited into a central Mexican home!
Some family recipes use epazote or lettuce in the green sauce mixture. Others serve this with poblano pepper strips, Mexican cream, cheese, and corn kernels. The recipe I learned uses roasted poblanos, cilantro, and parsley to flavor and color the rice.
Tips for making Mexican green rice
The process for making arroz verde is very similar to making Mexican red rice! However, this rice is a bit more involved since the ingredients call for roasted poblano peppers. I have sometimes been able to find roasted poblano peppers at Hispanic markets in the US, but if you can’t find them already roasted, you can roast them yourself at home!
Long, thin-grain rice is what is traditionally consumed in Mexico. The rice that I purchase from the local market doesn’t come in a bag with a label, so I can’t be sure exactly what variety it is. I would suggest using long or medium-grain white rice for this recipe. I know the trend is towards, healthier, whole grains, but I use plain white rice for this recipe and it turns out delicious!
The type of pan used is important. I typically make this rice in a stainless-steel skillet, about 12 inches wide with side-walls about 3 inches high. If I am making significantly more rice, I use a large paellera (the pan used to make paella) or a traditional clay cazuela. You don’t want a deep saucepan or a skillet that is too shallow or wide. A pot that is too deep will leave mushy rice at the bottom and won’t give you the room you need to carefully scrape and turn the rice. A skillet that is too shallow or wide will allow the liquid to cook off too quickly, resulting in rice that is underdone. I use a flat, wooden spatula to work the rice in the pan as it cooks.
Soak the rice
First, the rice is covered in hot water and allowed to soak for about 15 minutes. It is then rinsed under cold water until the water runs clear. I let the rice dry a bit in a fine-meshed colander.
Fry the rice in hot oil
The next step is important and I would say critical to getting the texture of this rice correct. Fry the rice in hot oil or lard at medium-high heat until it begins to turn golden. I typically use safflower oil. I then spread the rice in a thin layer in the hot oil and scrape it from the bottom, turning the rice once or twice during this step. You don’t want to overwork the rice.
Add liquid gradually
Once the rice has started to turn golden, reduce the heat to medium. Add the green sauce to the pan and gently stir to incorporate. Once most of this liquid has been absorbed, add the broth, and salt. Again, gently stir to incorporate. In the US, most rice I have cooked uses a liquid to rice ratio of 2:1 and is cooked covered. This recipe uses 3 parts liquid to 1 part rice. Because of this ratio, I cook the rice uncovered and only allow it to steam covered for the last few minutes.
Avoid overworking the rice
You can gently scrape the rice from the bottom of the pan and turn it as the rice cooks. You don’t want to stir vigorously or move the rice too much. Scraping from the bottom of the pan ensures that the rice isn’t burning and allows the grains to cook evenly.
Finishing the rice
Once little holes start to appear in the surface of the rice, I remove the rice from the heat, cover it with a clean kitchen towel and a lid (or aluminum foil). I let the rice rest for about 5 minutes and then check it for doneness. The cooked rice should be soft, and each grain should be separated, not clumped together. If the rice is still hard, you can sprinkle a bit of broth over the top, cover, and allow to rest a bit more until softened.
If you love Mexican food and the smokey flavor of roasted poblanos, give this rice a try! I am sure that it will become one of your new favorite side dishes!
- Lorena González, Morelos Mexico
- Diana Kennedy, El Arte de la Cocina Mexicana
Mexican Green Rice (Arroz Verde)
- 1.5 cups white rice medium or long grain
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 cup parsley, packed
- 1 cup cilantro, packed
- 2 roasted poblano peppers, stems and seeds removed see notes
- 2.5 cups chicken broth, divided
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil I use safflower
- 1/2 cup diced white onion about half of a small onion or a quarter of a large one
- Salt to taste
- Place rice in a bowl and cover with hot water for at least 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place chiles, garlic, parsley, cilantro and 1 cup broth in blender and blend on high until smooth. This should yield about 2 cups of sauce. See notes.
- Drain rice and rinse with cold water until the water runs clear. Drain thoroughly and set aside.
- Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy bottomed skillet until shimmering. I use a stainless steel skillet, about 12 inches in diameter with side walls about 3 inches high.
- Add onion to hot oil and fry, stirring frequently, until the onion becomes translucent, 1-2 minutes
- Add rice and fry until rice starts to turn golden, scraping rice from the bottom of the skillet and turning gently once or twice, about 5-7 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium, add green sauce mixture to rice, stir to incorporate and simmer gently until sauce is almost absorbed. Ensure rice on bottom of pan is not burning by gently scraping the bottom of the pan and turning the rice. Take care to not over work the rice, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the remaining chicken broth, and salt. Stir to combine. Continue allowing the rice to simmer until the liquid is almost absorbed and small holes appear in the rice mixture, 15-20 minutes.
- Turn off burner, cover with a clean kitchen towel and lid. Allow to steam another 5-7 minutes or until liquid is completely absorbed.
- To check doneness, gently scrape the bottom of the pan and taste rice from the bottom. If the rice is soft, it is ready. If not, sprinkle with a bit of broth or water and cover for a couple of additional minutes until rice is soft.
- See my how-to on roasting poblano peppers
In the US, most rice I have cooked uses a liquid to rice ratio of 2:1. This recipe uses 3 parts liquid to 1 part rice. I like to check the yield of the green sauce in the second step and adjust the chicken broth as necessary to bring the total liquid to 4.5 cups. This may mean that you may need slightly more or less chicken broth than noted in the recipe.