The Subtle Difference Between Spanish Rice And Mexican Rice

No matter what you order the next time you're at your favorite Mexican restaurant, whether it's tacos, burritos, or a smothered enchilada, you're likely to get a heaping side of arroz rojo on the side. Packed with diced veggies, flavor, and a heck of a lot of spice, it's almost a meal all on its own. Depending on the restaurant, they might call it Mexican rice, or they might call it Spanish rice, or they might call it both interchangeably, as many of us do. After all, it's all the same thing, right?

Actually, it isn't. Both Spanish rice and Mexican rice are made with a chicken stock or bouillon base, often include chopped tomatoes and other veggies, and have similar Latin American-inspired flavors. Despite their many similarities, however, there's actually a pretty major difference between the two dishes. (Hint: It's the reason that Mexican rice is typically red, while Spanish rice is yellow.)

Spanish rice has a secret ingredient

The reason why Spanish rice is a stunning shade of yellow is because it's made with saffron, food blog Yellow Bliss Road explains. Saffron is an earthy, floral spice that is a key ingredient in many Spanish recipes, like the very popular paella. On the other hand, Mexican rice is typically made with cumin, and gets its orange or red color from the tomato juice or diced tomatoes that are often mixed into the rice early on in the cooking process.

Amigo Foods adds that the two types of rice also often have slightly different textures (or what they call mouthfeel). According to the Latin food brand, Spanish rice is a little heartier and firmer, while Mexican rice is softer, so that it "melts in your mouth." Either way, they're both delicious in their own way, and both are a welcome addition to any Taco Tuesday menu.