Rice-A-Roni is a well-known brand of boxed rice and pasta sides made by The Quaker Oats Company. Their classic Rice-A-Roni product consists of a box of rice, vermicelli pasta, and seasonings that can be prepared as a rice pilaf or flavored rice side dish. Over the years, Rice-A-Roni has expanded their product line to include a variety of rice and pasta side dish flavors beyond the original. One variety that consumers often wonder about is whether Rice-A-Roni offers a Mexican or Spanish style rice flavor.
Overview of Rice-A-Roni Products
Rice-A-Roni offers eight different flavor varieties of their boxed rice and pasta sides. Their core lineup includes:
- Original – This is the classic Rice-A-Roni product with a pilaf-style rice and pasta mix and seasonings.
- Chicken – Rice and pasta with chicken flavor seasonings.
- Broccoli – Rice and pasta with broccoli and cheese seasonings.
- Garlic and Olive Oil – Rice and pasta seasoned with garlic and olive oil.
- Yellow Cheddar – Rice and pasta with cheddar cheese flavor.
- Broccoli & Cheese – Rice and pasta with broccoli and cheese seasoning.
In addition to these basic flavors, Rice-A-Roni offers two more varieties marketed as being inspired by ethnic cuisine:
- Italian Style Herb – Rice and pasta with an Italian herb seasoning blend.
- Spanish Style – Rice with peas, red bell peppers, onions, and tomato seasonings.
The Spanish Style rice with its mix of vegetables and tomato seasoning is positioned by Rice-A-Roni as having a Spanish or Mexican flavor profile. But is this truly an authentically Mexican flavored rice side dish?
Spanish Style Rice Ingredients
To determine how Mexican-inspired the Spanish Style Rice-A-Roni truly is, we need to look at the actual ingredients:
- Red Bell Peppers
- Yeast Extract
- Garlic Powder
- Natural Flavor
- Turmeric and Annatto (for color)
The vegetables – peas, red bell peppers, and onions – plus rice, tomatoes, and garlic are all ingredients found in authentic Mexican rice dishes. The use of garlic powder, salt, spices, and tomato natural flavors captures the robust seasoning typical of Mexican rice.
However, there are also additions like sugar, yeast extract, turmeric, and annatto that are more focused on enhancing the flavor profile for a mass-market boxed rice product versus traditional Mexican rice preparation.
How Rice-A-Roni Spanish Style Compares to Authentic Mexican Rice
Authentic Mexican rice, often known as arroz rojo or arroz Spanish, is flavorful and loaded with tomatoes. It gets its reddish hue from the use of tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, or tomato sauce during cooking. Homemade Mexican rice also includes ingredients like garlic, onions, chili powder, cumin, cilantro, and lime.
While Rice-A-Roni Spanish Style Rice echoes some of these flavors with its tomato, garlic, and onion notes, it does not contain some of the signature Mexican rice ingredients like cumin, chili powder, fresh garlic, or lime juice. The seasoning is also tailored to be a little tamer for general consumer palates versus having the kick of authentic Mexican rice.
Rice-A-Roni Spanish Style Rice is cooked in a pilaf method with rice and pasta boiled together then simmered. Authentic Mexican rice is prepared by first frying the rice in oil to coat it before liquid is added to finish cooking. This technique allows the rice to absorb and retain more flavor.
|Rice-A-Roni Spanish Style
|Homemade Mexican Rice
|160 per 1/2 cup prepared
|216 per 1 cup
As a convenience product, Rice-A-Roni Spanish Style Rice is lower in calories, fat, and sodium compared to homemade Mexican rice recipes. But it also provides fewer nutrients and fiber from whole food ingredients.
Verdict: Rice-A-Roni Spanish Style is Mexican-Inspired, Not Authentic
Based on an analysis of its ingredients, flavor profile, and nutrition compared to homemade recipes, Rice-A-Roni Spanish Style rice does capture some elements of Mexican rice but is not truly authentic. The use of rice, tomato, onions, garlic, and red bell pepper combined with tomato-based seasoning aims to give it a southwestern/Mexican flavor. However, the lack of signature Mexican rice ingredients like fresh garlic, cumin, chili powder, cilantro, and lime mean it does not replicate the robust flavor of genuine Mexican rice.
As a mass-market boxed rice product, Rice-A-Roni Spanish Style makes some compromises to appeal to general consumer palates versus authentic Mexican cuisine. The flavor is milder with less spice kick than real Mexican rice. And cooking via a pilaf method limits how much the rice absorbs flavors compared to fried rice techniques.
So in summary – while Rice-A-Roni Spanish Style rice takes inspiration from Mexican ingredients and seasonings, it does not fully capture the authentic and nuanced flavors of true Mexican rice. The product name of “Spanish Style” is an accurate description, as it represents an Americanized mass-market interpretation of Mexican flavors rather than a true homemade Mexican rice recipe.
How to Make True Mexican Rice at Home
If you want to experience the real flavors of Mexican rice, it’s easy to make an authentic version at home from scratch. Here is a recipe and cooking tips for creating flavorful Mexican rice yourself:
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
- 1 cup long grain white rice
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh lime juice
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.
- Add rice and stir constantly for 2-3 minutes until rice begins to turn golden brown.
- Add onions and continue stirring for 1 minute more until onions are softened.
- Stir in garlic and continue cooking for 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Pour in tomato sauce, broth, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt and pepper.
- Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes until rice has absorbed the liquid and is tender.
- Remove pan from heat and let rice sit covered for 5 minutes more.
- Fluff rice with a fork then stir in fresh lime juice and cilantro.
Frying the rice in oil before adding the liquid gives the grains deeper flavor and that signature reddish hue. Use fresh garlic and livelier spices like Mexican oregano and cumin for authentic flair. A squeeze of fresh lime and sprinkle of bright cilantro before serving adds the perfect finishing touch.
Rice-A-Roni Spanish Style rice takes inspiration from Mexican ingredients to create an affordable, mass-market boxed side dish. However, the flavor is Americanized and not truly authentic compared to real homemade Mexican rice. For the full experience of robust tomato-rich rice loaded with Latino flair, try making your own Mexican rice from scratch. The aroma, texture, and flavor will transport your tastebuds south of border for a truly authentic food adventure.