Arroz Verde (Mexican Green Rice)

updated Apr 25, 2023
Arroz Verde Recipe

Fresh cilantro and poblano peppers give this rice dish a vibrant green hue and an incredible herby flavor.

Serves6 to 8

Makes5 1/2 cups

Prep20 minutes

Cook35 minutes

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Arroz verde in a Dutch oven with a wooden spoon inside.
Credit: Kelli Foster

When I was growing up, we had rice with just about every single meal. Whether as a side dish to a larger, more hefty protein or simply as the foundation of a meal, rice is one special ingredient I’ve enjoyed in more ways than I can count.

Being raised in predominantly Latin and Caribbean communities, I was fortunate to witness and enjoy the versatility of rice. I grew up appreciating Cuban specialties like arroz imperial (a baked rice dish made with chicken and peas) and arroz moros (white rice cooked together with black beans), Puerto Rican arroz con gandules (rice cooked with pigeon peas), and Mexican staples like arroz rojo (red rice) and arroz verde (green rice).

In fact, I’ve made arroz rojo and arroz verde a number of times and have spent a considerable amount of time perfecting my technique for making each. In doing so, I’ve researched the history behind each dish, as well as its variations, and spoken with chefs and experts of Mexican cuisine.

Last year, I had the pleasure of talking with Pati Jinich, one of my all-time favorite chefs and authors, about arroz rojo and our collective love for rice. Jinich, who has a trove of delicious Mexican recipes, is an absolute rice aficionado. She does so much incredible research on Mexican foodways and so much of that revolves around the grain.

When I spoke with Jinich, we discussed the importance of rice in Mexican cuisine and how dishes like arroz rojo take time to get it just right. She imparted a great deal of wisdom and shared techniques for making flavored rice dishes like arroz rojo, arroz de boda (a rice dish made with chorizo and raisins), and arroz verde. In developing this recipe for arroz verde, I kept Jinich’s advice in mind the whole time. 

What Is Arroz Verde?

Arroz verde is a traditional Mexican and Latin American rice dish that literally translates to green rice. It’s typically made by simmering toasted long-grain rice with a blended mixture of chicken broth, garlic, onions, poblano peppers, cilantro, spinach, jalapeño peppers, and sometimes scallions. Some people also often add vegetables like carrots, peas, and corn.

As the liquid evaporates, the mixture tints the rice a vibrant green color and infuses it with a pleasant, herbaceous flavor. Although there are different versions of this dish throughout Latin America, this one is inspired by the Mexican style of preparing this dish. This rice dish is great served with beef tacos, enchiladas, black bean burritos, and more.

Ingredients Used in Arroz Verde

  • Rice: Although you can use various types of white rice for arroz verde, I find that dishes like this, which involve simmering rice in a sauce and lots of liquid, work best with long-grain rice, as it is able to stand up to all of the moisture and still maintain its shape after being toasted and simmered.
  • Cilantro: Arroz verde typically contains a lot of cilantro, including the leaves and tender stems. The cilantro leaves are blended with alliums and other seasonings and are part of what gives the dish its recognizable color and flavor.
  • Spinach: Arroz verde is also very commonly made using spinach leaves as part of the blended mixture along with cilantro, although many people often choose to omit it. I left spinach out of this version out of preference, as I like the taste of cilantro, but you can definitely use it in addition to or in place of the cilantro.
  • Peppers: Arroz verde usually contains poblano peppers. The peppers are blended with the cilantro to add flavor and green color to the rice. Some variations, like the one below, also use jalapeño peppers, which will make the rice a bit spicier if you keep the ribs and seeds in. If you do remove the ribs and seeds, however, the dish will have a subtle heat.
  • Garlic and onions: Arroz verde also includes garlic cloves and onion. If you’re making one pot of arroz verde, then you’ll likely need at least a few garlic cloves and just a portion of a white onion.
  • Chicken broth and/or chicken bouillon powder: Chicken broth is also commonly used in arroz verde as either a replacement for, or in addition to, water. It is used for blending the herbs and alliums as well as for simmering the rice. We recommend using low-sodium chicken broth on most occasions, as it will help avoid an overly salted dish. Chicken bouillon powder (also known as caldo sabor de pollo in Spanish) can also be used to add extra flavor to the rice.
Credit: Kelli Foster

How to Make Arroz Verde

Rinse the rice.

One step that is very necessary is to rinse the rice very thoroughly. This is not only a common technique I was taught a long time ago, but also one that Jinich recommends when making rice dishes like these. Rinsing the excess starch off the rice prevents the rice from becoming mushy or clumping together. Skipping this step can drastically change the texture of the rice.

Blend and strain the cilantro mixture.

You’ll want to use a quality blender or food processor to blend the cilantro, peppers, garlic, and onions so that you can get the maximum flavor from your ingredients. Plus, you should consider straining the mixture — it is not required, but I find that it gets rid of any gritty bits from the blended cilantro mixture.

Toast the rice.

This is another crucial step in getting the right texture for the rice. You want to use a couple of tablespoons of a neutral oil to toast the rice just until it’s light golden-brown. This step will help the rice maintain its shape and add some texture to it once it’s finished cooking.

Simmer the rice in the cilantro mixture.

When talking with Jinich about how she makes arroz rojo, she recommended adding in the blended mixture first, letting the rice simmer a bit, and then adding in the rest of the chicken broth. This gives the rice a chance to soak up some of that herby flavor.

Fluff the rice with a fork.

The last step is to remove the lid from the pot of rice, allow some of the steam to escape, and then gently fluff the rice with a fork immediately. According to Jinich, this step helps prevent the rice from clumping together as it cools in the pot.

Arroz Verde Recipe

Fresh cilantro and poblano peppers give this rice dish a vibrant green hue and an incredible herby flavor.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes

Makes 5 1/2 cups

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 cups

    long-grain or extra-long grain white rice (about 14 ounces)

  • 2

    medium poblano peppers (about 4 ounces each)

  • 1

    medium jalapeño pepper

  • 1

    medium bunch fresh cilantro

  • 1/4

    large white onion

  • 4

    cloves garlic

  • 1 tablespoon

    chicken bouillon powder

  • 2 1/2 cups

    low-sodium chicken broth, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons

    vegetable oil

  • Lime wedges, for serving

Instructions

  1. Place 2 cups long-grain white rice in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover by at least 1-inch. Move the rice around gently with your hand to help shake off the excess starch. Drain the rice and repeat adding water, moving the rice around, and draining at least five more times until the water runs mostly clear. Drain and let sit in the strainer until ready to use.

  2. Prepare the following, adding each to a blender or food processor fitted with the blade attachment as you complete it: Remove the ribs and seeds from 2 medium poblano peppers and 1 medium jalapeño pepper (or keep them in if you want a spicy rice), then dice. Pick the leaves from 1 medium bunch fresh cilantro until you have 1 cup.

  3. Add 1/4 large peeled white onion, 4 peeled garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder, 1 cup of the low-sodium chicken broth, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Blend or process in 30-second intervals, scraping down the sides of the jar as needed, until mostly smooth, 1 to 2 minutes total.

  4. Fit a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl or measuring cup. Strain the cilantro mixture, pressing against the solids with a flexible spatula, until you have 1 1/2 cups liquid.

  5. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a medium pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Add the cilantro liquid and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes.

  6. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth and stir to combine. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

  7. Uncover and lightly fluff the rice with a fork. Remove the pot from the heat, cover again, and let sit for about 5 minutes. Taste the rice and season with more kosher salt as needed. Serve with lime wedges.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Reheat in a microwave covered with a damp paper towel.