This is my easy go to recipe for cooking rice the way we do in Ecuador and other Latin American countries. It includes both the basic white rice or arroz blanco, plus the arroz amarillo or yellow achiote rice recipe.
Most people know how to cook rice and different countries or regions have slightly different ways of preparing it. I cook it Ecuadorian style because that is how I learned to do it and I think it tastes great this way. Nicolas sometimes cooks rice the way he learned in France: boil the rice in a lot of water (very similar to how pastas are cooked) until it is done, drain it and that’s it.
The Ecuadorian way of cooking rice is a little bit different and more precise. The rice should be perfectly cooked, not too hard, not too soft, firm and the grains should be fluffy and separate easily. Depending on where you live and the rice you buy, you might need to sort through the rice to remove any bad ones or small rocks. In that case you probably also want to wash and rinse it well. If you are using a short grain or glutinous rice you can also rinse. Though one of my favorite short grain rices (Calrose) says on the instructions that rinsing isn’t neccessary.
Also if you live in a higher altitude location, you’ll probably need to add more water and let it cook for a little bit longer. I currently live almost at sea level so I use the minimum amount of water, but when I lived in Loja (2100 m or almost 6900 ft) I would use about double the amount of water to rice. Many times I find that the instructions on the rice packages include more water than I usually do (except that perfect Calrose rice). This is probably because the rice is added to the boiling water and set to simmer inmediately.
The Ecuadorian rice cooking method is to sautee finely diced onions with butter or oil, then add rice and stir it until coated (similar to risotto). Then I add the water, plus some salt, and bring it to a boil. Once it boils, I let it continue boiling until the water has evaporated. At this point I lower the heat to simmer and cover the pot with a lid. I originally used to mainly use long grain rice, but in the recent years I’ve become a huge fan of the short grain calrose rice.
A lot of Ecuadorian main dishes use arroz amarillo or yellow achiote rice as a side dish. This is cooked the same way as below, just add ground achiote or annatto seed when cooking the onions. Another option is to cook it as regular white rice, then separately made a simple refrito or sofrito with oil, onions or garlic, plus achiote – then mix this into your fully cooked white rice. You can add paprika or saffron if you don’t have achiote available, but the flavor will be different.
How to cook rice – Ecuadorian or Latin American style white rice
- 2 cups of uncooked white rice I like to use long grain rice (sorted and rinsed if needed) or calrose short grain rice
- 2 tbs oil or butter – plus extra butter for finishing (optional)
- 2 tbs minced or finely chopped white onions
- 2 1/2 cups water adjust based on the type of rice and altitude
- Salt to taste add the salt when you add the water and the water should taste like a lightly salted broth, for a lightly salted rice I add about 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- Optional – 1 garlic clove minced
For arroz amarillo or yellow achiote rice:
- ½ teaspoon of ground achiote or annatto powder
- Heat the oil or butter on medium temperature in medium sized saucepan or pot.
- Add the minced onions and garlic (and achiote if making arroz amarillo or yellow rice), cook until the onions are translucent or soft, about 2 minutes.
- Add the rice and stir it in so that it is well coated by the oil, add the water and salt – increase the heat and bring it to a boil.
- Let the water boil and reduce until it barely covers the rice. Cover with a tight lid, reduce the temperature to simmer and cook for about 20-25 minutes. Taste and make sure it's fully cooked. If the rice is on the older side it might take an extra 5-10 minutes to cook. Remove from the heat, gently fluff it, and cover again for 5 minutes before serving.
- For an extra bit of flavor, you can add 1-2 tbs of butter (in small slices) to the rice during the those last 5 minutes.