Sofrito is a flavoring in many Spanish and Latin-style recipes. Sofrito rice exists in Spanish, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Dominican and Cuban cuisines. Make your own savory Spanish rice with a customized sofrito you make at home.
Spanish sofrito is usually mild and sweet consisting primarily of garlic, bell peppers and onions in olive oil. Combine it or another flavor combination with cooked rice for a savory Spanish rice side dish.
About Spanish Rice and Sofritos
Sofritos are an aromatic blend of vegetables, herbs and spices used in Latin and Spanish cuisines to flavor rice, stews and meats. In Spain, sofrito is usually used in seafood stews, and consists of garlic, bell peppers and onions sauteed in olive oil. The word "sofrito" is based on the Catalan verb "sofrier," which means to "gently fry." Sofritos add depth of flavor to many dishes.
Sofrito's origins are in Catalan cuisine, dating as far back as the 1300s. Sofrito spread from Spain to the Spanish colonies in Latin American, the Caribbean and Central America where it took on its own variations.
The ingredients found in sofritos differ slightly from region to region and nation to nation. They may include differently colored bell peppers, tomatoes, Mexican oregano, cilantro or parsley. In Cuba, for example, sofrito often contains bell peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and cilantro. A wide variety of local herbs, readily available vegetables, and even small amounts of meat (such as salt pork) meld well to make a version of Spanish rice.
What you probably think of as Spanish rice isn't actually from Spain. The Rice Association suggests that rice was originally brought to Mexico via the Spaniards, but the savory, tomato-flavored rice with spices such as oregano and cumin along with garlic, onions and celery, is decidedly Mexican in origin. It probably got the name "Spanish rice" because rice didn't exist in Mexico before the Spaniards brought it.
Read more: Which Rice is Healthiest for Consumption?
In some areas of Mexico, especially the Yucatan Peninsula, you can get sofritos that include roasted garlic, black pepper, cumin and habanero to make a spicy variation. This sofrito could be used to flavor rice, too.
Making Sofrito Rice
There isn't just one recipe for Spanish rice with sofritos. A standard method is described by a recipe from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Place onions, garlic, bell pepper, cilantro and cumin in a blender and pulse to create a paste. Heat this mixture in canola (or olive) oil until fragrant.
Add chopped celery and corn kernels and saute for just a few minutes. Stir in chicken, vegetable or beef broth, tomato paste and canned diced tomatoes, then add the rice.
Bring the entire mixture to a boil; cover and turn the heat to low. Cook until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender — about 20 minutes for white rice or 35 for brown. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.
Spanish rice doesn't have to look traditional. Make it with a Cuban-inspired sofrito that includes bay leaf, cumin, cilantro, salted pork, and tomato sauce. Or go Dominican, with a sofrito (called sazon there) that's balanced with vinegar and annatto seeds.
Read more: Glycemic Index of White Vs. Brown Rice
According to the USDA, a 3/4-cup serving of Spanish rice made with the standard tomato, pepper and onion sofrito contains 90 calories and 2 grams of protein. You also get 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber and 2.5 grams of fat. This serving also offers a small amount of calcium and vitamin A, and about 0.75 milligrams of iron.