Difference between Spanish Rice and Mexican Rice

By: | Updated: Jan-29, 2024
The contents of the Difference.guru website, such as text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this site (“Content”) are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or legal advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor with any questions you may have regarding your medical condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website!

Rice is a staple food in certain countries and is also a favored ingredient in some well-known recipes. Rice is rich in carbohydrates and can be paired well with certain viands. Other times, certain types of rice can stand on its own and be a complete meal in itself. Examples of this are Spanish rice and Mexican rice. These two colorful dishes often include other ingredients, such as meat or seafood. A lot of people would consider them to be one and the same thing, but they actually are not. This article will shed light on the differences between Spanish rice and Mexican rice. Hopefully next time you are served these dishes, you’ll be able to distinguish which is which.

Summary Table

Spanish Rice Mexican Rice
Has saffron Has cumin
Usually has a yellow color Usually has a red-orange color
Also known as paella Also known as arroz rojo


Spanish rice
Spanish rice

Spanish rice is a dish made with rice pilaf, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and saffron that are all simmered in chicken broth. The saffron is the distinct ingredient in Spanish rice, giving it a semi-sweet flavor, and also gives it its yellow color. Spanish rice is also known as paella and can be combined with other ingredients such as bell peppers, meat, and seafood.

Mexican rice
Mexican rice

Mexican rice is a dish made with rice pilaf, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and cumin, all cooked in chicken broth. Cumin provides that nutty and spicy taste to Mexican rice, and also gives it its red-orange color. Mexican rice is also called arroz rajo or “red rice” and is sometimes combined with bell peppers, beans, or other leftover ingredients from the fridge.

Spanish Rice vs Mexican Rice

What differentiates Spanish rice from Mexican rice is basically the spices and how they give the dishes their colors. Both types of rice have the same basic ingredients such as rice, tomatoes, and onions, and they are both cooked in chicken broth. However, Spanish rice uses saffron while Mexican rice uses cumin. These distinct ingredients provide each dish with its own flavors and colors.

Saffron gives a honey-like, semi-sweet taste to Spanish rice. This type of spice is also considered bitter by some people but is mostly enjoyed for its subtle flavor and aroma, noted to be essential when making Spanish rice. Cumin, on the other hand, is an herb which is always a part of Mexican rice. It adds an earthy, nutty, and spicy flavor and aroma to the dish.

Another differentiating factor between the two types of rice is their color. The addition of saffron makes Spanish rice appear yellowish whereas cumin makes Mexican rice appear red-orange in color. Spanish rice is also more popularly known as paella while Mexican rice is otherwise known as arroz rojo (red rice).


Spanish rice is usually referred to as “spoon” rice. This term refers to rice that’s not fluffy and it can absorb quite a bit of liquid during cooking. Spanish rice doesn’t turn mushy like other rice dishes.

Along with its sweet taste, Spanish rice is also said to have “earthy and floral tones.”

The texture of Mexican rice is entirely different than Spanish rice. Mexican rice is fluffy and soft, so that it almost seems to melt like butter when you eat it. This rice dish does not clump and is not sticky. It tends to be drier than Spanish rice.


Spanish rice is traditionally used as a meal by itself. It may contain ingredients such as fish and seafood (shrimp, mussels, etc.).

On the other hand, Mexican rice is usually a side dish due to its more common ingredients (spices, vegetables, etc.). This dish goes with many different meals, including steak, tacos, and other Mexican dishes.

Nutritional Value of Spanish Rice and Mexican Rice

Mexican rice is generally made with long-grain rice, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and chili peppers. The rice may be cooked in vegetable or chicken stock to increase its flavor. This dish is a great source of carbohydrates and essential minerals. It also has more calories since cooking oil or other fats may be added while cooking.

On the other hand, Spanish rice is made with white rice, tomatoes, garlic, and different spices. It may be cooked in chicken stock or tomato broth. The nutrition found in this dish varies, depending on the cooking methods used. However, Spanish rice is a good source of carbohydrates and essential minerals, though it usually has a higher amount of sodium due to broth or the seasonings used.

Origins of Spanish Rice and Mexican Rice

Spanish cuisine comes from the influence of Rome, the Moors, medieval times, and Catholicism. During medieval times, for instance, new cooking techniques, foods, and spices broadened the tastes and texture of foods; this led to new dishes, such as various paella recipes and more.

On the other hand, Mexican cuisine has developed from Mayan roots (along with Aztec & Toltec influences). These ancient peoples used a wide range of spices and ingredients in their cooking.

(Visited 2,417 times, 1 visits today)
Did this article help you?
Thank you!
Thank you!
What was wrong?