I only have a couple of fond childhood memories. One of them is my mom’s yellow rice. Because she was an active duty Airman, she didn’t have much time to make lavish, home-cooked meals. Her yellow rice was a staple at our family beach days, BBQs, or picnics. Yes, Puerto Ricans bring big ol’ pots of rice to their picnics! That’s normal for us. But, while my mother didn’t make Arroz Borracho, the yellow hue of this recipe makes me miss her terribly.
What is Arroz Borracho?
Arroz Borracho means Drunk Rice. Obviously, the rice didn’t stumble into the kitchen after a night of pounding beers; it’s just white rice that’s steamed in beer and water. It gives the finished rice a malty, rich flavor. Aromatics and spices, commonly used in Puerto Rican cooking, are also what makes this side dish so tantalizing good.
This recipe makes a great side dish for vegans or vegetarians. For meat-lovers, cooked meat can be stirred into it to create a hearty main course.
What you’ll need to prepare Arroz Borracho
Because this is a rice dish, you’ll need long grain white rice. The main flavor in the dish comes from the beer, Ayinger is a full-bodied, vegan German lager. Sazón con Azafrán is what imparts the bright yellow color to the rice. Since it’s commonly used in Puerto Rican cooking, you’ll find this seasoning in most grocery store’s Hispanic foods aisle. Onions, garlic, dried oregano, a bay leaf, and water are the other supporting ingredients.
The Most Important Step in Making Rice
First things first and before we move any further: wash your rice.
“Washing” rice means rinsing it in cool water to remove excess starch from the grains. Starch that is left on the rice will thicken the cooking liquid, which subsequently increases the likelihood of your rice coming out amogollao (or gummy and sticky).
Because rice is such an important staple in the Hispanic diet, serving rice that’s amogollao is considered embarrassing. So, we avoid shaming our ancestors by giving the uncooked rice a quick rinse under the water. Usually, 3 passes of water is all it takes for the water to rinse clear of any starch. After 3 washes, drain the rice for a few minutes to get rid of the excess water.
Sweat the Aromatics
In a heavy-bottomed, 4qt dutch oven, or a caldero (cast aluminum pot), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic to the hot oil and sweat them for 10 minutes. Slowly cooking the onions and garlic coaxes flavor out of them without browning them too quickly. If you do find that it’s browning too fast, reduce the heat to give you a chance to reach that full cook time.
Coat and Toast the Grains of Rice
Stir the dried rice into the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the grains of rice in the oil for 3 minutes. This will not only toast the grains, but will coat the grain in the oil. As a result, the steamed rice will be more fluffy.
Pour the lager and water into the pot and stir the mixture well. You want the liquid to infiltrate any clumps of rice that may have formed. Your arroz borracho is now drunk. I have no idea why that made me chuckle.
Finally, sprinkle the sazón con azafrán, salt, oregano, and black pepper into the liquid. Add the bay leaf and give the rice a hearty stir. This particular sazón, which is just a blend of spices, contains saffron, which is what will give the rice that bright yellow color.
Bring the mixture up to a rapid boil.
Decrease the Heat and Steam the Arroz Borracho
Aluminum foil is an important tool in the Puerto Rican kitchen. Most importantly, it’s vital to steaming the perfect pot of rice. Ask any mom or Abuela to make you some rice and you’ll see the above image during her cooking process.
Lay a piece of foil, large enough to drape over the pot, onto the pot of boiling rice. Next, press the lid of the pot down onto the foil to create an air-tight seal. Fold the foil up and over the pot’s lid.
Finally, reduce the heat to low and steam the rice for 25 minutes, or until tender.
What about the Booze?
Because we are cooking with alcohol- and because I have many friends in recovery- I’d fail you if I didn’t point out the fact that some alcohol may remain in this rice after steaming. Granted, it’ll be a minuscule amount since beer usually has a low ABV to start with, but you should take note of it.
Since I fed it to the kids and they didn’t act like drunkards, I’m willing to bet it’s safe for kiddo consumption. Nevertheless, keep in mind, when serving it to people who have issues with alcohol or children, that you should mention it’s made with beer.
Fluff your Steamed Arroz Borracho
Once your rice has finished steaming, remove it from the heat to avoid over cooking it.
Use your spoon to fluff the arroz borracho right in the pot. Likewise, you can use a fork to fluff the grains of rice. The rice wants to clump together, so be sure to fluff it to break up those pieces.
If you find your rice is still too wet, set it back over a low flame and let it dry out- uncovered.
Serve your Arroz Borracho
Because I eat cold rice all of the time, I can eat this Arroz Borracho at any temperature. It’s best served piping hot, however.
As I mentioned earlier, arroz borracho is a great vegetarian side dish. Most importantly, for my carnivore-loving family, it goes well with many types of meat dishes, too.
Try it with these:
Tri Tip Marinade Recipe from my friend Aline
Thankfully, this recipe makes a generous amount of arroz borracho. You’ll certainly need a good amount because people run through it whenever I serve it.
Pin this recipe for later and be sure to share one of my favorite childhood dishes with your beer-loving friends.
- 4 qt dutch oven or cast aluminum pot
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup white onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 3 cups long grain white rice rinsed in cold water (see info in post)
- 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) lager or ale
- 2 cups water
- 2 packets Sazón con Azafrán seasoning
- 1 bay leaf
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Stir the drained rice into the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the grains of rice in the oil for 3 minutes.
- Pour the lager and water into the pot and stir the mixture well. Sprinkle the sazón, salt, oregano, and black pepper into the liquid. Add the bay leaf and give the rice a hearty stir. Bring the mixture up to a rapid boil.
- Lay a large piece of foil over the pot of boiling rice (leave some overhang to wrap up over the lid. Press the lid of the pot down onto the foil to create an air-tight seal. Fold the foil up and over the pot's lid. Reduce the heat to low and steam the rice for 25 minutes, or until tender.
- Once your rice has finished steaming, remove it from the heat and use a spoon or fork to fluff the arroz borracho right in the pot.If you find your rice is still too wet, set it back over a low flame and let it dry out- uncovered.
- Serve the rice piping hot.