Zucchini Rice (Arroz con Calabacines)

Perfect as a side dish or standalone vegetarian meal, this zucchini rice one-pot dish is easy and delicious. This full-flavor rice can accompany a simple grilled fish or chicken. It is also a great accompaniment to a mix green salad for a vegetarian dinner. The rice is cooked pilaf style, meaning that the raw rice is fried first so that the grains will be soft but stand apart. Do not use pre-cooked, pre-seasoned, or converted rice for this recipe. These types of rice will not absorb the flavors or produce the right texture.

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Diet: Gluten-Free
Level: Easy
Prep: 10 mins
Cooking: 20 mins
Total: 30 mins
Yield: 4 servings

Special Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Fine-mesh strainer
  • 3-quart heavy saucepan or small Dutch oven with tight-fitting lid


  • 1 cup raw long-grain white rice (preferably not converted)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, and finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled (Preferably Dominican, Mexican or Greek oregano)
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 zucchinis, sliced
  • 2 cups hot water
  • Chopped fresh cilantro (small tender stem and leaves only), to taste


  1. Put the rice in a large bowl and cover with cold water until it reaches 2 inches above the rice. Stir and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Carefully pour off water, leaving rice in bowl. Cover rice with cold water. Using hands gently swish grains to release excess starch. Pour off the starchy water as often as needed until the water runs nearly clear, at least 2 more times. Drain rice in a fine-mesh strainer. Set aside.
  2. In a 3-quart saucepan or small Dutch oven with tight-fitting lid, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the onions and jalapeno pepper. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the onions are transparent, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  5. Add tomatoes, cumin, oregano, and lime juice. Stir to combine and cook for 3 minutes.
  6. Add the rice and stir to coat well with sauté. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring almost continually.
  7. Add the zucchini and cook, scrapping the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking, for 2 minutes.
  8. Add water, 1 teaspoon salt, and cilantro. Stir and mix well. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, only if needed. Bring to a rapid simmer. Cover (Note: If the lid does not fit tightly, cover the pan tightly with a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and then replace lid to trap moisture and steam). Reduce heat to the lowest possible setting and cook for 20 minutes. (Note: Do not remove the lid or stir while the rice is cooking. If you remove the lid of your pan during cooking, all that steam will quickly escape from the pan, leaving your rice undercooked in the allocated time as this steam is what cooks the rice.)
  9. To serve, use a large folk to turn rice over carefully from the bottom to distribute the flavors evenly. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.