Recipe of the Month: Arroz Guatemalteco

By Simone Riddle

‘How hard can cooking rice be?’ you may ask. Well, that used to be my attitude until I moved to Guatemala. My lesson in cooking rice took place on one of the first times I invited friends over to have a curry for dinner. I had decided to wait to cook the rice knowing that my friends would rock up an hour later than agreed (coincidentally, they did). Just as I was about to pour the rice into a pan of boiling water, I hear my friend scream “No! Vos Simoné, que hacés?” The condemnation in his voice was so great it was as if I was about to drop a small child into the pan. That’s how I received my first lesson in how to cook rice properly:  o sea, arroz a la chapina. I have never served up stodgy rice again.

Every family will have una versión propia of this recipe. There will be variations of the veduras cortadas, don’t worry about these minor differences too much; never ever question your host mom’s recipe. Nunca.

Learn the basic technique of frying the rice, onion and then adding stock to steam through and you can’t go that wrong, seguro.

Serves 3-4 people as a side.


  • One measuring cup of long-grain white rice
  • One tablespoon of oil
  • Half a finely chopped onion
  • One clove of minced garlic
  • Half a finely diced red bell pepper
  • One finely diced carrot (importante: make sure the carrot is cut really finely otherwise it won’t cook in time)
  • Half a finely chopped tomato
  • A pinch of ground cloves, (clavos)  – you can find these in the market but the rice will be fine if you decide not to add them
  • A large pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup peas. If you’ve bought them fresh from the market, blanch them first until nearly tender.


1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the uncooked rice in the oil for around a minute or two so all the rice is glistening

2. Add the onion and sauté for another couple of minutes

3. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute. Then the bell pepper, carrots, and tomatoes and sauté –  yes, you’ve guessed it! – for another minute

4. Finally, add the clove powder – I ground a few cloves in the coffee grinder which gave it a nice powerful taste- salt, pepper, and the stock and stir well. Bring to a quick boil, lower the heat, and simmer covered until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked (15 to 20 minutes).

A great trick my teacher taught me is if you don’t have a lid for the frying pan, rest a couple of pieces of Clingfilm on top of the rice which will create a steam effect. Don’t be tempted to stir the rice. It will cook through and it shouldn’t burn on the bottom if it’s over a low heat

4. Add the peas (if using), turn off the heat, cover, and steam the peas with the residual heat until cooked. Fluff the rice and vegetables with a fork right before serving.

This recipe is perfect as an accompaniment for Jocon (recipe to come in future editions), pepian or even a stir-fry. Buen provecho!

Book your cookery class with Asociacion de Mujeres del Altiplano (AMA) where Women Circle members offer traditional Mayan techniques. Check out their website ( for more information.


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