Take your tastebuds to Central America with this easy rice meal Nicaragua Arroz a la Valenciana featuring savory cooked rice graced with carrots and peas and a boatload of meaty goodness from chicken breast, diced ham, and pork sausages. A fantastic rice dish that can be served on regular weeknights or on special occasions!
Today’s recipe is a fantastic dish that mirrors the rich culture of Nicaragua, a country located in Central America.
Like most other recipes, there’s no hard rule on what goes in this recipe. But this Valencian Nicaraguan-style rice recipe is more like the cousin of Spanish Paella (more on that below).
If you are a huge fan of rice meals, then this one should be on your must-try list. I guarantee that you’d have seconds or thirds of this once you get started.
WHAT IS ARROZ ALA VALENCIANA?
Arroz a la Valenciana or Valencian rice is a typical Latin American rice dish that’s sort of Spanish paella’s cousin. Although a lot would claim that this Valencian-style rice is a derivative of Spanish paella, some would say that it’s actually quite the opposite.
In fact, the two differ in their preparation methods. Nicaragua’s version is prepared on the stovetop, dating back to colonial times, and is found in Latin American cuisines. The Valencian paella, on the other hand, is baked and did not emerge until the late 19th century, among the peasants of Valencian orchards.
This rice dish usually consists of rice, chicken, and chorizo or sausage. And it’s brimming with flavors – all thanks to butter, tomato paste, and white wine. In some instances, white wine is replaced with beer to pair up with chicken broth.
ARROZ A LA VALENCIANA RECIPE INGREDIENTS
Most of the ingredients used in this Arroz Valenciana are kitchen staples. Here’s what you need to make this fully-loaded rice dish.
- Chicken Breast – I used shredded chicken breast for this recipe, but feel free to swap it with leftover rotisserie chicken.
- Ham – This is a great dish to use up any leftover holiday ham you have in your fridge. Or you may swap it with chopped bacon instead.
- Pork Sausage – Made with ground pork, pork sausages add a nice dimension of flavor in this rice dish. Feel free to replace it with Italian sausage, bratwurst, or vegan sausage, if desired.
- Butter – Adds that hint of buttery flavor when sauteing our veggies.
- Rice – Of course, it wouldn’t be Arroz (Spanish word for rice) Valenciana without rice in this list. Here, I use uncooked white rice (more on this in the FAQ section).
- White Onion and Garlic – Enhances the flavor and aroma in this easy rice meal.
- Tomatoes – Diced tomatoes give a hint of tanginess and added texture in this dish.
- Carrots and Peas – Adds a lovely crunch and pops of green and orange in this easy dinner.
- Chicken Broth – Simmering rice in chicken broth allows to incorporate all those chicken goodness flavor down to the very last grain.
- Chiltoma – Or basically sweet peppers, like bell pepper, add a blissful slightly sweet and spicy peppery flavor – enough to tickle your taste buds.
- Tomato Paste – Amps up the tangy acidic tomato flavor in this dish and also provides that lovely bright orange flavor for this humble yet satisfying Nicaragua Valenciana recipe.
- Sugar – A teaspoon of sugar is just enough to balance out the acidity in this dish from all those tomatoes.
- White Wine – You can never go wrong with adding white wine in this dish. It adds a fantastic floral and fruity subtle nuances as it cooks off. Among my favorite white wines for cooking are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay. A champagne would be fine if that’s what you have on hand.
- Worcestershire Sauce – A fermented vinegar-based condiment, Worcestershire sauce adds a nice umami flavor in this rice dish.
- Salt and Pepper – Balances out all the flavors present in this dish.
- Cilantro – Uses as a garnish and provides a hint of citrus tangy flavor profile.
- If you don’t have any white wine on hand, feel free to replace it with the same amount of chicken broth.
- No Worcestershire sauce? No problemo! You can use the same amount of soy sauce or fish sauce as a replacement. Oyster sauce somehow works fine, too.
- For those who are somehow health conscious, you may replace white rice with brown rice, but take note that brown rice cooks longer than regular rice.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHERE IS ARROZ VALENCIANA FROM?
This dish represents the rich culture of Nicaragua and Latin America as a whole. Arroz a la Valenciana is said to be, although this is still under debate, a derivative from the Paella Valenciana which originated from Valencia in Spain.
IS ARROZ VALENCIANA THE SAME AS PAELLA?
Although Arroz Valenciana is a local adaptation of Valencia-style paella, these two somehow differ in some ways.
Spanish Paella uses arborio rice and other special ingredients like wine, seafood, and the most expensive spice – saffron.
Nicaragua’s Arroz a la Valenciana, on the other hand, is cooked on a stovetop and uses regular white rice instead, sans saffron.
WHAT IS THE BEST RICE FOR ARROZ VALENCIANA?
The Philippines’ version of Valenciana uses glutinous rice, however, for this one I used regular medium-grain rice (like Arborio and Valencia) as they produce soft, moist, and slightly chewy grains that stick together when cooked.
HOW TO COOK ARROZ VALENCIANA (NICARAGUAN VERSION)
Aside from its exceptional medley of flavors, Arroz ala Valenciana is also a cinch to make. It’s easy enough to make on regular nights or on special occasions.
Did I mention before that this dish is considered a Piñata food in Nicaragua? Why? Because it is so good that this food is present during get-togethers and parties every single time!
To make this easy rice meal…
- Cook and shred chicken breast. (Or better yet use a rotisserie chicken.)
- Pre-cook carrots and peas.
- On a separate saucepan, throw in the meat and cook until golden brown. Set aside.
- Cook the veggies, seasonings, and rice.
- Pour over the chicken broth and cook the rice until soft.
- Add back the cooked meat, carrots, and peas.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and enjoy!
CAN I MAKE THIS AHEAD?
Yes, you sure can! You can cook the chicken and other meat 2 days in advance. Then store them in an airtight container and refrigerate.
Or you can cook the entire dish and cool them down completely before transferring in an airtight container. This would last in the fridge for 2-3 days.
When ready to serve…
- Take the Valenciana out and let it sit on the countertop for at least half an hour.
- Get a frying pan and add a dash of olive oil and heat it for a few seconds.
- Dump in your Arroz Valenciana into the pan while you even them out so they cook evenly.
- If it starts to dry out, add a splash of oil and chicken broth to moisten the rice and prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Stir for a few minutes until reheated through.
This Arroz Valenciana recipe is already carb-loaded, yet it still pairs well with bread (check out this Garlic Bread Homemade HERE). If you want to have lighter sides, you can go for Caesar’s salad, this Kachumbari Salad, or cheese and olive platter. As for the dessert, you can go for a generous serving of this 3-ingredient Watermelon Sorbet.
MORE RICE RECIPES TO ENJOY
NICARAGUA ARROZ A LA VALENCIANA
- 1 Chicken breast skinless and boneless
- 2 Carrots cut into cubes
- ½ cup Peas
- 1 stick Butter
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- 2 pieces Pork sausages cut in slices
- 3 cups Ham diced
- 1 White onion cut in julienne strips
- 3 cloves Garlic
- 1 Chiltoma red bell pepper cut in julienne strips
- 2 Tomatoes diced
- ½ cup White wine
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons Tomato paste
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 2 cups Rice
- 3 cups Chicken broth
- Chopped cilantro for garnish
- Place a medium saucepan with water and salt over medium heat. Add the chicken breast and cook for 15-20 minutes. Remove the chicken breast, shred it with two forks, and set aside (keep the broth).
- Pre-cook the carrot and peas in a medium saucepan for about 13 minutes over medium heat and set aside. (You can use also frozen vegetables.)
- Place a frying pan with two tablespoons of butter and the 1 teaspoon sugar over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Once the sugar has caramelized, add the shredded chicken, the pork sausage, and the ham, stir and cook for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Then set aside.
- Add a little bit of butter to a pot and melt over medium heat until it is hot. Add onion and garlic, lower the heat a little bit and wait for them to crystallize. Then add the chili, tomatoes, and white wine, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and rice.
- Stir everything with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes, then add the chicken broth and more water if necessary. Let it cook over medium heat, and when it has evaporated and has no more liquid, reduce the heat to low, cover, and let it cook for about 15 minutes or until the rice is soft.
- When the rice is cooked, stir in the cooked chicken, pork sausage and ham, carrots, and peas.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.
- You may replace chicken breast with shredded rotisserie chicken.
- Add in any leftover holiday ham you have in this dish.
- Feel free to replace pork sausage with Italian sausage, bratwurst, or vegan sausage, if desired.
- If you don’t have white wine on hand, you may replace it with the same amount of low-sodium chicken broth.
- You can cook this dish in advance, let it cool, and store it in the fridge for 2-3 days.