How many calories does one cup of Spanish Rice have?

Spanish rice is a tasty side dish that can accompany many meals. However, with rising obesity rates, more people are becoming concerned about counting calories. So how many calories are actually in a standard 1 cup serving of Spanish rice?

What is Spanish Rice?

Spanish rice is a seasoned rice dish that originated in Mexico and Latin America. It is now popular in many cultures worldwide. The main ingredients are white rice, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and spices.

There are many variations of Spanish rice. Some versions have extra vegetables like peas or bell peppers. Others may use chicken broth or tomato sauce instead of chopped tomatoes. The seasonings also vary, but often include cumin, oregano, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt.

The rice grains are sautéed in oil before the liquids and seasonings are added. This allows the rice to absorb flavors as it cooks. The result is a flavorful, reddish-colored rice pilaf.

Nutritional Profile of Spanish Rice

The main nutrients in Spanish rice come from the rice itself. One cup of cooked white rice provides (1):

  • Calories: 205
  • Protein: 4.2 grams
  • Carbs: 44.5 grams
  • Fat: 0.4 grams

The tomatoes, onions, garlic, and oil add small amounts of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and fiber. For example, a half-cup of chopped raw tomatoes contains (2):

  • Vitamin C: 13% Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin K: 5% DV
  • Potassium: 5% DV
  • Fiber: 1 gram

However, these nutrients are somewhat reduced by cooking them down into a sauce. The spices provide trace minerals and antioxidants, but no significant calories.

Calories in 1 Cup of Spanish Rice

With plain white rice as the main ingredient, the number of calories in 1 cup of Spanish rice is similar to the calories in 1 cup of plain cooked rice.

Most nutrition databases list a 1 cup serving of Spanish rice as having around 220–240 calories (3, 4, 5).

This is what you can expect from basic homemade or restaurant versions. Some packaged brands may be higher or lower depending on what other ingredients are added.

Calories Per Serving

Type of Spanish Rice Calories
Homemade 220 calories
Restaurant 230 calories
Uncle Ben’s (1 packet) 240 calories
Goya (1/2 cup) 180 calories

Factors that Increase Calories

There are a few ways the calorie count can go up for Spanish rice:

Added Fats

Cooking the rice in olive oil or lard instead of vegetable oil adds some additional calories from fat. Drizzling more oil on top increases calories further.


Some Spanish rice recipes call for chicken, pork sausage, chorizo, or bacon. The meat provides extra protein but also boosts the calorie count.

More Rice

Using a heaping cup of uncooked rice instead of a standard cup increases the calories once cooked. More rice means more grains to absorb oil and seasonings.

Heavy Seasonings

Loading up on high-calorie seasonings like cheese, sour cream, or creamy sauces adds calories without making it seem like you’re eating a larger portion.

Low-Calorie Spanish Rice Options

To lighten up Spanish rice, you can:

  • Use chicken or vegetable broth instead of oil for cooking
  • Skip added fats like cheese, sour cream, or creamy sauces
  • Load up on extra veggies like bell peppers, peas, or onions
  • Choose brown rice instead of white rice
  • Enjoy a 3/4 cup portion size instead of 1 cup

With adjustments like these, you can bring a 1 cup serving down to around 200 calories or less.

Calories in Common Spanish Rice Meal Combos

Spanish rice is often paired with other dishes as part of a complete meal. Some popular meal combinations include:

Spanish Rice with Beef and Beans

Beef and beans served over 1 cup Spanish rice adds protein, fiber, and calories:

  • 1 cup Spanish rice: 220 calories
  • 1/2 cup cooked ground beef: 230 calories
  • 1/2 cup black beans: 120 calories

Total Calories: Around 570

Spanish Rice with Chicken and Vegetables

Chicken and veggies with rice makes for a lighter combo:

  • 1 cup Spanish rice: 220 calories
  • 1 chicken thigh or breast: 130-170 calories
  • 1 cup mixed vegetables: 50 calories

Total Calories: 400-440

Spanish Rice with Shrimp and Avocado

This tasty meal keeps calories moderate:

  • 1 cup Spanish rice: 220 calories
  • 1/2 cup shrimp: 60 calories
  • 1/2 medium avocado: 120 calories

Total Calories: Around 400

Cooking Methods That Reduce Calories

Preparing homemade Spanish rice allows you to control the ingredients and cooking method. Here are some healthy techniques:

Use Less Oil

Sauté the rice and veggies in 1 tsp oil instead of 1-2 Tbsp. This saves up to 120 calories per Tbsp of oil.

Steam Then Season

Cook the rice by steaming or boiling in broth first. Then stir in fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, and a dash of oil at the end.

Bake in the Oven

Skip sautéing altogether by baking the rice with tomatoes and seasonings in the oven. This prevents excess oil absorption.

Use Stock Instead of Fat

When making the sauce, skip the oil and cook the vegetables in chicken or veggie stock instead.

Healthy Rice Swaps

For an even lighter take, try using riced vegetables or ancient grains instead of white rice:

Cauliflower Rice

Riced cauliflower stands in for rice, providing fewer carbs and calories. Make “Spanish cauliflower rice” for a low-carb dish.

1 cup riced raw cauliflower has about:

  • 25 calories
  • 5 grams carbs
  • 2 grams protein


Quinoa contains protein and fiber. 1 cup cooked quinoa provides about:

  • 222 calories
  • 5 grams fiber
  • 8 grams protein

Should You Enjoy Spanish Rice on a Weight Loss Diet?

Spanish rice can be part of a healthy weight loss diet when enjoyed in moderation. A 1 cup serving packs around 220 calories, so it’s not overly high or low calorie.

To make it fit into a calorie deficit, here are some tips:

  • Measure out 1 cup cooked portions
  • Pair it with lean proteins and non-starchy veggies
  • Choose lighter cooking methods
  • Skip high-calorie add-ons like cheese, sour cream, or fatty meats
  • Balance it with lower calorie foods at other meals

Be aware that larger serving sizes can quickly tip you over your calorie goals for the meal or day. It’s healthiest to make Spanish rice an occasional side dish rather than a daily staple.

Should You Avoid Spanish Rice on a Low-Carb Diet?

Traditional white rice is high in carbs with 44 grams per cup. So Spanish rice may not be the best choice on a strict low-carb, ketogenic, or reduced-glycemic diet.

Modifying the recipe can make it work better for low-carb diets. Try cauliflower rice or quinoa instead of white rice. Skip the tomato sauce and load up on extra vegetables to reduce the carb count.

Avoid pairing Spanish rice with other carb-heavy foods like tortillas, beans, or plantains. Keep portions small, around 1/2 cup max per meal.

Simple Low-Calorie Spanish Rice Recipe

Here is an easy homemade recipe to make 1 cup of Spanish rice with around 200 calories:


  • 1/2 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add rice and cook 2-3 minutes until translucent, stirring frequently.
  3. Add onions and garlic and cook 1 minute more until fragrant.
  4. Stir in tomatoes, broth, cumin, chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
  6. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.
  7. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
  8. Enjoy 1 cup hot Spanish rice.


Spanish rice is a delicious side dish that offers a hearty serving of carbohydrates. A standard 1 cup portion of both homemade and restaurant style Spanish rice packs around 220-240 calories.

The calories come mainly from the rice itself, along with small amounts of oil and tomato-based seasoning. While Spanish rice can be part of a healthy diet, it’s best enjoyed in moderation.

To lighten it up, use less oil during cooking, skip high-calorie add-ons, and pair it with lower calorie main dishes. Enjoying smaller portions or swapping in riced cauliflower or quinoa can also help cut the calories in this flavorful favorite.

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