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Where can I find plain yellow rice with no seasoning?

This has been driving me nuts for the longest time. I used to go to this place called california chicken grill and they served everything with plain yellow rice. It has a much better flavor than white rice. Every brand of yellow rice that I have ever bought in the store has this strange seasoning added to it. I have even tried washing the rice to remove the seasoning but the flavor still remains.

Does anyone know where I might be able to find plain yellow rice? I have looked at every package in the grocery store and they all contain this same seasoning.

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  1. I'm not aware of any commercial mixes that don't have seasonings.

    Classic yellow rice is made with saffron. Some places use turmeric or annatto for yellow coloring - but the flavor will not be the same. Perhaps experimenting with these will help you reproduce the dish.

    1. I went to the California Chicken Grill website and they describe all their dishes as being served with "seasoned yellow rice" so maybe it's an issue of balancing the seasonings.


      1. You were tasting the seasonings, not the rice.

        Yellow rice is made by adding seasonings (as meatn3 details) to white rice.

        All of these are pretty good:

        Vigo Yellow Rice Mix (too sticky for my taste, but good flavor)
        Mahatma Yellow Rice (good)
        Badia Sazon Tropicale - a tiny packet you add to the cooking water to flavor (and color!) two cups of white rice (no MSG)-- our favorite

        If CA Chicken Grill's rice has no flavor, then it's not very good yellow rice -- it's supposed to have a flavor!

        1. I'll venture that it wasn't the seasoning that turned it yellow, like Zatarains. It was the liquid it was cooked in, and I'll venture further that the liquid was chicken broth, which imparts a nice subtle flavor and subtle color to rice.
          Other than that, I don't know. But I have to go to my favorite grocery of all time, which by odd coincidence has a vast, well-stockd bulk section with all kinds of rice, and I'll check it out because now I'm curious.
          Anyway, you might try that, Add spices as you like. As other people have pointed out, there are some spices that lend a yellow color that you should probably check out.
          *Edit# Does the restaurant serve ethnic food? If so, what kind?

          8 Replies
          1. re: mamachef

            It's a Florida-based chain (despite the name) -- so it's a pretty safe bet that the yellow rice derives directly from the Spanish influence on the food in the state.

            Annato, turmeric, or one of the mixes I mentioned upthread (or some commercial equivalent) -- I'd bet my lunch money on it.

            1. re: sunshine842

              The chain website describes it as: 'Savory seasoned yellow rice'

              I use Sazón Goya packets, which come in annato (achiote) and azafran versions.

              The classic method in Latin America for making yellow rice is to gently fry annato seeds in oil, and use the colored oil to make a rice pilaf.

              1. re: paulj

                but I'm doubting that a fast-food chain in a university town is spending too much time frying annato seeds.

                Spanish cuisine produces a very light yellow rice with saffron -- that's pretty prevalent in Florida, too, but not at fast-food chains in university towns.

                1. re: paulj

                  paulj, I really like that product. I live in a very mixed ethnic community, and it's not unheard of, in the grocery store, to hear a mamacita telling her daughter, in NO uncertain terms, that those packets and jars were only for LAZY people and hippies, and that therefore they would NOT purchase them. Also by the way, she then told her daughter to cancel any plans she may have that evening, in order ot learn to make sazon, and while they were at is she'd be learning to make her own...something else, a base for EVERYTHING they cook. I know what it is and can't think of it right now. It will come to me in the middle of the night though. Every cuisine has a version, differently named.
                  You mentioned something about an objectionable flavor in the commercial products you tried. Knowing that, if you make your own, use saffron instead of annato. It's pricey as hell, which leads me to believe that what you're tasting is annato, which is much stronger and more noticeable. Saffron is quite subtle,. Pricey, but having it will open up a whole new world of things to cook, especially South of the border cuisines and Middle Eastern.meals. Lucky you!
                  *EDIT, D'OH!!!!!* Sofrito! Jaysus, that's the name of the cooking base that shows up everywhere in almost every cuisine: oil, onions, garlic, and whatever herb(s)are desired for a pronounced flavor.
                  How could I forget that, even momentarily? Augh!

                    1. re: mamachef

                      I'm more familiar with annato than saffron, in fact I have both the seeds and ground form in my pantry (as well as the Goyo packets). There have been several threads about using achiote, and the consensus seems to be that you have to use it as they do in the Yucatan to get much flavor from it. In most parts of Latin America it is use more for color than flavor. It is also used as commercial food coloring in the USA (e.g. to make margarine look like butter, or even to make butter look more like butter).

                2. re: mamachef

                  The food isn't ethnic at all, it's a place that caters to college kids. They sell grilled chicken and rice "boxes" as sort of a healthy alternative to other fast food options.

                  1. re: Footballman407

                    Nope, not ethnic -- but yellow rice in Florida is not considered ethnic. It's just yellow rice, and it's pretty easy to find at all kinds of restaurants at all kinds of price levels.

                3. I'm afraid you will have to make your own. Annatto or saffron will yield the yellow color you're looking for. Each will impart a unique flavor unless you go with a yellow food dye

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    Turmeric is what I use in my yellow rice... so that works too!

                    1. re: juliejulez

                      Yes, forgot about the one. As a dried spice it has little flavor. Fresh on the other hand.....

                      1. re: scubadoo97

                        I just stumbled on fresh turmeric at my farmer's market - scubadoo97-you are so right, it has a totally different flavor! I was quite surprised. The farmer said to preserve it, to freeze the tuber and then grate off the amount needed. I haven't really found any recipes that spec fresh, so it's kind of a guess, but I love the flavor. I use it in a lot of rice dishes-do you have any other ideas for use? Thanks!

                        1. re: ksbee

                          I've found fresh turmeric in regular supermarkets in Chicago

                          I did freeze it and put some in sherry like Ginger but the latter creates taste issues so I won't do it again.

                  2. Most Mexican restaurants that I know use yellow food coloring to make rice yellow, the rest is up to you.

                    1. My guess is that there was turmeric in the rice. Saffron would have cost too much. Turmeric is a very common addition to rice and makes it yellow. It only slightly alters the flavor (in my view, in a good way).

                      Just make white rice as usual (basmati or jasmine) with chicken stock (or water), and add salt, pepper, and turmeric.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: calumin

                        My guess is that it's white rice with Goya seasoning added.

                      2. I actually had no idea that yellow rice was just white rice with yellow food coloring. I guess I'm out of luck as far as packaged yellow rice is concerned. I'll have to try making it in my rice cooker.

                        I noticed that most of the packaged products don't contain turmeric but they all contain dehydrated vegetables, MSG and yellow 5. I'll have to avoid those in the future and stick to making it myself. In any event, I sent California Chicken Grill an email asking them how they make the rice, so hopefully they are nice enough to share the recipe with me.

                        Thanks to everyone that responded. CH is one of the friendliest forums I have ever posed on.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Footballman407

                          Don't know how long you've been around, but Welcome to Chowhound, if no one has yet. (I'd bet they have, though. CH IS one of the friendliest, most generous sites I've been on - have made many friends PLUS gotten and given help in the kitchen and for many many many other things.)
                          Anyway, Welcome. I really wanted to respond because you mentioned contacting the resto itself, which is totally the way to go. You'd be suprised at how generous they are with most information. I've gotten incredible recipes doing that.

                          1. re: mamachef

                            Thanks! I've been a longtime lurker but I don't post too often. I have learned an awful lot from these boards. Hopefully the restaurant will be nice enough to email me back.

                        2. Yaagh!! This reply is directed at phofiend, because for some reason this site is really messing w/ me today. Anyhoo, phofiend: If you look at one of my very looooooong, exceptionally wordy posts below, you'll see that it did indeed come to me immediately after I signed off. The version I was thinking of was sofrito, so you were so so so close. Thank you! If I hadn't remembered, your post would've been enough to remind me.

                          1 Reply
                          1. It's so easy to make at home. Turmeric is key for the color. Follow most any simple recipe you can find that uses turmeric.

                            Usually recipes will contain the following steps:

                            1. saute turmeric, cumin, onion in butter
                            2. Add water and boil
                            3. add rice and cook

                            This will be so fresh it will slay most anything you can find in a restaurant and you'll never want to buy a box again.

                            1. There is no such thing as naturally yellow rice of the kind you describe. It is added by some means: usually seasonings. Even a stock broth would only be *that* yellow from seasonings of some sort (onion skins and carrots at the very least, but to get that yellow, usually there's something else unless the stock is very concentrated, which would be very expensive).

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Karl S

                                That yellow can be achieved w/ onion skins alone. I know this because I made natural Easter egg dyes one year, and I used that for yellow. Carrots provided us the orange color.
                                So, I think a strong stock made w/ lots of onion skins (the brown onions) would impart it's color pretty well.

                                1. re: mamachef

                                  That is a good idea. I throw onion skins into the water when I hard boil eggs so I can then put the eggs back into the carton without confusing cooked and uncooked.

                                  1. re: tcamp

                                    Spin'em. Cooked eggs spin smoothly, raw ones don't.

                                    1. re: tcamp

                                      That's freakin' brills, tcamp. For serious.

                                    2. re: mamachef

                                      Yeah, but it's unlikely in a commercial context.

                                  2. A cheapie college-student friendly restaurant probably just cooks the rice in water and chicken base, with a pinch of turmeric for color. We have a couple cheap indian/middle eastern restaurants near me that serve the same plain yellow rice. There's no saffron or onions or anything "fancy" in it.

                                    10 Replies
                                    1. re: boogiebaby

                                      After looking at the restaurants price points I think your idea is probably correct. Certainly would explain why the packaged yellow rice mixes don't taste the same to the OP.

                                      1. re: boogiebaby

                                        Many of the Salvadoran restaurants where I live (and there are many) will put onion, carrots, peas, etc in the rice. They are visible.

                                        1. re: boogiebaby

                                          Depending on the depth of color the OP is looking for, it could be all chicken base with nothing else added. Several commercial chicken bases impart enough yellow color that it's possible that is all they used...and that would also add to the "flavor" the OP says he remembers.

                                          I would suggest the OP try chicken base. If the color doesn't come out right, then a touch of tumeric should solve that.

                                          1. re: JayL

                                            The chicken base is, of course, full of seasonings (tumeric is often added for color, and MSG for glutamates).

                                            1. re: Karl S

                                              Maybe they use "Knorr Hispanic: Tomato w/Chicken Flavor Granulated Bouillon"


                                              The smallest hispanic sells it in food-service sizes.

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                i've used a similar flavoring -- but by goya -- for bean soup. it is pretty good. but i don't need food service sizes. ha. the little powder packets are fine for me. http://www.goya.com/english/product_s...

                                                but they are seasoning packets. i know the OP just wants yellow rice without "seasonings." i agree chicken stock and turmeric would get the result. is chicken "base" like the "better than bouillon" product?

                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                  The OP did say 'without seasons', but the restaurant that he wants to imitate describes their rice as 'seasoned'.

                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                    I think it's a Goya Sazon packet too. Easier and cheaper than chicken base

                                                    It will color the rice and make it taste "savory" but not very seasoned

                                                    1. re: C. Hamster

                                                      The stuff is sold by the carload all across Florida -- it might be Goya, it might be Badia, it might be some nondescript generic label that bears no more resemblance to Cuban food than a peanut butter sandwich.

                                                2. re: Karl S

                                                  And that is why the OP may only need the chicken base.

                                                  I hope he finds what he's looking for...

                                            2. Try using one tablespoon ground achiote seed in 1/4 cup water, bring to boil then boil down to 1/8 cup, drain through coffee filter and just use colored water to color the rice.

                                              1. Sorry for being so late to this thread. Just to clarify a point here. Absolutely YES! Most "yellow rice" is the result of "seasonings" such as saffron, turmeric (aka "poor man's saffron"), annatto (especially in Mexican rice preparations), etc.


                                                Because bans on GMO (genetically modified organisms) foods have only been fairly recent in the U.S., and that as an accommodation to making our fresh produce competitive in the world market of today (many European countries, but especially and notoriously France, ban all GMO produce from their country) there exists the possibility that the restaurant where you ate "plain yellow rice" MIGHT have been serving "golden rice," a gmo rice you can read about here:


                                                I don't know when the actual GMO ban in the U.S. became active, but just for the record I thought "GMO golden rice" is worth mentioning. Too bad Sam Fujisaka is no longer with us because he could tell us whether the hysteria over gmo foods is valid in this specific case or not. Monsanto was involved in the initial project, and there is a bit of hysteria attached to the Monsanto name. But I don't think the original Monsanto effort ever went to market because, *IF* I understand the research correctly, Monsanto used a plant gene from daffodils, which are toxic, BUT.... I'm no expert in genetics. Maybe it didn't matter??? However "golden rice 2" has a much improved nutritional value and seems to be grown in China, where it helps prevent a lot of diseases in poor children through its greatly enhanced nutritional profile.

                                                GMOs are an interesting subject... So it seems improbable but not impossible that the OP may have had this in a U.S. restaurant.