Have you ever tried pumpkin rice? It’s so good and very much a Cuban thing. Cubans love to cook with pumpkins. We add them to our beans and soups. We turn them into pumpkin fritters and make pumpkin flan and custards with them. We’ve always been big into pumpkins and not just for fall.
And, of course, we add them to rice because Cubans can turn just about anything into a rice dish! It’s great comfort food 😍🍲
Pumpkin Rice Recipe Ingredients
The base of this pumpkin rice dish (arroz con calabaza) is a basic Cuban yellow rice recipe. For Cubans, yellow rice is a canvas you can use for any combination of ingredients you have on hand. So it’s actually a great way to clean out your fridge! But for this recipe, the star ingredient is pumpkin. I also included Spanish chorizo, ham, and salt pork (tocino) with the pumpkins. But you can use less meat and more veggies if you like because this yellow rice is pretty fast and loose!
I love the mix of the salty cured meats and the Cuban spices with the slightly sweet taste of the pumpkin. It’s a fantastic one-dish meal! Not all pumpkin rice dishes use chorizo or ham, but I love it this way. I also added some saffron threads, which is not usual, but it gives tomato-based dishes such a great flavor boost.
A really important note here: A critical step in this dish is adding the pumpkin towards the end of the cooking time so it doesn’t fall apart in the rice. I like to have a lot of chunky pumpkin pieces in my rice!
Cuban Yellow Rice Dishes Are So Versatile!
Rice or arroz is ubiquitous in Cuban cooking. Almost every dish is served with rice… either white, yellow, or a mix of rice and beans called congri. Of course, we’ve got a lot of ways to make yellow rice too! But all versions include onions, bell pepper, garlic, and Cuban spices such as cumin, oregano, and paprika. Some folks like to use the seasoning packets and Bijol (yellow food coloring), but I don’t use a lot of packaged stuff. I just use paprika for color.
The basic recipe uses a sofrito (sauteed onions, bell peppers, and garlic), tomato sauce, cumin, oregano, paprika, and then you can add other ingredients from there. If you’re adding meats, you should brown it first and set it aside to make the sofrito and add the other ingredients. We also sauté the rice for a minute or so before we add the liquid and the veggies. While you can use water, it’s best if you use broth. You can use chicken, vegetable, seafood broth, depending on what type of rice you’re making.
More Cuban Yellow Rice Dishes
Start with your basic sofrito, tomato sauce, spices, rice and broth and vary the add-ins. Soon I’ll be adding some of these recipes to the blog. If you’re really interested in one of these recipes, let me know and I’ll make it even sooner!
Arroz Con Calabaza – pumpkin rice can also include a variety of cured meats such as ham, chorizo, and salt pork. (Done!😉)
Arroz Con Pollo – yellow rice with chicken. You can use regular long grain rice or Valencia rice which is more like a risotto.
Arroz Con Salsicha – yellow rice with Vienna sausages… I know it does not sound that appealing, but it’s comfort food if you were raised eating it. In fact, my foodie son still loves this dish (don’t tell him I said that, though!).
Arroz Con Vegetales – yellow rice with vegetables. This dish is usually made with frozen mixed vegetables (corn, carrots, and green beans). You can add some ham or pork with the veggies too. If you’re using pork, make sure to brown it first.
Paella – these yellow rice dishes are from Spain and can be made with a combination of seafood, meats or both. All kinds of ways. I’ve got a paella mixta recipe made with shrimp, chicken, and chorizo that’s so delicious and easy to make. (Done! 😉)
Arroz Con Maiz – yellow rice with corn, my kids used to love this one!
Arroz Con Camaroncitos Secos – yellow rice with dry, salted baby shrimp. This ingredient is found in Chinese markets, but Cubans use it too.
I hope you enjoy making this pumpkin rice dish that’s perfect for fall or anytime, really! Let me know how you like it.Print
Pumpkin rice made with fresh pumpkin, chorizo, ham and salt pork. It’s a perfect one-dish filled meal with great Cuban flavors!
2 cups long white grain rice
3 cups chicken broth (see note)
1 cup uncooked pumpkin cut into 1-inch cubes (see note)
5 ounces ham
2 ounces salt pork (tocino)
2 Spanish chorizo links
4 ounces tomato sauce
½ cup yellow onion
½ cup red bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon paprika
Pinch saffron threads (optional)
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon salt and pepper, to taste
- Rinse the rice to remove some of the starch.
- Chop the onions and peppers and crush the garlic. Measure out the spices so you can just add them to the sauté at the right time. You don’t have to do this, but I find it makes the process easier.
- Cut the salt pork into half-inch pieces. Cut the ham into one-inch cubes. Slice the chorizo links into half-inch rounds.
- Peel and cut the pumpkin into one-inch cubes.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Saute the salt pork for about 3 minutes until it begins to brown. Add the ham and cook for another two minutes. Add the onions, peppers and garlic and cook for three minutes. Add the chorizo and cook for two minutes.
- Add the rinsed rice and sauté for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the spices and the broth and adjust salt if needed. Then bring to a boil and cover. Let it cook for about 15-20 minutes and then add the pumpkin just as the water is mostly absorbed. Cook for another 10 minutes or until the pumpkin is fork-tender.
Sometimes the rice may take a bit more water and cooking time, depending on the rice you use. In that case, just add a bit of water and let it cook for a little longer. I usually add a quarter cup of water at a time and let it cook for another 5-10 minutes.
- Serving Size: 1 bowl
Keywords: pumpkin rice, yellow rice, pumpkin rice recipe, yellow rice recipe, cuban rice dishes, cuban yellow rice