I like to call this dish the South American cousin of Spanish seafood paella. When you look at this arroz marinero or seafood rice, it’s likely that the first thing you thought was, oh it’s a paella. Well, it’s very similar and has the same main ingredients: rice and seafood. However, there are differences in the type of rice, the herbs and the spices that make it a different dish. Paella is made with short grain rice, while arroz marinero uses a long grain rice. Paella uses saffron to give the rice that reddish orange color, while arroz marinero uses achiote or annatto to also give a slightly reddish color, saffron has more distinct taste that it gives paella, while achiote is more subtle and earthy. Paella uses a small amount of garlic and parsley, while the base flavors of arroz marinero require a lot of garlic and cilantro. Traditional paella is also likely to include chicken thighs and Spanish chorizo, while arroz marinero is strictly seafood. I don’t use peas in this seafood rice recipe; however it is common to find them in both this dish as well as Spanish paella. I also posted a quinoa version of seafood rice a while ago, if you’re looking for a healthier alternative or a new way to try quinoa, you can try that recipe.
I used about 4lbs of assorted seafood – shrimp, calamari, bay scallops, mussels, and clams – for this recipe, which will serve 8-10 people; you choose the type of seafood and quantities of each according to your preference. I also used 2 types of shrimp, small peeled ones and larger ones with the shells on – these give the rice additional flavor and also have a add a nice visual appeal to the dish. Arroz marinero or seafood rice is typically served with fried plantains, either ripe sweet ones or green savory ones called patacones or tostones, avocados slices, lime slices, cebollas curtidas or red pickled onions, and of course, a good aji or hot sauce.

Recipe: Seafood rice

Summary: South American dish similar to Spanish paella, that is made with rice cooked in seafood broth and sautéed with shrimp, clams, squid, bay scallops, onions, garlic, bell pepper, cilantro and spices.



  • 2 tbs oil
  • 2 tbs finely chopped white onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups uncooked long grain rice
  • 2 ¼ cups seafood stock or seafood broth

Seafood rice

  • 3 tbs oil – sunflower, peanut or light olive oil are good options
  • 1 ½ cup finely chopped white onion
  • 2 garlic heads, peeled and crushed
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • ½ tbs cumin
  • 1 tsp achiote powder
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
  • ~4 lbs assorted seafood: shrimp, calamari, scallops, mussels, clams
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Suggested side dishes – Patacones or thick green plantain chips, onion curtido, avocado slices, lime slices and aji criollo.


  1. To prepare the rice heat 2 tbs of oil over medium heat in a saucepan, add 2 tbs of onion and garlic, and cook until soft, about 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add the rice, stir until well coated with the oil. Add the seafood broth, bring to a boil over high until the broth is gone, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for about 15 minutes or until the rice is tender but firm, save for later.
  3. Heat the remaining 3 tbs of oil on medium heat in a large sauté pan, add the chopped onions and crushed garlic, stir frequently and cook until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the cumin, achiote powder, salt, pepper, ½ of the chopped cilantro, and diced bell pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the raw seafood, start by adding the seafood that needs more time to cook first (large shrimp, clams, mussels), followed by the ones that require less cooking time (smaller shrimp, calamari, scallops), stir and cook for about 3 minutes.
  6. Stir in the cooked rice, mix well and cook until the seafood is done, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the remaining ½ of the chopped cilantro, and additional salt or pepper if needed.
  8. Serve with patacones or thick green plantain chips, onion curtido or salad, avocado, lime slices, and aji criollo or hot sauce.