From the Depths of a Winter Funk: Black Rice (Arroz Negro)

Arroz Negro (Black Rice with Squid)
Those readers who’ve been following us for a while know (and, we hope, appreciate) that we frequently put our bodies and constitutions on the line for your benefit. Indeed, some of you may remember, that during our stay in Madrid last year, one of us, quite literally, pushed himself to breaking point in this endeavor. It was a valuable life-lesson that everyone has their limits – specifically, in this case, that one’s daily quota of pork products should not exceed the weight of one’s head.

And it was because of this humbling reminder of mortality that we were unable to visit a very tempting restaurant that lay just across Calle de Campomanes from our hotel (the curiously-titled Roommate Mario) in the Opera district of the city. Every day for a week, we walked (or, as our stay progressed, waddled) past this restaurant (it didn’t appear to have a name), re-reading and salivating at the names of dishes advertised on the sunshades overhanging the windows: paella marinera, paella bogavante, arroz al horno, paella valenciana, arroz atianda, and arroz negro.

At the time, we convinced ourselves that this was no big deal since we were in Madrid to eat Madrileño food, not rice dishes from the Levante (eastern Spain, around Valencia/Murcia, so-called because that’s where the sun rises), and certainly not in the chilly depths of winter when rib-sticking dishes like cocido madrileño and callos a la madrileño were the order of the day. Of course, we flagrantly disobeyed this rule on a couple of occasions (see our previous posts on Canarian papas arrugadas and Galician arroz marinero), and during our current lengthy bout of winter-induced, home-bound funk, we found ourselves, in our related regret-filled nostalgia, wishing that we’d made one more exception.

Arroz Negro (Black Rice with Squid)

So, to appease these feelings, what we were unable or unwilling to eat in Madrid, we decided to make ourselves right here in Brooklyn. A couple of sachets of cuttlefish ink, some D.O. Calasparra rice, and a little help from Penelope Casas’ The Foods and Wines of Spain resulted in a quite magnificent traditional Murcian arroz negro.

Do not be confused about it, the rice is, and should always be, the star of the dish. Do not be tempted to listen to the voices in your head telling you to add more seafood: this is not a black paella (though traditional Valencian paellas contain no seafood). Rice, in this case, is not just a starchy canvas on which the more tasty and colorful protein displays itself, as it is commonly thought of in the American and British mind. Use only the amount specified below, otherwise you risk distracting your tastebuds from the point that is the extraordinary manner in which the squid (or cuttlefish) ink, together with pimenton, saffron and a hint of garlic, delicately perfumes the rice. A crisp white wine (as called for in the recipe) or a dry rose would make a perfect match.

Our good friend Nuría of Spanish Recipes Pic by Pic made what is, by any measure, a superior arroz negro on her third attempt. Having been unable (at least for now) to find squid or cuttlefish complete with their ink sacs, we’re not optimistic that we’ll be able to mimic the wonderful inky blackness of Nuría’s dish, but next time we try, I think we’ll add an extra packet of dry ink to see if we can get closer to that beautiful color.
Arroz Negro Murciano (Murcian-style Black Rice) with Garlic Sauce
(adapted from Penelope Casas’ The Foods & Wines of Spain)

Arroz Negro (Black Rice with Squid)


For garlic sauce:

  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 325F (160Cish)
  2. Clean the squid, cutting bodies into rings and chopping up tentacles.
  3. In a wide 2-3inch deep casserole dish (preferably earthenware), or paella (pan), heat oil and saute onion and green pepper until both are wilted.
  4. Add squid rings and tentacles and saute for around five minutes before adding chorizo, garlic, tomato, parsley, salt, pepper, saffron, and pimentón. Cover and simmer gently for around 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, follow directions on packets for reconstituting the squid/cuttlefish ink, and pass black liquid through a sieve to remove impurities. Mix ink with wine.
  6. After 30 minutes, stir in rice and when well combined, add broth (boiling hot) and stir in ink/wine and toss in shrimp.
  7. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally until rice is no longer soupy, about 10 minutes. Decorate with pimento strips and put dish in oven and bake uncovered for around 15 minutes until all remaining liquid is absorbed.
  8. Remove from oven and cover tightly and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  9. While rice is resting, add garlic in a food processor or blender, and with motor running gradually pour in olive oil until well combined and golden.
  10. Place dish in the middle of the table and encourage diners to stake their claim. Serve garlic sauce on the side.

20 thoughts on “From the Depths of a Winter Funk: Black Rice (Arroz Negro)

  1. Not just pretty looking dish, but it sounds so delicious as well. Have I ever mentioned that I always attracted to vibrant and pretty looking thing/dish?

  2. I do love me some paella negra. It does remember of my time in spain. I stayed in the south (sevilla) and found my lover in madrid – barrio lavapies! Ah, the adventures of a once 20 year old dreamer – back when there was no recession.

    Haha. Anyways, we used to eat paella vegatarian style too (cheaper), which huge hunks of artichoke hearts. I learned to cook spanish food with my senora during study abroad and embraced the perserve over-use of vinegar.

    Lovely paella.

  3. I agree that your paella looks incredible, and looks like it took a lot of effort and preparation. My husband also pushed himself to the limits in Spain, except he consumed too much sangria (and not pork) and became ill!

  4. cuttlefish ink?! I have never seen packets of it but am now curious. I for one am very appreciative of your efforts at pushing yourself past the breaking point for our benefit. My favorite so far has been the vodka post. Way to take it for the team.

  5. The winter funk – with you on that – it hit the fan here in Rome, again, at this moment only arroz negro could make things better.
    This kind of post makes me proud of my cool and inspiring blog friends (do you both have jobs, when are you cooking up this stuff ?)
    love the bowl as much as its contents and the red peppers make it look quite beautiful.

  6. joie: look for it… maybe in your local gourmet/specialty shop? or an italian store? if all else fails, go mail order:

    rachel: of course we have jobs…we actually have annoying, stressful, new york city rat-race types of jobs (well, kind of). many of our meals that take more than 45 minutes to make are done on weekends (like this). But, to be honest, this meal didn’t actually take that much effort… it just looks like it did which is why it’s the perfect “wow your guests” meal. it’s all in the squid/cuttlefish ink! it just makes people think it’s a bigger deal than it is.

    **by the way, readers… we don’t own a paella pan or a large spanish earthenware to make this. we actually used the bottom of our tagine! it’s basically earthenware, so why not? it worked perfectly.

  7. I love Madrid! Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I have to say I also love WANF. Your arroz negro parece muy autentico!! I also wanted to share with you that I use Goya canned cuttlefish en su tinta. It’s a very good base for flavor and color to which you can add cleaned squid or other seafood.

  8. Joan – thank you for those kind words, but more importantly, thanks for the tip which we want to share with all our readers who wondered where they could get their hands on squid ink. We know from experience that Goya canned goods are high quality, and that the canned seafood from Spain generally (Goya is originally a Spanish company, with US hq in Paramus, NJ, but let’s not hold it against them) is frequently of superb quality, so why not use it?!

  9. I wouldn’t be able to put a mark in that pretty sunshine of piquillos, not even with a spoon. Too pretty.

    I always crave Spanish flavors this time of year. Must need the spice to kick out the last of the chilly weather.

  10. I just saw Spain on a couple of travel shows and have been so envious to go there as I’ve never been. It seems your dish can definitely help transport one to Madrid however. Beautiful dish!

  11. For me one of the best dishes of our gastronomy! Perfect interpretation guys!!!! Olé chicos :D. Black rice is one of my favourites… just had some this weekend.

  12. Haha, I was cleaning an octopus last week and was thinking about saving the ink for something like this (I’ve not have arros negre before)…but then the sac exploded all over my hands. Whoops…

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