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Whether celebrating Cinco de Mayo on Sunday or just planning a Spanish-themed meal, yellow rice is a must-serve. Arroz amarillo is available from numerous manufacturers, requiring little preparation. Our judges were curious to see if store-bought mixes could produce flavorful and fluffy rice to accompany chicken, paella or even fish tacos. We sampled seven brands and cooked all but one on the stovetop. The exception was a microwave-only rice brand.

Product/Score (out of 100) Hannaford 67 Vigo 56 Dixie Lily 47
Judges' comments Judges joked they might need sunglasses to shade their eyes from the bright yellow of these rice grains. "Avoid eating in bright sunlight," cautioned one judge, who described the color of the rice as neon. "It sure tastes great though." Panelists said they appreciated Sweetbay's store brand for its fluffy texture. "It's not overprocessed and you can actually taste the rice," said one. Another said he would like to cover the rice with black beans and onions. "What a beautiful side dish that would be," he added. Vigo's rice was more of a deep orange and yellow with bits of brown and green. "The flavor tastes like stewed green peppers," said one judge. "This would be really nice as a jambalaya base." Another detected a bit of cheese in the taste, saying he liked the color and the slight spicy flavor of the blend. These grains were very firm. "This would be really winning with some pinto or black beans on top," said one panelist. A couple said they thought the rice was a bit heavy on salt. "This tastes really yummy with lots of flavor and great gold color with green flecks," said one judge. "It definitely reminds me of Cinco de Mayo." Another taster liked the "little chunky chunks of green and red peppers" that he found in the mixture. These grains were paler than some of the others, but they packed enough flavor to make up for it. "It's moist with a bit of a chicken broth flavor," said another. "It's almost a buttered popcorn flavor that kids would love."
Would they buy? Four of the five judges said yes. Three of the five judges said yes. Two of the five judges said yes.
Shopping information 59 cents for a 5-ounce bag from Sweetbay. 67 cents for a 5-ounce bag from Publix. $1.08 for a 6.5-ounce bag from Walmart.

Serving size 1ò3 cup 1/3 cup 1ò4 cup
Calories 200 190 150
Fat/Fiber 1g / 1g 0g / 0.5g 0g / 1g
Sugars/Sodium 1g / 750mg 1g / 730mg 0g / 40mg
Carbs/Protein 43g / 4g 43g / 5g 34g / 3g

Also sampled: Minute Rice ($1.84 for a pack of two 4.4-ounce cups from Walmart, 46 points); Zatarain's ($1.25 for an 8-ounce box from Publix, 46 points); Mahatma (78 cents for a 5-ounce bag from Walmart, 43 points); and Publix (59 cents for a 5-ounce bag, 40 points).

Panelists: Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; Jeff Jensen, public information officer for the city of Treasure Island; John Hehn, foodie & owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc.; Wayne Conery, manager of the R-Bar on Treasure Island; and Laura Reiley, Times Food Critic. All foods were tasted blind.

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