The Happy Home Cook: Vegan Arroz a la Cubana

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Vegan Arroz a la Cubana (Photo by Astig Vegan)

Vegan Arroz a la Cubana (Photo by Astig Vegan)

If you’re looking for healthier meals this New Year without sacrificing flavor and ease of cooking, this recipe is for you. I’m ringing in 2018 with new recipes starting with a simple yet satisfying dish called “Arroz a la Cubana”. It’s a Filipino dish with a Spanish influence hence the name. It’s made of ground beef served with fried saba bananas and of course, steamed rice.  In this vegan version, we have made the process simpler and healthier, all thanks to guest chef and good friend, all the way from Manila, Marie Gonzales Black.

Marie runs a vegan business in Manila called “Kitchen Revolution”. She offers cooking classes, workshops, catering services, and speaking engagements. She’s one of the first prominent vegan chefs in Manila that has influenced both vegans and omnivores alike. Her classes teach all kinds of cuisines including Mediterranean, Thai, and Filipino, as well as specialties like cheese making, holiday baking, and many more.

Marie has become my good friend when she visited San Francisco. Later I invited her to be a guest on my YouTube cooking show. At the time, Chris and I were still using a min DV tape camera. The tape went out of sync and ruined some parts of the footage. Unfortunately, we cannot salvage the ruined footage and we cannot upload the episode. Marie had already flown back to Manila so it was too late to reshoot. Of all the footage to be ruined, it was the one that cannot be re-shot! That was about four years ago. Since then, Chris and I have promised ourselves we’ll redeem that episode. And the next time, it would be in the Philippines.

Lo and behold, Chris and I got an invitation to the Philippines for Vegfest Pilipinas last November. We seized the opportunity to be part of the festival as well as to shoot again with Marie. Good thing Marie was available to do it. In fact, Marie graciously welcomed us to shoot at her lovely home in Manila. The shoot went great. We had a lot of fun and we didn’t lose any footage (whew!)

Vegan Arroz a la Cubana with rice (Photo by Astig Vegan)

Vegan Arroz a la Cubana with rice (Photo by Astig Vegan)


For the braising liquid:

  • 2 tbsp achuete seeds

  • 1 cup water

  • 2 tbsp tomato paste

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce

For frying:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

  • 2 red onions, diced (1 cup)

  • 4 garlic cloves

  • 1 cup TVP (Bob’s Red Mill texturized vegetable protein)

  • ⅓ to ½ cup raisins

  • ½ tsp black pepper or to taste

  • Salt or soy sauce as needed

For the bananas:

  • 3 to 6 pcs saba banana, halved lengthwise or sliced diagonally ½ to 1 inch wide

  • Vegetable oil as needed

To serve:

  • Pickle relish (optional)

  • Cooked rice


To make the achuete braising liquid:

  1. Soak the seeds: Place the seeds and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Bash the seeds against the side of the saucepan with a spoon to release some of the color. Let cool slightly, 5 to 10 minutes.

  2. Alternatively, boil the water in a kettle and pour over the seeds in a bowl. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Bash the seeds against the side of the saucepan with a spoon to release some of the color. Let cool slightly, 5 to 10 minutes.

  3. Strain out the seeds into a bowl and rub the seeds with your finger. Transfer the seeds back into the water and give it a mix. Strain and discard the seeds, reserving the liquid.

  4. Mix the achuete liquid with tomato paste and soy sauce. Set aside.

To cook:

  1. Warm the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook the onions with a pinch of pepper until

  2. softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

  3. Stir in the braising liquid and the TVP. Let cook until the TVP has fully absorbed the water.

  4. Add the raisins and adjust for soy sauce or salt and pepper accordingly.

To cook the bananas:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F / 200 C / gas mark 6.

  2. Brush the bananas with oil (or toss with oil in a bowl) and place on a non-stick baking paper lined

  3. baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.

  4. Alternatively fry the bananas in a thin layer of oil in a frying pan until golden brown on both sides.

To watch the video recipe, please see the video below:


Traditionally, “Arroz a la Cubana” uses fried saba bananas. You can definitely fry in oil but Marie prefers to roast in the oven with only little oil as a healthier option. Another healthier option is to have this dish with brown instead of white rice. You can also use quinoa, barley, or your preferred complex carbs. The meat version includes fried eggs but you notice that we didn’t include that here, which is not only healthier but also less work.

But if you do want to add more to your Arroz a la Cubana, feel free to veganize fried eggs and make tofu scramble You can also add more ingredients to the ground “meat” by adding potatoes, carrots, and peas. And just like Marie’s personal touch of pickle relish, you can also incorporate an “odd ball” ingredient that is both savory and sweet. In other words, feel free to have fun with it!

Many thanks to Marie for accommodating me once again. I had fun working with her and hopefully this won’t be the last time. She has a treasure trove of vegan recipes and I highly suggest taking her classes if you’re in Manila. But if you’re not, feel free to try the Arroz a la Cubana , which is her childhood favorite that hopefully will be yours too this. I for one am looking forward to making it again, complete with her special recommendation, pickle relish!

Kain na, let’s eat!

Richgail Enriquez

Richgail Enriquez

RG Enriquez at discovers ways to show that Filipino food can be vegan, healthy, and delicious without losing its soul. Born and raised in the Philippines, RG veganizes the Filipino food of her childhood. She has appeared on the television show, "Adobo Nation" and given demonstrations and talks at "Savor Filipino", "Taste of South Lake”, “Barrio Fiesta”, Pitzer College, and Cal-State East Bay.

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