This Is The Difference Between Arroz Caldo And Lugaw

It goes beyond how it looks like.

It can be confusing. Both lugaw and arroz caldo are basically rice porridge. 

In the Philippines, lugaw is sometimes used as the general term for all things considered as a savory rice porridge dish, but in reality, there are many variations to this rice gruel. In China, congee is the term used for this simple rice dish and their influence probably inspired the adaptation of the local lugaw. However, lugaw is a simpler dish with no mix-ins, and it’s the toppings that make it different every time. Goto, meanwhile, is technically the beef version of the lugaw that uses the innards of the steer, mainly the stomach tripe, as its meaty component.  

Both arroz caldo and lugaw are made with chicken and malagkit rice, so how are lugaw and arroz caldo diferent from each other? 

Photo by Riell Santos

1 Lugaw is the basic recipe.  

Lugaw is the simpler recipe of the two dishes. At its most basic, the lugaw’s main ingredients are just malagkit rice and chicken stock. It’s seasoned with salt or sometimes, patis or fish sauce, and can be topped with your choice of toppings, just like congee. The most popular and common way of topping lugaw is usually with toasted garlic bits, chopped green onions, and a hard-boiled egg. The toppings can be as simple as this or as varied and diverse as a congee spread. 


What can make this different from other lugaw recipes is how the chicken stock is flavored. The chicken stock can be simmered with sautéed onion, garlic, and ginger first to remove any lansa from the chicken or it can be as basic as chicken bones boiled in water. Any chicken meat shredded from these can either be used as a topping or can be used in another recipe. 

2 Arroz caldo is made with whole chicken pieces.   

If you know how to make lugaw, you can make arroz caldo with a few tweaks. At a glance, it’s common to see whole chicken pieces in arroz caldo. That’s because the chicken stock that the rice simmers in is made from scratch. The arroz caldo is made with a purpose while lugaw can be the derivative of another recipe that would normally not have any use for the stock. Chicken liver can even be added to the stock to add another level of flavor. These chicken pieces are served with the arroz caldo, making it a one-bowl meal that’s both meaty and hearty at the same time. 

Sometimes, a hard- or even soft-boiled egg that tops lugaw is also added to make it even more filling and appetizing. 

Photo by Majoy Siason-Bascos

3 Arroz caldo is usually tinted yellow.  

Another way that arroz caldo is instantly recognized at a glance is the yellow tinge of the porridge itself. Since arroz caldo is believed to be the congee influenced by the Spaniards, the Spanish paella was the muse. Tinting the rice porridge yellow made it more appetizing. This is usually done with saffron, a Spanish ingredient and also, the most expensive spice in the world. There is a substitute that does the job just as well without the high cost: kasubha.


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Also known as the safflower, the dried flowers are a natural dye and are used in many recipes that call for saffron such as those dishes that have a Spanish influence. It’s also common to see lugaw being sold in restaurants, karinderias, and other food places tinted yellow as well to make the naturally white rice porridge more appetizing to customers.  

Photo by Toto Labrador

4 Toppings are added to lugaw.  

Arroz caldo doesn’t need toppings since the chicken pieces already make it quite hearty but it can be added, too. Lugaw on the other hand is more appetizing when it does have toppings since it is, in essence, softened rice in chicken stock. This is why lugaw has more in common with congee than with arroz caldo


Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!


Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on by submitting your recipe here! 

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