This easy Mexican rice is full of authentic restaurant quality taste and ready in just over 30 minutes. It’s a simple recipe that is the perfect side dish for taco Tuesday or to serve with any of your favorite Mexican meals!
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Authentic Restaurant-Style Mexican Rice
I’m a huge lover of Mexican food and could literally eat it every day. There are so many delicious Mexican side dish recipes, but this rice is definitely one of my favorites. It’s so easy and tastes super authentic. I also love refried beans, Mexican street corn and cilantro lime rice.
One of my favorite side dishes to make is this easy Mexican rice recipe (also known as Spanish rice or arroz rojo). I love to include it in my burrito bowls, chicken fajita bowls or to serve with carne asada.
Whenever I eat out at a Mexican restaurant, I always have to order a plate to go along with my chicken tacos or beef enchiladas. Now though, I make this flavorful dish in the comfort of my own home in just over 30 minutes. I love to top it with some fresh cilantro, however feel free to add a sprinkle of fresh lime juice or some minced jalapenos for some additional heat.
Mexican Rice vs. Spanish Rice
Spanish rice and Mexican rice are often interchanged and are basically the same dish. Both have similar base ingredients, like rice, tomatoes (or tomato sauce), chicken bouillon or broth. Depending on who makes it, the only small difference may be that Spanish rice is made with saffron instead of cumin. If it’s made with saffron, it will have more of a yellow tint versus an orange or red color.
- Chicken broth: You can use water, but your rice will be less flavorful. I like to dissolve 2 chicken bouillon cubes in the water.
- Oil: I use canola or olive oil, but any oil with a high smoke point will work.
- Long grain white rice: Long-grain rice is preferred, feel free to use jasmine rice, too. Do not use short grain rice as it contains to much starch. See FAQs if you prefer to use brown rice.
- Garlic and onion: Both impart big flavor.
- Tomato sauce: You can also use a 14.5-ounce can of petite diced or crushed tomatoes in place of tomato sauce. If adding a whole can of diced tomatoes, remove 1/2 cup of broth.
- Cumin: Imparts that signature Mexican flavor.
- Salt: To enhance the overall flavor of all the other ingredients.
White rice on it’s own is neutral in flavor and bland, so adding spices to it gives it flavor.
- Restaurant-style rice: Follow this recipe and add chili powder in addition to the other ingredients if desired. If you like more spice, add diced jalapeno.
- Rice pilaf: My rice pilaf recipe simply uses garlic, onion and broth. You can also add in additional veggies like diced carrots or peas.
- Spanish rice: Saffron is key spice used in this rice.
How to Make Mexican Rice
This recipe is made in just one pot in just over 30 minutes. It’s full of flavor and easy to customize.
- Toast the rice in oil. Add oil to large skillet over medium heat. Mix in rice and cook until golden, about 10 minutes. Push to one side of skillet, then add onions and cook 2-3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 more minute until fragrant. Combine onions and rice.
- Bring to a boil. Add broth, tomato sauce, salt and cumin. Stir and bring to a boil.
- Let simmer. Once boiling, cover with lid and simmer for 25-35 minutes, until rice is cooked through and has absorbed liquid.
- Serve and enjoy. Remove from heat and mix in fresh cilantro if desired. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!
- Rinsing rice: Usually recipes will have you rinse your rice. Since we are toasting the rice, there is no need to rinse it as it’s hard to toast wet rice. If you decide to rinse it, you will need to allow the water to drain off before toasting it. You may also need to reduce the broth amount slightly.
- Do not lift the lid: It can be tempting to check on your rice, but rice needs steam to cook and as it steams the grains absorb the liquid which makes them fluffy. Lifting the lid will allow steam to escape.
- Crunchy rice. If your rice is crunchy, make not to cook it longer next time. You can also cook it a bit longer. I find that mine is ready at 25 minutes, but yours may take up to 35 minutes.
- Fluff with a fork: After it is done cooking, I like to let it rest for 2-3 minutes then fluff it with a fork. Don’t stir it. Fluffing the rice helps separate the grains while stirring will lead to clumpy, mushy rice.
- Add cilantro before serving: Don’t cook the cilantro with the rice it will get brown and wilted. Adding it at the end adds a vibrant, fresh spot of color. You can also add a chopped Roma tomato for the same effect.
Favorite Recipes to Pair with Mexican Rice
There are so many ways to serve this rice! You can enjoy it as a side with your favorite Mexican dish, or use it as a component when making a meal. Below are a few ideas.
- Serve as a side dish alongside enchiladas, taco lasagna or carnitas.
- Add it as a topping for tacos (my favorites are chicken tinga tacos and chicken fajitas).
- Use when making burritos or taco bowls.
- Top a Mexican salad or fajita salad with it.
- Serve it mixed in with ground taco meat (or shredded chicken) and beans.
- Serve with or use it in this sheet pan quesadilla recipe.
Mexican rice is also referred to as “arroz rojo,” which means “red rice.” The main reason that it gets a red/orange color is from the diced tomatoes although some swear by tomato bouillon cubes if you can find them. The tomatoes, along with the tomato juice, are added to the skillet and simmer with the rice for about 20 to 25 minutes. The color is really infused during this cooking time. The chicken bouillon cubes and cumin also add to the vibrant orange tone.
I love this rice as-is, but many like to add additional veggies. Some popular additions include corn, carrots, green beans, bell pepper or peas.
While an authentic Mexican rice recipe uses long grain white rice, brown rice could be used but you will need to add 1/3 cup additional water and add about 10-20 minutes more cook time.
Do not skip the toasting step and let your rice steam without lifting the lid. When it is done cooking, don’t stir your rice! Use a fork to fluff it which will separate the grains.
Refrigerate: Store rice in an airtight container in the fridge up to five days. Reheat in the microwave or in a pan on the stovetop. You may need to add a splash of water or broth to rehydrate.
Freeze: Freeze in a freezer-friendly bag in the freezer up to 6 months. Thaw before using or use straight from freezer by microwaving on high stirring every few minutes until it is thawed and ready to eat.
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Mexican Rice Recipe
- 2-3 Tablespoons oil , I use canola or olive oil
- 1 ½ cups long grain white rice
- ½ cup onion , finely diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic , minced
- 3 cups chicken broth , or water (see notes)
- ¾ cup tomato sauce
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin (or taco seasoning) , plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt , plus more to taste
Optional: Chopped cilantro
- In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly to avoid burning, 5 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
- Push rice to one side of the skillet. Add diced onions and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Stir rice into onion mixture.
- Stir in broth, tomato sauce, cumin, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover.
- Simmer 25 to 35 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed the liquid and the rice is cooked through.
- Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Stir in fresh cilantro, if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy with your favorite Mexican dish!
- Tomatoes: Try using a (14.5-ounce) can of petite diced or crushed tomatoes in place of tomato sauce. If adding a whole can, remove 1/2 cup of broth/water.
- Veggies: Try vegetables such as carrots, green beans, bell pepper and/or peas.
- Spice: If you like more spice, add in some chili powder, minced jalapenos or more ground cumin.
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
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