Have you ever wondered how to make Mexican Rice? So good and so easy, learn how to make it right from home using a handful of simple ingredients including white rice, tomato sauce, and onion, and enjoy with all your favorite Mexican dishes like these ground beef tacos, refried beans, or cheesy enchiladas.
The Best Mexican Rice Recipe
Mexican rice has always been one of my favorite things to order from tex-mex restaurants. Tender grains of perfectly cooked rice in a fragrant mix of flavorful tomato, garlic, cumin, and chili powder. I mean, what’s not to love?
This is my version of the very best Mexican rice. If you’re thinking, but I’ve never seen ANY Mexican rice with carrots or peas, then all I have to say is that you are missing out. The natural sweetness from the veggies brings out the yummy savory flavors from the tomatoes, garlic, and cumin. Making this already amazing side dish, even better. Of course, if they’re not your thing, skip them. Optional are awesome.
Is this the same as Spanish rice?
A lot of people consider Mexican rice to be the same as Spanish rice. Although they are very similar, I have found that there are two primary differences:
- Mexican rice is reddish-orange while Spanish rice is usually yellow
- Spanish rice contains saffron while Mexican rice contains cumin and (often) chili powder)
Regardless, Mexican rice (and Spanish rice) is absolutely delicious and super easy to make right at home. Let’s make some!
Ingredients in Homemade Mexican Rice
- Long-grain rice
- Oil (olive oil or canola oil)
- Cumin + Chili Powder
- Fresh tomato
- Tomato sauce
- (Caldo de Tomate) Tomato bouillon cubes
- Water (substitute with vegetable broth, chicken broth, or chicken stock)
The ingredients are pretty simple, but here are a few frequently asked questions that you may find helpful.
What type of rice is best for Mexican rice?
There are thousands of different kinds of rice. For this recipe, grain length does make a difference. Pick long-grain rice – standard long-grain rice, basmati rice, or jasmine rice will all work.
Can I make this recipe with brown rice?
As written, this recipe is intended for long-grain white rice. If you plan to make this using long-grain brown rice, add an additional 1/2 cup of water for a total of 2.5 cups of water.
- RELATED: Instant Pot Brown Rice Recipe
Do I have to add a fresh tomato?
Nope. Simply double the total amount of tomato sauce for a total of 1/2 cup.
What is Caldo de Tomate? Do I need it?
Caldo de Tomate, or tomato bouillon, is just like chicken bouillon, but with a more tomatoey taste. If you can’t find any tomato bouillon, or you’d rather not use it altogether, I recommend one of the following substitutions,
- Replace with chicken bouillon cubes
- Use chicken broth or chicken stock in place of the water
Is this considered traditional Mexican rice?
Honestly, it probably depends on who you ask or where you visit. I know it has several of the key ingredients needed to make authentic Mexican-style rice dish and I know that it tastes delicious, so that’s all that really matters.
How to Make Mexican Rice
Whenever I make this super easy recipe, I like to use my stainless steel sauté pan rather than a standard saucepot (not that there’s anything wrong with the latter). The sauté pan allows more space for toasting the rice and cooking the onions before simmering the rice.
1. Unless you are using enriched white rice, you really need/want to wash your rice. The reason for washing? To clean it, of course! But also to remove any surface starch which results in clumpy, gummy cooked rice if it’s left on. Wash until the water runs (nearly) clear. Drain thoroughly.
2. Add two tablespoons of vegetable oil to a medium sauté pan set over medium-high heat. Add your thoroughly drained rice to the pan and cook until just starting to turn golden brown – stir continuously as rice tends to stick when it first starts cooking. After approximately 3-4 minutes, remove the rice to a clean bowl and set aside.
3. In the same sauté pan heat oil and set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, mixing well to coat in oil. Cook, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes, or until the onions start to soften. Season with salt, cumin, and chili powder, mix well to combine. Add the garlic and diced carrot. Continue to cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring often.
- I only added a small amount of cumin and chili powder as I didn’t want either of these spices to overwhelm the dish. If you are familiar with these spices and would like a bit more flavor from each, increase to add 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon chili powder rather than half.
4. When the carrots start to soften, return the rice back to the pan. Season with salt and add the chopped tomato, tomato sauce, tomato bouillon cubes, peas, and water. Mix thoroughly to combine and bring just to a boil.
5. Immediately cover, reduce heat to low, and continue to cook until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed – approximately 18 minutes.
6. Remove from heat and gently fluff with a fork. Cover again and allow your rice to steam for approximately 10 minutes before serving. Serve garnished with fresh jalapeno slices or cotija cheese, if desired.
Mexican Rice: Serving, Reheating, Freezing
There are so many amazing ways to enjoy this delicious recipe. The most obvious place to start is to enjoy a big bowl with all your favorite Mexican food recipes. From burritos to tacos, veggie-filled enchiladas and fajitas to this comforting shrimp stew. Or, keep things super simple and simmer a can of black beans on the stovetop until warm and serve in a shallow bowl with a scoop of Mexican rice, guacamole, and fresh salsa.
Or try these other yummy sides,
To store leftovers, allow your rice to cool completely before transferring to a container with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate for up to 4-5 days and enjoy this perfect side dish over and over again.
To reheat, simply transfer the desired amount of rice to a microwave-safe dish covered with a damp paper towel. Microwave until heated through.
To freeze leftover Mexican rice, allow your rice to cool completely. Transfer desired serving amounts (I usually do 2-3 cup portions) to medium-sized freezer bags. Label with the date and contents and freeze for up to 4 months.
To reheat, thaw your rice in the refrigerator overnight, or cook from frozen. Transfer frozen rice to a microwave-safe bowl or container and cover with a damp paper towel. Cook until warmed through, stirring every 1 minute.
More Mexican Recipes,
If you try making this Easy Mexican Rice Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
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Mexican Rice Recipe
- 1.5 cups long-grain white rice
- 3 tbsp olive oil (divided)
- 1 medium onion (diced)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp chili powder ((non-spicy like ancho chili powder))
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 large carrot (diced (or 1 cup frozen carrots))
- 1 large tomato (chopped)
- 1/4 cup tomato sauce
- 2 tomato bouillon cubes (chopped (see notes))
- 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen (optional))
- 2 cups water
- Transfer the uncooked rice to a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Tap the sides of the strainer against the side of the sink a couple of times before setting aside to drain.
- Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add the rice and sauté, stirring often, until golden and lightly toasted (approximately 5 minutes). Remove the rice from the pan and set aside in a clean bowl.
- Return the saucepan to medium heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and diced onion. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes, or until starting to soften. Season with salt, cumin, and chili powder, mix well to combine. Add the garlic and diced carrot. Continue to cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring often.
- Return the toasted rice back to the pan. Add the salt, chopped tomato, tomato sauce, tomato bouillon cubes, peas, and water. Mix well to combine and bring to a boil. Once boiling, immediately cover and reduce heat to low. Continue to cook until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, approximately 18 minutes.
- Remove from heat and gently fluff with a fork. Cover again and allow your rice to rest for approximately 10 minutes before seasoning with additional salt and black pepper, to taste.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)