Mexican Rice

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Learn the secret to making restaurant-style Mexican Rice at home. It’s always perfect: tender, delicious, never sticky. Whether you are making dinner for the family or feeding 100, this recipe works every time and it tastes exactly the way you want it to! 

Mexican rice in a white serving dish.


 

Mexican Rice is one of my freezer staples. I love to keep small (6×6, sandwich-sized bags) of Mexican rice in the freezer for quick side dishes any time of day. Whether we’re having Chipotle Chicken, Shrimp Fajitas, Carne Asada, or Scrambled Eggs with cheese and salsa, Mexican Rice works.

The trick is to cool it down quickly so you can pack it and freeze it without disrupting your schedule. To cool the rice quickly, spread it on a rimmed baking sheet in a thin layer. The metal from the baking sheet and the exposure to the air cool the rice fast, and then you can pack it in bags or whatever freezer-safe container you want.

If you are planning ahead, thaw a bag overnight in the refrigerator the night before. If not, you can defrost the rice for a minute or two, then transfer to a microwave-safe bowl, add a splash of water, and cover with plastic wrap or a damp paper towel. Microwave until heated through.

Make a big batch and save it for later. You’ll be so glad you did, and you’ll LOVE how delicious this red rice is!

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for Mexican rice.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Tomatoes and onions: So many readers love using their favorite salsa instead of the tomato/onion mixture. You can even use canned tomatoes, Rotel, or a couple cans of El Pato tomato sauce, a zesty tomato and chili purée found at Mexican grocery stores. As long as you have two cups of liquid, you’re good to go.
  • Rice: Any long-grain white rice (including Basmati and Jasmine) work well here. To substitute brown rice, add 10 minutes to the baking time.
  • Tomato paste: If you don’t want to open a small can of tomato paste, look for a tube at the grocery store. In Mexico cooks use one cube of Consomate brand tomato bouillon instead of tomato paste.
  • Cilantro: Or substitute parsley. In truth, no one in Mexico ever does this (but let’s be honest: they would never make rice in the oven, either).

Step-by-step instructions

This method starts the rice on the stove, but finishes it off in the oven. You need a heavy Dutch oven or stock pot with a lid that’s oven safe.

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor or blender, puree the tomatoes and onions until smooth. Measure 2 cups of puree, pouring off and discarding any excess.
Tomatoes, onions, and garlic pureed in a blender for Mexican rice.
  1. In a large Dutch oven or a 3-quart saucepan, heat oil until shimmering. Add the rice and sauté, stirring frequently, until light golden in color, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Sauteing rice in oil for Mexican rice.
  1. Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomato mixture, broth or water, tomato paste, and salt to taste (I like 1 ½ teaspoons). Bring to a boil.
Cooking Mexican rice in a skillet.
  1. Cover (or transfer to a baking dish and cover) and bake until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Stir halfway through baking time.
Mexican rice transferred to a baking dish to cook.
  1. Fluff rice with a fork. Fold in cilantro or parsley (if using) and season to taste with salt. Serve with lime wedges.
Mexican rice in a white serving dish.

Why I love my rice cooker

I find that rice cookers help make the fluffiest rice and when we rounded up the best rice cookers, our top pick was my personal favorite: The Aroma Housewares Rice Cooker. It’s compact, super simple, and does exactly what it’s supposed to do without fail. My sisters, Erin and Meredith, each have the same one, and we all love it. Not to mention, it has over 61,000 positive reviews. That’s a whole lot of rice!

You can buy my favorite rice cooker for $42 at Target, or you can get the smaller 4-cup version for about $30 on Amazon.

A photo of a rice cooker.

You can check out the rice cooker variation for Mexican Rice below. Also, Rice cookers can cook polenta beautifully without stirring it for a million hours. It’s not just a one-job appliance, so I hope you find many uses for one of my favorite cooking gadgets.

Recipe tips and substitutions

  • Yield: This Mexican Rice recipe makes about 6 cups rice, enough for 12 (1/2-cup) servings.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Freezer: Spread the cooked rice out on a rimmed baking sheet to cool it quickly. Then, scoop it into freezer-safe plastic bags. Then, when you need a quick side dish, just pull a bag of rice out of the freezer, defrost, and reheat. It works like a dream!
  • Jalapeños: If you want, stir in 1-2 minced jalapeños with the fresh garlic. They don’t do this in Mexico, but it tastes great.
  • Peas and carrots: Sometimes in Mexico, they add ¼ cup frozen peas and carrots midway through cooking. You can use storebought or homemade peas and carrots.
  • Stove-top: You can also make Mexican rice on the stove (that’s what they do in Mexico). After the rice comes to a boil, reduce the heat to the lowest possible temperature on your stove, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes.
  • Rice cooker: Follow the steps in the recipe below exactly as written through Step 4. Once you bring the rice to a boil, transfer it to your rice cooker (coated with nonstick spray). Close and seal the rice cooker and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For white rice, it took 33 minutes in mine (nearly the same as the oven) and there was no stirring needed. For brown rice, it takes about 50 to 55 minutes. Find my best Rice Cooker picks here.
  • Big batch rice: For enough Mexican Rice to feed 25 people, use an 8-quart stock pot, triple the ingredients, and add 10 minutes to the baking time (40 minutes total).
  • Baked white rice: If you love cooking rice in the oven as much as I do, check out my Baked Rice recipe which is even easier than this one. I make batches just to keep in the freezer. It’s great for quick fried rice or side dishes any night of the week.
  • Cinco de Mayo: Planning your own Fiesta? Discover my full menu of Cinco de Mayo recipes including Chicken Fajitas, Carne Asada, Birria, Tacos al Pastor, Chicken Tinga, Strawberry Margaritas, or Copycat Chipotle Burrito Bowls.
Mexican rice in a white bowl.

Recipe FAQs

Can I make Mexican Rice without oil?

To omit the oil completely, follow the recipe as written, making this change for Step 3: Instead of heating oil in a pot, toast the dry rice (un-rinsed) on high, stirring CONSTANTLY, until about half the rice is lightly browned. Keep your eye on it; you need to keep it moving so it doesn’t scorch. Continue the recipe as written, stirring in the garlic. The rice will bake up perfectly, separated and fluffy, as if you had used oil.

How do you make vegan Mexican rice?

Follow the recipe as directed, swapping the chicken broth for water or vegetable broth.

More authentic Mexican recipes

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Mexican Rice in a white casserole dish.

Mexican Rice

Learn the secret to making restaurant-style Mexican Rice at home. And it's always perfect: Tender, delicious, never sticky.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 12 servings (1/2-cup each)
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Calories 174
4.93 from 168 votes

Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a food processor or blender, puree the tomatoes and onions until smooth. Measure 2 cups of puree, pouring off and discarding any excess.
  • In a large Dutch oven or a 3-quart saucepan, heat oil until shimmering. Add the rice and sauté, stirring frequently, until light golden in color, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomato mixture, broth or water, tomato paste, and salt to taste (I like 1 ½ teaspoons). Bring to a boil.
  • Cover (or transfer to a baking dish and cover) and bake until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Stir halfway through baking time.
  • Fluff rice with a fork. Fold in cilantro or parsley (if using) and season to taste with salt. Serve with lime wedges.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Tomatoes and onions: So many readers love using their favorite salsa instead of the tomato/onion mixture. You can even use canned tomatoes, Rotel, or a couple cans of El Pato tomato sauce, a zesty tomato and chili purée found at Mexican grocery stores. As long as you have two cups of liquid, you’re good to go.
  2. Rice: Any long-grain white rice (including Basmati and Jasmine) work well here. To substitute brown rice, add 10 minutes to the baking time.
  3. Tomato paste: If you don’t want to open a small can of tomato paste, look for a tube at the grocery store. In Mexico cooks use one cube of Consomate brand tomato bouillon instead of tomato paste.
  4. Cilantro: Or substitute parsley. In truth, no one in Mexico ever does this (but let’s be honest: they would never make rice in the oven, either).
  5. Yield: This Mexican Rice recipe makes about 6 cups rice, enough for 12 (1/2-cup) servings.
  6. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  7. Freezer: Spread the cooked rice out on a rimmed baking sheet to cool it quickly. Then, scoop it into freezer-safe plastic bags. Then, when you need a quick side dish, just pull a bag of rice out of the freezer, defrost, and reheat. It works like a dream!

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cupCalories: 174kcalCarbohydrates: 26gProtein: 3gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gSodium: 156mgPotassium: 98mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 21IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 15mgIron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @culinaryhill on Instagram so we can admire your masterpiece! #culinaryhill
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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Comments

  1. The rice tasted quite yummy but I could not get it done no matter what I did…still crunchy. I used brown rice, noting the extra cooking time, and salsa for the tomatoes. I eventually increased the bake time by at least 30 minutes…still not done. Toward the end I took it out of the oven and tried to microwave it…still not done. I finally served it with apologies. Any ideas about what may have gone wrong?

    1. Hi Sherrie, I’m so sorry the rice didn’t cook properly. I’m sorry for the stress and inconvenience of it all. Long brown rice should cook in about 40 to 50 minutes, so you were right on adding the extra time. I wonder if either the oven was running a little cold, or the rice was on the older side, which could cause this to happen. When rice ages, it takes longer to cook. I would also look at the directions on the package of the rice to verify if the cooking time for this recipe is good for the type of brown rice you used. I’m so sorry again. – Meggan

  2. I ended up having to add almost an extra cup of water, but otherwise this recipe is fantastic. I made it in the rice cooker, and used Tajin instead of salt. It’s SO good!5 stars

    1. Hi Desiree, thank you so much for commenting! What a great substitution! Thank you for the suggestion! – Meggan

  3. Hands down, BEST RICE RECIPE EVER! Consistent and never fails. No need for any substitutes because this recipe is PERFECT! Make this! You won’t regret it!5 stars

    1. I’m so delighted you loved it, C. Bennett! Thank you for taking the time to write. Take care! – Meggan

  4. I use this recipe as my go to, every time. Fun thing is to try it with all different peppers and chiles! I’ve roasted poblanos, Anaheims, etc. Just blend them with the onions as you do the tomatoes in the recipe, as long as you’ve got 4 cups of liquid you’re good! Trying it with Hatch green chiles right this minute.
    Absolutely versatile and almost fool proof!5 stars

    1. Hi Brittney, thank you so much for your comment! I love that you’ve tried it so many ways! I bet it will be delicious with Hatch chilies. Thank you again and take care! – Meggan

  5. Hi, the recipe says 2 4 tomatoes and I’m unsure how many tomatoes should actually be included. I know I want to end up at two cups of liquid but I don’t want to keep adding until I get to the right amount. I’m hoping to be close the first time! Could you please clarify?

    Thank you!

    1. For the 2 cups liquid I’ve found 4-5 Roma tomatoes yield the proper amount, sometimes a bit more but as recipe said you just discard or you could always find another use for the extra liquid. This is really such a great recipe that I make often, even doubled recipe for parties.5 stars

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