Mexican Rice Recipe (Arroz Rojo)

Learn the secret to making Mexican Rice at home that tastes even better than a restaurant! And 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! Great with brown rice too!

Mexican Rice is great on the side of Carne Asada, enchiladas, fajitas, or tacos. Or, eat it straight up with beans and guacamole. If you like to meal prep, make Mexican Rice with brown rice and ENJOY the food you prepped!

Learn the secret to making Mexican Rice at home that tastes even better than a restaurant! And 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! Great with brown rice too!

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Need to make Mexican Rice for a fiesta? Click and slide the number next to ‘servings’ on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re quenching—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.

What is Mexican Rice made of?

  • Rice. I use long-grain white rice, but you can substitute brown rice (you'll need to adjust your cook time).
  • Tomatoes. Look for juicy romas or vine-ripened tomatoes.
  • Onions and garlic.
  • Chicken broth. Or water to keep things vegan.
  • Tomato paste. In Mexico, instead of tomato paste, they use one cube of Consomate tomato bouillon (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through this link). It's nice if you don't keep a tube of tomato paste in your refrigerator and don't want to open a can for just a tablespoon.
  • Cilantro or parsley (optional). For garnish. This tastes great, but no one in Mexico ever does this (but let's be honest - they would never make rice in the oven, either). Sometimes they add 1/4 cup frozen peas and carrots, though. You can add that halfway through baking time if you want (just stir it in to the rice).

Learn the secret to making Mexican Rice at home that tastes even better than a restaurant! And 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! Great with brown rice too!

How do you make the Best Mexican Rice?

I learned this method from Cook's Illustrated, but it's also exactly how to they make Arroz Rojo in Mexico.

  1. Start by processing fresh tomatoes with onions to create a puree. It's a simple yet effective way to infuse every grain of rice with flavor.  (Here's my favorite food processor. Culinary Hill might make money if you buy through this link.)
    A side-by-side photo of two process shots from above the food processor. The photo on the left shows the processor filled with quartered roma tomatoes and quartered white onion, and the photo on the right shows after they have been processed together, producing a red sauce.
  2. Next, sauté the rice in vegetable oil until it is toasted and golden. Stir in the garlic, then stir in your tomato mixture into the rice along with some chicken broth and tomato paste. Bring to a boil.
    A rectangle side-by-side photo of an All-Clad saucepan from above. The photo on the left is of the white rice grains in the saucepan, and the photo on the right shows the rice with the tomato-onion mixture added.
  3. Bake the rice in the oven for just 30 minutes, stirring halfway through, then fluff with a fork.

What is the proper ratio of rice to liquid?

For every one 1 cup of rice, use 1 3/4 cups liquid of choice and 1/2 teaspoon salt (or less salt to taste).

Can I make Mexican Rice without oil?

Yes, you can omit the oil entirely in this recipe if you want to.

Follow the recipe as written, making this change for Step 3: Instead of heating oil in a pot, toast the dry rice (unrinsed) on high, stirring CONSTANTLY, until about half the rice is lightly browned.

You need to keep it moving so it doesn't scorch. Continue the recipe as written, stirring in the garlic and jalapeños. The rice will bake up perfectly, separated and fluffy, as if you had used oil.

Can I use brown rice?

Yes, brown rice is a great substitute for white rice and packs a bigger nutritional punch.  Just take into account brown rice takes longer to cook, usually 35-40 minutes, so adding 10 minutes to the cooking time will ensure the brown rice is cooked all the way through.

If you cook Mexican rice with brown rice in a rice cooker, just select the "brown rice" button. It usually takes 50 to 55 minutes to cook.

How do you reheat the rice?

Add a drizzle of water to the Mexican rice dish and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake in a 300 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until the rice is heated through.

For individual portions, simply spoon the rice into a microwave safe bowl, add a splash of water, cover with a damp paper towel, and heat in the microwave in 1 minute increments until heated through.

Mexican Rice in a Rice Cooker

At the request of a lovely reader who commented below, I tried making this Mexican Rice recipe in a rice cooker. It worked perfectly! Follow the steps in the recipe below exactly as written through Step 4.

After bringing the rice to a boil, just transfer it to your rice cooker (coated with nonstick spray). Close the rice cooker and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions. It took 33 minutes in mine (nearly the same as the oven) and there was no stirring involved.

Need a rice cooker? This one is great. I have it, two of my sisters have it, and we all love it!

Restaurant Style Mexican Rice - a photo of rice in a white rice cooker with a green spatula in the pot on a light background - click photo for full written recipe

I also tried making Mexican Rice with basmati rice (as pictured above). That, too, was a resounding success with both the original (oven-baked) method and the rice cooker method.

Make Mexican Rice For a Crowd

Thanks to reader Andy for his question on scaling up this recipe! If you'd like to feed 25 adults Mexican Rice as a side dish, you just need to triple the ingredients below and add 10 minutes to the baking time (40 minutes total). Oh, and you'll need an 8-quart stock pot.

I know I said to triple all the ingredients, but my blender could only accommodate 11 roma tomatoes and 2 large onions. With that, I had exactly 6 cups of the tomato-onion mixture. It just depends on the size of your veggies.

4.99 from 70 votes

Mexican Rice Recipe (Arroz Rojo)

Learn the secret to making Mexican Rice at home that tastes even better than a restaurant! And 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! Great with brown rice too!
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword rice, tomatoes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 286kcal
  • 2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes or 4 Roma tomatoes cored and quartered
  • 1 onion peeled and quartered
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth or water
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste or one cube Consomate tomato bouillon
  • Salt
  • minced fresh cilantro or parsley, for garnish (optional)
  • Lime wedges for serving
  • 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 1/2 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 Notes

Notes:
  1. Long-grain white rice is the traditional choice for this recipe, but I've also tested it with basmati and it works perfectly.
  2. To make this recipe vegetarian, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.
  3. If toasting the rice in a 3-quart saucepan, you'll want to transfer it to a 4-quart or larger oven-proof baking dish for baking.
  4. To make the Mexican Rice in a rice cooker, follow the recipe through Step 4. After bringing the rice to a boil, transfer it to your rice cooker (coated with nonstick spray), close, and cook according to manufacturer instructions. Mine takes 33 minutes on the "White Rice" setting.
  5. To make Mexican Rice for 25 adults, use an 8-quart stock pot, triple the ingredients, and add 10 minutes to the baking time (40 minutes total).
Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (Mexican Rice recipe).

Nutrition

Calories: 286kcal

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  1. Chelsea Cullen

    Hi there! This looks so yum! I was wondering if it was possible to make this without the oil? Could you just skip the toasting of the rice and put the mixture straight in the oven? I love mexican rice and we have an event coming up where I need to feed about 80 people. I’m thinking mexican bowls with rice and black beans with cashew cream would be great but we try to avoid oil!

    1. meggan

      Hi Chelsea, I realize your event has LONG past by now and I’m sorry it took me so long to reply. It took me a few tries to get the recipe right without oil. Basically, in step 3, you just dry-toast the rice in a hot pot, stirring it constantly. Normally you’d saute it in oil, but it actually works perfectly if you toast it in a dry skillet. Stir it constantly so it doesn’t scorch, about about half the rice is lightly browned. Then proceed with the recipe as normal! It works like a charm. I’ve updated the post with this information. Thank you so much for the question and I apologize again for the delay. -Meggan

    2. meggan

      Hi Chelsea! I can test it and let you know. How soon is your event? I’d hate to say yes if it’s not going to work out for you. The thing with the oil is, it ensures the grains are all separated and fluffy. Do you use anything like nonstick cooking spray, or just nothing at all? I will definitely try it without oil and see what happens. Just let me know how soon you need to know. Thank you!

  2. Cobra Commander

    i have a grad party im cooking for 125 people plus. My nemesis has always been Mexican rice. sometimes is good some times not. i havent done it in a while. im not worried about the 5-6 or 10 timing the recipe. i went to le cordon bleu in austin. im pretty good all around. So im going to do a test batch this weekend. smaller batch. my main question is. You never mentioned if the tomato mixture would be included in the liquid measurement. i know its 1 3/4 cups per cup of rice. So is the 2 cups of tomato mixture included or a separate item.

    It haunts me through the years. my wife makes fun of me for not being able to do it right. it is funny. having this much education and not mastering mexican rice.. I make every other rice perfect. sushi, fried rice, saffron, paella. its my nemesis. looking forward to practicing this weekend.
    thanks
    ryan

    1. COBRA COMMANDER

      Ok. So I tried it Sunday for a double batch and it got me again. Flavor was better then any restaurant. But I had rice that wasn’t cooked all the way on the top part. Bottom was good. It was covered. Proper temp. 
      I had so much going on. We didn’t bring the rice to a boil before putting  it in the oven.  I’m doing it again tonight. Because it so many. I found a rice cooker that doesn’t involve toasting the rice. I’m trying that tomorrow. But I doubt it will be the taste of this one. 

    2. Erin Waskow

      Cobra Commander, I am interested to hear how it turned out cooking for a crowd. I, too was going to try this recipe for an upcoming grad party. Would love to read your reviews and lessons learned! Good Luck!

    3. Cobra Commander

      i went back and reviewed the ingredient list and answered my own question. i’ll let you know how it all turns out.

  3. Carly Kabel

    This recipe was great!! I tripled it because we had about 25-30 people coming and I actually just ended up cooking it on the stove instead of baking it. Our friend from Mexico was here and she said it was REALLY GOOD! She even called it authentic! Since she approved it I felt I should share on here that it was a hit. Two thumbs up!5 stars

  4. Vicky

    Hi – Thank you for posting this recipe. I have been searching high and low for a good Mexican rice recipe and tried several with no luck. I have two questions – 1) If I make the rice for a crowd, how to I brown the rice in a large stock pan? I have tried this before and no matter how long I cooked it, it just did not saute in that big of a pan. 2) I want to have the chunkier pieces of tomato in the rice. If I use a can of Rotel, how do I compensate for liquid?

    thank you!

    1. meggan

      Hi Vicky! Thanks for your question, I hope you like this recipe. Just make sure your oil is reasonably hot when you brown the rice (and you don’t even need to BROWN IT, you just need to break down the outside of the rice grain, the color doesn’t matter so much. You want the rice to look at least translucent. Please let me know if this makes sense). If you want to use Rotel, that’s fine. You need 2 cups total of whatever kind of puree you want, so you can puree some onion and add rotel (unblended, drained) and just have two cups of that mixture. The liquid comes from the chicken broth, so don’t worry about that. Does this all make sense? Hit me back if not! Thank you! Good luck!

  5. Maria

    can this rice be served cold?5 stars

  6. Sue

    Has anyone tried to do this in a crock pot after the boiling step instead of the oven? Having a bbq and trying to get some stuff done in advance so I’m not in the kitchen the whole time once people arrive.

  7. Dana Griffiths

    Tried this for a Mexican dinner party, and followed the recipe almost to a T (left out garlic due to food intolerance). It came out very well. However, I do have one caution: I had 8 coming for dinner, so I added another “half”, uping the rice to 3 cups from 2, and scaling everything else accordingly, just in case anyone wanted seconds. Holy cow! I ended up with a ton of rice! I had enough for a second family meal for 10 people, and then enough for my husband and myself for a third meal. If you follow the recipe, this will make much more than 8 servings. 
    Having said that, it was nice to have so much rice left over. It did keep very well, and retained its fluffy and tasty nature.5 stars

  8. Joyce

    I found your recipe while looking for a Mexican rice side for my Chicken Enchiladas Verde dinner, coming up. The main thing that caught my interest was the inclusion of onion & tomato puree, which is a technique I’d never encountered before. Where I live, tasty tomatoes are hard to come by at this time of year, but I was going to use the plum tomatoes found at my local Wegmans anyway. Someone mentioned using canned tomatoes, and I have a subscription delivery of Muir Glen Fire Roasted tomatoes (which I use in so many dishes), which I might try instead. No need to reply – I realize I am taking my chances. But your recipe is the ‘whole enchilada’ (so to speak) that includes all the flavors I’m looking for. May toss in some black beans, if I decide not to serve refried beans instead. I’ll post the results. Just major thanks for your recipe!5 stars

  9. Jacqui

    Hi there. This looks perfect for my besties wedding in which I’m cooking. I’m wondering about making it ahead of time and then reheating. Ever done this before?

    1. Dana Griffithd

      I made WAY too much, but reheated for a second meal, and even froze the leftovers for a third (and equally great) meal. Couldn’t tell it wasn’t made fresh. Excellent recipe for reheating or freezing.5 stars

  10. Arena

    Okay. I make this often and never have time to comment. This recipe is amazing. The rice is always fully cooked and tastes so flavorful.

    Fyi ..
    I make it in the rice cooker and usually have to do 2 cycles. Im guessing since the rice is already hot when it goes in it thinks it’s mid way cooker. Tastes great when finished.

    Also. I use the left over tomatoes mixture as a base for my wet burritos.

    Thanks so much for sharing this goodness!5 stars

  11. EG

    This was amazing! I’m not much of a cook and have never prepared rice this way. It’s idiot proof! Took it to a pary and it was a hit. Heated up leftovers today in the microwave and added a tablespoon of water and it came out fluffy and perfect! Thanks for such a great recipe!5 stars

  12. Terri Davis

    Delicious! Used canned diced tomatoes with onions and green chili’s already in, long grain instant rice (daughter grabbed the wrong stuff) but it turned out great and very good. Thanks5 stars

  13. MinShien @ Joyous Apron

    This looks fantastic. Love the rice cooker instructions – that is so helpful! I am looking forward to trying this out!5 stars

  14. Janet Shannon

    Greetings, When I printed my copy from the website somehow those ingredients prep instructions did not print. I also reviewed on line instructions at the time of my original post and missed “seeing” the instructions. However, I did make the recipe preparing the ingredients as I “thought” they should be done and everyone like the end result. (I had to double the recipe.) Now I have reprinted the recipe for future use, making sure I got all the instructions. Thank you for your response.5 stars

  15. Janet Shannon

    Greetings, The instructions don’t provide information about the preparation of the garlic and Jalapenos for inclusion at step 4. Do I chop or mince the garlic? Do I remove the seeds from the peppers? Do I chop the peppers?

    1. Shelly

      The recipe states in the ingredients how to have the jalapeño & garlic prepped. HTH! Merry Christmas!5 stars

    2. meggan

      Hi Janet, sorry for the confusion on this! The ingredients themselves say how those should be prepared. For example it says “4 cloves of garlic, minced” and “1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded, and minced.” Are you seeing this on your end? I hope so, that’s where it shows (not in the instructions). So sorry for the confusion! Please let me know if you need anything else!

  16. layna vaughn

    THANK YOU for a Spanish rice recipe that actually works! Previously, I used a different recipe claiming to be “authentic” restaurant style, and it was a gummy mess (WAY too much liquid). A real Spanish rice pilaf recipe is not easy to find for some reason. Seriously, thank you :)5 stars

  17. Caren

    I have never commented on a recipe before and I feel compelled to do so today.  This rice was DELICIOUS!!  I loved it and wanted to eat the whole batch.  My husband loved it and even my super picky 6 and 8 yea old daughters ate it.  Of course, my 6 year old ate it grain by grain, but whatever.  

    I used only 1/4 of a jalapeño in hopes my kids would still eat it and it had great flavor.  I didn’t have low sodium stock, so cut the added salt at the end.  I also didn’t have long grain, so used basmati.  It was SO good.  I checked it at the halfway cooking mark and it was done, so I just kept it out.  Not sure what I may have done, but it tasted delicious and I can’t wait to make it again!!

    Thank you for the recipe!5 stars

  18. Holly

    Hi Meggan. I am excited to try this recipe. I’ve never made rice in the oven before, love that I won’t have to watch over a pot. My only concern is the vegetable oil. I am avoiding it because along with gluten and dairy, I have eliminated soy from my diet and vegetable oil is 100% soybean oil. What would you suggest as an alternative? 

    Thank you,
    Holly

    1. meggan

      Hi Holly! I totally understand your concern. I would use olive oil. I meant to update the recipe to say that, because that’s what I always use too. Thanks for the reminder and the question!

  19. Shelly Jerde

    This rice was FABULOUS! Thanks for sharing!5 stars

  20. Renee Phillips

    Do you think this would work without using the oil.  I always sauté with veggie broth as I avoid oils in my diet. 

    1. meggan

      Hi Renee, I’m honestly not sure. It would be worth a try! You could also skip the sautéing part entirely and just cook rice the way you normally would, with the tomato mixture. I’m not sure if the rice would be stickier that way, but I’m sure it would still be tasty. Good luck!

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