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.

Restaurant style Mexican rice in a white bowl.

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!
4.99 from 70 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 286kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

  • 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

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 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.

Video

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. Alicia Benson

    If using the rice cooker do I still add water to it like the rice cooker instruction says to?

    1. meggan

      Hi Alicia, no, you just follow the instructions and use chicken broth in place of water (or you could use water, it would still be good). But, you use 2 cups of broth (or water) per the recipe, not whatever your rice cooker would say. Because the rice is toasted in the pan in advance, the rice-to-liquid ratio is 1-to-1 vs. if you just put the rice in for steaming. Does that make sense? Thanks for your question! Let me know if you need anything else.

  2. Lauren

    I want to mention I use drained, pureed Rotel instead of the tomato/onion/jalapenos. It seems to work out great and is faster when I don’t want to spend time chopping veggies. I just throw the extra puree into my cheese dip instead of discarding.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Great idea Lauren! Thank you! I had tried the recipe using just regular diced tomatoes and their flavor was too strong, but maybe with the onion and jalapenos in the Rotel it would taste better. I’m sure it would. Can’t wait to try! Thanks again.

  3. Kaylee Manning

    Hi Meggan! I’m eager to try this recipe next time we have tacos! Question, do you think the tomato and onion concoction would freeze? I noticed you said “discard any remaining,” but I buy expensive produce. :P I’m not much for food waste!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Kaylee! I hear you on produce! You could definitely freeze any excess. However, I don’t usually have extra. It’s just that sizes of onions and tomatoes may vary, so if you use GIANT ones and end up with 3 cups of the mixture it would be too much. But generally it’s a tablespoon or so, and maybe even nothing. :) But yes! Thank you for not wasting food! I love that.

  4. Ruth

    Hi Meggan, I am not sure if anyone asked you this but do you think I can get away with using canned tomatoes in a pinch?  I don’t have any fresh and I have all of the other ingredients. I really want to try it at least this one time until I get to the store. Just wondering before I waste my time. Thank you in advance. 

    1. meggan

      Hi Ruth, yes absolutely! Someone even commented below that they used just tomato sauce. I think it changes the flavor, but not in a bad way. I think 1 (14 ounce) can tomatoes would probably do the trick (the tomato sauce person used just an 8 ounce can). Or you could use a 28-ounce can and pour off any excess. You won’t be wasting your time! I’d love to hear what you think. Thanks Ruth!

  5. Tara Ballard

    Thanks for the recipe. I want to cook the rice for 25 adults, but I’m confused about how to bake it in the oven. Do I put the stock pot in the oven?5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Tara, YES. You put the stock pot in the oven (with a cover on it). That’s exactly what I did. Turned out very well. I hope you enjoy it! If you have anymore questions just let me know. Thank you!

  6. Mishelle

    Rice turned out great.  Thank you for the recipe.  I used a can of tomatoes (didn’t have fresh on hand) and one chopped onion.  I dont have food processor.  Baking the rice made it so perfect!  Thank you, Thank you!5 stars

  7. Serena sult

    If you like the flavor of the jalapeño pepper but don’t like the taste or have little ones, there is actually a pepper that is called fooled you pepper . You can get the seeds and the plants from jungseeds.com and plant them or sometimes you can find the plants at lowes.. ever since I found them in the catalog there hasn’t been a year that has gone by that I haven’t had them in my garden. .

  8. Dana

    Best rice ever hands down. This is so easy and it is delicious. Only recipe I ever use.5 stars

  9. Mario

    Meggan, your recipe is amazing!! Thank  you so much for posting it. Molto grazie!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thank you, Mario! I made this myself this morning in a rice cooker. I’m a huge fan too! Thank you again. :)

  10. meggan

    Sorry to hear that. I would say the rice matches peoples’ expectations of what they get at a restaurant, so that’s why it has positive reviews. It tastes like Mexican rice from a restaurant, bland or otherwise (or at least, every Mexican restaurant I’ve ever been to). I’d love to know how you doctored it up though! Thanks for your feedback and sorry you didn’t like it.

  11. Renee Coles

    This was FANTASTIC! I didn’t have cookware with a lid that could go in the oven, so I used a stainless steel pot and covered it with foil. It seriously was perfectly fluffy.5 stars

    1. meggan

      So great to hear! And I’m glad it worked for you even with just foil. That’s really good to know and I’ll update the recipe to reflect that. Thank you so much Renee.

  12. meggan

    Hi Jennifer, I’m so sorry to hear that! Here are the things that I think could possibly go wrong. Let me know what you think. 1). Your rice is really old. It should still soften, but if it’s over a year old that might mean you need to bake it longer. 2). Your oven temperature is off. Do you have an oven thermometer to check that the temperature is accurate? If it’s off even by 25 degrees you might need to bake it longer. 3). You aren’t getting a tight enough seal on the dish in wish you are baking it. Are you using a dutch oven, a casserole dish, or a sauce pan? Is the lid fitting nice and snug? Let me know what you think! I adapted this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen… they’re stuff is FOOL PROOF! So sorry you’re having issues. Let me know. I was traveling yesterday but I’m back now, sorry for the delay in replying to your comment.

  13. Dave

    Making this for my family on Christmas eve for an authentic Mexican Christmas Eve dinner with the works, tamales, pozole, garnishes and this. BTW, This is one of the better recipes out there. Merry Christmas.. XOXOXO5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hey Dave, I recently learned (and you of course already know this) that a tamale-making party is called a Tamalda. Happy to hear you had one. Your feast sounds incredible. XOXOXO MERRY CHRISTMAS! I’ll email you before then though. ;)

  14. Amanda

    I’ve made this about 5 different times now and it is THE BEST! My husband asks for it regularly. The tomato + onion slurry is so forgiving! The key for my stove and pot combo is I use a heavy dutch oven on the stove to bring the rice and liquids to a boil, and then put a lid on and bake it in the oven for at 350 for 18 minutes instead of cooking on the stove top. Meggan has the perfect ratio of liquid to rice, so you can really make any creative additions to the recipe – as long as you don’t mess with her ratio!

    I’ve done the following in a pinch: subbed a can of whole peeled tomatoes for the fresh tomatoes, browned chicken thighs in oil before starting the rice, then nestled the thighs in the rice mixture while the rice cooked for a one pot meal, and added frozen mixed vegetables. Also, I LOVE the speed of blasting the tomato+onion in the food processor and skipping the chopping at the end of a long day! Thank you, you rock!!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Wow, so many fantastic ideas here Amanda! Thanks for your kind words. I’ve been meaning to try the canned tomato substitution, just for ease/pantry convenience. I figured it would work great. The chicken thighs in the oil sound SO GOOD, I’m totally making that next. Thank you so much for being so supportive. :) You’re quite the cook! Take care!

  15. I made this with brown rice! I sort of burned a bit of the rice when I left it in the oil for a minute, maybe I had the heat too high or maybe brown rice cooks faster that way. Anyway, this is SO DAMN GOOD. I have really missed Mexican rice since going vegan and this is totally the real deal. It has loads of flavor, you can’t even taste the (sort of) burned rice (I should have started over but I was in a time crunch). Side note – I used to get this shrimp burrito at this great authentic Mexican food joint my my place before I was vegan and they’d toss the Mexican rice in ranch. I just tried this with vegan ranch and it is so delicious and tastes exactly like the burrito I’ve missed for so long! Thanks for posting! – Cogey from Cooking Without Carcasses5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hey Cogey! Thanks so much for the comment. I have burned my share of rice testing this out, I always ate it too! Ha ha! So anyway, tossing the rice in RANCH is basically genius, I cannot wait to try this. I’m glad you liked the recipe and that it (more or less) worked for you. I am currently testing this recipe for a crowd – 3x-ing it to feed 24+. Next I will test it with brown rice. I’m sure the baking time would be different. Thanks again! PS, GREAT blog name!!

  16. Mike

    Can I transfer everything into an aluminum tray, cover it with foil, and bake in the oven AFTER I do the stove top steps of frying and stirring? I have a small pot and I will need to make about 4 cups of rice. Hopefully that’s enough for 15 adults, there will be the main dish as well.

    1. meggan

      Hi Mike! Yes, you do the baking after you do the stove-top steps. That is correct. I never tried baking the rice in an aluminum pan with foil on top, I would just try to make sure the foil is on really tightly so the rice can steam. And perhaps put a baking sheet under the pan just to be safe! Doubling the recipe should give you enough rice for 15 adults, especially if it’s a side dish. Just make sure your aluminum pan is big enough, I’d say 4 quart capacity at a minimum for a double batch of rice. Thank you for your comment!

  17. Emily Berkman

    very yummy and garlicky. A few extra steps than a pot of plain rice but the oven really does a great job. I didn’t have fresh tomatoes and I substituted a 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes, drained and it was perfect! Although next time i won’t bother draining because i had to add water to it to reach 2 cups.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thanks for this info, Emily! I definitely need to retest and sub a can of tomatoes because that makes this recipe even easier. Glad you liked it! Thanks again!

  18. "Anonymous"

    Hey Meggan, I came across this recipe AFTER I asked a Mexican coworker of mine on how to make Spanish rice. Everything was the same except 1 or 2 things, but that’s ok. I’ll use yours since I didn’t write the other down haha. I’m worried about the “saltiness” of the dish. I do NOT want it to be salty, I’ve made it before (not this recipe) and it came out so salty that I felt dehydrated for like 2 days. If I use half of the Bouillon cube and make 2 cups of liquid stock, would it come out too bland? I need to know before this Saturday and unfortunately don’t have time to test due to work and school =/5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hey there! Sorry for the late reply, I as traveling. I would say just leave out all the salt while you cook the rice and taste it at the end, then add salt just a little at a time until you like it. That’s what I would. Seems like the safest way! Salt is a really personal thing and I have no idea what you will like. But no worries! Just taste it after it’s done and add salt until you like it. Good luck!!!

  19. Deb

    Hi there, very nervous about making this as I’m in a new house with an over and stove top that aren’t so reliable (they are being replaced soon!)

    I don’t have a Dutch oven so will be using a saucepan. Just a few questions…

    I’m making a double batch (10 adults and 10kids) for a big dinner party – this will be a side to go with other meals and sides. Should I just double everything and throw in together or make two separate batches?

    What heat to cook the rice and oil? High? Medium?

    If I make two separate batches can I put them in the oven together on separate shelves? or should I put in one big baking dish and cook two batches together?

    God I hope it works out – never made a rice dish like this before – let alone to take along to a dinner party with lots of people!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Deb!!! No worries!!! I do typically make the rice in a saucepan and then transfer it to a casserole dish for baking. Whether you double the recipe and make it all together just depends on your pan size. Since you’ve never made it before, I would probably recommend making it in two separate batches. However, if you have a large stock pot (I would say 6 quarts or larger) AND a large casserole dish (5 quarts or larger) you can make the rice all at once. The one in my pictures is a 2 1/2 quart Corningware dish. So, you’d want a 5-quart casserole dish if you were going to bake it all at once. I don’t think you’d extend the baking time by much, if anything. Maybe 5 minutes, but probably not even that. But, you’ll need to have a large enough dish. If you are nervous, feel free to make two separate batches. You could always dump both of them into a crock pot and carry that to the party for serving. Also if you make one batch and you know it turns out, then you could feel confident to make another. I HOPE IT WORKS OUT TOO!! Thinking of you! :) Please let me know if you have any more questions.

  20. Jenifer

    For your Mexican rice recipe could you substitute more Roma tomatoes instead of the tomato paste?
    Thanks
    Jen5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Jen, yes I’m sure you could do that. It might not taste “exactly the same” but it would still taste good. The tomato paste adds a ton of concentrated flavor without lots of extra liquid, whereas adding a comparable amount of extra tomatoes (however many it would be) would add more liquid. But, I still think it would taste great and turn out fine (as long as you don’t add an extra half-dozen tomatoes!). I hope that helps. Next time I make this, I’ll leave out the tomato paste and see what happens and post my results. Thanks for your question!!! Take care.

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