Restaurant-Style Mexican Rice

Recreate Restaurant-Style Mexican Rice at home in your oven. This fool-proof method starts with fresh vegetables and ends with fluffy grains every time.

What is it about Mexican Rice that is so darn addictive?!

It’s light, fluffy, and flavorful without being overpowering.  No matter what you ordered at your local Mexican restaurant, a pile of authentic Mexican Rice is exactly what you want next to it.  Along with your refried beans, of course. Unless you’d rather just double your rice?

A portrait photo of Restaurant-style Mexican Rice in a white baking dish. The rice is orange with bright green pieces of freshly chopped cilantro.

In the comfort of your own home, you can double your Mexican rice all day long. Make a huge batch of this Mexican Rice recipe and serve it on the side of tacos or burritos, or do the classic pairing of Mexican Rice and beans and add your favorite cheese, salsa, sour cream, or guacamole on top.

One time I even stuffed it in a burrito with chili and it was EVERYTHING.

And you know what you’re going to say?

You’re going to say: “This tastes EXACTLY like the rice at Mexican restaurants!”

For easy Mexican Rice, 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. (I learned this method from Cook’s Illustrated and it’s GENIUS).

(Need a food processor? I’ve had this one for years and just love it.)

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.

Next, you saute rice in vegetable oil until it’s toasted and golden. Stir in garlic and, optionally, jalapeños for heat. I love the jalapeños but have been leaving them out lately because my small children are addicted to this rice! Better to be safe than sorry.

Finally, stir in your processed tomato mixture into the rice along with some chicken broth and tomato paste.

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.

Bake the rice in the oven for just 30 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

It’s a fool-proof method for soft, individual grains of rice.  If you prefer your Mexican Rice to be sticky and clumpy or underdone and crunchy, keep searching.

You won’t find it here.

A rectangle side-by-side photo of the Restaurant Style Mexican Rice in the white baking dish. The rice on the left is pictured without garnish, and the orange rice is pictured on the right topped with freshly cut cilantro.

Cilantro and lime juice are the traditional stir-ins at the end, but I’ve made this with lemon juice and parsley as well. It’s delicious either way! I have also been known to stir in a few frozen peas at the end, or top with black olives. Just picking up tricks from my local Cocina…

Don’t forget to rinse your rice: Be sure to rinse your rice well before sautéing it in the oil. This is how your remove the excess starch and wind up with fluffy grains. For anyone who is wondering: Yes, this means you’re rinsing the added vitamins and minerals down the drain. Your rice is no longer “enriched.” See the recipe notes for rice-rinsing methods.

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!

A portrait photo of Restuant-Style Mexican Rice in the rice cooker pan. The pan is white on the outside and black on the inside and there is a green and orange spatula set into the rice. The rice is orange and there are green pieces of freshly chopped cilantro.

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.

A photo of a 3qt stainless sett pot with restaurant style mexican rice. The rice is orange, and there is a copper handled serving utensil in the pot. It is pictured on a marble countertop.

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.

A photo of a blendtec blender on it's stand with the lid off. There are quartered tomatoes and quartered white onions filling the blender. It is set on a marble counter top.

To make a vegetarian Mexican Rice recipe (vegan Mexican Rice, actually), simply swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth. You’re good to go!

Save this Restaurant-Style Mexican Rice to your “Side Dishes” Pinterest board!

And let’s be friends on Pinterest! I’m always pinning tasty recipes!

A square photo of Restaurant-style Mexican Rice in a white baking dish. The rice is orange with bright green pieces of freshly chopped cilantro.
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Restaurant-Style Mexican Rice

Recreate Restaurant-Style Mexican Rice at home in your oven. This fool-proof method starts with fresh vegetables and ends with fluffy grains every time.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 282 kcal

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 or basmati white rice rinsed (see notes)
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 to 2 jalapeno peppers ,stemmed, seeded, and minced (optional)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (see notes)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro or parsley minced
  • Lime or lemon wedges for serving

Instructions

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

Recipe Notes

Notes:

  1. To rinse the rice, pour the dry rice into a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under running water until the water is clear. Alternatively, to conserve water, the rice may be soaked in a large bowl of cold water for 30 minutes and then drained well.
  2. Long-grain white rice is the traditional choice for this recipe, but I've also tested it with basmati and it works perfectly.
  3. To make this recipe vegetarian, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).

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