Learn the secret to making restaurant-style Mexican Rice at home. 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!
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.
Brown rice: It takes longer to cook but tastes really great in this recipe. In the oven, add 10 minutes to the baking time will ensure the brown rice is cooked all the way through.
Peas and carrots: Sometimes in Mexico, they add 1/4 cup frozen peas and carrots midway through cooking.
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.
Vegan: Just swap the chicken broth for water or vegetable broth.
No oil. If you want, you can omit the oil entirely in this recipe. 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.
Salsa or canned tomatoes:So many readers love using their favorite salsa instead of the tomato/onion mixture. You can even use canned tomatoes (lookin' at you, fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilies!) 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.
Skip the oven: 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.
Use 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.
Reheating Mexican rice: 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.
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).
Source: I originally learned this recipe from America's Test Kitchen. I thought the method was super innovative: blending tomatoes and onions to make a sauce, and the rice tasted just like a restaurant. After MULTIPLE trips to Mexico (my husband is from there), I now know that everyone in Mexico makes Mexican Rice this way, and this is not a unique ATK invention (even though they present it as such). The difference is, in Mexico they call it Spanish rice, they never add cilantro or jalapeños, and they typically make it on the stove, not in the oven. And they use a blender, not a food processor.