Serve restaurant style Mexican rice alongside tacos, burritos, or enchiladas for a true south of the border experience. It’s flavorful, so easy to make, and economical. 

Recipe Overview

Why you’ll love it: Mexican rice isn’t much more difficult to make than plain rice and it’s so much more interesting.

How long it takes: 45 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: sharp knife, saucepan, stove
Servings: makes 6 cups

Overhead view of a large bowl of colorful rice garnished with fresh cilantro.
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Seasoned with earthy cumin, garlic, and spicy chili powder, and bolstered with onions and bell peppers, Mexican rice is never bland or boring. Homemade Mexican rice is so much better than the little round scoop of rice often served in restaurants next to a soft puddle of refried beans. 

Don’t settle for plain white rice! Mexican rice is perfect alongside tequila lime grilled chicken, fajita stuffed chicken, southwestern mini meatloaves, barbecued ribs, or crispy air fryer salmon. Keep reading to the end of this post for lots more of your Mexican favorites: tacos, enchiladas, salsa, refried beans, and more.

Since Mexican rice is such a simple dish, there are as many recipes for it as there are cooks. Everyone seems to have their own special recipe for authentic Mexican rice that their grandma made. I don’t dare claim that this recipe is authentic but I will say that it’s very, very good. My family is crazy about it!

Close up of mexican rice in a white serving bowl.

Ingredients you’ll need

As always, scroll down for the printable version of the recipe!

  • Vegetables: Onion, bell pepper, and tomato paste give this recipe lots of flavor and nutrition.
  • Flavor Boosters: In addition to the vegetables, this rice gets a ton of flavor from fresh garlic, chili powder, cumin, and Mexican oregano.
  • A Couple of Staples: Extra virgin olive oil (avocado oil will also work!) and salt.
  • Rice: We love to use long grain white rice for this recipe, but you may also use different types of rice. See the FAQs section below or the recipe notes for tips.
  • Chicken stock: Cooking the rice in chicken stock adds good flavor. You can also use vegetable stock or broth for a vegetarian version of this recipe. In a pinch, you could also use water.
  • Garnishes: We usually just stick with fresh cilantro, but the options are really endless. Cheese and/or diced fresh tomatoes are always good.
Mexican rice in a white bowl with a silver serving spoon.

How To Make Mexican Rice

Prep the ingredients. You’ll need a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Get the onions, bell pepper, and garlic chopped, and everything else measured out and ready to go.

Sauté. Start by sautéing chopped onions and peppers briefly in a few tablespoons of olive oil, then add rice, stirring and cooking until the vegetables soften and the rice is lightly golden. Add garlic, cumin, and chili powder, stirring until the spices are toasted and fragrant, about a minute. 

Simmer. Add chicken stock (vegetable for vegetarian rice!), tomato paste, salt, and oregano, bring everything to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer, covered, until the rice is done.

Serve. Fluff the rice, add seasoning if necessary, and serve. So easy and delicious!

Overhead view of red colored rice in a white serving bowl. Fresh cilantro also visible.


What’s the difference between Mexican rice and Spanish rice?

The two have similar ingredients: rice, tomatoes, onions, and garlic. The main difference is in the seasoning. Spanish rice is seasoned with saffron threads which impart a sweeter flavor and golden color. If you’ve had paella, you know what Spanish rice is. Try this recipe for seafood paella by The Mediterranean Dish.
Mexican rice is seasoned with cumin, with an earthy, almost nutty flavor, and is usually reddish in color. In fact, you may know Mexican rice as arroz rojo which simply means “red rice”.

Is Mexican rice healthy?

Mexican rice is low in fat, with only 192 calories per one cup serving, and it has lots of vegetables. It’s not a bad choice in a healthy diet. However, rice is high in carbs so if you’re looking to cut carbs, this may not be the dish for you. 

Can I make Mexican rice with brown rice?

Replacing white rice with brown rice adds helpful fiber to your diet. You can easily substitute brown rice in this recipe. Just be sure to follow the directions on the package for cooking times since brown rice usually takes twice as long to cook, and may require a little extra chicken stock.

Why is my Mexican rice sticky?

A few tips: You’ll find that sautéing the rice with the onions and peppers infuses the rice with lots of flavor and prevents it from getting sticky. Another helpful trick is to rinse the rice under running water until the water runs clear. Some cooks soak the rice in water for 15 minutes, and then rinse it, removing most of the starch from the rice. If the rice still seems too sticky to you, try basmati rice instead of long grain white rice.

Close up of rice cooked with red peppers, onions, tomato paste, and spices.

Make It Your Own

It’s easy to make this restaurant style rice your own creation. Here’s a few suggestions:

  • Change up the seasoning: Feel free to add more or less seasoning or garlic. If you’re looking for a shortcut, substitute 2 teaspoons of my fajita seasoning or taco seasoning for the salt, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and oregano.
  • Make it a main dish: Stir in a can of rinsed and drained pinto or red beans. Rice and beans is a fabulous meatless/vegetarian meal, especially topped with a sprinkling of Mexican style cheese.
  • Like meat? Make Mexican rice with ground beef. Simply brown a pound of ground beef, turkey or chorizo with the onions and peppers, and continue with the recipe. I also like to top Mexican rice with my crockpot salsa chicken for a hearty dinner.
  • More veggies: Stir in corn or peas, or increase the amount of onions and bell peppers.
  • Add toppings: Top with salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, sliced avocado, chopped fresh peppers or onions.
  • For something different, try this Chipotle copycot: Cilantro lime rice.
  • Not in the mood for Mexican? Try this easy fried rice recipe or one pan sweet pepper rice with sausage.

Storage & Reheating Tips

Refrigerate: Leftover Mexican rice can be stored in the fridge for four to five days, tightly covered.

Freeze: Mexican rice can be frozen in a freezer-safe container or bag for up to a month. Thaw overnight in the fridge.

Reheat: Individual portions can be reheated in the microwave. Reheat larger amounts in a skillet on the stove over medium low heat, stirring frequently.

Meal plan 56 preview image with text that reads "budget."

Free Meal Plans

Interested in a weekly meal plan (it’s free!) that includes this recipe? Take a look at  Meal Plan #19, Meal Plan #37 or Meal Plan #56. You’ll find a wholesome recipe for each weekday plus a categorized grocery list. We add a new meal plan weekly.

Rice in a bowl garnished with cilantro.

More Mexican recipes

Go Mexican tonight! Make your own restaurant style Mexican food. It’s healthier, more economical, and tastes better! Here’s just a sampling of the recipes you’ll find on my site:


Easy Mexican Rice Recipe

4.67 from 9 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Serve restaurant style Mexican rice alongside tacos, burritos, or enchiladas for a true south of the border experience. It's flavorful, so easy to make, and economical. 
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  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow or sweet onion (about 1 onion)
  • ½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper (about 1/2 bell pepper)
  • 2 cups long grain white rice (see note)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • Optional: chopped fresh cilantro to garnish


  • Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add onion and pepper and cook until softened (3-4 minutes). Add rice, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, and cumin and continue to cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until fragrant.
  • Add stock, tomato paste, salt, and oregano. Stir to combine and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer with cover on for 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. 
  • Remove from heat, leaving the cover on, and let rest for 5 minutes. 
  • Fluff rice with a fork, taste and season with salt and pepper as needed, and serve immediately


  • Extra long grain white rice, basmati rice, or brown rice work well, too. The amount of liquid and cooking time depends on the type of rice you use. Check package instructions for specific measurements.
  • If you don’t have Mexican oregano, substitute other types of oregano.
  • Add ground beef or turkey, or stir in a can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained.
  • Top with shredded cheese, salsa, or other taco toppings, if desired.
  • Use no salt added, or lower sodium chicken or vegetable stock to reduce sodium.



Serving: 1cup, Calories: 366kcal, Carbohydrates: 60g, Protein: 9g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 5mg, Sodium: 669mg, Potassium: 370mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 578IU, Vitamin C: 19mg, Calcium: 37mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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4.67 from 9 votes (8 ratings without comment)

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  1. Lisa says:

    Would this rice be good to add to burritos?

    1. Rachel Gurk says:


  2. Philip says:

    Going from ‘one’ ingredient to over half a dozen… over half of which require a run to the store…

    “Mexican rice isn’t much more difficult to make than plain rice”

    I guess my burritos are getting plain white rice today.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      I mean… it’s not plain rice so it definitely needs other ingredients. It’s still a super easy recipe though. I’m not sure where your confusion comes from?

      1. Mary OHara says:

        He is a pain in the derrier I’d say

  3. Jillian says:

    5 stars
    This rice is amazing and so easy to make thank you!!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      So glad to hear it! Thanks for leaving a review!

  4. Cynthia says:

    This rice is fabulous! I made it using brown rice and my family really liked it. I like that it used things that I already had on hand, and I didn’t have to buy the boxed rice mix to make a good Mexican-style rice. Definitely keeping this recipe on hand to make again. I served it with salsa chicken and toppings.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      So glad you liked it! Just reading your comment made me crave this rice again, ha!

  5. denise says:

    sounds perfect.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      It’s so good, and so easy to make!