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.
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
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.
About this recipe
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!
Mexican rice is easy to make (and even easier to eat!). The complete instructions are on the recipe card below but here’s a quick run through.
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.
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.
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.
Fluff the rice, add seasoning if necessary, and serve. So easy and delicious!
What 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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
Make It Your Own
It’s easy to make this restaurant style rice your own creation. Here’s a few suggestions:
- 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. Or try this one pan sweet pepper rice with sausage for an easy weeknight meal.
- 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.
- Feeling like you would rather have Asian tonight? Try this easy fried rice recipe, it only takes 30 minutes!
Storage & Reheating Tips
Leftover Mexican rice can be stored in the fridge for four to five days, tightly covered. You can freeze it, too, for up to a month. Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat in the microwave or on the stove.
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:
- Restaurant Style Salsa
- How to Make Salsa Verde
- Instant Pot Carnitas
- Healthy Taco Meat (in 30 minutes!)
- Slow Cooker Refried Beans or cook pinto beans in your Instant Pot
- Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken
- Chicken Enchiladas Verde
- Sheet Pan Fajitas
- BBQ Chicken Burrito Bowls
- Vegetarian Baked Taquitos
- Homemade Chimichangas by The Recipe Critic
- 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.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.