May 02, 2023, Updated May 09, 2023
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Mexican rice, also known as “arroz rojo,” is a flavorful and versatile dish that is a staple in Mexican cuisine. It is a delicious side dish made from long-grain rice cooked with various aromatic ingredients and spices, giving it a vibrant red color and a rich taste.
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Easy Homemade Arroz Rojo (Red Rice)
The key ingredients in Mexican rice include rice, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and spices such as cumin, chili powder, and paprika. These ingredients are sautéed together before the rice is added, allowing the grains to absorb the flavors and aromas.
Once the rice is added, it is cooked with a combination of water or broth and tomato sauce or diced tomatoes. This gives the rice its distinctive red hue and a tangy tomato flavor. The rice is then simmered until it is tender and fully cooked, absorbing all the delicious flavors.
Mexican rice is a versatile side dish that pairs well with a variety of Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. It is a common accompaniment to dishes like tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and fajitas. It adds a burst of flavor, color, and texture to the meal, elevating the overall dining experience.
Whether served as part of a larger Mexican feast or enjoyed on its own, Mexican rice is loved for its fragrant aroma, vibrant appearance, and bold taste. It is a comforting and satisfying dish that brings the flavors of Mexico to your table.
How to Make Mexican Rice
To make this recipe, you will need the following ingredients:
- Long-Grain White Rice: The base ingredient of Mexican rice, the long-grain white rice provides a neutral canvas for absorbing the flavors of the other ingredients.
- Vegetable Oil: The vegetable oil is used to sauté the onions, garlic, and rice, adding a subtle richness and helping to prevent sticking.
- Onion: Finely chopped onion adds a sweet and savory flavor to the dish. It provides a foundational element to the overall flavor profile.
- Garlic: Minced garlic brings a pungent and aromatic taste to the rice. It adds depth and complexity to the dish.
- Jalapeño Pepper: The optional jalapeno pepper, when included, adds a mild to moderate level of heat to the rice. It also contributes a fresh and slightly fruity flavor.
- Diced Tomatoes: The canned diced tomatoes, along with their juices, provide moisture and a tangy flavor to the rice. They also lend a vibrant red color to the dish.
- Vegetable or Chicken Broth: The broth serves as the cooking liquid for the rice, infusing it with savory flavors. Vegetable or chicken broth adds depth and richness to the overall taste.
- Cumin: Cumin is a key spice in Mexican cuisine and adds a warm, earthy, and slightly smoky flavor to the rice.
- Chili Powder: Chili powder brings a mild level of spiciness and imparts a combination of flavors from various spices like paprika, cumin, garlic, and oregano. It contributes to the overall robustness of the dish.
- Paprika: Paprika adds a subtle sweetness and mild smokiness to the rice. It enhances the color and overall flavor profile.
- Salt: Salt is an essential seasoning that helps to enhance the flavors of all the ingredients and balance the overall taste of the dish.
- Fresh Cilantro: Chopped fresh cilantro is used as a garnish, adding a bright, citrusy, and herbal note to the finished rice.
Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, we will use the following process:
- Prep. Rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs clear. Drain well.
- Cook vegetables. In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno (if using) and sauté until they become soft and fragrant. Add the rice to the skillet and stir to coat it with the oil and vegetables. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rice becomes slightly golden.
- Season and simmer. Stir in the diced tomatoes (with their juice) and cook for another minute. Add the broth, cumin, chili powder, paprika, and salt to the skillet. Stir well to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed. Avoid lifting the lid during this time to ensure proper cooking.
- Rest. Remove the skillet from the heat and let it sit, covered, for 5 minutes to allow the rice to rest. Fluff the rice with a fork and garnish with fresh cilantro before serving.
- Enjoy! Serve with cilantro, chives, green onions, or parsley as desired.
Tips and Tricks to Perfect Mexican Rice
Rinse the rice: Before cooking, rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs clear. This removes excess starch and helps prevent the rice from becoming sticky.
Sauté the rice: Sautéing the rice in oil before adding the liquid adds flavor and helps to create a slightly nutty taste. Stir the rice constantly to prevent it from sticking or burning.
Use broth for extra flavor: Instead of just using water, use vegetable or chicken broth to cook the rice. The broth adds depth and richness to the flavor profile.
Balance the liquid-to-rice ratio: Use the appropriate amount of liquid to cook the rice. Too much liquid can result in mushy rice, while too little can lead to undercooked grains. Follow the recipe instructions or aim for a ratio of 1 ¾ cups of liquid per cup of rice.
Season generously: Don’t be shy with the spices and seasonings. Mexican rice should be flavorful and well-seasoned. Adjust the amount of cumin, chili powder, and salt to suit your taste preferences.
Let it rest: After cooking, let the rice rest for a few minutes before fluffing it with a fork. This allows the grains to settle and become more tender.
Avoid lifting the lid: While the rice is cooking, resist the temptation to lift the lid and check on it frequently. This can release steam and disrupt the cooking process. Only lift the lid when necessary or when the cooking time is complete.
Customize the toppings: Mexican rice is versatile and can be customized with additional toppings or ingredients. Consider adding cooked vegetables like peas, corn, or bell peppers, or garnish with fresh cilantro, lime wedges, or avocado slices to enhance the flavors.
Adjust the heat level: If you prefer a spicier rice, you can increase the amount of jalapeno or add some red pepper flakes. Conversely, if you prefer a milder taste, reduce or omit the jalapeno.
Fluff with care: When fluffing the rice with a fork after cooking, be gentle to avoid smashing or overmixing the grains. This helps to maintain the light and fluffy texture.
Yes, you can use brown rice instead of white rice for a healthier option. However, keep in mind that brown rice generally requires a longer cooking time and more liquid, so you may need to adjust the recipe accordingly.
To prevent sticky rice, make sure to rinse the rice before cooking to remove excess starch. Also, be careful not to overcook the rice or stir it too vigorously, as this can break down the grains and make them stickier.
Yes, you can make Mexican rice in a rice cooker. Simply follow the recipe instructions, but instead of cooking on the stovetop, transfer the ingredients to a rice cooker and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Yes, you can make Mexican rice in advance. Cook the rice as directed, then let it cool completely before storing it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. When ready to serve, reheat it gently in a skillet or microwave, adding a little extra liquid if needed.
Yes, Mexican rice can be frozen. Allow the rice to cool completely, then transfer it to a freezer-safe container or bag. Label and date it, and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw the rice in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
Yes, you can substitute tomato sauce for diced tomatoes in Mexican rice. Use about 1 cup of tomato sauce in place of the can of diced tomatoes. You may need to adjust the amount of liquid used in the recipe to achieve the desired consistency.
The level of spiciness in Mexican rice can vary depending on the amount of jalapeno or chili powder used. You can control the heat by adjusting the quantity of these ingredients or omitting them altogether if you prefer a milder flavor.
Absolutely! While the traditional Mexican rice recipe typically includes onions and garlic, you can add other vegetables like bell peppers, peas, carrots, or corn for added flavor and texture. Just make sure to adjust the cooking time and liquid accordingly.
What to Serve With Mexican Rice
Tacos: Whether it’s classic beef or chicken tacos, Shredded Chicken Tacos, Air Fryer Tofu Tacos, or Shredded Chicken Green Chili Tacos, Mexican rice complements the flavors and adds a satisfying element to the meal.
Enchiladas: Serve Mexican rice alongside enchiladas, Chicken Enchilada Skillet, Buffalo Chicken Enchiladas or Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup! The rice provides a delicious and filling accompaniment to the saucy enchiladas.
Fajitas: Enjoy sizzling fajitas with Mexican rice on the side. The combination of tender grilled meats or vegetables, savory fajita seasoning, and the flavors of the rice creates a delightful meal.
Burritos: Fill your burritos with your choice of protein, beans, cheese, and other toppings, and serve them with Mexican rice. The rice adds substance and complements the flavors in the burrito. Try our Instant Pot Chipotle Barbacoa Copycat for a great spicy kick!
Quesadillas: Enjoy cheesy quesadillas with a side of Mexican rice. The rice adds substance to the meal and balances out the richness of the quesadillas.
Mexican Bowls: Create a delicious Mexican-inspired bowl by combining Mexican rice with your choice of protein (such as grilled chicken, shrimp, or tofu), black beans, salsa, guacamole, and other toppings. The rice serves as the foundation for a flavorful and satisfying bowl.
Mexican Rice Recipe
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- 1 cup long-grain white rice
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional for heat)
- 1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 3/4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- Salt, to taste
- Fresh cilantro, chopped (for garnish)
- Rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs clear. Drain well.
- In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno (if using) and sauté until they become soft and fragrant.
- Add the rice to the skillet and stir to coat it with the oil and vegetables. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rice becomes slightly golden.
- Stir in the diced tomatoes (with their juice) and cook for another minute.
- Add the broth, cumin, chili powder, paprika, and salt to the skillet. Stir well to combine.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed. Avoid lifting the lid during this time to ensure proper cooking.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and let it sit, covered, for 5 minutes to allow the rice to rest.
- Fluff the rice with a fork and garnish with fresh cilantro before serving.
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Nutrition InformationYield 4 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 156Total Fat 4gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 3gCholesterol 1mgSodium 428mgCarbohydrates 26gFiber 5gSugar 4gProtein 5g
Nutrition is automatically calculated by Nutritionix - please verify all nutrition information independently and consult with a doctor or nutritionist for any and all medical and diet advice.