The Perfect Mexican Rice: A Flavorful Side Dish for Every Meal

What food goes well with Mexican rice?

Mexican rice, also known as “arroz rojo” (red rice), is a staple side dish in Mexican cuisine. Its vibrant color, fluffy texture, and savory flavor complement a wide array of dishes, from tacos and enchiladas to grilled meats and vegetables. While it might seem intimidating to recreate the restaurant-quality version at home, this guide will walk you through the steps to create a delicious and authentic Mexican rice dish that will impress your family and friends.

Understanding the Essentials of Mexican Rice

Before we delve into the recipe, let’s explore the key elements that contribute to the distinctive character of Mexican rice:

  • Rice Variety: Long-grain white rice is the preferred choice for Mexican rice. Its grains remain separate and fluffy when cooked, making it ideal for absorbing flavors.
  • Tomato Base: The rich red color and savory notes come from a tomato base, typically made with tomato paste or tomato sauce.
  • Aromatics: Onion and garlic are the foundation of flavor in many Mexican dishes, including rice. They add depth and complexity to the dish.
  • Spices: Cumin is the hallmark spice in Mexican rice, lending its warm and earthy aroma. Other spices like chili powder and oregano can be added for additional depth.
  • Broth: Chicken or vegetable broth is used to cook the rice, infusing it with flavor and ensuring it’s not dry.
  • Cooking Method: The rice is typically sautéed with aromatics before being simmered in broth until tender and fluffy.

Why does Mexican restaurant rice taste better?

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The Recipe: How to Make Mexican Rice


  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 ¾ cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Sauté Aromatics: Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant.
  2. Toast the Rice: Add the rice to the saucepan and stir to coat it with the oil and aromatics. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rice is lightly toasted.
  3. Add Tomato Paste and Spices: Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, chili powder (if using), oregano, salt, and pepper. Cook for another minute to let the flavors meld.
  4. Add Broth and Simmer: Pour in the chicken or vegetable broth and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan, and simmer for 18-20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.
  5. Rest and Fluff: Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the rice rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

Tips for Perfect Mexican Rice:

  • Rinsing the Rice: Rinse the rice under cold water before cooking to remove excess starch and prevent it from becoming sticky.
  • Adjusting Spice Levels: Feel free to adjust the amount of chili powder to your liking. If you prefer a milder flavor, omit it altogether.
  • Adding Vegetables: For extra flavor and nutrition, you can add chopped vegetables like carrots, peas, or corn along with the broth.
  • Using Fresh Herbs: A sprinkle of fresh cilantro before serving adds a burst of freshness and vibrant color.
  • Experimenting with Variations: Get creative with your Mexican rice! Try adding lime juice, diced tomatoes, or even a splash of hot sauce for a personalized touch.

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Serving Suggestions

Mexican rice is incredibly versatile and pairs well with a variety of dishes. Serve it alongside your favorite tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, or grilled meats. It’s also delicious as a base for burrito bowls or as a side dish for soups and stews.


With its rich flavor, vibrant color, and fluffy texture, Mexican rice is a culinary delight that deserves a spot on your table. By following this recipe and incorporating the tips provided, you can easily master the art of making this beloved side dish at home. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a beginner in the kitchen, this guide will empower you to create a delicious and authentic Mexican rice dish that will elevate your meals and impress your guests.

I hope this article is helpful and informative!

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