If you love Mexican food but want that restaurant-quality food at home, this Traditional Mexican Rice is for you! This recipe is easy to make and bakes in the oven, which locks in the flavor and moisture that makes this recipe so delicious. You'll never go back to eating Mexican rice any other way!
Traditional Mexican Rice Recipe
My entire family loves Mexican food. Even before living in New Mexico, I have vivid memories of family taco nights and eating enchiladas with this traditional Mexican rice. Pair it with Fried Ice Cream and you've got a complete Mexican meal right at home.
The original recipe came from my grandmother and she's been making it for us for years. After visiting her in Arizona many years ago and having it again, I finally asked her for the recipe so that I could make it on my own.
Called arroz rojo in Mexico, meaning "red rice," this dish is a staple side dish for Mexican food, whether it's for a weeknight dinner or a special occasion like Cinco de Mayo or even Mexican Christmas Eve dinner.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
There are a few reasons I love this traditional Mexican rice side dish.
- This Mexican rice uses fresh ingredients, including fresh tomatoes, white onions, cilantro, and jalapeños.
- It cooks in chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a vegetarian version) which locks in moisture so this rice is never dry.
- It bakes in the oven, which makes it more hands-off than a stovetop version.
- You can customize the spice level depending on your preference.
Not to mention, it is so dang tasty! This rice recipe will be loved by everyone in the family and it's a great addition to taco night.
This recipe also makes a good portion of rice, so it can easily provide a side dish for a few dinners or one perfectly portioned side dish for a big crowd.
When we hosted Christmas Eve dinner last year, we had this traditional Mexican Rice along with this Chicken Mushroom Enchilada Casserole — and we had plenty of all of it left over!
What You'll Need
The process to make this rice requires a few steps and a few tools, but don't let it overwhelm you. It is actually quite easy to make! And the little bit of work that's required is 100% worth the delicious outcome.
The first step of the process is pureeing the fresh tomatoes, onions, and seeded jalapeños in a food processor. I've done it before in batches with a small food processor, but it's much easier if you have a large one!
You'll need to also rinse the rice in a fine mesh strainer before frying it.
Those few prep steps take no time at all and you're ready to get your rice going!
Here's what you will need to make this easy Mexican rice recipe:
- fresh tomatoes: Any kind of medium, fresh tomato will do.
- white onion: Yellow onion also works.
- jalapeños: You can customize the spiciness depending on if you include the seeds or not.
- long-grain white rice: The type of rice you use matters here to get the perfect texture.
- vegetable oil: Any neutral tasting oil like olive oil or avocado oil will work.
- fresh garlic: You can mince fresh cloves or use pre-minced garlic from a jar.
- chicken broth: Low-sodium is best so you can salt the dish to your liking.
- tomato paste: Tomato paste adds an additional creamy texture and more tomato flavor.
- salt: Use sea salt or kosher salt, but not table salt.
- fresh cilantro: You can leave this out if you have the cilantro soap gene. 😉
To make this vegetarian, simply substitute vegetable broth instead of the chicken broth.
How to Make Mexican Rice
Here's how to make this easy Mexican rice:
First, preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In a food processor, puree the tomatoes, onion and two of the jalapeños (with the ribs and seeds removed) until very smooth. You can also use a blender for this. Then transfer the mixture to a liquid measuring cup, measure 2 cups and discard any extra.
Dice the remaining jalapeño, including the ribs and seeds and set aside.
Place the rice in a large fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear, about 90 seconds. Shake the rice vigorously in the strainer to remove all excess water.
Heat oil in an oven-proof sauté pan or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid over medium high heat. Drop a few grains of rice into the oil. If the rice sizzles, the oil is ready.
Add the rice and fry, stirring frequently, until the rice is light golden and translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium.
Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 90 seconds. Stir in the pureed tomato mixture, remaining jalapeño, chicken broth, tomato paste and salt.
Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pan and transfer to oven. Bake until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring well after 15 minutes. Stir in the cilantro.
Serve warm with your favorite Mexican dishes!
How to store
Let cool to room temperature before storing, then store in a food-safe, airtight container. Enjoy within 3 to 4 days.
Cooked rice can also be frozen up to 6 months. Just allow to thaw and then reheat.
In Mexico, rice is not a native crop; it was brought to Mexico in the 1500s when Spain began its invasion. There are two types of rice that are cultivated in Mexico: the long-grain Sinaloa rice and short-grain Morelos rice.
These two types of rice dishes vary in ingredients, flavor, cooking method and color. Mexican rice is a reddish color because it is made with a base of tomatoes, whereas Spanish rice is yellow thanks to the inclusion of saffron.
Mexican rice has a reddish color that comes from the tomato purée it's cooked with. The puree also usually includes onion and jalapeño as well, which provide extra flavor.
What to Serve with Mexican Rice
Mexican rice can be served so many ways. Serve it on the side of your favorite dishes or as a base for bowls, soups and more. Here are a few suggestions:
Serve taco soup over a bed of this rice for an extra hearty and cozy dinner on a cold night.
Mexican rice is also a great base for making bowls. Add some veggies, beans and your favorite protein on top, like grilled cilantro lime chicken, plus your favorite toppings. Breakfast burrito bowls are a favorite, too.
If you make and love this recipe, please leave a ★★★★★ review below! It means so much to me when you try my recipes, and I'd love to know how it goes. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions.
Traditional Mexican Rice
- 2 medium tomatoes cored and quartered
- 1 medium white onion peeled, quartered (root end cut off)
- 2 jalapeños seeded and ribs removed
- 1 jalapeño diced with seeds
- 2 cups long grain white rice
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
- Preheat oven to 350º.
- In a food processor, puree tomatoes, onion, and two jalapeños (ribs and seeds removed) until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a liquid measuring cup, measure 2 cups and discard any extra.
- Dice the remaining jalapeño, including the ribs and seeds and set aside.
- Place the rice in a large fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear, about 90 seconds. Shake the rice vigorously in the strainer to remove all excess water.
- Heat oil in an ovenproof sauté pan or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid over medium high heat. Drop a few grains of rice into the oil, if the rice sizzles, the oil is ready. Add the rice and fry, stirring frequently, until the rice is light golden and translucent, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 90 seconds. Stir in the pureed tomato mixture, remaining jalapeño, chicken broth, tomato paste, and salt. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, cover the pan and transfer to oven. Bake until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring well after 15 minutes.
- Stir in the cilantro. Serve immediately.