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How to Make Authentic, Homemade Mexican Rice

Ms. Venegas experiments with Mexican foods under the watchful critiques of her husband. The recipes need to pass a "when I was a kid" test.

Use a fork to fluff the rice.

Use a fork to fluff the rice.

When you have a Mexican entree, such as burritos, tacos, or enchiladas, the meal isn't complete without homemade Mexican red rice, or arroz rojo. Of course, you also need to have beans so that you can enjoy the requisite "rice and beans" on the side.

Sometimes, when I'm feeling lazy, I might want to skip either the beans or the Mexican rice. However, my husband, Ed, always objects. In his thinking, the two are simply two components of a single side dish: "rice and beans."

The directions I've provided here are for one cup of uncooked rice. This is my regular recipe, and I've never received any complaints. Add this authentic recipe to your Mexican food menu.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

15 min

23 min

38 min

6 half-cup servings

The ingredients: long-grain white rice.

The ingredients: long-grain white rice.

More ingredients: garlic powder, tomato bouillon, saffron, onion, and cilantro.

More ingredients: garlic powder, tomato bouillon, saffron, onion, and cilantro.


  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro or parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (or one clove garlic, minced)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cooking oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • A few drops lemon
  • 2 cups chicken stock (or water)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons tomato bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon asafran/saffron (optional)

Ingredient Notes

In a pinch, because of time restraints, the recipe may only have the Knorr tomato, chicken bouillon, and garlic powder. Knorr includes monosodium glutamate (MSG). There is a version for leaving the Knorr out below.

Step 1: Begin Cooking the Rice

  1. In a medium pan over high heat, add rice, butter, and cooking oil.
  2. Stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, watch while the rice browns and turns opaque. This will add extra flavor.
  3. Add diced onion and garlic powder (or minced garlic). Cook until onion is soft.
  4. Add 2 cups chicken stock or water and bring to boil.

Step 2: Add Seasonings

  1. While the water boils to a medium simmer, add minced parsley (or cilantro), tomato bouillon, a sprinkle of garlic powder, a few drops of lemon, and optional asafran (saffron).
  2. The moment you get a boil, and can see a few grains of rice dancing up, turn heat to simmer and cover tightly. No peeking at this point.
  3. Cook as you would white rice. My stove allows for 23 minutes.
  4. When the buzzer rings, remove from heat and toss with a two-prong cooking fork so the rice gets fluffy in the rising steam.
  5. If the water is not absorbed leave on heat remove lid, toss rice with fork and gently let it dry for a moment.

Photo Guide

The secret to excellent Mexican rice is to brown the rice first.

The secret to excellent Mexican rice is to brown the rice first.

Cover the pot tightly once it boils and you see a few grains of rice peeking up.

Cover the pot tightly once it boils and you see a few grains of rice peeking up.

How to Make Mexican Rice Using One Tomato

Some cooks prefer not to use the Knorr seasoning. If you have a big ripe tomato, try this for added flavor. Here's how to do it.

  1. Finely chop the tomato and add it, and its juices, into the rice as it is browning. The tomato should add a little more red color to the rice and a richer tomato flavor. In fact, as I am retired now, adding the tomato and using the Knorr as the salt is the routine.
  2. As you see browning on the bottom of the pan use a few tablespoons of water or broth to scrape up bits for more flavor.
  3. Once the tomato juices have cooked off, add the 2 cups water, then follow the directions above.
Rice and beans.

Rice and beans.

Serving Suggestions

If you want an easy refried bean recipe to serve with this rice, my recipe has cut all the steps to the bare minimum: How To Make Refried Pinto Beans.

The night I took the pictures for this article, I made a tortilla chicken casserole. This was a good way to use all the meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken.

Dinner was perfect, and there was enough to eat the next night. Hurray!

Red Rice Tips: Do's and Don'ts

Here are a few tips so you do not have to reinvent the whole cooking process.

  • Add a 1/4 cup of frozen mixed vegetables when adding water.
  • Do not use too much oil. It just weights the rice down and will not fluff.
  • I have not been able to get fluffy rice with tomato sauce.
  • Polished rice will not make good fluffy rice.
  • It is not called Spanish rice anymore.
  • If you find that you prefer lard for the more Mexican flavor, keep the block in the refrigerator and buy a new one after the date has past a few months. Lard has less saturated fat than butter. It is good in the refried beans, as well. You might be interested to read this article for more information about lard: Why lard’s healthier than you think.
  • For a vegan version, use one of the many non-hydrogenated oils, like sunflower, avocado, or grapeseed, with one crushed ripe tomato.
Mexican rice and beans served with tacos.

Mexican rice and beans served with tacos.

© 2009 Sherry Venegas

Cooking Mexican Is Tasty—Always Include Mexican Rice and Beans

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on January 24, 2014:

We like the combination of rice and beans too, but I had no idea traditional rice was not vegetarian. I always ask, when dining out, whether the beans are made with lard. Now I know to ask whether the rice is made with chicken broth. Thank you for sharing your recipe. It looks just like the rice and beans in our favorite Mexican restaurant, and now I'm hungry!

kevkev227 lm on July 26, 2012:

This looks sooo good...we make Mexican food a lot at home, but we haven't been good about making the side dishes...maybe time to give it a try :)

intermarks on June 13, 2012:

At first from the name itself, Mexican Red Rice, it gives me the impression that it should be spicy, so, it is spicy? I do love spicy food, so can the tomato be substitute with chili?

CCGAL on September 05, 2011:

I do a Tex-Mex version of the red rice - I learned it off of a TV cooking show called Two Hot Tamales. It's almost exactly the same as yours, the only difference is I use a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes. I drain the tomatoes, and add enough water to get to the 2 cups per cup of rice ratio, and toss it all in the pot. My family prefers it made with brown rice, so when I do that I need a bit more water, and it comes out nuttier, but delicious. We love Mexican food and Tex-Mex here, so we eat a lot of it.

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on August 15, 2011:

We love Mexican rice and beans at our house and serve them up in homemade whole wheat tortillas, along with homemade pico de gallo and a nice salad. We have a lot of fun making the tortillas together.

Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on April 16, 2011:

@anonymous: Thank you Mayra for the Spanish correction. I actually do not know Spanish, at all.

anonymous on April 15, 2011:

Sounds really good - I am looking forward to trying this and the shredded beef recipes. Thanks for sharing. P.S. It's "Panza LLena... ".

Kiwisoutback from Massachusetts on September 15, 2010:

I've tried to make Mexican rice before a few times from scratch, and it never came out that good. I'm going to have to try the trick with the tomato boullion and see if that does it. Yours looks much better.

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on January 23, 2010:

Your rice looks and sounds delicious! Unfortunately, I don't tolerate MSG, so I'll have to try your alternate method with the finely chopped tomato during the browning phase. I'm anxious to try that!

Diana Grant from United Kingdom on November 28, 2009:

@kerbev: This looks lovely, but if I cook rice for 20 minutes, instead of going fluffy, it all seems to congeal in a gooey mass - what's the secret of good rice cooking?


Sherry Venegas (author) from La Verne, CA on October 15, 2009:

[in reply to Pukeko

Hi Pukeko,

Yes, chicken stock would be good to use instead of the water. Red rice is generally tomato based. Chop a tomato very fine and add it to the pot during the browning faze and a little minced onion too, if you like. I did that yesterday and I still got a fluffy rice which does not happen if you add tomato sauce with the water.

anonymous on October 15, 2009:

[in reply to Pukeko] to my understanding bullion is just a faster way to make a meal taste like chicken, it also contains lots of salt. So i would suggest using chicken stock instead of water, but i dont know how that will affect the recipe. sorry i couldnt be more help just throwing things out there. =D

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