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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.
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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

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