How to Make Authentic Mexican Rice

Learn how to make Authentic Mexican Rice! It’s a simple recipe, requires just a few ingredients and takes less than 30 minutes to make. Add it to your menu for Taco Tuesday or anytime Mexican food is on the menu.

Authentic Mexican Rice on a platter

This is the best Mexican Rice recipe that is so good and so easy, it is our go-to side dish for any Mexican dinner. We serve this rice dish alongside Refried Beans or Slow Cooker Mexican Beans and with our favorite meals, like Ground Beef EnchiladasChicken Tacos and Carne Asada.

The Best Easy Mexican Rice Recipe

By far, this is one of my favorite and most requested recipes to cook. We make it for any Mexican dish from taquitos, to tacos to burritos. It’s truly an authentic Mexican Rice recipe. You want to know why? Because it comes from an authentic Mexican kitchen that just so happens to belong to my cousin’s mother-in-law!

My cousin shared this recipe with me years ago and I’ve been making it almost weekly ever since. This authentic family recipe was passed down from her mother-in-law who had learned the recipe from her mother and grandmother. The ingredients are pretty simple – white rice, tomato sauce, garlic, chili powder, and Caldo de Tomate.

Ingredients

  • Oil – I have used vegetable, canola, corn or olive oil. Other oils that you prefer can be used as long as they have a high smoke point.
  • Long grain white rice – I have Jasmine rice without issues, but don’t recommend a short grain because it can be too starchy. Brown rice works – see the FAQs section for tips.
  • Tomato sauce – Depending on how saucy you like your rice, use anywhere from 4-8 ounces.
  • Caldo de Tomate – This is a tomato bouillon that can be found in the Mexican aisle or with the dry soup mixes. If you can’t find it or don’t want to purchase it, you can omit.
  • Water – Substitute chicken broth if you prefer, especially if you omit the caldo de tomate.

What is the Difference Between Mexican Rice and Spanish Rice?

Some people call this Spanish Rice, but Mexican Rice and Spanish Rice are actually not the same thing. While they do use some of the same ingredients, Spanish Rice uses saffron threads and has more of a yellow color.

Whether you call it Mexican Rice or Spanish Rice, you’ll always call it delicious!

What Spices to Add to Rice

White rice on its own has a pretty neutral flavor, so adding spices is key to adding big flavor. Add garlic, tomato bouillon and chili powder for restaurant-style Mexican rice; chicken broth, onion and garlic for rice pilaf; and saffron for Spanish Rice.

Long grain white rice toasting in a pan, a wooden spoon for mexican rice
tomato sauce in a skillet with a wooden spoon

How to Make Mexican Rice

  1. The first step is to brown the rice by cooking it with some vegetable oil over a fairly high heat. When the rice starts to turn bright white and then golden, you’re ready for the next step, which is basically just adding the rest of the ingredients – water, tomato sauce tomato bouillon, garlic and chili powder.
  2. Once it all comes to a boil, cover it up and turn down the heat. A clear lid is helpful here so you can see when the rice is done, but really 20 minutes is about all it takes. If after 20 minutes there’s still some liquid in the pan, just let it continue to cook until all of the water is absorbed and you can no longer see it bubbling to the top.
  3. Let it rest, covered, for several minutes, then fluff it up in the pan using a fork or wooden spoon, and you’re ready to serve. Sometimes I’ll add some frozen vegetables, like peas and carrots, or even chicken, like in my One Pot Mexican Chicken & Rice.

Top Tips and Tricks

  • Use a good quality nonstick saute pan for cooking your Mexican Rice. The rice never sticks, and it has higher sides so there’s no chance or and of the rice going overboard while stirring! Do not use stainless steel pans for cooking rice.
  • Resist the urge to lift the lid! Rice needs steam to cook and as it steams, the grains absorb the liquid which makes them plump and fluffy. Lifting the lid releases essential steam that is necessary to cooking rice perfectly.
  • About the tomato sauce – This recipe was recently updated to use a little less tomato sauce. The original calls for an 8 ounce can, but a lot of people commented that their homemade Mexican Rice was a little too saucy. This can be a personal preference, and often depends on the cook, but you can use half of the can (4 ounces) and still have delicious, tomato-y restaurant-style Mexican Rice. Freeze the remainder of the sauce for using the next time you make this recipe.
  • Can you freeze Mexican Rice? Absolutely! Store leftover cooked rice in an airtight container in the fridge for 5-6 days or the freezer for up to 6 months. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.
  • Add a chopped up Roma tomato for more color and freshness.
Authentic restaurant style Mexican Rice, being fluffed in the pan with a spoon

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use as a substitute for the Caldo de Tomate?

I have been asked this many times so I thought it was important to address. Chicken bouillon would be a fine substitution, although it wouldn’t have the same tomato taste. You could also simply use chicken stock instead of water and leave the bouillon out completely. I definitely recommend Caldo de Tomate if you can easily get it because it will give the best, most authentic flavor to your restaurant-style Mexican Rice recipe.

My rice didn’t cook all the way through in the 20 minutes. What happened?

Since each kitchen and stove is different, it’s hard to say what could have gone wrong. However, typically it’s just that the heat wasn’t high enough and the rice didn’t come to a full boil. Let it cook a little longer to absorb more of the liquid. Or, remove the lid, turn up the heat to medium and let any remaining liquid boil off. One of these solutions should work for most problems.

Is this really authentic?

Each kitchen, family, and family tradition is different. Just like in the US there are about 18 different types of barbecue sauce depending on what part of the country you live in, the same goes for Mexico and authentic Mexican Rice recipes. Just because it isn’t the same as what your family cooks, doesn’t make it wrong or bad.

What kind of rice is best for Mexican Rice?

This recipe calls for long grain white rice, which is the best for an Authentic Mexican Rice recipe. However, I have used Jasmine Rice in its place and it comes out fine. Brown rice can be used, but will require an additional ⅓ cup of water and about 10-20 minutes more cook time.

Authentic Mexican Rice recipe on a platter with a wooden spoon, a sprig of parsley

Recipes that use Mexican Rice

Even though it’s usually used as a side dish, Mexican Rice can be incorporated into a lot of different main dishes.

More Mexican Recipes

Planning a fiesta of your own? Mexican food is what we live for around here and if you want some delicious authentic and Mexican recipes, you’ve got to try our Crock Pot Chicken Tacos, Crock Pot Carnitas, Baked Salsa Chicken and my famous homemade Guacamole! Or dip your chips in some sweet Mango Salsa. My husband swears by my Shrimp Ceviche and my kids rave about my Mexican Sopes. Don’t forget the Margaritas! Want Mexican food for breakfast? Try this amazing Chilaquiles recipe!

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A close up of Mexican Rice.

Authentic Mexican Rice

The best Mexican rice that is fluffy and rich in flavor!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 22 mins
Total Time 27 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 6 servings
Calories 160kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 cup dry long-grain white rice
  • (4-8) ounces canned tomato sauce Use at least 4 or up to 8 ounces of tomato sauce
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons Caldo de Tomate tomato bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic about 2 cloves

Instructions
 

  • Heat oil in a 5 quart saute pan over medium-high heat. Add rice. Cook rice, stirring constantly, for several minutes, until rice begins to turn a golden color.
  • Reduce heat to low to avoid spattering. Gently pour in warm water, then tomato sauce and stir. Stir in chili powder, Caldo de Tomate and minced garlic. Turn heat back up to medium-high, bring to a boil, then reduce to low and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until all water has been absorbed.
  • Turn off heat, fluff rice then let sit, covered, for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes

Several people felt that the rice was a little too saucy for them. We have always used a full can (8-ounces) of tomato sauce but I have recently tested this recipe with just just half of a can (4-ounces). It still tastes amazing, just not as saucy (but still moist and fluffy). You can freeze the remainder of the sauce and use it the next time you make Mexican rice.

Nutrition

Calories: 160kcalCarbohydrates: 26gProtein: 3gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 283mgPotassium: 105mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 181IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 13mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Mexican Rice
Authentic Mexican Rice - as close to restaurant taste as you can get!

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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Comments

  1. I’ve been looking for a great Mexican rice recipe for years. Since we can’t really go out for great Mexican food these days I’ve been trying to make it myself but have failed miserably, until I found this recipe. Omg delicious and perfect consistency. Light fluffy and very flavorful. My husband pretty much hates rice because of its lack of flavor, but this one he actually liked, and said so out loud. Big, big Thank you for posting this.

  2. I used 4 oz of tomato sauce and I used a garlic and pepper blended seasoning in addition to the fresh garlic. I have made this recipe about 4 times now. Then first 3 times I also added onions because that’s how we do it. And i didn’t use that much calde de tomate because I don’t really like the taste. But, overall this is my favorite recipe that I have tried because it reminds me most of the rice my mom and grandma made.

  3. I made this for dinner tonight. Extra good! Wonderful! I did use beef broth as I was adding ground beef. Also, since I was adding the beef & peas & carrots, I wound up using about 20 ozs of petite diced tomatoes. Also cooked it in a cast iron pot. It turned out great! My family is greatly impressed! Thank you very much. I’m glad I tried this recipe. I did also use1 cube of the tomato bullion to the broth & sauce while the rice was cooking. Again, excellent!

  4. Awesome recipe
    This is my go to for mexican rice
    I use minced onion and garlic and add to oil when toasting the rice

    I use 4 oz of tomato sauce (1/2 a can) and add the measuring cup and then fill to 2 cups of water

    Also, if you’re using caldo de tomate cubes, only use 1 LOL

    Thanks so much Kristin!

  5. The best spanish rice!!!!! I’m so glad I found your recipe! Thanks for sharing! I did add some salt and a goya sazon packet. We had that and chicken quesadillas for supper tonight?

  6. My beloved Mexican maid made this using her mothers recipe. For those of you who can’t get tomate boullion or caldo, do what she did—throw one or two quartered Roma tomatoes in the blender, a couple cloves of garlic, half a small onion, half a jalapeño (no seeds for us), add the cooking water and blend till there are largish flecks of vegetables. Use this for the cooking liquid. She kept a small saucepan of hot water on the stove to add if the rice seemed dry. It was wonderful!

  7. This is delicious! I followed the recipe as written and it’s perfect! It has wonderful depth of flavor. I’ve never used the tomato bouillon before but I’m thinking it is a key player in the flavor. Thank you for this recipe. It’s a keeper!

  8. Didn’t care for it to much of a chili flavor and boy was it dark. Almost a mahogany color not close to the pictures or what I would get in a restaurant, and yes I put the exact amount of ingredients in. Pictures also look like they may have little chunks of tomatoes in them.

    1. The brand of chili powder you use will make a difference. Some brands are darker. And the photos you see don’t have chunks of tomato, that’s the tomato sauce once cooked.

  9. Mexican rice was one of the first things my Mom taught me to make at age of 12. She was born in 1924 taught me Authentic Mexican rice is made with fresh ingredients, onion, garlic, tomato, (Before there was ever canned anything), & water,(sometimes fresh chicken stock if you happen to have from making chicken Caldo), & seasonings salt & cumin. As years have gone on ingredients have evolved it’s easier to use canned tomatoes & boullion as it is cheaper and has a longer shelf life. My Sister when taking rice to potlucks has had elder Mexican women comment to her that she makes her rice the “old way”. Fresh tomato should give it a little color & flavor, not necessarily orange or red.

  10. Great flavor but a little dry for me. I didn’t read your comments about how you had reduced the amount of tomato sauce based on others’ comments. Can’t please ’em all, right? I will go with 6 ounces next time and see if that is the right balance for me. Or, I might add onion which has a lot of water. Regardless, it is a good recipe and definitely reminded me of rice I’ve had in Mexican restaurants.

    1. Hi LisaMarie – you are absolutely right! My family has actually come to prefer the rice with only half of the tomato sauce, but we also like it with the full amount. I tend to switch it up each time I make it and don’t even measure any more! Glad you enjoyed it!

  11. I’m wanting to make this for my wedding in December. There will be 30 people there so I need to make a substantial amount. I can make it day of, but any suggestions for keeping it warm or reheating?

    1. If you’re feeding that many people, you might want to consider borrowing. bunch of crockpots. The warm setting would work fine.

  12. I’ve been trying different Mexican Rice recipes on and off for years and never could get it right until now. You’re AWESOME for putting this out there. Thank you!

  13. Any recommendations if you do not have any Tomato Boullion or Chicken Stock (or any stock)? I was thinking just using the tomato sauce and water with spices? Won’t be as good but might work

    1. You can leave out the boullion if you don’t have it. You will need to add a little salt, maybe add a little paprika and cumin too. Just to add extra flavor you’ll miss with the boullion.

  14. I was just looking at the ingredients of Knorr Caldo de Tomate. They are horrible. MSG, Sulfides and other not so good for you. What I got about actual not bad for you flavorings, Dehydrated tomato powder (boullion, available), chicken bouillon, tumeric, parsley, onion powder and garlic powder. I have all in organic versions….I think making my own would be healthier.

  15. This was ridiculously good. I did use the 4 oz but mine was closer to a tomato paste – it was home-made pizza sauce I already had. I also used 2 tsp chicken base instead of tomato bouillon because that was what I had on hand.

    It was delicious, thank you!!!

    1. If they’re frozen, you could add the peas and carrots at the beginning when you add the liquid. Or you could steam them in the microwave and add them at the end when you’re fluffing the rice.

  16. This is the BEST Mexican rice recipe I’ve found, and I’ve tried lots!! I doubled it to 2 cups of rice and added 5-10 minutes of cook time and it came out fluffy and delicious just like our favorite restaurant’s! You really do have to leave it alone and not open the lid. I added in frozen peas at the end, and might try carrots to cook with the rice or small potato chunks. You can’t go wrong with this one. Thanks for another great recipe!!

  17. Thank you so much for this simple and delicious recipe. I made it today for a family gathering with my homemade Chile Verde, chips and guacamole. This rice turned out perfect and so full of flavor. Everyone went back for seconds. Having grown up with a grandmother that lived in Mexico I have a taste for great Mexican rice and this nailed it !