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 use a porcelain lined Dutch oven. Everything is done stovetop until all ingredients have come together and mixture is hot (just before it starts to simmer). Cover and place in 325 oven for 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and fluff with fork. Just remember to stir as LITTLE as possible before placing in the oven and don’t mess with once it goes in the oven.

  2. We love this recipe! This is actually the only homemade Mexican rice my daughter will eat and I’ve tried several other recipes! Thank you Kristin!

  3. This is my go-to Mexican rice recipe! I have used it countless times and I always get amazing compliments on it when I take it places. It is both flavorful and moist and it’s good for leftovers too! Thank you so much for the easy and delicious recipe!:)

  4. Thank you so much for sharing! This is the best mexican rice and better than a lot restaurants. We’ve made this three times now with some minor tweaks the last two times and think we have the perfect version for us now.

    I double the receipe (stay with 8oz tomato sauce). I add about 1/3 cup of minced onion and the garlic to the rice about halfway thru the saute process. Then I also add a 10oz can of original Rotel tomato and chilies when adding the water. We no longer need the Chile powder as the Rotel gives a little kick. 20 min cook time is perfect for us (3700 ft elevation).

    Light, fluffy and wonderful flavor.

    Thanks again, I plan to make this 2-3 times a month!

  5. I’m not usually a rice person. Made this recipe for a family gathering.
    Great recipe! Best Mexican rice I’ve ever had! The caldo de Tomatoe was a little salty, maybe next time I’ll cut it back a little.

  6. We made this last night and it was fabulous!! We added a little bit of fresh chopped jalapeno pepper, vidalia onion, cilantro and chopped tomato. Will definitely make again – this is my new go-to recipe for mexican rice. Thank you!

  7. It works perfectly. Excellent recipe. I only changed the tomato sauce to 5oz instead of 8 oz. It will be a staple recipe for my south of the border meals.

  8. Just made this. It was very good. I used a little more than half of an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce. It wasn’t saucy at all.
    Will definitely make this again.

  9. Oh man this was so good!! I doubled the recipe!! I rinsed the rice until the water was clear. Then fried it until golden brown. Then added 8 oz of tomato sauce continued fry it until it was was evaporated and sticky. Then added 3.5 c chicken broth and two chicken bouillon cubes because I didn’t have the tomato one. Plus the chili powder, garlic, bay leaves and cilantro. 20 minutes was perfect time. It was fluffy and delicious. I did remove the bay leaves and cilantro because of my picky eaters! Everyone loves it!!
    I served it with air fried chicken thighs, refried beans and sautéed zucchini and onions for a healthier dinner!!
    So so good!! Everyone’s comments were helpful!
    I was going to post a pic but there wasn’t an option to 😫
    Thanks for the recipe. I hope you don’t mind me sharing my tweaks.

  10. Hi Kristin, I am planning on making this for my family during our vacation and am wondering what canned tomato sauce do you recommend? Thank you in advance….. I will come on back and let you know how it came out!!

    1. I have used everything from Generic to name brands and never had a problem with any brand.

  11. Hey, first of all this is a great recipe! My dad is a huge fan of Mexican food and he LOVED THIS! However, i have a huge family and i wanted to make this again but i want to make it x3 and i don’t know how to adjust the recipe 🙁

  12. It has most of the correct ingredients.. 1 side of the family is from Mexico. We use regular rice because jasmine is not authentic it gives it an off flavor and not quite the right texture.. also make sure if you cook it when you put everything together in a pan and cook it do not ever stir it until after you bring it to boil let it sit for 20 minutes then fluff but you never want to stir your rice when it’s cooking

  13. I have. Tried so many recipes over the years and finally I found this one. Such a great hit with my family. I live in Texas so I know what great Mexican rice tastes like and this one is so amazing.

  14. This is my go to rice! It’s amazing!! My dad is a Mexican food connoisseur and I made your rice for him over the weekend. He loved it! He even ate the leftovers for breakfast the next morning. My sister in laws-mother (confusing, I know) is Hispanic and she said this rice is better than what her mom used to make when she was growing up!