How to Make Authentic Mexican Rice

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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

Get a detailed list of ingredients & instructions in the recipe card below.

  • 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

4.56 from 654 votes
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
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. This rice was good but I added salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. 8oz of tomato sauce was perfect.

  2. I’ve made Spanish Rice since I was 13. My Grandmother taught me, she was such a great cook before she got sick. To give your rice extra flavor, add some fresh onion, fresh cut up tomatoes and bell peppers, guarantee it adds a lot of flavor to your rice.

  3. This recipe could have been good but when I made it it was far too overcooked. Use a tad bit less water and cook for less time.

  4. Hands down, the best Mexican rice recipe I’ve tried. My husband loves it and so do I!! I make it exactly as written except I sub 2 tbsp. butter for the oil. Cook 20 mins and all the water is absorbed nicely. I also cook it in a 12 inch non stick fry pan. I’ve bookmarked this recipe and use it everytime!! Turns out perfect. Thank you Kristin!

  5. Good flavor, but very mushy. Too much liquid maybe. I simmered it for 210 minutes and it was soupy. I did another 10 still very wet. even after sitting uncovered for 10 minutes, no bueno. I am still on the hunt for a Mexican rice recipe that comes out like my friends and restaurants make it.

  6. This recipe was super simple and easy to
    Follow! The rice came out SO GOOD! The only different thing I did was cook sofrito in the oil before adding the rice, simply because I made like 3 jars of it a while back and it needs to be used! Lol anyway, thanks for this recipe, I’ll be using it from now on for Mexican rice<3

  7. I think this is a good basic rice recipe. However, red rice is an Americanized thing. I grew up in Mexico and did travel and red rice is NOT the common type of rice eaten. Most people eat rice with out the tomato sauce added. While “arroz rojo” as it is known, is eaten in some places in lieu of the classic rice, it typically is to serve the tourists in restaurants. And yes, there are various ways of making rice by region, but the truth is the closer you get to the US geographically, the more the food is made for the tourists’ palette. The recipe is good though 🙂

  8. I have made this recipe over and over and over for several years! It is the best mexican rice and tastes just like what you get in a restaurant. I have not been able to find Caldo de Tomate in my grocery store so have left it out and it’s still delicious. I do use chicken broth instead of water and I add some salt. Don’t look for other recipes – just take a jump and make this one!

  9. The above recipe is how I was taught by a Mexican friend. My husband was 1/2 Apache & 1/2 Mexican. He asked if I knew how to make Spanish Rice. I said yes, I made it for dinner that nite. He was shocked. He said, ” this tastes just like my mom’s.” After thanking him I had to leave the table momentarily as I had to wipe the tears from my eyes. That was the highest compliment a man can give a woman.

  10. Love love this recipe!! I add chicken broth instead of water and a splash of hot sauce to give it a little kick. When we make large batches we brown our rice and then toss all ingredients into a large rice cooker and it cooks it perfectly and keeps it warm!! Thanks for the recipe!!

  11. Growing up, there was a Mexican restaurant in my town that made the most amazing Mexican rice. Over the years I tried to duplicate it many times with disappointing results. THIS IS IT! Just as written. I do tend to do just 4 oz of tomato sauce, but have done as much as 8. Love this rice and it’s super easy!

  12. I’ve been looking for an easily adaptable Mexican rice recipe and this is it. Thank you for sharing this. For my family, I added a half can suggestion of tomato sauce instead of full can, and used chicken broth instead of water and a tablespoon of chili powder. It was great! Everyone raved!

    1. You could try adding a little bit of water when reheating. If you’re making it for a wedding, I highly recommend doing a test run first.

    2. After thawing (on the counter) put rice in microwave safe dish. Add 1 ice cube per 3 cups of rice and microwave to desired temp.

      The ice cube trick is phenomenal. Remoisturizes the rice via steam rather than boiling, which often leads to soggy.

    1. Chicken bouillon and a little tomato paste would do the trick. Or use chicken broth instead of water and add a teaspoon of tomato paste.

  13. This is the easiest and most tasty Mexican-style rice I’ve made and served to guests! I’ve made it several times with varying levels of spice and it’s always a hit. I did find that a single recipe was great with 4 ounces of tomato sauce and a double recipe was great with 8 ounces of tomato sauce. This recipes was awesome for burritos, burrito bowls, a vegetarian meal of rice and beans, and just by itself. Once the recipe is made I like to mix my portion with a little bit of a spicy salsa just because I like that flavor profile and I tent to keep foods mild when serving friends and family so they can adjust spice as they like. This is a recipe I will be using for years to come. Thank you so much for making this so easy for me! I was nervous about making rice on my new induction stovetop but with the right pan this recipe is perfect.