This cilantro lime rice recipe will elevate your meal with zesty lime and fresh cilantro, creating a refreshing and aromatic side dish perfect for any occasion. Plus, it’s easy-to-make and gluten-free friendly.
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If you’re a fan of Chipotle’s cilantro lime rice recipe, you’ll be happy to hear that you can make it right at home. All you need are a few fresh ingredients. Serve with tacos, refried beans, or homemade burrito bowls. This recipe makes a big batch to enjoy thorough out the week or meal prep.
My copycat recipe adds a herbaceous and citrusy flavor to the neutral-tasting grains. I use a simple rinsing and toasting step to ensure a light and fluffy texture. Once the seasoned water is absorbed, it’s time to stir in the fresh lime juice and chopped cilantro. It’s an easy rice dish to prepare that’s bursting with flavor!
- Rice: Use white long-grain rice to give tender grains that stay separate. Jasmine rice is my top choice, followed by basmati rice. Avoid short-grain rice, as it will be too sticky. Brown rice can be used but will require more water and a longer cook time.
- Oil: Olive oil, rice bran oil (used in Chipotle’s recipe), vegetable oil, or avocado oil. Used to toast the rice and add flavor to the cooked grains.
- Bay Leaf: Adds an earthy note to the rice.
- Lime Juice: Freshly squeezed juice adds a bright and tangy flavor. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of grated lime zest for extra citrus oil flavor and aroma.
- Cilantro: Chop fresh cilantro leaves, then stir into the rice before serving. Parsley is a good substitute.
Rinse the rice
Raw white rice grains are coated with starches on the surface. When cooked, the starches become tacky, sticking to the nearby grains. For fluffy rice that stays separate, rinse them with cool water, then drain well before cooking. The water should run clear, indicating that the starches have been removed.
Saute the rice
One of the best ways to add extra flavor to bland rice grains is to saute them before simmering. Lightly toasting them in olive oil for about 5 minutes to add a nutty aroma and taste. Drying the outside of the grain also helps to keep them from becoming mushy.
Simmer the rice
To properly cook the rice using the absorption method, you’ll need 2 parts water for every 1 part rice. This recipe makes a large serving using 2 cups of rice and 4 cups of water. You can use unsalted vegetable or chicken stock or broth for an extra savory flavor. Bring the water to a boil and stir in the salt to enhance the taste.
Add the bay leaf, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. The process takes about 20 minutes. No peaking or stirring! Once the rice has absorbed the water, turn off the heat and cover it for 10 minutes to finish cooking. Lightly fluff the grains with a fork to separate them.
Add in the lime and cilantro
The flavor compounds in the lime juice and cilantro are very delicate. It’s best to stir them in after the rice is cooked to maximize the flavor. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to coat the grains for extra richness to the rice dish.
Serve immediately while the rice is still hot. I like to garnish with more cilantro, and you can serve a wedge of lime on the side for those who want a more pungent tangy citrus taste.
Cilantro lime rice is a versatile side dish that can be easily customized. Try some of these tasty suggestions to switch up the flavor.
- Add Produce: Add diced tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, bell peppers, peas, or corn. Add sweetness with diced pineapple or mango.
- Add Beans: Stir in cooked black beans or pinto beans for extra protein and fiber.
- Make it Spicy: Add freshly mined jalapenos, fire-roasted green chilies, or chili powder.
- Seasonings: Saute minced garlic and onion, or add dried garlic powder and onion powder. Stir in cumin, coriander, or paprika.
- Herbs: Add parsley, basil, mint, chives, or sliced green onions.
- Red or green chili chicken enchiladas
- Chicken, steak, or shrimp fajitas
- Carne asada
- Mexican street corn salad
Frequently asked questions
After cooking the rice, add the freshly chopped cilantro and lime juice. The herbs are delicate, so they will wilt down if heated too long. The aromatics in citrus juice have the most smell right after addition. The aromatic compounds are volatile as it warms up, making them less intense.
Rinse the rice with cool water to remove the starchy coating on the surface. These starches become sticky when cooked, causing the grains to clump together.
Yes! You won’t be able to toast the rice in a rice cooker. When using an electric pressure cooker, use the saute function to toast the rice, cover, and cook for about 3 minutes at high pressure and 10 minutes at natural release. Less water is required. Use equal parts of rice and water in an Instant Pot.
Using brown rice instead of white rice
The outer bran is left intact for brown rice, giving its characteristic color and nutty flavor. This requires more water and time to soften and hydrate the center of the grain. For 2 cups of brown rice, add 5 cups of water. It will take 35 to 45 minutes to cook the rice fully.
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Cilantro Lime Rice
- 2 cups long grain white rice, jasmine, or basmati
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 cups water
- 1 bay leaf, optional
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- Prepare the Rice – Add the rice to a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse under cool water until it runs clear, scrubbing the grains with your fingers, about 1 minute. Shake and press to drain the excess water until dry.
- Saute the Rice – Heat a Dutch oven or medium saucepan over medium-high heat, and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the rice and saute, frequently stirring, until the grains are lightly toasted, 4 to 5 minutes. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan so the rice does not burn.
- Simmer – Slowly pour the water, stir in the salt, and add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cover and then reduce to a simmer over low heat. Cook until the rice has absorbed the water and is tender, about 20 minutes.
- Let it Sit – Turn off the heat, keep the cover on, and allow the rice to sit for 10 minutes to absorb all the water. Discard the bay leaf. Gently fluff with a fork.
- Add Lime and Cilantro – Stir in the lime juice, cilantro, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil—season with salt to taste. If desired, transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with more cilantro.
- Short Video: Watch the recipe come together.
- Recipe Yield: 7 cups of rice
- Serving Size: ½ cup
- Substituting Olive Oil: Use a neutral-tasting oil like vegetable oil, rice bran oil, or avocado oil.
- Storing: Cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Freeze in a resealable plastic bag for up to 1 month, and defrost before using.
- Reheating: Place in a bowl and sprinkle some water on top. Cover and microwave on high in 15 to 30-second intervals until hot.
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