Easy Mexican rice recipe that infuses garlic, onion, cumin, and tomatoes to give a burst of savory flavor. This side dish pairs nicely with a plate of tacos, fajitas, beans, salad, and more! Toasted long-grain white rice makes each bite light, tender and tasty.
Are you ready for restaurant-style Mexican rice made right at home!? This simple side dish is a popular option that can complete your meal. I’ll show you how to transform bland grains of white rice into a flavorful pot, bursting with subtly sweet and earthy notes.
The rice is first toasted on the stovetop to develop a nuttiness from the browning, then simmers with vegetables and fragrant spices. Each grain soaks up the flavors in the liquid and takes on a vibrant orange hue. By making a few easy swaps in the traditional steaming method, you can turn a boring side dish into an amazing one.
Long grain white rice is the best variety for fluffy Mexican rice. The elongated shape yields light grains that stay separate after absorbing water. Extra-long grain and jasmine rice also work well. I recommend rinsing the rice to wash away any excess starches on the surface that could make the texture sticky. It’s a common practice that I do whenever cooking white rice.
Toast the rice
To maximize the taste of the dish, toast the rice before simmering. This recipe cooks the grains in olive oil over medium-high heat to lightly brown the surface and adds new nutty aromas that weren’t there before. The extra process takes about 5 minutes, but it’s worth the time. It’s a simple technique often used in Latin cuisine to quickly boost the flavor of the star of the dish.
Infuse more flavor into every bite
Chopped onions and minced garlic are sauteed in the hot oil. This softens the sulfurous sting and concentrates the natural sugars in the onions. To awaken the earthy flavors in the ground cumin, it’s also cooked in the fat.
Tomato paste not only adds the characteristic color but also delivers extra glutamates for more savory notes. I like to add chopped tomatoes for small bursts of sweet and acidic elements.
Let it simmer
Once the ingredients saute together, add in the chicken stock and bring it to a boil. This gets the liquid nice and hot so that once the pot is covered and the heat is lowered, it can gently soften the grains using the absorption method.
It takes about 20 minutes for the rice to soak up the water and cook the starch granules. To fully soften the grains, keep it covered for 10 more minutes before opening the lid. Stirring at the end allows the residual heat from the steam to do its final cooking.
Festive Mexican main dish pairings
How to make Mexican rice without tomatoes
If you don’t have fresh or canned tomato paste on hand, caldo de tomato (Amazon) or chicken bouillon can instantly add color and salty flavor. It’s a granulated seasoning mix that has a very strong concentrated chicken and spice flavor with dried tomato powder. Use about 4 to 5 teaspoons for this Mexican rice recipe. Some products contain monosodium glutamate, so you can omit the salt.
- 2 cups (400 g) long grain rice, extra long grain or jasmine
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
- ½ cup (70 g) diced yellow onion, ¼-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon (11 g) minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) cumin
- 1 teaspoon (6 g) kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon (21 g) tomato paste
- 1 cup (155 g) diced tomatoes, ¼-inch dice
- 4 cups (960 ml) unsalted chicken stock, or broth
- 1 tablespoon (2 g) chopped cilantro
- Add rice to a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse under cool running water until it runs clear, scrubbing the rice in between your fingers several times, about 1 minute. Shake the colander and lightly press with hands to drain the excess water.
- Heat a Dutch oven or medium saucepan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Once the oil is hot add in onion, saute until slightly translucent, 1 minute. Add garlic, saute until fragrant, 30 seconds.
- Add the rice and turn the heat up to medium-high. Saute, stirring frequently 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.
- Turn the heat down to medium, add cumin and salt, saute for 30 seconds. Add in tomato paste, stir to combine, and cook for 30 seconds. Add in diced tomatoes, stir to combine.
- Slowly pour in the chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Cover and then reduce to a simmer over low heat. Cook until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, keep the cover on, and allow the rice to sit for 10 minutes to absorb all of the water. Gently fluff with a fork. Taste rice and season with more salt as desired.
- Garnish rice with cilantro leaves.
- Recipe Yield: 7 cups
- Serving Size: ½ cup
- Substituting with tomato sauce: Add ¼ cup of tomato sauce for the tomato paste. Reduce the chicken stock to 3 ¾ cups to account for the additional liquid.
- Using canned tomatoes: Canned diced tomato can be substituted for fresh. Make sure to drain the liquid before using it.
- Storing: Rice can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days. To freeze, portion into small resealable plastic bags for up to 1 month.
- Reheating: Reheat rice in the microwave on high power in a heatproof bowl in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until warmed through. Defrost the rice first if frozen.