Enjoy Homemade Mexican Rice – Just as Good as the Restaurant!

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Mexican rice is a delicious and easy side dish to accompany tacos, fill burritos, or otherwise enhance your Mexican style meal. This dish is perfect for a quick and easy dinner!

dinner of chicken and mexican rice

At a Mexican restaurant, the side of rice and beans is pretty standard, right?

And when you’re there, it might not seem like such a big deal, what with the frosty margarita, the sizzling fajitas, and the salsa picante.

But when you get home…?

When you get home and want to make Mexican food yourself, well, the rice matters. It matters big time.

How many times have you wondered how they make that rice? Or rather how you can make that rice yourself at home?

Well, you can stop wondering. Today I’m sharing my go-to recipe for Mexican rice, taught to me many moons ago by my college friend Elva. My roommate Laura didn’t have the patience to teach me, but Elva, Elva stuck it out.

So, today I’m passing on the secret.

cooked Mexican rice in a bowl

You see, Mexican food is a cuisine near and dear to my heart. Growing up in Southern California, my family loved, loved, LOVED to visit Downtown Los Angeles and the historic Olvera Street. It was by far a favorite family pastime. 

The original neighborhood, like the first street of the City of Angels, Olvera Street features some of the best eating I’ve had in my life. The corner restaurant, La Luz del Dia is my favorite. And I knew how to order starting at a very young age.

Carnitas Tostada, por favor — y dos tacos de carnitas. And a 7-Up.

Such a creature of habit, I ordered the same. thing. every. time. And over the years have recreated my favorite Olvera Street dishes at home: Pork Carnitas TacosCarnitas Tostadas, and Homemade Corn Tortillas.

It’s been years since I visited Olvera Street, but now it almost doesn’t matter. Since there are so many Mexican Dinner Recipes I can make at home. While dining out on a budget is totally doable, sometimes it’s just nice to eat at home.

Mexican Rice is one of them. This Mexican Rice is very versatile; it’s great as a side dish, but can also make a frugal, meatless main dish, like beans and rice.

This is an easy rice pilaf that will astonish you at its simplicity. Promise.

ingredients for mexican rice

Is there a difference between Spanish rice and Mexican rice?

Traditional Spanish rice is more along the lines of what you’d find in paella. It’s a pilaf cooked with similar basics like rice and tomatoes, but Spanish rice will contain saffron, whereas Mexican rice does not.

What can I eat with Mexican rice?

Mexican rice is great as a side dish alongside grilled meats, tacos, and fajitas. It also serves as a great burrito filling or a base for burrito bowls.

Can I make Mexican rice with brown rice?

You can prepare this recipe with brown rice but the final product will have a much softer, mushier, texture. If you want to use the whole grain, be sure to increase your cooking time to 40 to 45 minutes instead of the recommended 15 to 20.

Can I make Mexican rice in a pressure cooker?

Yes! Using the pressure cooker to prepare this rice is a nice way to free up more room on the stove. See the recipe notes below for full instructions.

How do you make Mexican rice?

This Mexican rice recipe is the simplest version you can make, using only six ingredients. Feel free to embellish it by adding chopped onion and spices such as lemon pepper or cumin.

rice in a skillet with spoon

Heat some oil in a pan with a lid. Once it is shimmering, add the rice, and cook, stirring until the rice has turned white and even a bit brown in spots. 

(If you wanted to add chopped onion, now would be the time to do so.)

This process may take some time, so be patient. I remember Elva telling me I had to wait longer, so you probably will too.

It should look like this:

sautéed and browned rice

Once the rice is whitish-brown, add the tomato sauce. It may splatter a bit when you pour it in, so be careful.

tomato sauce added to rice

Stir the tomato sauce around in the rice quickly and then add the chicken broth or stock.

If you wanted to add cumin, now would be the time to do so.

adding broth to the rice in the pan

You’ll likely produce steam and hissing when you do this, so just be careful not to burn yourself.

You don’t want to release too much starch in the rice, so don’t stir too much, just enough to combine the rice, tomato sauce, and chicken broth well.

simmering rice and broth in pan

Allow this mixture to come to a regular simmer. Once it is bubbling well, cover it with the lid, and reduce the heat to low. 

Set the timer for 15 minutes and allow the rice to cook. While it’s simmering, the rice will absorb all or most of the liquid. You may need to cook it as long as 20 minutes to get to this point.

When the rice appears “dry”, it’s done. Fun fact: Mexican rice is called sopa seca in Spanish: dry soup.

cooked rice in pan

Fluff the rice with a fork and mix in any tomato sauce that may have risen to the top. Season the rice to taste with salt and pepper.

fluffed mexican rice

The rice is ready to serve. It is good in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, making it a great meal prep base for packing lunches.

How I make this cheap:

Here are some of the strategies I use to make this recipe more economical:

  • Buy in bulk. I know that Costco is the best place to buy ingredients in bulk, like brown rice or chicken stock, when there isn’t a great sale elsewhere. I keep track of prices so that I know who has the best deal where. If you don’t think you’ll eat through a ten pound bag of rice too quickly, split the purchase with a friend or store the extra in the freezer to extend its shelf life. Yes shopping at Costco can save you money, if done right
  • Make my own stock. Homemade chicken stock is so easy to make and practically free if you’re already roasting a chicken or buying rotisserie chickens. Extract all the flavor from the bones before you toss them.

Tools I use to make this recipe easy:

Having the right kitchen tools can really make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable. Over time, I’ve honed my collection so that they are perfect for my needs. Here are the tools that I like to use in this recipe.

cooked Mexican rice in pan

After you’ve prepared the recipe, would you do me a favor? I’d really appreciate it if you came back and left a starred review. Thanks in advance for your feedback!

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cooked Mexican rice in a bowl
Mexican Rice
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
25 mins
 
Mexican rice is a delicious and easy side dish to accompany tacos, fill burritos, or otherwise enhance your Mexican style meal.
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Keyword: beans and rice, cooked rice, mexican, mexican dishes, Mexican rice, mexican side dish, rice, rice pilaf
Servings: 8
Calories: 213 kcal
Author: Jessica Fisher
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cups uncooked white rice
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 4 cups chicken broth or stock
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
To prepare the rice in a pan on the stove top:
  1. In a large sauté pan with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until rice turns white and very lightly brown. Remove from heat and stir in tomato sauce. Be careful of splatters. Stir well. Stir in chicken broth and return to heat. Bring to bubbling.
  2. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes or until almost all liquid is absorbed. Remove lid and fluff with a fork.
  3. Continue to cook on low for about five minutes to remove any extra liquid. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
To prepare this recipe in the electric pressure cooker:
  1. Heat the oil in the pot on sauté. Add the rice and continue cooking, stirring, until the rice turns white and very lightly brown.
  2. Stir in the tomato sauce and only 1 1/2 cups chicken broth. Stir gently to combine.

  3. Cover and secure the lid. Turn the pressure valve on. Hit the manual button and cook for 4 minutes.
  4. When the timer beeps, allow the rice to rest for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure valve. Once all the pressure has escaped, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.
Recipe Notes

Notes: Store cooked rice in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to four days. 

If preparing Mexican rice with long grain brown rice, increase the cooking time to 40 to 45 minutes. 

Nutrition Facts
Mexican Rice
Amount Per Serving
Calories 213 Calories from Fat 36
% Daily Value*
Fat 4g6%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 593mg26%
Potassium 249mg7%
Carbohydrates 39g13%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 4g8%
Vitamin A 133IU3%
Vitamin C 10mg12%
Calcium 24mg2%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe great meals don't have to be complicated or expensive. There's a better way, and it won't take all afternoon.

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    For the Mexican Rice, do you use “minute” rice or the longer cooking rice? The minute rice is probably not as frugal, but CAN you use it?

    Thanks!

  2. Liz@HoosierHomemade says

    Thanks for hosting! The rice looks great!
    ~Liz

  3. Lynn says

    I make mexican rice very much like this. But I put some seasoning in mine like cumin. I think the trick is frying the rice.

  4. Karen says

    Your rice recipe looks simple and delicious. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Gina K says

    I goofed! I put just my name in the widget above for the recipe swap, and forgot to add the recipe name…I tried to delete it and redo it but don’t know how to. Please delete the Gina Koston link and leave the second one I put in that has the Mexican Breakfast Casserole recipe title in it. Thanks so much and sorry for the goof!

  6. Megan says

    It’s great to have a simple yet delicious side dish like this for all those heavy mexican dishes! Thanks for hosting the exchange.

  7. Charissa says

    This is the first time I have read your blog & I LOVE your Ultimate Recipe Swap! Great idea 🙂

  8. Amy @ Finer Things says

    I didn’t add one this time, but Mexican is a fave here. Can’t wait to check out some of these recipes!

  9. Marshall says

    Hi,

    We have just added your latest post "Life as Mom: Ultimate Recipe Swap: Mexican Food" to our Food Directory . You can check the inclusion of the post here . We are delighted to invite you to submit all your future posts to the directory for getting a huge base of visitors to your website and gaining a valuable backlink to your site.

    Warm Regards

    foodnrecipes.info Team

    http://www.foodnrecipes.info

  10. JULIE says

    My Mexican rice (which my husband who normally hates rice absolutely loves) is made like this: Saute 1 cup parboiled rice and some chopped onion (usually 1/2 onion) in some oil till the rice is somewhat browned and the onions are translucent. Then stir in one can of Rotel, one cup water, and half a package of taco seasoning. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid is absorbed. You can have it just like that, but what we usually do is grill a couple chicken breast tenderloins on the George Foreman, chop them into small cubes, and add to the rice mixture as it cooks…then pour a little italian dressing over it right before eating it…YUMMY!!

  11. Whew! That was close. I had been browsing your site so intensely that I didn’t realize that my laptop battery was about to die. I almost lost your site…which I love!
    My husband and I have been debt free for 3 years now (oh man, it feels gooooooooood!) and with recent prices at the grocery store going back into an upswing, we’ve had to tighten the budget’s belt a bit. Beans and rice sounds like the perfect answer. You’ve really inspired me with frugal meals, and I’ve started to look into Once A Month cooking too.
    Thanks for such a fabulous blog! I will be back often.

  12. Serenity says

    Does this anyone know if this recipe works with brown rice?

    • Jessica Fisher says

      @Serenity, I’ve done it with brown rice. It takes longer to cook and has a slightly different flavor. But, it’s still good.

  13. Gail says

    sounds great – I would only make one change. I would use salsa instead of the tomato sauce.

  14. Sarah G says

    I just made the Mexican Rice last night and it was fabulous! I am so excited b/c making from scratch (using a very easy recipe) is going to save me lots of money over buying the Uncle Ben’s ready to go Spanish Rice…plus, I know exactly what’s in my rice! Thank you so much for sharing – like one poster mentioned, I added chopped onions to mine, and will try it with salsa and corn next time – gotta sneak in those vegetables whenever I can! Thanks again for sharing!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Glad you liked it, Sarah!

  15. Katie says

    I came across this recipe over a year ago, and it has NEVER FAILED ME! For the rehearsal dinner before our wedding, my husband and I cooked a meal for everyone that included this rice, and we got rave reviews! Thank you for sharing this amazingly simple dish!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Wow! Rehearsal dinner? I’m honored. So glad that it has been successful for you!

  16. Danielle says

    I have tried this recipe many times. I love this recipe and so does my family, but I continue to get crunchy rice instead of soft, cooked rice. What am I doing wrong?

    • Jessica Fisher says

      I’ve had that happen before, usu when I’m not patient enough to cook it the entire time, or if there isn’t enough liquid.

      • Danielle says

        I figured it out! My lid wasn’t sealed tight enough (it’s from another pan)-so I put foil between my lid and pan. And I got that yummy rice you talked about! Yeah! Not a rice-cooker-failure after all. 🙂 about to surprise the fam at dinner

  17. chris says

    made the rice today..had the slow cooker pinto beans cooked from yesterday. what a great make ahead meal! had a good amount of ‘liguid’ with the beans and so i drained that out and plan to use IT for something else. mashed the beans alittle and fried them up before serving with shredded cheese on top and green tabasco sauce. topped the rice with sour cream and green tabasco. very good! anyone have any ideas for what to do with the leftover ‘liguid’ from the beans? has a nice flavor to it..must be good for SOMETHING! thanks!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      I would imagine good for soup. Thanks for your feedback! So glad you enjoyed it.

  18. Kristen says

    Oh my cow. This was FANTASTIC! I just made it tonight along with your Pintos and tostadas and my whole family raved. This is definitely in our rotation now! Thank you!!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      So glad you liked it!

      • Tonya Pennington says

        Jessica,
        Is that chopped green onions on top of yours
        Thanks, Tonya

  19. Ellen says

    This was an awesome dinner! I made this rice with your pintos that I’d cooked in the slow cooker yesterday. I added generous amounts of cumin, chili powder, garlic and onion powder, etc. to it because that’s how we like it. Sooooo much better than those Knorr rice packets I was using. This is fine eating, I tell ya! You’re my dinner hero, as usual!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Ha! So glad you like it!

  20. Claire says

    I made this months ago and let the race burn in the oil. Ruined it! I gave up trying to make it until yesterday. I made it correctly & watched it so I wouldn’t burn it. It turned our fabulous! We all loved it! Hubby & all 5 boys! My daughter is 3 & picky. LOL. I will be making this simple dish many times to come.

  21. Katie says

    Jessica (and others who’ve made this), do you rinse the rice before cooking it? I just made this to go with your bean recipe (which I made with black beans – it tastes great!), but the rice turned out really gloppy, and I wonder if it’s the extra starch. I used plain ol’ long grain white rice. One difference, that could have made a difference, is that I used a low, wide pot instead of a saute pan. My saute pan doesn’t have a lid; the pot did.

    • I don’t rinse the rice. I’ve found that when I did, it made it gloppy. Did you saute the rice in oil until it was started to brown lightly? That usually helps it not be sticky. (I use a low wide pan with a lid, so I think that part was fine.)

  22. Fiona says

    This looks like a great recipe, one small catch, my husband is allergic to tomatoes, any suggestions for a possible substitute? Would apple sauce or puréed carrots work? Absolutely loving the website, it’s given me loads of ideas for dinners and make ahead tips, cheers!

  23. Melissa says

    Hi!
    This recipe looks great 🙂 Could you please tell me what is in the tomato sauce? I’m in Australia – what we call tomato sauce Americans call ketchup. So I’m not sure what I should use.
    Thanks!

    • Definitely a good question. It’s more like a tomato purée that’s been thinned down a bit. Nothing much added except maybe salt, pepper.

  24. Maria Pimentel says

    Can this be frozen or will it have a weird texture?

    • I have never tried. We usually eat leftovers the next day — if there are any. But, I’ve had readers say it freezes fine.

  25. Marci says

    Just made this, finished it off in the oven instead of on the stove. added onions and cilantro. Yummy- thank you!

  26. TSandy says

    Jessica I make something similar. Next time substitute the cup of tomato sauce with a cup of salsa. Yum! It’s even good cold. I do the same thing. Use leftovers in burritos etc.

  27. Marge Fox says

    This looks so good and so easy I can’t wait to try it. Is there a way to share this on FB?

  28. Leigh says

    We were fortunate to receive some homemade tamales from a dear friend, and the rice recipiyou shared is cooking as I write, so looking forward to the lunch we are going to have. Thank you so much!

  29. Alisha says

    I use your yellow rice recipe with taco seasoning (both from your cookbook) for my Mexican rice. So good!

  30. Mary P says

    Is the amount of liquid in the pressure cooker version correct? Seems way off for 2 cups of rice.

    • When I make plain rice in the pressure cooker I use a 1 to 1 ratio, for example, 2 cups of rice and 2 cups of water. Accounting for the 1 cup of tomato sauce and the 1 1/2 cups of broth for this recipe, it’s actually on the “more than needed” side.

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