Mexican Red Rice is an essential side dish for Mexican cuisine that’s made with a combination of onions, garlic, tomato sauce, and cilantro.
Mexican Red Rice, also known as “Arroz Rojo” in Spanish, is a traditional Mexican side dish made with white rice cooked and aromatic ingredients that really bring it to life. The rice gets its vibrant red color and rich flavor from the tomato sauce it’s simmered in.
This rice is a staple in Mexican cuisine and is often served alongside various main dishes like enchiladas, tacos, or grilled meats. One of my favorite ways to use it is in a carnitas burrito, which I love making at home. It’s so authentic and delicious.
Of course, you can use this rice however you like, as a side dish or in a dish you’re craving. It’s also great as leftovers because it goes with anything.
Ingredients You Need
- Cooking Oil – This is used to sauté the onions, so you can use any cooking oil you like.
- Onion – I use yellow onions or sometimes a sweet onion. You can use any type of onion you have on hand.
- Extra Long Grain White Rice – This is the best rice to use for this dish.
- Garlic – Use fresh garlic that’s been minced to allow the full flavor to permeate the rice.
- Tomato Sauce – I use a canned tomato sauce for this. It provides the rich red color and tangy flavor.
- Low-Sodium Chicken Broth – Using low-sodium broth allows you to monitor how much salt you are putting into the dish.
- Salt – You can add salt at the end to taste, in order to get the right balance.
- Cilantro – Fresh cilantro that’s been chopped right before adding it to the rice is so aromatic and delicious.
- Rinse the rice thoroughly to remove excess starch and prevent stickiness when cooked.
- After cooking, allow the rice to rest for a few minutes before fluffing it with a fork to ensure the grains fully absorb the flavors.
- If the rice is slightly undercooked after the initial cooking time, add a splash of hot broth or water, cover, and continue to simmer until fully cooked.
- If you’re serving a large group or want leftovers, double the recipe and adjust the cooking time as needed.
- Cooking the rice in a heavy-bottomed pot ensures even heat distribution and reduces the risk of burning.
How to Make Mexican Red Rice
Step 1: Saute the Rice
Add the cooking oil to a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and cook for 3 minutes.
Add the rice and cook, stirring regularly, until it becomes lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the tomato sauce and stir into the rice.
Add the hot chicken broth (it must be hot when added), and the salt. Stir it all together.
Step 2: Cook on Low
Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and allow the rice to cook for about 20 minutes, undisturbed.
Step 3: Test and Serve
Fluff the rice with a fork and taste test it. If it’s not cooked to your desire doneness, continue cooking, covered, for 5 minutes at a time, until it’s done to your liking.
Add the cilantro and serve.
How to Store
Fridge: Store the rice in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Freezer: Allow the rice to cool to room temperature and transfer it to a freezer-safe, airtight container or a heavy-duty freezer bag. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.
How to Reheat
Stovetop: Heat the rice in a saucepan over low to medium-low heat with a splash of chicken broth or water, stirring occasionally until heated through.
Microwave: Place the rice in a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle with water or chicken broth, cover, and microwave on medium power, stirring in between, until thoroughly heated.
Steamer: Steam the rice in a steamer basket or heatproof container over simmering water for 5-7 minutes until heated, then fluff with a fork.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make a vegetarian version of this dish?
Yes, you can substitute the low-sodium chicken broth with vegetable broth or water to make it vegetarian. I prefer using vegetable broth to add more flavor than water.
How do I prevent the rice from sticking to the pot while cooking?
There are a few ways you can make sure that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot while you’re making this Mexican red rice. Use a heavy-bottomed pot, make sure you stir the rice regularly, and avoid using high heat as that will cause the rice to scorch on the bottom.
Can I serve this rice cold as a salad?
Yes, you can serve Mexican red rice cold, on it’s own or as a salad. To make a cold salad with it, just add fresh vegetables, some lime juice, and a drizzle of olive oil. It’s delicious this way.
Can I use a different type of rice?
It’s best to use long grain rice for this recipe because it soaks up just the right amount of liquid, which is balanced specifically for this recipe. If you choose to use a different rice, it might require more or less water and more or less cooking time, so it’s not ideal.
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Mexican Red Rice
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) cooking oil
- 1/4 cup (40 g) onion diced
- 1 cup (185 g) extra long grain white rice
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1/2 cup (118 ml) tomato sauce
- 1 3/4 cup (414 ml) low-sodium chicken broth hot
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.5 g) salt
- 3 cilantro sprigs chopped
- Add the cooking oil to a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add the rice and cook, stirring regularly, until it becomes lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the tomato sauce and stir into the rice.
- Add the hot chicken broth (it must be hot when added), and the salt. Stir it all together.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and allow the rice to cook for about 20 minutes, undisturbed.
- Fluff the rice with a fork and taste test it. If it’s not cooked to your desired doneness, continue cooking, covered, for 5 minutes at a time, until it’s done to your liking.
- Add the cilantro and serve.