Mexican Rice

NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

You know what doesn’t get enough credit? White rice. It helps feed a large portion of the world, and is a relatively safe starch. Sure, it doesn’t have a lot of nutritional value, but it can easily become a vessel for other nutrients. Enter my Mexican rice recipe, which is chock-full of tasty and healthy stuff like grass-fed butter/ghee, tomato sauce, and homemade chicken stock.

Although it’s often called “Spanish rice” here in the US as well Mexican rice, no such thing exists in Spain. I’ve been making this side dish for several years, well before switching my diet. For this dish I like to simulate your standard Mexican restaurant rice – tangy, slightly salty, and with a tiny hint of chicken thanks to its use of broth/stock.

You’ll Need:
2 cups uncooked white rice
1 tbsp butter or ghee
1 clove garlic, minced
1 8oz can tomato sauce
2 cups chicken stock/broth
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

For this recipe I used the same short-grain rice we use in most of our Asian dishes. You can use long grain rice as well. While in most rice recipes it is a good idea to rinse the rice beforehand (it rinses out any starch residue or added folic acid for Vitamin B9 fortification), any recipe that includes toasting the rice beforehand (as in this recipe, paella, and risotto) should not be rinsed. In that regard, I tend to use non-fortified rice since studies have shown that it is an inefficient means to synthesizing Vitamin B9 and can cause other issues.

In a large skillet, warm the butter/ghee on medium/low heat for a few minutes. Add the rice and garlic, and toast the rice for about 10 minutes, stirring often. While the rice is toasting, combine the tomato sauce, chicken broth, salt and pepper in a separate bowl and stir everything together. When combined, your total liquid amount should be 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups.

The rice is ready when it is opaque and slightly browned, but not burnt. If you’ve ever made Rice-A-Roni, this might be a familiar sight.

Add the combined sauce/broth to the skillet, and turn up the heat to medium. Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 50 minutes. Do not take the lid off!

After 50 minutes, remove the lid and gently stir around the rice to break it up. If it’s still a little soggy, replace the lid and cook on low for another five minutes, and check it again.

That’s it! Serve immediately and garnish with cilantro if you want to be fancy.

33 thoughts on “Mexican Rice

  1. I don’t understand why I have to combine the liquids first in a bowl when I’m dumping them all in a skillet. Please spare me the dishes to wash up.


    1. Hi Marle, there are a couple reasons why I suggest using a separate bowl to mix the ingredients. First of all, stirring/mixing that much liquid together with the other ingredients in a sauté pan will likely cause the liquid to spill out as you mix it, causing a mess. Secondly, you don’t want to spend too much time letting the rice simmer before covering it and reducing the heat, and having to take the time to stir everything together after you’ve already added it to the pan will likely cause your rice to overcook and get mushy. If you have a pan that’s big enough to accommodate all of this liquid as well as some rigorous stirring to ensure it mixes quickly, then give it a go and see how it works!


  2. Hi Russ, your recipes are pretty interesting. I am definitely going to try them out. One samll question. In case I don’t have chicken broth, what is the alternative that I can use?…I have people who are vegetarians and so no chicken.


  3. I inherited a 20 pound bag of short-grain rice and had no success making it (and I make every other kind of rice perfectly)…until I found this recipe. Thank you! The only modifications I made was using a mix of Canola oil and butter to start, and sauteing some onion and green bell pepper with the rice. This turned out to be a huge hit, and will make a regular appearance on our Mexican dinner nights!

    If you have any other short-grain rice recipes, I’d love to try them.


    1. Nope: short grain would be like Arborio. Jasmine is a long grain white rice, fragrant and delicious. Any long grain rice will do, I’m thinking.


  4. Has anyone tried a rice cooker using this recipe? I thought the sauteed rice and liquids could be added to the rice cooker instead of leaving it on the stove. I never seem to get my rice as perfect as my rice cooker.


  5. How does this work when cooking rice usually requires double the amount of liquid as rice? And is there no risk of burning white rice cooking it so long?


    1. Dustin, good questions – when the rice is toasted it doesn’t need as much liquid (the tomato sauce also gives the liquid amount a bit of a boost). It’s cooked on low so the rice doesn’t normally burn – sometimes it’ll form a delicious crust on the bottom, though!


    1. Hi Heather, you most definitely can make something similar – you’ll want to saute the garlic, then add the tomato sauce about about 1/4 cup of broth; simmer that until thickened, then toss with cauliflower rice and add salt and pepper to taste. That’s about it. Feel free to add chopped onion or bell pepper when sauteing the garlic.


  6. Hi, I’m noticing that you have a picture of the rice with the measuring cup in it. It looks like my rice cooker measuring cup, which is not really a true cup, I believe it’s 3/4 or 2/3….Anyway, I’m wondering if the recipe is two of those “cups” or a true 2 cups? Looking forward to this tomorrow. Thanks!


  7. I make Mexican rice all the time using different rice and they all work well. I use only oil and I toast the rice with a slice of onion and a mashed garlic. I add the tomato sauce first and I stir the rice for about 30 seconds to combine the sauce and rice well. Then I add the liquid


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