Restaurant-Quality Mexican Red Rice Recipe

Fluffy and Delicious

Mexican Red Rice

The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 35 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
117 Calories
5g Fat
16g Carbs
3g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 117
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 6%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 2mg 1%
Sodium 397mg 17%
Total Carbohydrate 16g 6%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 5mg 25%
Calcium 19mg 1%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 228mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

A version of the traditional and ubiquitous vegetable-studded arroz rojo, or red rice, prepared all over Mexico, this recipe is simple, yet full of flavor and comfort. It replicates the popular dish served at Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants in the United States, which gets its prominent red hue thanks to tomato puree.

It's best to use long-grain white rice, and toasting the grains in the sautéed onion contributes an additional layer of flavor. The garlic, chicken broth, and tomato puree are then added, along with fresh parsley and chopped vegetables, such as carrots, peas, bell peppers, and green beans, if you like.

Substitutions are simple if you don't have all the exact ingredients on hand. That's the beauty of this recipe.

The Origins of Mexican Red Rice

Rice made its way to Mexico by way of the Spanish, which is why this dish is also referred to as Spanish rice. However, this recipe is uniquely Mexican and not found in Spain, where a yellow rice infused with saffron is common.

What's the Difference Between Tomato Puree and Tomato Paste?

Mexican rice's vibrant color comes from tomato puree, either homemade or store-bought. It should not be confused with tomato paste, another common condiment used to flavor and color food.

Tomato puree is made from tomatoes that are lightly cooked, then—as its name suggests—pureed into a smooth and silky liquid. Tomato paste, on the other hand, is cooked down and reduced for far longer so it has a more concentrated flavor and thicker consistency.

If you're unable to find tomato puree, you can also use canned tomato sauce or other forms of canned tomatoes, such as diced, crushed, or whole (with the tomatoes broken up).

Tips for Cooking Mexican Red Rice

  • Toast the rice—Toasting the rice not only adds a lovely flavor, but also prevents the grains from getting too mushy during the cooking process.
  • Don't stir—Similarly, don't touch the rice as it boils. Over-mixing leads to sticky, mushy grains.
  • Flavor boost—Your favorite Mexican restaurant likely uses chicken bouillon powder instead of chicken broth. Use it with water for an extra flavor boost.

What to Serve With Mexican Red Rice

Serve this Mexican rice alongside tacos, enchiladas, or grilled chicken. You can also use it to fill burritos or stuffed peppers, or as the base of a rice bowl. Here are more of our favorite Mexican mains:


Click Play to See This Recipe Come Together

"Rice is a staple at my household, so I love having a few varieties to rotate through. This Mexican red rice was packed with flavor and simple to make. I love that you can add whatever vegetables you have on hand, so it's a great way to use up that one remaining carrot or single handful of frozen peas." —Patty Lee

Mexican Red Rice Tester Photo
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1/4 medium onion, diced

  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice

  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth, homemade, canned, or made from bouillon cubes or powder

  • 1 cup tomato puree

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley, optional

  • 1/2 cup chopped vegetables, such as carrots, green beans, bell pepper, and/or peas, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients to make Mexican Red Rice

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.

    A pot of onions cooking in oil

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  3. Add the rice and continue sautéing, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until the rice turns golden brown. Do not let the rice burn.

    A pot of rice and onions

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  4. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 more minute.

    A pot of onions, rice, and garlic

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  5. Take the pan off the heat; add the chicken broth and tomato puree, plus the parsley and vegetables if using. Stir, return the pan to the heat, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and cover.

    A pot of chicken broth, tomato puree, vegetables, and rice-onion mixture

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  6. Let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes without taking off the lid. After 15 minutes, remove the lid and carefully insert a spoon into the cooked rice. If the bottom of the pan is dry, your rice is done; if there is still some broth visible, allow it to cook for a few more minutes.

    A pot of cooked rice and vegetables, with a spoon checking the bottom of the pan

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  7. Once the rice is done cooking, remove it from the heat and let it sit, covered and undisturbed, for another 10 minutes or so.

    A covered pot with cooked Mexican rice

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  8. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

    A pot of fluffed Mexican rice

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

How to Store

Mexican rice can be kept in the fridge for up to five days in an airtight container; it can also be frozen for up to six months. Simply reheat in the microwave or over low heat on the stovetop.

Recipe Variations

  • Tomato puree substitutes—Canned chopped tomatoes with chiles or a jarred salsa can also be used.
  • Use lard—For additional flavor, use a good-quality pork lard instead of the vegetable oil.
  • Spice it up—Add spices such as cumin, chili powder, paprika, or taco seasoning for more depth of flavor.
  • Add greenery—Top the rice with fresh cilantro or chopped green onions.