Why you’ll love it
Classic Mexican red rice (known as arroz rojo aka rice red) is a delicious combination of very simple ingredients like rice, tomatoes, stock, onions and garlic and a staple in Mexican cuisine. It’s rich in flavour and so easy to make at home.
My own take on Mexican red rice is one I’ve been making for years. It’s not a totally faithful recreation since I add some spices and capsicum (bell pepper) that you wouldn’t find in an authentic recipe. You can leave them out if you prefer a more authentic Mexican rice recipe but I promise you’ll love the extra flavour they add.
This recipe was first published here on April 19th, 2020. It has been updated with more information.
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Spanish Rice vs Mexican Rice
Arroz rojo, known in English language as Mexican rice or red rice is a staple Mexican side dish. In the Spanish language Arroz rojo translates literally to rice red and so, to some, it’s become known as Spanish red rice, however this is not technically correct. At it’s most basic, Mexican red rice is a combination of rice, onions, tomato and chicken stock cooked in one pan until the rice is cooked through.
It’s truly delicious and so easy to make at home.
It’s important to note that, being such a popular Mexican dish, all families will have their own variations that their families love. Some will add cumin. Some will add vegetables like a mixed frozen vegetable mix. I add spices and capsicum to mine that are not part of a basic authentic Mexican rice, but they certainly are not out of place in Mexican cuisine and it takes the flavour level over the top. Tinned corn and black beans are wonderful added to this too.
Ingredients in arroz rojo
Jump to the recipe for full ingredients and instructions.
- Rice: First up, you need a long grain rice. I use basmati rice and it gets the perfect fluffy but not stodgy texture.
- Onion: You must have onion. I use red onion, simply because that’s what we always have at home but a brown onion will be great too.
- Garlic: Please use fresh garlic for this Mexican red rice – it gives the best flavour.
- Tomato paste: A classic red rice recipe will use roma tomatoes. I like to use tomato paste which is just pureed and concentrated tomatoes. It’s so convenient to keep it stored in the pantry for fridge but also it has an even more robust flavour and colour.
- Chicken stock: Some recipes will call for chicken bouillon powder while others use chicken stock or chicken broth. I much prefer the flavour of chicken stock or broth over a bouillon cube for this recipe. I like to use a sodium reduced version then add salt to my own taste.
- Spices: Not in a traditional Mexican rice recipe but absolutely in keeping with Mexican flavours, I add some paprika and dried oregano to my recipe. I also add a touch of cayenne. You can leave out the cayenne altogether or swap it for chilli powder, chilli flakes (red pepper flakes) or chipotle powder.
- Capsicum / bell pepper: Many family recipes will add some kind of vegetables, like frozen mixed veggies (peas, corn and carrots). I love using some red capsicum (bell pepper).
For a slightly different flavour, swap out the individual spices for the same quantity of taco seasoning too.
How to cook Mexican rice
Arroz rojo is truly such a simple dish to make. It takes very little prep and except for the start, much of the cooking is hands off.
Jump to the recipe for full ingredients and instructions.
- Start by heating some oil in a deep wide pan, then add onions and rice. Cook it for a few minutes until the rice turns opaque and gets a little golden in places.
- Add in the garlic and capsicum and saute for another minute or so. You really just want to slightly soften them as you don’t want to brown the garlic or it can become bitter.
- Add in all the other ingredients and bring it to a simmer, then place the pan over the lowest heat and cook, covered, for around 15-20 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed.
- Once you get to that stage, give it a stir then turn the heat off and just let it sit for 8 minutes.
- Fluff it up with a fork and serve.
- Use a heavy bottom pan. This will ensure the heat is more evenly distributed and reduce the risk of it catching at the bottom. I use a large skillet style pan but a large saucepan or dutch oven will also work.
- Don’t stir the rice too often as it can start breaking up. Just stir it once or twice throughout the cooking process to make sure it’s not sticking on the bottom of the pan. If it is, turn the heat down.
- Make sure to cook it on a very low temperature. I cook with gas, and this cooks on the smallest burner on it’s lowest setting.
Which rice to use
- I always use basmati rice, mainly because that’s what we always have on hand, but any long grain rice will work here.
- All rices cook in different times and with different amounts of liquid so, if using something other than basmati, check the pack to confirm the liquid to rice ratio and adjust your chicken stock to suit.
- Short grain rices like arborio are not a great option as they will more likely turn out stodgy than the fluffy rice you’re dreaming of.
Quick note: When it’s reaching the end of cooking time and it looks like most of the liquid has gone, it’s tempting to add more stock if the rice still has a little crunch. As long as the rice is almost cooked through, it’s fine, there will be enough residual steam and moisture in there for it to finish cooking. If you add too much liquid, it can just become mushy and not as enjoyable. If it seems more crunchy than cooked, then by all means dribble over a couple of tablespoons of stock but don’t go overboard.
How to serve Mexican red rice
We like to serve it alongside a roast chicken like this harissa chicken (they may be different cuisines but they blend beautifully). A simple grilled steak or grilled prawns / shrimp are great too. It goes without saying that this easy rice dish is perfect with Mexican food like tacos, enchiladas and these Mexican short ribs.
Can I make Mexican rice in a rice cooker
Yes, you can. You will need to check your particular rice cooker for the quantity of liquid to add. If your rice cooker doesn’t have the functionality to saute the onion and rice first, you can do that separately or not bother. It will still be delicious.
Such a simple dish with simple ingredients that you’re bound to have on hand, your family will absolutely devour this. If you want to serve this Mexican red rice as a main, just add some simple fried sausage or chorizo and you’ll have a very satisfying dinner indeed.
More easy side dishes
- Air Fryer Corn on the Cob
- Stovetop Pumpkin Mac N Cheese
- Easy Cheesy Potato Bake
- Buttery Garlic Roast Potatoes
- Sizzler Cheese Toast
- Chinese Prawn Fried Rice
Did you try this arroz rojo recipe?
Leaving a rating and comment below the recipe is so helpful!
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup basmati rice (notes)
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1 red capsicum (bell pepper), diced
- 1 clove garlic, crushed (notes)
- 2 ¼ cups chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons mild paprika, optional
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano, optional
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or chilli powder, optional (notes)
- To serve: Lemon or lime wedges, parsley and / or coriander (cilantro)
For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan or skillet over medium high heat.
- Add the rice and onion. Cook stirring often until the rice turns opaque white and at least 50% of it is turning golden brown.
- Add the capsicum and garlic and cook, stirring for another minute.
- Add the remaining ingredients – chicken stock, tomato paste, paprika, oregano, salt and cayenne (if using). Give it a good mix to combine everything then let it come to a boil.
- Give it another stir, turn it down to very low so that it is only just simmering, then cover.
- Cook for 15-20 minutes (notes). Stir after 10 minutes.
- Check the rice is cooked through, then turn the heat off and let it sit, covered for 5-8 minutes before fluffing with a fork and serving.
- Please take a moment to leave a comment & rating. It's appreciated and so helpful.
- Rice: Rices vary in liquid requirements. I use basmati for this recipe but most long grain rices will work fine. Just check the pack to see what ratio of liquid to rice is recommended and adjust the amount of stock to suit.
- Cooking the rice: Again, different types of rice have different requirements and your stovetop may vary too, so always check the rice is just cooked through before turning off the heat.
- Vegetarian/Vegan red rice: Swap the chicken stock for vegetable stock.
- Garlic: use fresh if possible for the best flavour or substitute ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- Cayenne: Use the cayenne or another type of chilli if you’d like a kick of heat. Dried chilli flakes (red pepper flakes), chilli powder or chipotle powder are great too or you can leave it out altogether.
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