I created this Mexican Spanish rice recipe on a whim one day when I decided I felt like a ‘Spanish style rice’ to go with our roast chicken. Over the years, I’ve made it countless times, most often as a side dish but sometimes we’ll eat it as a main dish too, with a little fried chorizo.

A bowl of red rice garnished with a lemon wedge and parsley.

I held off adding this recipe to the blog for a really long time simply because I wasn’t sure what to call it. Turns out, Mexican rice is already a thing, I just didn’t know it. Mine has a slight difference in that I add paprika, dried oregano and capsicum (bell peppers). You can leave them out if you prefer but I love the extra flavour they add

I now know a lot more about authentic Spanish rice, starting with the fact that it has so many names.

What is Spanish Rice?

Also known as Mexican rice, red rice, and any number of combinations of those words, it’s traditional name is Arroz Rojo (‘rice red’ in Spanish). At it’s very basic, it’s a combination of rice, onions, tomato and chicken stock cooked in one pan until the rice is cooked through.

While some recipes add cumin for a more Mexican flavour, others will add saffron to get a true Spanish flavour and many, like mine, have neither. I’ve tested this recipe with each of these spices and, while the simplest version is my favourite, the saffron comes a close second – probably because I love paella too.

A black bowl filled with red rice. A glass of wine in the background.

Ingredients in Spanish rice

  • Rice
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Tomato paste
  • Chicken stock
  • Salt

Those ingredients alone will give you a really delicious dish but I also add a few extras for real depth of flavour – paprika, dried oregano and capsicum, plus a little cayenne or chilli flakes for a kick.

How to cook Spanish rice

  1. Start by heating some oil in a deep wide pan, then add onions and rice. Cook it for a few minutes until the rice starts to get a little golden in places.
  2. 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 as it can become bitter.
  3. 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.
  4. Once you get the that stage, turn the heat off and just let it sit for 5 minutes then fluff it up with a fork and serve.

A wedge of lemon being squeezed over a black bowl filled with red rice.

Which rice to use

  • I always use basmati rice, mainly because that’s what we always have on hand to curb my hubby’s rice obsession, but any long grain rice will work fine.
  • 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.

How to serve Spanish red rice

You can use this Mexican rice for burritos if you’re a rice in burritos fan. We like to serve it alongside a roast chicken like this Sticky Harissa Chicken, simple grilled steak or grilled prawns / shrimp. It goes without saying that this easy rice dish is perfect with Mexican food like tacos and enchiladas.

Can I make Mexican rice in 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 Spanish 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

A black bowl filled with red rice. A glass of wine in the background.

Spanish Red Rice (Arroz Rojo)

4.84 from 6 votes
This crowd pleasing Spanish Red Rice, aka Mexican Red Rice is perfect alongside chicken, steak or as part of any Mexican meal. It’s filled with flavour, very easy to make and our favourite rice side dish. 

Ingredients

  • 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
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne, optional (notes)
  • To serve: Lemon or lime wedges, parsley and / or coriander

Instructions
 

  • 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.
  • 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.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. Cooking the rice: Again, different types of rice have different requirements and your stovetop may vary too, so always check the rice is cooked through before turning off the heat.
  3. Vegan / Vegetarian option: Swap the chicken stock for vegetable stock.
  4. Garlic: use fresh if possible or substiture ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  5. Cayenne: Use the cayenne or another type of chilli if you’d like a kick of heat.
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A black bowl filled with red rice.