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Red Mexican Rice

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Red Mexican rice is more than just a side dish; it’s a symphony of flavor and comfort that elevates any meal. With its mix of timeless tradition and handy shortcuts, this recipe consistently delivers on deliciousness. 

I’m unveiling the little touches that make it a standout. Trust me, after you introduce this dish to your table, it’s bound to become a regular favorite, earning rave reviews each time.

A serving bowl filled with Mexican red rice.

Here is Why This Mexican Red Rice Recipe Works

  • By using canned tomatoes, which are picked and preserved at their peak ripeness, the recipe ensures a deep and consistent tomato flavor, regardless of the season.
  • The recipe is flexible if you want to use fresh tomatoes and we provide instructions in the note section. 
  • The combination of spices creates a rich, authentic flavor that captures the essence of traditional Mexican rice.
  • The method of first browning the rice in oil before adding the liquid gives the rice a nutty, toasted flavor and prevents it from becoming overly mushy. 

Ingredients For Mexican Rice

Here is a list of the ingredients you will need for easy rice dish. Scroll down to the printable recipe card for all the details. 

  • Tomatoes: You can use canned or fresh tomatoes in this recipe. I like to use fire-roasted tomatoes or a can of Rotel for extra flavor. 
  • Spices: Onion powder, cumin, salt, black pepper, chili powder. 
  • Chicken bouillon. You can skip the bouillon if you want, but I find it adds that special umami kick, making the rice taste just like what you’d get at a Mexican restaurant.
  • Chicken broth. You can use homemade chicken stock or store-bought. 
  • Long grain rice. Long-grain white rice is our go-to for this recipe. It stays separate and fluffy, perfectly soaking up all the flavors without getting mushy. It has that airy consistency that’s spot-on for Mexican red rice.
  • Vegetable oil
  • Garlic cloves. Toasting the rice with the garlic gives an extra boost of flavor.
  • Tomato paste.
  • Chopped cilantro.
Ingredients for making arroz rojo.

How to Make Mexican Red Rice (Arroz Rojo)

Here is a brief overview to get an idea of what to expect with the recipe. Head on down to the recipe card below for the full printable version.

  1. Blend Ingredients: Puree canned tomatoes with spices.
  2. Top off: Add enough chicken broth to the puree to equal 3 cups of liquid. 
  3. Sauté: Brown the garlic and rice in hot oil until lightly toasted. 
  4. Add tomato paste: Stir the concentrated tomato until it coats the rice. 
  5. Simmer: Add the tomato puree blend and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and let simmer covered.
  6. Rest and Fluff: After cooking, let the rice sit covered, then fluff and mix in cilantro.
A collage of six photos showing the process for making red Mexican rice with canned tomatoes.


Every great recipe has room for a little experimentation, and this Mexican Rice recipe is no exception. Whether craving a bit more zest, seeking a veggie boost, or yearning for a smoky touch, these variations provide delicious spins on Mexican tomato rice or “arroz rojo.” Dive into these alternate takes to find a new favorite rice recipe.

Poblano and Bean Mexican Rice:

  • Roast 2 poblano peppers, peel off the charred skin, remove seeds, and chop into bite-sized pieces.
  • Add the chopped poblanos and 1 cup of cooked black or pinto just before simmering the rice. This is my favorite variation for arroz rojo. 

Veggie Packed Mexican Red Rice:

  • Incorporate 1 cup of mixed frozen corn and peas just prior to simmering the rice. Some other suggestions for veggies are: diced bell peppers, zucchini, diced carrots, or roughly chopped spinach.

Spicy Mexican Red Rice:

  • Mix in 1-2 diced fresh jalapeños or serrano peppers when you’re sautéing the garlic, or sprinkle in some crushed red pepper flakes.

Tips for Success

Making perfect Mexican rice isn’t just about the steps in the recipe. It’s those little tricks and tweaks that can really make the dish shine. Whether you’ve been whipping up rice dishes for ages or are trying out this recipe as a newbie, these pointers will keep you on track:

  • Toasting Matters: Toasting the dry rice helps to develop a nutty flavor and ensures that the rice doesn’t become overly sticky when cooked.
  • Patience in Resting: After cooking, allow the rice to sit covered. This step gives the rice a consistent moisture level and a fluffy texture.
  • Adjust to Taste: Before serving, do a quick taste test and adjust any seasonings if necessary.
  • Sodium level: If you’re using bouillon in this Mexican rice recipe, be mindful of the sodium content. Bouillon cubes or powders are high in sodium, which can affect the overall saltiness of the dish. You may want to adjust the salt in the recipe.
A plate filled with red rice, pinto beans, tamales, and pickled vegetables.

Serving Suggestions For Arroz Rojo

Thinking of ways to enjoy the Mexican red rice? How about teaming it up with steamed tamales or our special chicken mole enchiladas? And, crispy baked chimichangas or chicken fajitas work great too!

And don’t forget to jazz things up a bit with a dollop of guacamole, a splash of sour cream, zucchini salsa, or some fresh pico de gallo on the side. Mexican food and its accompaniments bring a symphony of flavors to the table.

For dessert try our flan Napalitano or snowball cookies

Storage and Reheating

I’ve always believed in the saying, “Cook once, eat twice… or even thrice!” When I whip up this rice, I often make a double batch. Not only does it mean I get to enjoy it fresh, but I also stash away an extra portion of rice in the freezer for those days when meal prep needs to be a breeze. 

If you’re curious about how to keep your leftover red rice tasting as fabulous as the day you made it, here are my tried-and-true storage and reheating tips:

In the fridge: Transfer any leftover rice to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. It should keep well for about 3-4 days. Make sure you let the rice cool to room temperature before refrigerating to prevent condensation inside the container.

In the freezer: Place cooled rice in freezer-safe bags or containers for longer storage. Label with the date and store in the freezer. It should stay good for up to 3 months. 

To reheat: You can zap the rice in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring frequently until heated. If you want to reheat it in a saucepan, sprinkle a bit of water or broth, then reheat over medium heat, stirring until warm.

Rice in a serving bowl with cilantro on top.

More Rice Recipes 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Mexican red rice the same as Spanish rice?

Mexican red rice and Spanish rice are sometimes used interchangeably in the U.S. However, in Spain, rice dishes are typically region-specific and come with their own unique names, such as “paella”, and they aren’t generally referred to as “Spanish rice.”

What is the Mexican rice called?

In Mexico, Spanish rice is called arroz rojo, which translates to “red rice.” This is because of its reddish-orange hue, typically achieved by cooking the rice with tomatoes and various spices.

Mexican red rice, or “arroz rojo,” showcases how straightforward ingredients can produce a recipe rich in flavor. But what makes this dish even more remarkable is its versatility. 

It can serve as a simple accompaniment or take center stage at family meals. Whether you choose to mix in vegetables, incorporate meat, or tweak the spices, this recipe offers room for creativity while staying true to its authentic core.

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Mexican red rice in a serving dish with a fork.

Red Mexican Rice

This recipe for Mexican rice captures the essence of traditional "arroz rojo" with its rich hue and fluffy texture. Whether using canned tomatoes for year-round consistency or fresh ones for a summer twist, this recipe offers versatility.
The notes of cumin and optional bouillon heighten its savory depth, making it a must-have side for your Mexican-themed meals. 
5 from 10 votes
Print Pin Save
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 134kcal
Author: Dahn Boquist


  • 1 can 14 ounces diced tomatoes (I use fire roasted tomatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ¾ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon optional
  • 1-¼ cups chicken broth
  • 1-½ cups long grain rice
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro


  • Pour the can of tomatoes in a blender along with the onion powder, cumin, salt, pepper, chili powder, and bouillon (if using). Blend until smooth. 
  • Add the chicken stock to the pureed tomatoes. You should have 3 cups of liquid (if you don’t, just add a bit more broth or water until you have 3 cups). Set aside. 
  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Toss in the rice and cook, stirring frequently until the rice grains are golden brown. Stir in the tomato paste.
  • Carefully pour your tomato and broth mixture into the saucepan. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cover with a lid and let it simmer for 20 minutes
  • Slide the saucepan off the heat (but keep the lid on) and let it sit for 15 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff with a fork, and stir in the cilantro. 


  • Canned tomatoes are harvested at peak ripeness, ensuring consistent flavor year-round. In contrast, off-season fresh tomatoes can vary in taste. Using canned tomatoes guarantees a reliably delicious outcome every time, no matter the season.
  • If you're leaning towards fresh tomatoes, you can replace the canned ones with 1 to 2 large tomatoes. For an extra kick, blend in a fresh jalapeño and half of an onion. Top the pureed veggies with enough liquid to give you 3 cups total. 
  • I typically don't have bouillon cubes on hand in my kitchen. While I often skip them, I will admit that including bouillon makes this recipe taste more like authentic Mexican rice from a restaurant. 
  • If you are keen on using brown rice, adjust the liquid volume in the tomato/broth mixture to 3-½ cups. Additionally, adjust the cooking time for the rice to 45 minutes.
Recipe inspired by Cooks Illustrated


Serving: 1 | Calories: 134kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Sodium: 452mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g

Dahn Boquist

Dahn is a retired nurse, recipe creator, home cook, baker, and self-proclaimed foodie. She loves creating in the kitchen and cooking for family and friends. She lives in Washington State with her husband and dog. When she isn't cooking or baking, you can usually find her spending time with her grandchildren or exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

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Tuesday 10th of October 2023

I grew up eating rice for every meal, but usually just the plain one. This must be very tasty and flavourful! angiesrecipes

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