Mexican red rice is a simple, flavorful side dish for the whole family. My quick and easy recipe for Mexican red rice uses long-grain rice, chopped tomatoes and chicken stock to make authentic arroz rojo that pairs well with many dishes.
On a busy weeknight, you might be tempted to reach for a package of Spanish rice to go with tacos, but there’s a better way.
Mexican red rice is a traditional Spanish side dish made with simple ingredients. It can be served plain or embellished with other ingredients and seasonings.
It’s a simple but subtle side dish that won’t overpower the main course and is a great way to round out any meal.
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Why you’ll love this recipe:
- It’s quick and easy to make
- No artificial flavors or seasoning packets.
- It goes with everything.
- Only 15 minutes of prep.
- Kids love Mexican Red Rice
- It’s not spicy (but you can add heat if you like it)
Ingredients for arroz rojo recipe:
- Long Grain White Rice – don’t use brown rice.
- Vegetable Oil – or other neutral oil to sweat the vegetables.
- Tomato (I used plum tomatoes)
- White Onion – you can also use yellow onion, but white is traditional.
- Garlic – fresh garlic is best for this rice recipe.
- Salt – we prefer Kosher salt, but iodized is fine too.
- Chicken Stock – Homemade or low-sodium store-bought .
How to make red rice:
- Soak the rice in hot water for about 15 minutes, transfer it to a mesh sieve and rinse it under fresh water until the water runs clear. Set the sieve aside to drain the rice well.
- Add the tomato, onion, garlic and salt to a blender and pulse to chop.
- Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock and puree the vegetables until smooth.
- Heat a heavy skillet or pot over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil and swirl it to coat the bottom of the skillet with the oil.
- Add the drained rice and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes until it starts to sizzle and crackle. The rice will turn from translucent to an opaque milky white. Don’t worry if some grains take on a bit of color and turn golden brown.
- Pour the pureed vegetables into the rice, constantly stirring and cook until most of the red tomato mixture has been absorbed.
- Add the remaining chicken broth, bring the broth to a boil, cover tightly with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer (medium-low to medium). C
- Cook the rice for 12-15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.
- Remove the red Mexican rice from the heat and let it rest with the lid on the pan for 10-15 minutes.
- Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.
- Add chopped carrot to the Mexican rice recipe for additional color, flavor and nutrition.
- To give the arroz rojo a smokier flavor, add ½ to 1 teaspoon of ground cumin when you add the rice to the pot.
- Add one tablespoon of tomato paste to the pot as you’re sautéing the rice grains for deeper red Mexican rice.
- For spicy Spanish rice, add a chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper. (Removing the white membranes and seeds will give a mild heat, while leaving them in will the the red Mexican rice spicier.
- Add ½ cup of frozen peas when the rice finishes cooking, and you’re setting it aside to steam. The residual heat will steam the peas; Fluff the Mexican red rice and peas to serve.
- Add chopped cilantro just before serving for a fresh flavor.
- Sprinkle with ½ cup of crumbled queso fresco to add a salty component to the dish.
Soaking the rice before cooking gives the grains a lighter, fluffier consistency. You can skip that step if pressed for time or prefer a sturdier rice texture.
It’s close, but they’re not the same thing. Mexican red rice is lighter, and the grains are fluffier. Mexican rice tends to have more of a reddish-orange hue, while Spanish rice usually has a brighter yellow color from the addition of saffron or turmeric.
It depends on what type of diet you’re basing it on. A serving of this arroz rojo recipe has a little over 200 calories and contains 6 grams of protein. While it’s a gluten-free recipe, it has many carbohydrates like most starches.
Yes. You can cook the rice up to two days ahead of time and keep it refrigerated until you’re ready to use. If you are making it ahead of time, wait to add any fresh components until you’re ready to serve (i.e. frozen peas, fresh herbs, cheese, etc).
Yes. Freeze the basic red rice recipe in a freezer safe container for up to two months. Defrost to use and reheat in the microwave. Add any extra seasonings just before serving, otherwise they won’t taste as fresh and vibrant.
You can use a cup of your favorite jarred red salsa instead of tomatoes and onion for a shortcut to the Mexican red rice recipe.
In Latin America, arroz roja is a dish that’s traditionally served with cooked black beans or pinto beans (a.k.a. beans and rice) for a vegetarian main course or as a side dish to a larger meal.
What to serve with:
- Frijoles De La Olla (Mexican Beans)
- Green Enchiladas
- Quesabirria Tacos
- Chicken Chile Rellenos
- Rotisserie Chicken
More easy rice recipes you’ll love:
- Saffron Rice
- Green Rice (Arroz Verde)
- Louisiana Rice Dressing
- Sicilian-Style Brown Rice Salad
- Black Bean and Rice Salad
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Mexican Red Rice (Arroz Rojo)
- fine mesh strainer
- blender or food processor
- 1 cup long grain white rice
- hot water
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or canola oil
- ¾ cup chopped tomato
- ¼ cup chopped white onion
- 1 large clove garlic minced
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups chicken stock
- ½ cup frozen peas
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 1 small carrot peeled and finely diced
- 1 serrano or jalapeno pepper finely diced (remove seeds for less heat)
- ½ cup queso fresco to sprinkle on top
- Add the rice to a small bowl and cover with hot water. Stir the rice once and soak for about 15 minutes. Transfer the rice to a fine mesh strainer and run under fresh water until the water runs clear.
- Set aside to drain very well. It’s important that the rice be as dry as possible so it doesn’t splatter in the pan. I use a paper towel to soak up excess liquid from the bottom of the mesh strainer.
- Add the tomato, onion, garlic and salt to a blender and pulse. Add about 1/2 cup of the chicken stock and puree the vegetables until smooth.
- Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat and when it’s hot, add the oil. Tilt the pan to coat with oil then add the rice. Cook and stir the rice for 4-5 minutes or until it starts to brown lightly and take on some color.
- Carefully pour the tomato mixture into the rice, stirring constantly.
- Cook the tomato and rice until most of the liquid has been absorbed, then add the remainder of the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover tightly with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Cook for 12-15 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the skillet from the heat and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork to serve.
FOR OPTIONAL ADDITIONS:
- If adding chopped carrot, serrano or jalapeno pepper, add it when you pour in the chicken stock.
- If adding frozen peas, add them after simmering and let them steam/defrost in the skillet as the arroz rojo rests.
- Add cilantro and/or queso fresco just before serving.
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