Mexican Rice Recipe

Mexican Rice Recipe

Mexican rice is one of the greatest sides that you find on your plate when you visit a Mexican restaurant. It has a beautiful rich orange color and a nice savory flavor from the garlic, onion, and tomatoes, and a subtle depth from the cumin. Chopped cilantro adds a nice herby flavor and a squeeze of fresh lime really takes it to the next level.


I started making a lot of Mexican rice in college, particularly in my last two years. It’s pretty hands-off after you add the water, and it’s quick and easy to make. In college, I was trying to make my budget stretch further so I started making rice to go alongside my tacos and burritos. It goes really well as a side dish to my Fire-Roasted Sweet Sriracha Tacos and adds so much to my Black Bean, Rice, and Cheese Burritos. It’s really flexible which allows you to incorporate it into a few different meals. When the pandemic started I bought a few large twenty-pound bags of rice, and I’m finally down to eating the last bag now but I must have made this recipe 40 times over the last few years.

It’s also a great recipe for when you’re looking for easy cheap dinner ideas. Top it with some beans, a little melted cheese, maybe some chopped green pepper, and sour cream and you have a nice cheap meal for two.

How Much Does Mexican Rice Cost To Make?

Rice is some of the most inexpensive food you can make. The uncooked rice itself costs around $.28 cents a cup. You use about $.22 cents worth of tomato puree, a quarter of onion for $.12, a teaspoon of garlic salt, a teaspoon of cumin and paprika, and two tablespoons of canola oil. All in all, you get about three cups of delicious and filling Mexican rice for less than a dollar in ingredients. It’s delicious, quick, and easy.

What Type Of Rice Do I Need?


Traditionally, long-grain white rice is used but you can use whatever rice you have on hand like basmati or jasmine rice. I often use basmati rice just because that’s usually what I have at home and it comes out just as good. I wouldn’t recommend using any short-grain rice or anything really starchy like sushi rice, though.

Do I Need To Use Tomato Puree?

If you don’t have canned tomato puree you can substitute it with passata, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, or even red enchilada sauce if it’s all you have (and it’s actually pretty good! I’ve tried it.)

At A Minimum, You’ll Need:

A strainer basket bowl set or a way to properly wash rice to get rid of excess starch so the rice isn’t sticky or soggy after it cooks.

A set of measuring spoons and cups to measure out ingredients. This is a set of nice stainless steel measuring spoons and cups that will last forever. The printed measurements on these won’t wear off either like most cheaper plastic sets because the numbers are actually etched in.

A 10″ or larger nonstick pan with a lid. This is the one I use almost daily, the non-stick coating hasn’t failed me yet.

A set of silicone utensils to stir the food without scratching the pan. This set is actually really nice for the price, you get pretty much everything you could need and it comes in a bunch of different colors.

A knife or mandolin to cut the onion. If you’ve always wanted to have one of the best chef knives, this is the type you want. Quality chef knives are made in Germany, have a full tang, and the knife is balanced. They would also be great for defending yourself in a zombie apocalypse. Just sayin’. You never know.

These little stainless steel cups also aren’t required, but they’re really awesome little cups that I love for holding ingredients. They come in different sizes and are great for when you’re preparing to make recipes and want to keep things like spices or chopped ingredients separate. They also serve as great little side cups for dipping sauces or salad dressings.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This means I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post, at no additional cost to you. This just allows me to continue sharing great recipes with you guys.

How To Make Mexican Rice

A photo showing the ingredients for Mexican rice in individual bowls on a counter. These include rice, tomato puree, water, paprika, garlic salt, onion, and oil.

To make Mexican Rice, you’ll first rinse and drain the rice at least two times. Add rice to a strainer, then place the strainer inside a similar-sized pot filled with water and use your hand to stir the rice. This will make the water cloudy, which is all the excess starch washing off into the water. Do this at least two times, until the water is reasonably clear. To get most of the water off the rice after rinsing, if you use something like a mesh strainer basket you can hold the strainer above the sink and quickly lower it, then sort of jerk the strainer basket back up and it does a great job forcing excess water off the rice and into the sink. Do this a few times and your rice will be mostly dry. It’s important to get off as much water as you can because you’ll be frying the rice in oil next and you don’t want the oil to sputter.

A photo showing cumin flavored oil in a pan before using it to fry rice for making Mexican rice.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in your pan over high heat. Add the cumin, and cook for a few seconds to flavor the oil.

A collage of two photos showing mexican rice cooking in a pan with garlic salt and cumin flavored oil. The rice on the left is uncooked, the right in the pan on the right is golden brown.

Add the garlic salt, and rice. Stir often with a spatula. After 5-10 minutes the rice will be a nice golden brown.

A collage showing steps to making Mexican rice that includes adding onions and cooking them.

Add your diced onions, stirring until the onions turn translucent and soft, about three minutes.

A collage showing steps to making Mexican rice that include adding tomato puree and paprika.

Add your paprika and tomato puree. Stir until the tomato sauce gets mostly absorbed, about a minute.

A pot of simmering mexican rice. The water in the pot is a bright reddish-orange color with red oil floating atop the water while steam escapes.

After the tomato sauce is mostly absorbed, add 1 and 3/4 cups water and a teaspoon of paprika and stir to loosen the rice. Cover the pan with a lid and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat once the water is fully absorbed. I made a double batch here so I needed to transfer to a bigger pot for the simmer. If you’re only making one batch at a time, a 10″ pan will be fine.


After the water is absorbed, allow the rice to sit, covered with a lid, for an additional 15 minutes. This allows the rice to further steam itself and finish the cooking process. Garnish with some cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Serve and enjoy!

Mexican Rice Recipe


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice, rinsed
  • 1 3/4 cups water or broth
  • 1/4 of a yellow or white onion, diced small
  • 1/2 cup canned tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a pan over high heat. Add cumin and cook for about 15 seconds to flavor the oil.

Add the rice and garlic salt and cook, stirring, until the rice is turning a light golden brown, about 5-10 minutes.

Add your onions and cook until the onions are translucent, around 2 minutes.

Add your tomato sauce and paprika and stir, cooking until the sauce is mostly absorbed.

Pour in the water, then stir to mix. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed.

Turn off the heat and leave the rice to sit, covered, for an extra 15 minutes to allow the rice to steam itself and finish cooking. Squeeze the juice of a lime over the rice and garnish with some chopped cilantro then stir with a spoon. Enjoy!

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Tried it and like it? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments below, or tweet me at @SpicedPalate! I’d love to hear from you.


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