This easy restaurant-style Mexican rice is my favorite side dish for taco night! I love good authentic Mexican rice, and this one is made with tender long grain rice, fresh diced tomatoes, Mexican spices, and so much more.
This easy recipe comes together in about 40 minutes, with just a few simple steps and ingredients. It also reheats really well, so you can make it ahead of time. You’ll love how easy and simple it is.
The rice comes out perfectly tender and flavorful. Read on to learn more about the right amount of water to use, and the perfect cooking method to make the most flavorful Mexican rice ever!
Every time I go to Mexican restaurants, I order their signature Mexican rice. It’s a must-order side dish to accompany all the tacos, burritos, fajitas, or any main entree. Because I love it so much, I recreated this easy restaurant-style Mexican rice, and I’m so excited to share the recipe with you today!
This easy Mexican rice is perfect for Cinco de Mayo (coming up in 2 days!) or for a casual taco night. Taco Tuesdays at my house are a thing, so this rice side dish is always on my dinner table.
The rice comes out so tender and flavorful. It’s seriously so good. After a few test batches, I think I’ve got the perfect amount of liquid to rice ratio and the perfect seasoning for the best authentic Mexican rice ever!
It’s a quick and easy recipe, all in one pot. Read on to learn more about the awesome ingredients that go into this rice, as well as tips and tricks to get the best results. I promise, everyone will love it!
You only need a handful of ingredients to make this easy Mexican rice. They are all very easy to find and make the most flavorful side dish ever!
My favorite thing about this recipe is that it uses fresh diced tomatoes, rather than canned diced tomatoes. Using fresh tomatoes here gives the rice a lighter red color and a touch of freshness. It’s so delicious!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Olive oil: for the pan or pot.
- Fresh garlic: Minced. Garlic adds aromatic flavors to the flavor base.
- Yellow onion: Diced. For the flavor base.
- Rice: Use long grain rice for this recipe due to the water to rice ratio below. Ratios can vary depending on the type of rice you’re using.
- Diced roma tomatoes: fresh tomatoes will add a touch of freshness and a lighter color to the rice. The rice will taste amazing but not heavy at all.
- Salt and pepper
- Tomato paste: Tomato paste is concentrated with amazing flavors. It will also add color.
- Ground cumin: For flavor.
- Dried oregano: For flavor.
- Chicken broth: Using rice instead of water to cook the rice will add even more flavor! You can also use vegetable rice.
- Cilantro and lime wedges for garnish
As always, the ingredient quantities and details can be found in the recipe card down below.
So Easy to Make
What gives flavor and depth to this restaurant-style Mexican rice are the initial steps of cooking and slightly browning the onions and garlic until fragrant. This step builds an aromatic flavor base that will infuse the entire dish.
Another step that adds great flavor is “toasting” the rice. This method basically consists of adding the uncooked rice to the onion and garlic base, and toasting it over the hot pan or pot before you add the liquids. After about 2-3 minutes, it will produce this aromatic nutty flavor and also absorb flavors from the onion and garlic. This way, you ensure that the rice is seasoned and fragrant. Toasting the rice adds amazing flavor depth and complexity, so don’t skip this step!
Here’s an overview of the steps to make this rice:
- Cook the onion and garlic: This will be the aromatic flavor base.
- Toast the rice: Add the rice to the pot, and let it “toast” over the heated pot for about 2-3 minutes, until it smells nutty and aromatic.
- Add the remaining ingredients: diced tomatoes, tomato paste, ground cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper. Then add the broth.
- Simmer until ready: Should take 20-23 minutes for the rice to fully absorb the liquid. Try not to open the lid until the cooking time is up, otherwise the steam will escape, resulting in undercooked rice.
Don’t forget to fluff the rice at the end! After the rice has absorbed the water and is perfectly tender and cooked, fluff it with a fork a few times, and cover with the lid again for like 5 to 10 minutes. This optional step redistributes the heat and flavor, making a fluffier and even more delicious rice!
The Perfect Liquid to Rice Ratio
No one wants mushy rice or undercooked rice!
For long grain rice, it’s usually about 1 ½ cups of liquid for every cup of uncooked rice. This ensures that the grains are tender and separated, rather than sticky and wet.
For this Mexican rice recipe, I use 3 ¼ of liquid for 2 cups of rice. I know, it’s ¼ cup more than the ratio, mathematically speaking. Because there are other ingredients here, such as the diced tomatoes, I add ¼ cup of extra liquid to account for that.
If you like your rice a bit more wet, you can add extra liquid…I’d say probably a quarter or half a cup more than the recipe below.
Also, you’ll notice that the liquid component here is chicken broth! You can also use vegetable broth, if you prefer. This will add even more flavor to the rice, as opposed to using just water.
Make It Ahead
You can store the cooked rice in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for up to 3 days. It keeps really well!
However, as with mostly anything, the less time you store it, the better it will be. So, if you want to make this easy Mexican rice in advance, I’d recommend making it 1 day ahead.
I absolutely love this Mexican side dish! It’s my favorite thing to serve with tacos because it’s so versatile and flavorful. It pairs well with almost everything!
It’s also so easy to make, and make-ahead friendly. If you’re throwing a Mexican-themed party, I’d highly recommend making a big batch. Everyone will love it!
I hope you like this recipe as much as I do. Happy cooking!
Tips for Success
- Use the right amount of liquid. This recipe uses 2 cups of long grain rice and 3 ¼ cups of broth.
- Toasting the rice: This consists of adding the uncooked rice to the hot pan (“toasting it”) and stirring it with the aromatics until you get a nutty aroma, about 2-3 minutes or so, before adding the liquid. This step will add deep flavors to the entire dish. This is step 2 in the recipe.
- Don’t be tempted to open the lid before the cook time is up because the steam would escape, causing the rice to be undercooked.
- Using fresh diced tomatoes (rather than canned diced tomatoes) adds a touch of freshness and a lighter red color to the rice, which is distinct in authentic Mexican rice.
Easy Restaurant-Style Mexican Rice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, small diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups long grain rice (uncooked)
- 2 roma tomatoes, seeds removed and small diced
- 1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 ¼ cups chicken broth
- Cilantro and lime wedges (for garnish)
- In a large deep skillet or pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the diced onions and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the minced garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the rice and combine with the onion and garlic. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring, until it smells a bit nutty and aromatic. This process is called “toasting the rice,” and adds lots of aromatic flavors. Tip: Stir the rice as it toasts so it doesn’t burn at the bottom.
- Add the fresh diced tomatoes, tomato paste, cumin, oregano, salt, and ground black pepper. Stir to combine. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed and to taste.
- Add the broth and bring to a boil. Then, reduce to a simmer over low heat, and cover with the lid tightly. Cook for 20-23 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid water. Tip: try not uncover the pot until the cook time is up, otherwise the steam will escape, resulting in undercooked rice.
- Optional: Fluff the cooked rice with a fork and let it sit for 5 to ¼10 minutes before serving. This step will help redistribute the flavors and heat for even better texture and flavor.
- Serve with cilantro garnish and lime wedges on the side. Enjoy!
- Liquid to rice ratio: Usually, for long grain rice, I do 1.5 cups of liquid per cup of rice. This ensures the grains are separated and tender (not mushy or wet). In this recipe, I use 2 cups of rice and 3 ¼ cups of liquid. The extra quarter cup of liquid is to account for the diced tomatoes.
- Try not to open the lid until the cook time is up, otherwise the steam will escape, resulting in undercooked rice.
- Make ahead: This rice can be made the day before and stored in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave oven.
- Storing leftovers: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days.