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overhead close up of a vivid blue bowl filled with Mexican red rice, sprinkled with chopped cilantro and a cilantro leaf in the center

Mexican Red Rice

  • Author: Lisa
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 8-10 servings 1x


This fluffy flavorful red rice is the perfect side dish with virtually any Mexican main.


Units Scale

For Equipment: you'll need either a large heavy skillet and a large heavy lidded pot, or you can cook this entire recipe in a Dutch oven.

  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped (a heaping tablespoon)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt or more, to taste
  • 6-ounce can of tomato paste (1/2 cup)
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 fresh Serrano pepper, halved lengthwise (or use two, if you want more than subtle heat)
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves, optional


  1. Heat the Dutch oven (or skillet) over high heat. Add the dry rice and toast it, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until about half of the grains are golden brown, about 6 minutes. Smoke rising from the pot is normal, as long as the rice isn't turning black and starting to burn. If it is, lower the heat. Transfer toasted rice to a heatproof bowl.
  2. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy pot, over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, garlic and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies soften and just start to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it deepens in color and caramelizes, 3 minutes or so.
  3. Add the broth and bring to a boil, whisking to blend the tomato paste into the broth, and scraping the bottom of the pot with the wooden spoon to release any stuck browned bits.
  4. Stir in the rice and Serrano chili. When the pot returns to a  boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook undisturbed for 15 minutes. 
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and let the rice steam, covered, for 15 minutes. (If your pot doesn't have a tight-fitting lid, place a clean dish towel between the pot and the lid).
  6. Remove the chili and gently fluff the rice with a fork. Toss the rice with cilantro, if using, and serve.


For spicier red rice - In step #2, when you add the tomato paste, you also can add 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of chili powder and/or ground cumin; Or add one seeded and chopped chipotle chili from a can of chipotle chilies in adobo.

Popular Mexican Rice Add-ins: peas and corn. Stir 1/2 cup of veggies into the pot when the rice is halfway cooked. 

  • Prep Time: 20 min
  • Cook Time: 30 min
  • Category: side dish
  • Method: simmer
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Keywords: Mexican rice cooked in tomato sauce, Mexican red tomato rice