Mexican Rice (Arroz Rojo) | Spanish Rice

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Mexican Rice, also known as Arroz Rojo or Spanish Rice, is a zesty and flavorful vegan dish. This Mexican rice recipe features hearty long-grained rice, sautéed with tomatoes and lots of veggies and spices. It’s easy to make as a quick dinner or satisfying lunch with my step-by-step photos and simple instructions!

overhead shot of mexican rice with a lemon wedge in a large white bowl with enchilada sauce and quesadilla on top

About This Recipe

This classic rice based recipe is sometimes known as Spanish Rice or Arroz Mexicano or Arroz Rojo (meaning red rice), and is traditionally served in Mexico as a main dish or side. It’s similar to the Portuguese version of Tomato Rice but includes more spices and tomato puree for an even zestier taste.

I am a big fan of Mexican cuisine and quite familiar with Mexican recipes that are used across the world to make a number of meals. This Spanish Rice is made by browning rice in a large skillet along with onions and garlic, and then adding spices and vegetables to the hot pan.

Try this Mexican rice next time you want a bold, spice-full, and terrifically satisfying one-pot meal. It’s a wonderfully easy recipe to prepare from scratch, and perfect to enjoy on its own, with other southwestern sides or fresh salads.

overhead shot of mexican rice with a lemon wedge and a brass fork in the rice in a large white bowl with enchilada sauce and quesadilla on top
Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Mexican Rice

Prep Rice

1. First, rinse 1 cup of long grained or basmati rice rice under cold running water a few times. This gets the starches out so that the rice doesn’t become sticky or mushy when stir fried.

Set the rinsed rice aside, and gather all of the remaining ingredients needed. Since you are adding things quickly to a hot pan, you want to have everything ready to go before you start.

long grained rice in a mesh strainer

Sauté Aromatics

2. Next, over medium heat add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large pan with a lid. Add ½ cup of finely chopped onions and ½ teaspoon of finely chopped garlic.

chopped onions and garlic in a steel pan

3. Sauté the onions and garlic for a minute, until fragrant.

sauteing chopped onions and garlic in a steel pan

Toast Rice

4. Lower the heat and then add the rinsed and drained rice to the hot pan.

long grained rice added to the pan

6. Mix well, and stir continuously as you sauté the rice in the oil on a low heat. The outside of the rice should start to get slightly browned and lightly toasted, but be careful that they do not burn.

sauteing rice in the pan

Add Veggies, Seasonings

7. Next add the following vegetables and seasonings to the rice:

  • finely chopped carrots – ¼ to ⅓ cup
  • finely chopped green bell peppers – ¼ to ⅓ cup
  • green peas – fresh or frozen, ¼ to ⅓ cup (optional)
  • chopped serrano peppers or jalapeño peppers or green chilies – 1 teaspoon
  • finely chopped celery – 1 teaspoon
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne or paprika or red chili powder or ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper 
  • ground cumin (cumin powder) – ½ teaspoon
mix vegetables and spices added to the pan

8. Add salt to your preferred taste.

salt added to veggies

9. Stir to combine, and continue to sauté for 2 to 3 minutes on a low heat.

combine, and continue to sauté the veggie rice mixture for 2 to 3 minutes on a low heat

Add Tomato Puree

10. Now add 1 cup of tomato purée. If making the tomato puree with fresh tomatoes like I have done, blitz 200 grams or 1.25 cups chopped tomatoes in a blender to a fine consistency.

added tomato puree to mixture

11. Mix gently.

mix the spanish rice mixture

12. Next add 1.75 to 2 cups of Vegetable Stock (or water), depending on the quality of rice you are using. Mix well, and taste the broth. Add more salt if needed.

water added to mixture in pan

Cook Mexican Rice

13. Cover and cook the rice on a low heat for about 20 to 22 minutes or until the rice grains are tender, fluffy and all the liquids have been absorbed.

cooking spanish rice in a pan with closed lid

14. Check the rice every 5 to 10 minutes or so. If the water has cooked off before the rice is done, add a splash more hot water and continue cooking.

checking cooked rice whether it is cooked or not by removing the lid

15. When done, the water will be gone and the rice should be tender and fluffy. Stir with a spoon or fluff the rice with a fork.

cooked mexican rice in the pan

16. Serve the Mexican rice hot by itself or with your favorite sides like a fresh salad. Like you see in the photos, I served this vibrant rice dish with mushrooms and mix veggies quesadilla.

You can serve with a side of a Vegetarian Burrito, empanada or chimichanga. Optionally serve Spanish rice with a side of lemon wedges and sprinkling of cilantro if desired.

overhead shot of mexican rice with a lemon wedge and a brass fork in the rice in a large white bowl with enchilada sauce and quesadilla on top

FAQs

What sides go well with Spanish rice?

It’s delicious to enjoy with a fresh green salad or tomato salad, or with other Mexican dishes. Try my recipes for Refried Beans, Homemade Salsa, Guacamole, and Easy Vegetarian Tacos for more great southwestern flavors.

What variations of this recipe can I make?

While I’ve used my favorite veggies to make this Mexican rice, like peas and bell peppers, feel free to omit or swap however you like. Add chopped tomatoes, corn, or any hearty vegetables you prefer!
For a protein boost, add lightly pan-fried tofu while serving. You can omit the veggies if you prefer.

How should leftovers be kept?

Store cooled leftovers in a sealed container and keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.

More Rice Varieties To Try!

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overhead shot of mexican rice with a lemon wedge in a large white bowl

Mexican Rice | Spanish Rice

Mexican Rice, also known as Arroz Rojo or Spanish Rice, is a zesty and flavorful vegan dish. This Mexican rice recipe features hearty long-grained rice, sauteed with tomatoes and lots of veggies and spices.
4.5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Cuisine Mexican, World
Course Main Course
Diet Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Difficulty Level Easy
Servings 3
Units

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped onions – 50 grams or 1 medium sized
  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped garlic or 3 to 4 small to medium-sized garlic cloves
  • 1 cup long grained rice (heaped), 200 grams – basmati or any long grained rice variety
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup finely chopped carrots
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup finely chopped red bell peppers or any colored bell pepper or capsicum
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup green peas – fresh or frozen, optional
  • 1 teaspoon chopped serrano peppers or jalapeño or green chillies
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped celery
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or paprika or red chilli powder or ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin (cumin powder)
  • 1 cup Tomato Purée – 200 grams, 2 medium to large tomatoes or 1.25 cups chopped tomatoes
  • salt as required
  • 1.75 to 2 cups Vegetable Stock or water – add as required

Instructions
 

  • First, rinse the long grained or basmati rice under cold running water for a couple of times. Set the rinsed rice aside, and prep, gather all of the remaining ingredients needed.
  • Heat olive oil in a pan.
  • Add the chopped onions, garlic and sauté them for a minute on medium heat.
  • Lower the heat and add the rinsed rice.
  • Mix well, and stir continuously as you sauté the rice in the oil on a low to medium-low heat. The outside of the rice should start to get slightly browned, but take care not to burn the grains. The rice grains should become a light brown and opaque.
  • Add the carrots, bell peppers, green peas, and serrano or jalapeño or green chilies, celery, cayenne (or paprika or red chilli powder) and ground cumin.
  • Add salt according to taste.
  • Mix and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes on a low to medium-low heat.
  • Add tomato puree. Combine and Mix gently.
  • Add the vegetable stock or water.
  • Mix again and taste the broth. It should be a bit salty.
  • Cover with lid and simmer on a low to medium-low heat until the rice grains are tender and fluffy for about 20 to 22 minutes. All of the stock should be absorbed.
  • While the rice is cooking, keep checking a couple of times. If there are no liquids left in the pan and the rice grains are undercooked, add ¼ cup hot water/hot veg stock or more as needed. Gently mix without breaking the rice grains. Cover and continue to simmer.
  • When the cooking is completely, fluff the cooked rice with a fork.
  • Serve Mexican rice hot or warm with a side salad or with Mexican sides like a vegetarian or vegan burrito, quesadilla, empanada or chimichanga.
  • You can also serve with a side of lemon wedges and sprinkling of cilantro if desired.

Notes

  • This is slightly spicy rice. To cut down on the heat reduce the serrano or jalapeño or green chilies and cayenne pepper.
  • You can make this dish into hearty Mexican style pilaf by adding veggies like cauliflower, sweet corn, french beans, broccoli and potatoes. For some protein, add lightly pan-fried tofu while serving. You can also skip the veggies if you prefer. 
  • The recipe can be easily scaled to make a small batch or a big batch.
  • Store any leftover rice in the fridge for a day. For best taste and healthy eating practice, I suggest to have this dish as soon it is made.

Nutrition Info (Approximate values)

Nutrition Facts
Mexican Rice | Spanish Rice
Amount Per Serving
Calories 351 Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Fat 10g15%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 7g
Sodium 25mg1%
Potassium 368mg11%
Carbohydrates 58g19%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 6g12%
Vitamin A 2937IU59%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 2mg10%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin C 33mg40%
Vitamin E 2mg13%
Vitamin K 17µg16%
Calcium 46mg5%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 36µg9%
Iron 1mg6%
Magnesium 35mg9%
Phosphorus 118mg12%
Zinc 1mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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This Mexican Rice recipe from blog archives (first published in October 2011) has been republished and updated on 8 June 2021.

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Meet Dassana

Welcome to Dassana's Veg Recipes. I share vegetarian recipes from India & around the World. Having been cooking for decades and with a professional background in cooking & baking, I help you to make your cooking journey easier with my tried and tested recipes showcased with step by step photos & plenty of tips & suggestions.

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4 Comments

  1. It is looking same as tomato rice,except that green bell pepper is added.
    Spanish rice is looking delicious.

    1. really?…. are they both looking same…. i thought the spanish rice was looking a little orangish 🙂