Thursday, May 24, 2012

How to Cook Mexican Rice

Mexican Rice, which is ubiquitous throughout Mexico in homes and restaurants, is often called "Spanish Rice" in the USA. But it does not exist as such anywhere in Spain; the only thing it has in common with Spain is the language spoken in both countries. It is generally served as a side dish as part of the main course, and it is not usually spicy.

This is a very simple dish to prepare, and though there are many slight variations from home to home, region to region, the basics are pretty much universal: Rice, some type of tomato product, onion, garlic, cumin and water or chicken broth.

First I'll give you the basic recipe I learned some 20 years ago or so from a Mexican neighbor. Then I'll add some notes on how I personally make it at home, and then you can make your own personal changes to suit your own tastes. The picture, by the way, is of the basic recipe, without any of my slight alterations.

Serves 4

  • 3 TBLSP vegetable oil
  • 1 Cup long grain rice (don't use short grain sticky rice)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Cup tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 Cups water
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt


Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until it shimmers but is not smoking. Add rice. Saute, stirring constantly, until puffed and golden. Don't let it burn. While rice is cooking, sprinkle with salt and cumin.

As rice begins to turn gold, stir in onions and garlic and cook until they are tender but not brown. Stir in tomato sauce and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Do not lift the lid to check on it while it's cooking! That lets steam escape and can foul up the texture of the rice, which should be on the dry side. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Now for my notes:
  • Instead of tomato sauce and water, I use chicken broth and diced canned tomatoes. I remove the tomatoes from the juice, then measure the juice. Add enough chicken broth to make 2 cups, then add it all to the browned rice. I like the extra flavor of the broth and the chunks of tomato.
  • I use 4 cloves of garlic and smash it good before I mince it up. Again, this is a flavor thing; smashing the garlic first releases more flavor.
  • Sometimes I add a little turmeric for an added earthy flavor and yellow color; sometimes I add some chile powder or paprika both for flavor and color.
  • When it's ready to serve, I like to sprinkle it with thinly sliced green onions, including some of the green tops. It looks pretty and it tastes good, too.
  • Sometimes I turn it into a main course by adding chunks of leftover roasted chicken (or pork or beef) at the end. I serve it with sliced tomatoes, sour cream and/or guacamole, a side of beans and (of course) warm flour tortillas.

Of course you can add any spices or other ingredients you like: Oregano, olives, diced jalapenos, cayenne pepper, bell pepper, corn or other vegetables, whatever floats your boat!

And of course HAPPY left his own recipe in the comments at this link, which you might want to try. He likes it saucy and hot, Mrs. HAPPY likes it drier. The only thing that matters is that it makes your mouth happy!

Buen provecho!

If you have a favorite recipe for a Mexican or Mexican-inspired dish, I'd love to add it to our recipe box! email (and put "recipe" in the subject box so I'll know what it's about)
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain