How to Make Colorful and Spicy Mexican Rice

Serve this colorful Mexican rice recipe with tacos, enchiladas, or inside burritos for a flavor fiesta. It only requires a few ingredients.

Spice is nice! In place of plain steamed rice, pair your favorite south-of-the-border entrée with a scoop of homemade Mexican rice. Sometimes referred to as “Spanish rice,” this side dish is often flavored and colored with tomato sauce or salsa—hence the showy red or green hue.

Want to know how to make Mexican rice? Or how to transform it into a filling meal? Read on for all of our easy Mexican rice tips and tricks.

Mexican Red Rice

How to Make Mexican Rice on the Stove Top

The most common way to whip up Mexican rice is on the stove. Here's how:

Step 1: Prepare tomato sauce

  • Make the tomato sauce in the blender or food processor, using unpeeled roma tomatoes, onion, and garlic.
  • To spice up the sauce, add chopped fresh jalapeño, starting with 1/2 teaspoon and increasing to taste, or add a couple tablespoons of diced canned chile peppers or bottled hot chile sauce to taste. You can also add 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin or chili powder, if desired.

Tip: In a hurry? Trade an equal amount of salsa—red or green—for the from-scratch sauce.

Step 2: Toast the rice

  • Here’s how to cook Mexican rice for restaurant-quality flavor: On your stove top, warm a skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Sauté ½ cup chopped onion and 2 minced garlic cloves in 1 tablespoon oil until lightly golden, about 2 minutes.
  • Add 1 cup rice to the skillet. Stir to coat the grains evenly in the oil and aromatic mixture.
  • Toast the rice until it just begins to turn golden, about 1 minute.

Tip: Make sure you stir the Mexican rice continuously as it toasts in the oil to avoid scorching.

Step 3: Add tomato sauce and broth

  • Add the homemade tomato sauce (or ¾ cup salsa) to the rice in the skillet.
  • Pour in 14 ounces of chicken or vegetable broth (here’s how to make broth with your kitchen scraps), plus ¼ cup water.
  • Cook and stir the rice until it has absorbed the sauce, a process that gives the rice color and flavor.

Step 4: Add vegetables

If desired, stir 1 cup veggies into the rice-tomato sauce mixture. Try frozen peas, chopped zucchini, chopped carrots, or chopped sweet peppers.

Step 5: Cook and cool the Mexican rice

  • Cover with a lid and cook the rice mixture, uncovered, until nearly all the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender (about 20 minutes). No need to stir often, just check in occasionally to make sure the pan doesn't boil dry.
  • Remove skillet from the heat, take off the lid, cover the pan with a kitchen towel, and replace the lid. This will help soak up any excess moisture.
  • Allow to stand for about 5 minutes. Top with fresh cilantro, then fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

Get the recipe: Mexican Red Rice


  • For a super easy Mexican rice recipe, cook 1 chopped green sweet pepper in olive oil until the pepper is soft. Stir the pepper into a prepared package of Mexican-flavor heat-and-serve rice.
  • For a higher-fiber side, create Mexican brown rice with a package of heat-and-serve brown rice.

How to Transform Mexican Rice Into an Entrée

  • For a vegetarian, protein-rich recipe add a can of rinsed, drained, and cooked black beans or pinto beans along with the cilantro after the rice has been cooked and slightly cooled.
  • For meat eaters, scoop servings of Mexican rice into bowls and top each with 4 to 6 ounces of cooked chorizo, shrimp, or chicken.
Mexican Red Rice with Shrimp

How to Make Slow Cooker Mexican Rice

It doesn’t get much easier than this. If you’re looking for a hands-off Mexican rice recipe, simply toss all of the ingredients into your slow cooker. Heat on high for about 2 ½ hours, and dig in.

Mexican Fried Veggie Rice with Radishes and Avocado

How to Make Low-Carb Mexican Rice

Mexican rice ingredients need not be high in carbohydrates. (Bonus: If it’s not, that leaves more room for extra chips and guac!)

If you’re eating Paleo or counting carbs, try our cauliflower rice version. Each serving has 331 calories, 25 grams of protein—thanks to ground chicken—and only 17 grams of carbs.

Get the recipe: Mexican Fried Veggie Rice with Radishes and Avocado

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