This Mexican red rice, or arroz rojo, is so fluffy, delicious, and loaded with tons of flavors. Learn how easily make it at home with simple ingredients and enjoy it with your favorite Mexican dishes!
Mexican red rice is a staple side dish made from rice cooked in a flavorful red tomato sauce with aromatics. It is known by various names such as arroz rojo, arroz a la Mexicana, or sopa de arroz; but all referrs to the same dish.
At my home, is one of our favorite sides along with arroz blanco (white rice) and arroz verde (green rice), because it’s good with many foods. From stews to soups, to tacos and more. Actually, I just don’t know any Mexican who doesn’t like this delicious rice!
Like many Mexicans, I learned to make red rice from a young age, thanks to my abuelita and my mother. And today I’m happy to share with you all their tips and tricks to make the best and most authentic Mexican red rice like a pro! Perfectly fluffy, aromatic, and with tons of flavor.
- Rice: Use long-grain rice such as Mexican rice, Basmati rice, or Jasmine.
- Tomatoes: Nicely ripe tomatoes give flavor and a beautiful red color to this rice.
- Aromatics: White onion and garlic.
- Stock: My mom always used homemade chicken broth (often from caldo de pollo leftovers), if I don’t have it, I usually substitute it with Knorr chicken bouillon.
- Tomato concentrate: This ingredient is used to give a deeper red color and extra flavor. You can also replace it with 1 tablespoon of tomato paste.
- Olive oil: Or your favorite vegetable oil.
- Salt: A little bit.
How To Make Mexican Red Rice
Place rice in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Stir to remove as much as you can of the starch, then discard the water and repeat the process 2-3 more times.
You’ll notice you’re done washing the rice when the water is clean instead of too cloudy.
Now, drain the rice with a strainer and place it over a bowl. Leave it there for about 20 minutes stirring the grains from time to time so they will nicely dry.
Tip: You can also spread the rice on a large plate (as shown in the video below), so it will dry faster. You need the rice to be dry so it won’t splatter when you add it to the hot oil!
Make the recaudo tomato sauce. Place tomatoes cut into quarters in a blender and add onions, garlic, and tomato concentrate or tomato paste (whatever you want to use).
Add 2 cups of chicken stock and blend until smooth.
Heat 1/2 cup of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add rice and cook stirring constantly until rice is nicely golden.
While frying, make sure you adjust the heat on your stove, so your rice won’t burn.
Remove the pan from heat and use a spoon to discard the excess oil. You can skip this step, but then make sure to use only 1/4 cup oil to fry the rice.
Return the pan to the stove and set the heat to high. Wait 8-10 seconds so the rice will heat up again, then add the tomato sauce.
Pour the remaining stock, add a pinch of salt, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust salt if needed.
Bring to a boil, then cover the pan and set the heat to medium-low. From here, cook for 16-18 minutes without uncovering the pan.
This is an important step, if you want perfectly cooked Mexican rice, make sure to not lift the lid! You need the steam to make your rice fluffy without overcooking it.
Remove the pan from the stove and allow the rice to sit, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
Now, use a fork and gently fluff the rice, combining the tomato sauce that accumulates on top.
See? Easy-peasy! Now you have a perfect and authentic Mexican red rice to serve with your favorite dishes. ¡Buen provecho! :)
Abuelita’s Tips For Arroz Rojo
- My abuelita Elvira always told me to wash thoroughly the rice because this would remove the powdery starch. If it is not removed, it will thicken the water and you’ll get gluey/mushy rice.
- Allow the washed rice to dry, if you add it wet it can cause the oil to splatter and potentially burn you.
- I like to fry in plenty of oil because it allows me to get perfectly golden rice.
- If you’re lucky enough to have a traditional cazuela de barro (clay pan) available, use it! It is optimal to make this dish.
- This Mexican rice lasts up to 3-4 days in the fridge. It is a perfect prep side for busy days! Just store in an airtight container and reheat when you want to enjoy.
- For reheating, I prefer the microwave because the rice stays nicely moist, but you can also reheat it in the stove at low heat, well covered, and mixing only once so it won’t become mushy.
The beauty of the Mexican red rice recipe is how customizable it is! Here are my family’s favorite twists:
- Herbs: I like to add cilantro, epazote, thyme, or fresh marjoram sometimes for extra aroma and flavor.
- Spicy: I love spicy food, so sometimes I fry a couple of chile de árbol, serrano, jalapeño, or chiles güeros and cook them along with my arroz.
- Vegetables: If I feel like adding veggies, usually diced carrots, potatoes, green beans, corn, or peas are my first option.
- Toppings: My mom will always add hard-boiled eggs on top, it is a common topping that you’ll find in Mexico.
Mexican red rice is a perfect side dish for many dishes. It can be served as a side for stews, soups (like caldo de res), enchiladas, or stuffing in tacos or burritos…actually, it goes well with pretty much any Mexican dish.
But my favorite way of eating it is simply topped with a fried egg on top and banana slices or fried plantains (like my abuelita Elvira used to!)…it sound weird? Try it, the contrasting taste of savory rice with sweet bananas is amazing!
More Mexican Rice Sides
Mexican Red Rice (arroz rojo)
- 3 cups long-grain white rice (Mexican, Basmati, or Jasmine)
- 1 pound tomatoes (cut into quarters)
- 1 medium white onion (cut in big chunks)
- 3 ½ cups chicken stock (or homemade chicken broth)
- 2 cloves garlic (peeled)
- ½ cup olive oil (or sunflower oil)
- 1 cube tomato concentrate (or 1 tablespoon tomato paste)
- salt (as needed)
- Place rice in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Stir to remove as much as you can of the starch, then discard the water and repeat the process 2-3 more times.
- Drain the rice with a strainer and place it over a bowl. Allow to dry for 20 minutes.
- Place tomatoes in a blender, add onions, garlic, and tomato concentrate.
- Add 2 cups of chicken stock and blend until smooth.
- Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add rice and cook stirring constantly until rice is nicely golden.
- Remove from heat and then use a spoon to discard the excess oil from the pan.
- Return the pan to the stove and set the heat to high. Wait 8-10 seconds so the rice will heat up again, then add the tomato sauce.
- Pour the remaining stock, add a pinch of salt, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust salt if needed.
- Bring to a boil, then cover the pan and set the heat to medium-low.
- Cook rice for 16-18 minutes without uncovering the pan.
- Remove the pan from the stove and allow the rice to sit for 5 minutes.
- Use a fork and gently fluff the rice, combining the tomato sauce that accumulates on top.
- Serve with your favorite dishes or alone with a fried egg on top.
- To allow the rice to dry faster, place it on a plate and spread it nicely. You need the rice to be dry so it won’t splatter when you add it to the hot oil!
- While frying your rice, make sure you adjust the heat on your stove, so it will fry evenly.
- Don’t lift the lid while your rice is cooking. You need the steam for perfect fluffy rice.
Maricruz Avalos Flores is a Mexican cook and photographer living in Italy where she shares authentic Mexican & Italian recipes that can be easily made at home using easy-to-find ingredients.