Arroz Rojo Recipe: Authentic Mexican Red Rice

This arroz rojo (Mexican red rice) is fluffy, delicious and loaded with Mexican flavors. Learn how easily make it at home with simple ingredients and enjoy it with your favourite Mexican dishes!

Mexican red rice served on a deep turquoise plate.

What Is Arroz Rojo?

Arroz rojo is an essential and budget-friendly Mexican side dish. You can find it almost in every plate served in the country, from the wonderful mole to the most simple huevito con arroz (fried eggs and rice). It takes is name from the beautiful red color it have, since red in Spanish translate to “rojo”. Just as arroz blanco (white rice) and arroz verde (green rice) takes their names from the final color of the dish.

This traditional side dish for Mexican red rice is made by frying long grain rice and then simmering in a simple tomato sauce called recaudo, which is made with fresh tomatoes (from where it takes the brilliant red color), onion, and garlic.

A closeup on arroz rojo.

The Variations

The traditional recipe for arroz rojo may include some variations between families and regions in the country. For example.

  • Herbs: Such as cilantro, epazote, mint or fresh marjoram sometimes are included in the preparation to add an extra aroma and flavor.
  • Seasonings: Besides from garlic, some recipes might include pepper or a pinch of cumin.
  • Spicy: Frying some fresh or dried peppers such as chile de árbol, serrano, jalapeño, poblano, or güero is other popular variation. So is blending chipotle peppers with tomatoes that adds not only a spicy kick but also more red color.
  • Vegetables: Diced carrots, potatoes, green beans, corn, and peas can be find often in arroz rojo recipe.
  • Toppings: In my home was customary to add boiled and sliced eggs on top of a place, and my grandma Elvira loved to eat hers with sliced banana. In the south of Mexico, fried plantains are also a common topping for Mexican red rice.
Mexican red rice (arroz rojo) with peas on a white plate served with fried plantains.

Now, if you ever tried before to make mexican arroz rojo at home and ended with a mushy and bland dish, most likely is because you didn’t know the little secrets that us, mexicans, know from our childhood.

Well…actually there’s not real secrets, is just some simple steps that will help you to understand the process of cooking mexican rice and inspire you to do your own at home. After all, you only need a few minutes to have a big bowl of fragrant mexican red rice and use it in whatever your heart desires.

My mother’s tips & tricks

Those are the tricks my mother taught me for making arroz rojo. Of course, they’re just tips and recommendations, but I assure you, they work. So give them a try and let me know if you found them useful in the comments below.

  • RINSE THE RICE – Mi mother always told me to rinse thoroughly the rice because this will remove the powdery starch. If it is not removed it thickens the water and you get gluey/mushy rice. This is the main “secret”, my friends.
  • LET GRAINS TO DRY PERFECTLY – My mom used to put the rinsed rice on a plate and place it under the sun, in our patio. So, just place your rice in a colander to drain most if the water, then distribute it onto a plate and let it dry completely.
  • CHOOSE THE RIGHT KIND OF RICE – Basmati and Jasmin are the most used type of rice when you live outside Mexico, but if you have any Mexican brand available then you’re a lucky person! Use any long grain rice and avoid other types because they’re starchy and you’ll end with a mushy and sticky rice.
  • FRY THE RICE – Frying the rice make it reach this wonderful red/toasted color (hence the name: Arroz rojo). Yes, I know that is tempting to add just a bit of oil for a healthy version but, if you want real red Mexican rice, you gonna have to fry it in a lot of oil. You can discard most of the oil anyway. So, let’s forget for once about the calories and enjoy a traditional arroz rojo as it is.
Taking arroz rojo with a spoon.

The Ingredients

  • Use ripe tomatoes – If you want to achieve a brilliant red color on your arroz rojo, you have to use the most ripe and red tomatoes available.
  • Make it fragrant – Add a bit of fresh cilantro and a clove of garlic, it really makes the difference. Adjust the quantities to your taste.
  • Use homemade chicken stock – My mother always made arroz rojo when she also cooked caldo de pollo (chicken soup) or caldo de res (beef stew) and she will always use the broth to make this red rice. I know, you might want to make this rice for other uses so maybe you don’t have real chicken stock available, is ok, you can do it and use also chicken bouillon. But, try it at least once with real homemade chicken broth and you’ll notice the difference.
  • Other spices – Some people like to use a little bit of cumin and pepper or also fresh chillies. I like to keep my rice as simple as possible, so is up to you if you want to add more flavor.
Ingredients for arroz rojo labeled and displayed on a marble surface.
  • Long grain rice is best to make this recipe. I can’t find Mexican rice here where I live, so I always use Basmati or Jazmin.
  • My mother always used lard for frying her arroz rojo, and the flavor was AMAZING. However, using a vegetable oil is also perfect for this recipe.

The Step By Step Recipe

Place rice in a bowl and wash throughly until water becomes clean and transparent.

Showing clear water with a hand on a bowl with rice and water.

Drain rice well and distribute in a large plate. Allow to dry until grains don’t stick to each other.

Dry rice on a plate.

While the rice is drying, make the recaudo. Place tomatoes, onions, garlic and cilantro in a blender. Pour 1/2 cup of chicken stock and blend until smooth. Set aside.

Tomato sauce on a bowl.

Heat about 1/2 cup of oil over medium heat in a pan. Add rice and fry, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes.

Rice frying on a pan (starting).

Adjust the heat so the rice will fry evenly. At the end, your rice should have a nice golden color as in the picture below.

Golden fried rice on a pan.

Set heat to the lowest point, then using a spoon, remove all oil from the pan.

Removing oil from pan with a spoon and a bowl with excellent oil aside.

Set heat again to medium and pour the tomato sauce. Let it sizzle for one minute while stirring.

Cooking tomato sauce with rice on a pan.

Add half a cup of chicken stock and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer, covered, until the rice is done (from 15 to 17 minutes). Make sure you don’t stir.

Arroz rojo cooked in a pan.

Near to the end of the cooking time, check up the rice. If you notice there’s no more liquid and the rice is still undercooked, add a little bit more of chicken stock pouring it around the edges of the pan. Cover and keep cooking.

Once arroz rojo is done, turn off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes, then fluffy it with a fork, cover and let it sit for another 5 minutes before serving.

Fluffing cooked arroz rojo with a fork.

How Is Served?

Mexican red rice is a perfect side dish for Adobo ribs, picadillo with potatoes, chicken with peanut sauce (encacahuatado) or chicken adobo, to name a few. But it also works wonder as a filler for chicken burritos or steak fajita tacos!

Mexican picadillo served with red rice.

Useful Recipe Notes

  • No ripe tomatoes in season? Use canned tomatoes or a tablespoon of tomato paste. In Mexico is also common to use tomato based chicken bouillon, look if you can find something similar at your local supermarket.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have a traditional mexican terracota pan available, use it! a cazuela de barro is optimal to make Mexican red rice.
  • Sneak in some vegetables bites, such as carrots, green beans or peas. Add them as soon as you pour in the sauce.

Make it vegan

If you want a vegan version of this rice be sure to left out the chicken broth and replace it with vegetable stock.

Quick veggie stock recipe: Bring to boil 1 lt of water, add 1 medium carrot, a stick of celery, a small onion and 1 ripe tomato; all cut in big chunks. Season with 2 bay leaves, a pinch of oregano and 1 garlic clove. Add a pinch of salt and leave it to simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and keep it warm while proceeding with the recipe.

How To Store

There’s no Mexican household that doesn’t have often arroz rojo on a cazuela over the stove. Since is made almost every day, the most common way of storing is just leave it in the same pan, covered, on the countertop for up to 2 days.

Or you can simple transfer your leftovers on an air-tight container and store in the fridge for up to 6 days. Freezing is not recommended for this type of recipe.

How To Reheat

Place Mexican red rice on a pan, add a dash of water or chicken stock and then heat over medium heat, while stirring from time to time, until heated up. You can also reheat in the microwave in 1 minute intervals.

Watch How To Make It

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Arroz Rojo (Mexican red rice)

Enjoy an authentic arroz rojo recipe. So flavored and fluffy that you'll like to eat it just plain. But you can also use it to make burritos, quesadillas, fried eggs and more.
PREP 5 minutes
COOK 17 minutes
TOTAL 22 minutes
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Servings: 2
Author: Maricruz

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup white rice (long grain)
  • 1 large ripe tomato (cut in quarters)
  • ½ medium white onion (cut in big chunks)
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 garlic clove (peeled)
  • canola oil (as needed)
  • fresh cilantro (optional)
  • salt (as needed)

Instructions

  • Put rice in a bowl and wash with cold water until water comes out clear.
  • Drain rice and place on a plate letting it dry completely.
  • While the rice is drying, place tomato, onion, cilantro and garlic in a blender. Pour ½ cup of chicken stock and blend until smooth. Set aside.
  • Heat a good amount oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Add rice and fry, stirring constantly until rice have a nice golden color. Adjust the heat so the rice will fry evenly.
  • Set heat to low and remove the oil.
  • Add the tomato sauce, set heat to medium-high and cook for 1 minute stirring constantly.
  • Add half a cup of chicken stock and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer, covered, until the rice is done (from 15 to 17 minutes). Make sure you don’t stir.
  • If after 10-12 minutes you notice there’s no more liquid and the rice is still undercooked, add a little bit more of chicken stock pouring it around the pan edges.
  • Once is done, fluffy it with a fork, cover and let it sit for another 5 minutes before serving.
Nutrition
Calories: 457kcal | Carbohydrates: 83g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 64mg | Potassium: 520mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 759IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 1mg
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