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 favorite Mexican dishes!

Mexican red rice, arroz rojo, served on a 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).

The name comes from the beautiful red color, 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, onion, and garlic.

A closeup of arroz rojo.

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 we Mexicans know from our childhood.

Well…actually there are no real secrets, these are just some simple steps that will help you to understand the process of cooking Mexican rice, which is quite simple if you ask me.

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: My mother always told me to rinse thoroughly the rice because this will remove the powdery starch. If it is not removed, it will thicken the water and you’ll get gluey/mushy rice.
  • LET GRAINS DRY PERFECTLY: My mom used to put the rinsed rice on a plate and place it under the sun, on our patio. So, just place your rice in a colander to drain most of the water, then spread it onto a plate and let it dry completely.
  • CHOOSE THE RIGHT KIND OF RICE: Basmati and Jasmine 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 too starchy.
  • FRY THE RICE: Frying the rice makes it reach this wonderful red color. Yes, I know that is tempting to add just a bit of oil for a healthy version but, if you want the real red Mexican rice, you gonna have to fry it in a lot of oil. You can discard most of the oil anyway.
Taking arroz rojo with a spoon.

The Ingredients

  • Long-grain rice: Is the best to make this recipe. I can’t find Mexican rice here where I live, so I always use Basmati or Jazmin.
  • Use ripe tomatoes: If you want to achieve a brilliant red color, you have to use the ripest red tomatoes available.
  • Make it fragrant: Add a bit of fresh cilantro and a clove of garlic, it really makes the difference.
  • Use homemade chicken stock: My mother always made arroz rojo when she also cooked caldo de pollo (chicken soup) or caldo de res and she will always use the broth to make this red rice. You use also chicken bouillon. But, try it at least once with real homemade chicken broth and you’ll see the difference.
  • Vegetable oil: Use sunflower or corn oil.
  • Other spices – Some people like to use a little bit of cumin and pepper or also fresh chilies. I like to keep my rice as simple as possible, so is up to you if you want to add more flavor.
Ingredients for Mexican red rice arroz rojo labeled and displayed on a marble surface.

How To Make Mexican Arroz Rojo

Wash rice thoroughly until water becomes clean and transparent.

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

Drain rice well and spread it on a large plate. Allow drying until grains don’t stick to each other.

Rice spread 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. In the end, your rice should have a nice golden color as in the picture below.

Golden fried rice on a pan.

Set heat to low, then using a spoon, remove all excess oil from the pan.

Removing oil from the pan with a spoon.

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

Cooking Mexican red rice on a pan.

Add half a cup of chicken stock and bring to boil.

Cover the pan, set heat to medium-low, and let the rice cook from 15 to 17 minutes without uncovering or stirring.

Arroz rojo fully cooked in a pan.

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

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

Fluffing cooked arroz rojo with a fork.

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 terracotta pan available, use it! a cazuela de barro is optimal to make Mexican red rice.
  • Sneak in some vegetable bites, such as carrots, green beans, or peas. Add them as soon as you pour in the sauce.

The Recipe 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 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 another popular variation. Or blending chipotle peppers with the sauce.
  • Vegetables: Diced carrots, potatoes, green beans, corn, and peas can be found often in some recipes.
  • 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 southern Mexico, fried plantains are also a common topping.
  • Vegan: If you want a vegan version of this rice be sure to leave out the chicken broth and replace it with vegetable stock.
Mexican red rice (arroz rojo) with peas on a white plate served with fried plantains.

How To Eat

Mexican red rice is a perfect side dish for many dishes, here are a few you should try:

But it can also be used to stuff on chicken burritos, gorditas, or to eat on its own with a fried egg on top.

Mexican picadillo served with red rice.

How To Store And Reheat

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 to leave it in the same pan, covered.

Or you can simply transfer your leftovers to an air-tight container and store them in the fridge for up to 4 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

Mexican Red Rice - Arroz Rojo Recipe.

Arroz Rojo (Mexican red rice)

author Maricruz
Enjoy this Mexican red rice, aka Arroz rojo, as a side for your favorite dishes or stuffed in burritos, tacos, or gorditas.
prep 5 minutes
cook 17 minutes
total 22 minutes
serving 2

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup long-grain white rice (Mexican, Basmati, or Jasmine)
  • 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
 

  • Wash the rice well, drain it, and then spread it on a plate.
  • 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 of oil over medium heat in a frying pan.
  • Add rice and fry, stirring constantly until the rice has a nice golden color (about 5 minutes).
  • Set heat to low and remove the excess oil.
  • Add the tomato sauce, set heat to medium-high and cook for 1 minute stirring constantly.
  • Add the remaining chicken stock and bring it to a boil.
  • Set heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook from 15 to 17 minutes or until rice is cooked through.
  • If after 15 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 the rice is done, fluff it with a fork, cover it, and let it sit for another 5 minutes before serving.

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 terracotta pan available, use it! a cazuela de barro is optimal to make Mexican red rice.
  • Sneak in some vegetable bites, such as carrots, green beans, or peas. Add them as soon as you pour in the sauce.
Nutrition Information
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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