Spanish Rice (Mexican Rice)

Spanish Rice, also called Mexican Rice, is perfectly fluffy with tomatoes, garlic and spices just like your favorite restaurant side dish!

Spanish Rice is a classic Mexican side dish sometimes also referred to as red rice (arroz rojo). We love these classic base recipes like Enchilada Sauce and Homemade Taco Seasoning because they make quick dinners a breeze!

Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice is a staple in any Mexican meal, and this delicious Side Dish is so easy to make at home! With simple ingredients and a special trick every abuelita knows, you’ll have savory, garlicky, perfectly spiced fluffy rice on your table in less than 30 minutes.

The secret to making fluffy Spanish Rice that doesn’t get mushy or sticky is to sauté the rice in oil before adding the liquid. Then you’ll cook it in chicken broth and tomato sauce for even more flavor, adding cumin, chili powder and garlic salt to give it that authentic taste.

This recipe is an easy, basic Mexican Rice recipe.  There are also tons of ways you can add flair and different flavors to this recipe and to make it a bit more substantial too. Check out the ideas below for using Spanish Rice in a variety of meals. Next time, try Spanish Rice’s cousin, Green Rice (Arroz Verde) for a delicious cilantro flavored rice dish.

Once you see how easy it is to make this homemade Spanish Rice recipe, you’ll be piling it onto your plate next to all your favorite Mexican food. Serve this Spanish Rice with Mexican dishes like Beef Enchiladas, Pork Carnitas, or Ground Chicken Tacos. And of course, don’t forget the Refried Beans!

How to Cook Perfectly Fluffy Spanish Rice

  • Toast: First, toast the rice in canola oil until it is translucent. Translucent just means it isn’t as white as it started. You won’t be able to see through the rice, but it will look kind of like foggy clear plastic.
  • Boil: Second, bring your rice to a rolling boil after adding in the broth, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin and garlic salt. Then lower it to a simmer. If you add the liquids and immediately lower the heat you will not have rice that is done in 20 minutes. It will be almost raw.
  • Cover: Third, make sure you don’t open the lid during cooking. When you open the lid of the rice all the steam that is so important to the cooking escapes. This means you will have to cook longer, won’t have enough liquid in it and will have unevenly cooked rice.
  • Rest: Let your Rice REST. Once you turn off the heat after 20 minutes, leave the cover on for an additional five minutes. Then open the lid and fluff rice with a fork before serving.

More Easy Mexican Recipes

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my Spanish Rice sticky?

If you don’t take the time to cook the rice in oil until translucent, the starch that is coating the rice creates a sticky texture instead of a fluffy one.

Why is my Spanish Rice mushy?

In addition to cooking in oil to prevent the starch from creating a sticky texture, make sure not to overcook the rice to prevent it from becoming mushy.

Why is the bottom of the rice burnt?

If you cooked on a temperature that is too high (you should always bring to a boil before reducing to a simmer) then the rice will be burnt on the bottom and raw on top.

What type of rice is best for Spanish Rice?

This recipe uses long grain rice but you can also use basmati rice. Basmati rice won’t be quite as fluffy as the grain isn’t as wide. You can also swap brown rice as the flavors will help mask the traditional brown rice flavors kids don’t like, but remember brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice.

Spanish Rice

Key Ingredients in Spanish Rice (Mexican Rice)

  • Rice: Use a long grain rice to achieve the best fluffy texture. Make sure not to buy quick cooking or instant rice, as it will become much too mushy.
  • Cooking Liquid: The rice will absorb extra flavor from the combination of chicken broth and tomato sauce as it cooks.
  • Spices: Chili powder is made from crushed dried chilis, and along with cumin and garlic salt, gives Spanish rice a smokey spice flavor that isn’t too hot.

Instant Pot Spanish Rice

  • Set instant pot to sauté mode and heat the canola oil. Toast the rice in the oil until translucent.
  • Add chicken broth, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin and garlic salt, stirring to combine.
  • Seal the lid and set manual pressure on high for 3 minutes.
  • After cooking, natural release for 10 minutes then manual release.
  • Fluff rice with fork and serve.

Spanish RiceVariations on Spanish Rice

  • Tomato: Fresh diced tomatoes or even canned diced tomatoes are a great addition to the recipe and add lots of additional flavor.
  • Salsa: Use salsa to add a ton of flavor and extra seasonings with one easy step. Add a cup of salsa and reduce the chicken broth to just a cup.
  • Taco Seasoning: Skip the seasonings listed and add 1 ½ tablespoons taco seasoning.
  • Onion: Cook 1 finely diced medium onion for 5-6 minutes in a bit of canola oil before adding the rice to toast. This will be a great flavor enhancer.
  • Garlic: Instead of garlic salt, add 2 minced garlic cloves to the rice once it becomes translucent, and saute for 30 seconds before adding the rest of the ingredients.
  • Peppers: Cook 1 finely diced green or red bell pepper for 5-6 minutes in a bit of canola oil before adding the rice to toast. Or use half onion half bell pepper for even more flavor.
  • Lime Juice/Lime Zest: Squeeze fresh lime juice and grate the zest at the end for a splash of fresh flavors.
  • Garnishes: Add chopped fresh cilantro, parsley, or green onions to the top before serving.
  • Vegetarian: Swap the chicken broth for vegetable broth to make this rice dish vegetarian.

More Delicious Rice Recipes

Mexican Rice

Serving Ideas for Spanish Rice (Mexican Rice)

  • Arroz con Pollo: Turn your Mexican Rice into a complete meal by mixing in cooked chicken along with some veggies like corn, bell peppers, and onions. Serve with toppings like shredded cheese, salsa, and sour cream.
  • Taco Soup: Ladle Taco Soup over a scoop of Spanish Rice. The rice will absorb all the delicious flavor of the soup and turn it into a hearty, filling meal.
  • Breakfast Bowl: Cook up some chorizo and serve it over Mexican rice with a runny egg on top. Garnish with sliced green onions and hot sauce.
  • Stuffed Bell Peppers: Mix Spanish Rice with ground taco meat, black beans, corn kernels, and tomato sauce. Spoon the mixture into halved bell peppers and top with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until the peppers are soft.
  • Bean & Rice Burritos: Roll up a mixture of Spanish Rice, refried beans, and cheddar or Jack cheese for a simple and kid friendly burrito.
  • Mexican Fried Rice: Give leftover Spanish Rice a second life as fried rice! Sauté frozen veggie mix with peas, carrots, and corn in a skillet, then add a beaten egg and scramble. Mix in cooked Mexican Rice and heat through. Serve as a side dish or topped with chicken, shrimp, or carne asada for an easy and delicious meal.

How to Store Spanish Rice

  • Serve: Do not leave Spanish Rice at room temperature longer than 2 hours.
  • Store: Keep Mexican Rice in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5-6 days. Reheat gently on the stovetop, adding a little chicken broth if needed to rehydrate.
  • Freeze: Sealed in an airtight freezer bag, Spanish rice will keep in the freezer up to 4 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before reheating.

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Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice, also called Mexican Rice, is perfectly fluffy with tomatoes, garlic and spices just like your favorite restaurant side dish!
Yield 8 servings
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican, Spanish
Author Sabrina Snyder

Ingredients
 

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/4 cups uncooked white rice
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 15 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • cilantro , optional

Instructions

  • Add the canola oil and rice in a dutch oven on medium high heat, stirring until translucent (less white, more see-through-ish), about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add in the broth, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin and garlic salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer. 
  • Cover, cooking 20 minutes then letting rest an additional five minutes before fluffing.

Nutrition

Calories: 166kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 639mg | Potassium: 261mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 305IU | Vitamin C: 3.7mg | Calcium: 16mg | Iron: 1mg
Keyword: mexican rice, rice, spanish rice
Spanish Rice Collage

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the upcoming cookbook: Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients which is being published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.

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Comments

  1. Please tell me what ‘exact’ rice did you use above? I must know, I always use long grain, but at the Mex Markets some already made look like the Uncle Ben’s style rice….so I tried it once and it did not come out good, I love the rice they use at the Markets where it can be bought already prepared…there’s is so delicious and YOURS looks exactly like it…Please let me know. I just want to know how to make it with that particular type of rice, I hope this is clear. Trust me I do know how to make it but just need to know that rice.

  2. I used 15 oz diced tomatoes, tasted great, Rice was not red or too tomato tasting.

    Also, want to make for a large gathering and need about five times as much. Can I just simply multiply recipe by five or proportion differently? Just want rice to cook correctly…

    Thanks

  3. Hi Sabrina – this is basically a good and simple Mexican rice but I need to make suggestions:

    * For Mexican rice I like to fry it in a mixture of healthy Ghee Butter and Olive Oil. This will also add depth of flavor.

    * More Flavor-Tips: add the seasonings to the sauce and stock, then simmer for about 5 minutes before adding to the rice. Also, replace the bland tomato sauce with enchilada sauce.

  4. This looks amazing. I do not have the means to get a Dutch oven at the moment. I have basic skillets, as well as high side pans (similar to a wok). Would that work for this recipe? Thanks in advance!

  5. I always sauté & add a small diced onion & green bell pepper to mine. Also, garlic powder instead of garlic salt. SO yummy!

    1. I wouldn’t use a regular one but a cast iron skillet would add some delicious flavor and will heat evenly to cook the rice properly.

    1. I’m sorry it was too much! If you try it again, you can swap it out with some enchilada sauce or water to tame it.

  6. Made this tonight to go with tacos for my husband & I. Followed recipe as is & it was a big hit with both of us! I mixed in the cilantro just before serving. I appreciated the tips on cooking the rice. It turned out perfect! Thanks for the recipe!

      1. Yes. If you go to the top of the recipe card and hover over servings amount, use the slider to double the amount and it will adjust the quantities on the ingredients. Hope this helps!

  7. Looks great. Can’t wait to try this w/e. Can I use veg oil oil instead of Canola oil? It is only 2 Tbsp.
    Also found your recipe for taco seasoning. Plan to also make up.
    Thank you.

  8. What is the serving size for the rice? I see how many carbs and there are 8, but no size. Half cup? Whole cup? Quarter cup? Thanks in advance! 🙂

    1. No, the cook times are just so different so I’m not sure it would work. You really want it to have time to soak in all the flavor.

  9. I’m trying really hard to get away from processed foods. I did a search for Spanish Rice, and yours looked the best! I had a little salsa and some cooked black beans left over so I added them. I just dumped everything into the rice cooker. I hope it turns out- it’s smelling heavenly!

  10. I have been trying to make this rice for years and never have been able to get it right. It sticks to the pan, it’s undercooked or it’s over cooked, mushy or just taste awful. Your tips and add ins were a huge help! And it turned out perfectly. Thank you!

  11. Followed instructions, after 20 uncooked rice and most of the tomato sauce was floating on the top…what did I do wrong. Had it on simmer.

  12. The rice tastes pretty good, but did not look anything like you’re photo. I think 15oz of tomato sauce is too much. My rice was red!!! And it wasn’t fluffy all. I did cook the rice in the oil for 5 minutes and it looked right. Lost the white color etc. Followed the rest of the directions to a T, but the rice was still kind of sticky. Disappointed with that. I will keep searching and trying for the perfect recipe.

    1. My experience was the same as Cheryl’s. Way tomato-ey in taste and color and the rice was a bit sticky.
      Ended up tasting good, but not the color or texture I was hoping for.

      1. Same here. My rice was way too red and tomato-y. I may add more chicken stock and less tomato sauce next time. Rice was a great texture though.

        1. Adding my comment with the others–too much tomato sauce and my rice was sticky and clumped, even after following the recipe and tips. the rice cooked thoroughly, though, so glad for that. I rinsed the rice to get out most of the tomato sauce, added more chicken broth and a little chili pepper and garlic salt, then added taco meat and sauteed onions, bell peppers and zucchini and put the mixture in bowls. Tasted good!

          1. I agree my rice is red and sticky and did exactly like it said. Can’t imagine with all that tomato sauce it would look like the pic. Taste ok but nothing like at the restaurant

  13. Just used this recipe for the 1st time and I must say it is delicious for such simple ingredients! Thanks for sharing!

  14. This recipe is good, but not very clear. boil when? In the oil? That’s what it states. I added a small can of el pato hot sauce, 10oz of Mateo’s mild salsa, and chicken stock then brought that to a boil for a little while, then turned it down to a simmer. Added cilantro and lime at the end. Da Bomb!!!

    1. Oh no, it looks like one of the line instructions was flip flopped. Thanks for catchin that. I’ve updated to read correctly now.
      So glad you enjoyed it!

    2. I keep trying different pots but I burned the rice on the bottom of the big Dutch oven pot I tried tonight. I barely had the flame going after first boiling it and reducing the heat. I think I am going to try my Instapot next.
      I’m bound and determined to get a recipe that looks and tastes like the restaurants.

  15. I’ve been using slices of Jalapeño pickled,garlic salt , Roma tomatoes washed and a very quick Chop in a
    Small Cuisenart. Works great

  16. You may also add the tomato sauce when rice is already translucent, and let it cook until it changes color. And then add water or chicken stock. It really adds a ton of flavor

  17. Was craving some Mexican food and whipped this up with the onion, cilantro, tomato, and lemon (instead of lime) juice add-ins. Super fast and yummy. Will make again.

  18. I want to try this, but I don’t understand….are we adding water to this as well per the rice instructions??? What are we bringing to a boil? Are we supposed to cook in oil, then water then add recipe ingredients??

    1. You toast the rice until it is translucent then add in the rest of the ingredients. Bring the pot to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for the remaining about of time.

      You will not be adding water, the broth is a replacement for the water in this recipe.

      1. Thanks for this reply, I didn’t understand the instructions on that part either. Looking forward to trying this!

        1. agree, the instructions need to be updated. Says bring to a rolling boil and then add in the broth, etc. Haven’t made it yet, came back to figure out what the instructions meant with the rolling boil before adding any liquid.

          1. maybe you need to learn how to cook basic rice first, because her instructions are really clear, unless you have never cooked rice before.

        2. I was confused too. So…cook rice in canola oil til translucent then add the broth, tom sauce, and seasoning and then simmer 20 minutes?

  19. I’m loving the ingredient lineup in this recipe! It looks so yummy and flavorful! A perfect side dish for most any meal!

    1. Made this tonight with grilled chicken soft tacos. Really enjoyed it. Family enjoyed as well. Will be my new Spanish rice go to
      Recipe. Came out perfectly per instructions.
      Thanks

    2. Made this last night. Very good.
      My new go to Spanish rice recipe.
      Family loved it as I did, too
      Thanks for sharing.