Authentic Mexican Rice (Arroz Rojo)

Mexican Rice, or arroz rojo, is a staple in Mexican cuisine! It is a red rice that is cooked in chicken stock and tomato juice, which gives it that beautiful red color. I learned how to make this recipe from my Abuela, who learned it from her mother. 

This is hands down one of my MOST requested Mexican recipes-  so many of you have expressed that you can never get arroz rojo right, so I did some testing in my kitchen and made a fool-proof recipe for perfect Mexican rice, every single time!

I highly recommend that you read through this entire post for some very important information about the cooking process. I am sharing with you, all of the tips and tricks that my Abuela taught me to make perfect Mexican rice every time without fail. You got this!

Mexican vs. Spanish Rice

I’m not sure why but I’ve noticed that people tend to use these terms interchangeably, but Mexican rice is NOT the same as Spanish rice!  

Spanish rice uses saffron and is usually more of a yellow color. It is also firmer than Mexican rice, which tends to be more on the fluffy & soft side. I don’t know how to make Spanish rice so I’m not exactly sure about all the differences- my point is that they aren’t the same!

There are also different names for this depending on who you ask. My Mexican side of the family is from Jalisco and my Abuela calls it “sopa de arroz.” But I have some Mexican in-laws that are from other parts and call it “arroz rojo.” 

Ingredients

  • Long grain rice – My Abuela ALWAYS uses Mahatma® Rice Extra Long Grain White Rice for this recipe! This is super important and does actually matter. The rice grains are extra long, which means it contains less starch and cooks to a super fluffy & drier texture which is exactly what we want. 

  • Tomato sauce- you can use either canned or fresh tomato sauce! If using fresh tomatoes, you want to make sure you find the ripest, reddest tomatoes you can if you care about color. 

  • Chicken bouillon- Knorr chicken bouillon is what I recommend (this is a key ingredient), but you can use whatever you have available. Chicken stock will work (but may be a little greasy), or tomato bouillon to make it vegan. 

  • Vegtables- my Abuela’s rice is a very standard version using only onions and garlic, but you may also add carrots, peas, or red bell pepper if you want. 

  • Other seasonings- garlic powder and just a little salt to taste.

  • Hot water– whether you are using chicken bouillon or chicken stock, the liquid used to steam the rice in this recipe has to be HOT when you pour it in. 

  • Aromatics- these ingredients are optional but will give your rice a very authentic taste- cilantro and jalapeno. The jalapeno will not make the rice spicy at all- it is just to add flavor, although I do actually like to eat them with my meal!

Tips from Abuelita

My grandmother’s name is Estela (I was named after her), and she is not much of a cook. In fact, my abuela hates cooking! However, she did learn how to make arroz rojo from her mother and I have to say that it is a very solid recipe. Everyone in my family loves when she makes arroz rojo!

She was so methodical when she taught me how to make it many years ago, which I always thought was so cute! It was also extremely helpful in understanding how to make perfect arroz rojo every time. If you keep the following tips in mind, I promise you will master this recipe in no time at all:

    • Use Mahatma® Rice Extra Long Grain White Rice. Trust me, the kind of rice you use matters. As I said before, the extra long grain rice contains less starch and cooks to a dryer, fluffy texture. I have tried this recipe with jasmine & basmati rice before, and although still good, it is not perfect. Jasmine rice is a little too starchy, and basmati rice has a different aroma. 

    • Toast the rice in oil. It is really important to toast the rice in oil until it turns a golden color and puffs up a little, which usually takes about 5 minutes. This is done by first sautéing onions and garlic in oil, then adding the rice and moving it around constantly until it is well toasted. 

    • Add the chicken bouillon and garlic powder to the toasted rice. When the rice is nearly done toasting, mix in the bouillon and garlic powder and continue mixing/toasting for one more minute. My abuela says the rice absorbs more flavor this way. 

    • Fry the tomato sauce with the rice before adding water. We want to mix the tomato sauce with the rice and quickly mix & fry together to develop the tomato flavor and also make it a deeper red color. You can actually see the redness become deeper as you fry it. 

    • Use HOT water! For this one, I am not really sure about the reason. But my abuela told me you have to add hot water and that the liquid on the sides of the pot should be bubbling when you pour it in.  I think this helps with the texture of the rice- it ensures that you get perfectly fluffy rice that is not mushy or clumps together.

    • Use a heavy-bottomed pot. The best way to make sure your rice does not burn at the bottom is to use a pot that isn’t too thin at the bottom. A good quality non stick is the best way to go. I use a Korean stone pot to make ALL of my rice dishes and nothing ever sticks! You can get it here.

Texture

The texture we are looking for is fluffy, soft, with tiny visible bits of tomato coating each grain of rice. When you open the lid and see a bunch of tomato matter at the top- this is good! That’s what we want. Just fluff the rice with a fork to mix into the rice.

It should be a little more on the dry side. If your rice is really wet and mushy, you probably added too much water and/or overcooked it. 

This recipe is kindly sponsored by Mahatma® Rice. I carry their products in my kitchen at all times!

Authentic Mexican Rice (Arroz Rojo)

4.95 from 17 votes

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/2 cups Mahatma® Rice Extra Long Grain White Rice
  • 3 tbsp canola, vegetable, or corn oil
  • 1/4 onion diced
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • 1 tbsp Knorr chicken bouillon
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 roma tomatoes (makes 8 oz tomato juice)
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
  • 3 sprigs cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno

Instructions
 

  • Over medium heat, add the oil to a heavy-bottomed or good quality non-stick pan, then fry the onions and garlic
  • When the onions and garlic have lightly browned, remove the garlic and set it aside.
  • Add Mahatma® Rice Extra Long Grain White Rice to the pot and toast the rice in the oil, moving it constantly for about 5 minutes or until it becomes slightly puffy and golden brown.
  • Add the Knorr chicken bouillon and garlic powder, the mix and continue toasting for another minute.
  • Blend together the roma tomatoes and fried garlic clove. You should have about 8 oz (1 cup) of tomato sauce.
  • Add it to the rice, stirring constantly for 30 seconds. The color should change to warm reddish orange color. At this point, watch the heat to make sure the bottom is not burning. Adjust the heat if you need to.
  • Add the HOT water to the rice. It has to be hot- if the liquid isn't bubbling on the sides of the pot, your water is not hot enough. Stir in salt to taste at this point if you're adding. I recommend about 1/4 tsp.
  • Add the cilantro and jalapeno on top, continue boiling over medium-low heat until some of the water has evaporated. Then turn the heat to the lowest setting and cover for 20 minutes. Do NOT lift the lid!
  • After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and fluff the rice with a fork. There will be a thin layer of tomato sauce at the top- that is what we want. Just gently fluff & mix it into the rice to distribute evenly.
  • At this point, the rice is ready if you don't like overly soft rice. This is good for me, but if you want it more soft & fluffy, cover for another 10 minutes (no heat).
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This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. Jamie S.

    5 stars
    Turned out great! Restaurant-quality recipe, for sure! I would recommend using 3-4 Roma tomatoes. I used three and was just shy of 8 oz.

    1. stellanspice

      My roma tomatoes must have been huge! Glad you loved the recipe, thank you for commenting <3

  2. Michael Long

    5 stars
    Always struggled with making rice, followed this to the letter… best results Ive ever had, light , fluffy and full of flavor,Thank You for sharing.

  3. Marissa R.

    4 stars
    Literally JUST finished making this. I think my water may not have been hot enough as I did the 20 mins plus the 10 extra off heat and the rice isn’t quite finished cooking. But the flavor is amazing. I’ll def make this again.

  4. KF

    5 stars
    Soooo delicious. Thank you for posting this. I have had many a friends Mexican mother try to teach me but I still could never get it right. The excitement when I opened the lid and it was PERFECT RICE. I never thought it was possible! The only tweak I make is to add extra tomato boullion because I like it salty. But amazing with or without.

  5. David Y

    5 stars
    Just made with a couple of minor tweeks. I didn’t have cilantro on hand so used a little dried parsley and added about 1/2 teaspoon powdered beet to bring up the colour, plus the heart health aspect of that ingredient. Excellent recipoe! Thanks for posting!

  6. Jasmine

    5 stars
    The rice came out perfect! I’ve been trying to figure out how to make authentic tasting Mexican rice from home for like 10 years now and this was it! So delicious! Thank you 🙂

  7. A.Davis

    5 stars
    I made this recipe for my daughter’s graduation party & taco bar, and they loved it!!! I didn’t follow the recipe 100% as I always find a way to tweak things and make it my own. I dbld the ingredients, and 12 ladies at almost an entire skillet full of the rice by themselves. I’m going to do the Paletas next with my boys.

  8. Millie

    5 stars
    Absolutely easy & blasting with flavor. I added chopped carrots, celery, green beans & red peppers. Yummy..

  9. Scott

    5 stars
    Finally! I have been to hundreds of taco shops in Tijuana and San Diego, and of all the recipes I’ve tried, this one is by far the closest to those. Thank you for sharing Stella – I made it exactly as you indicated, and it was perfect. PERFECT.

  10. Iris

    5 stars
    Great recipe, so easy to make. Going on my rotation!

  11. Christie

    This was amazing. I did use canned tomato sauce and made one change by also adding a few dashes of cumin when I mixed in the bouillon and garlic powder.

  12. Jacqui

    I would like to use your recipe for a party. I need to make enough for 50 people as a side. I wouldn’t make this all at once but was hoping for a recommendation on max amount to make at one time.

    1. stellanspice

      The recipe as written should be enough for 6 people as a side dish, so I would recommend doing 8x this recipe for 50 people 🙂

  13. Kerry

    5 stars
    Your recipes are amazing! I have been trying to perfect rice forever. This is recipe is the BEST and so easy!

    1. stellanspice

      Hi Kerry, thank you so much for your commen! Rice can be tricky sometimes, I’m glad this recipe worked for you 🙂

      1. Amanda

        With the jalapeños in there, does it come out spicy? I love spicy, but my kids do not. I will be making this tonight, with dinner, I am super excited! Also, I love that you added pictures to the step by step instructions! Thank you!

  14. Nicole

    I want to make this but does the jalapeno make it spicy? I love spice but my little kids don’t! Thank you!

    1. stellanspice

      The jalapeno is just for flavor and won’t make the rice spicy. I think it will be okay for your kids 🙂

  15. Carla

    5 stars
    Delicious recipe and I have tried soooo many! I think the boiling water and the jalapeno/cilantro made this the top recipe! I would LOVE to know what pot you are using to cook the recipe in!!! I need a good caldero and yours looks awesome. Please reply! 🙂

    1. stellanspice

      Hi Carla, thank you so much for your comment! I’m glad you liked the rice. I’m using a Korean stone pot. You can purchase one here

      I have the 20 cm pot but I think they are sold out of that one. You can still purchase the 18cm or 22 cm 🙂

  16. Joe B.

    Outstanding recipe! Made exactly per instructions except for omitting cilantro…didn’t have any. This one is now the “go-to” recipe for our family.

  17. Ashley

    5 stars
    Delicious!! This was perfect for the dish I was making! Thank you!

  18. JANY

    Would love to find a delicious authentic cheese and onion enchiladas recipe to pair with this rice. Our fave Tex-Mex restaurant chain Don Pablo’s shut down and hubby is always disappointed. Can you believe some Mexican restaurants use American cheese?!?

  19. Odelia Ramos

    5 stars
    Yummy I use Jasmine rice but came delicious thanks for a better updated recipe than I did I love finding new recipes and improve my own cooking greatly appreciate it! You have lovely recipes!

  20. Anonymous

    5 stars
    Made this last night and it was so good! Family approved!

  21. Maria

    5 stars
    OMG, Thank you so much for posting this recipe. The step by step instructions really helped! It turned out delicious

  22. Adela

    5 stars
    Only had jasemin rice, still came out super yummy. The flavor is on point!

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