This Restaurant Style Mexican Rice is light, fluffy, and perfectly seasoned with little bits of soft cooked potato and carrot. It’s just as delicious as the rice at your favorite Mexican restaurant!
If you love this recipe, you’ll also love my Cilantro Lime Rice – another great side dish for a Mexican-inspired meal!
There’s a little Mexican restaurant that we frequent on a regular basis and it may seem odd, but one of the things that brings me back time and time again is their heavenly rice.
During our many meals there I spent much of my time contemplating why their Mexican rice is so incredible. Short of chasing after the sweet little lady that prepares it, I was bound and determined to figure it out for myself.
And, that I did! This Restaurant Style Mexican Rice has been made countless times in my kitchen.
Table of contents
The Best Restaurant Style Mexican Rice
Traditional Mexican rice is sometimes referred to as “red rice” due to the color that comes from either tomato sauce or tomato paste. A traditional blend of seasoning also adds some warm color and unique flavor. I use my Homemade Taco Seasoning, a quick and easy way to get these flavors.
The traditional way of preparing Mexican rice includes adding vegetables and it makes a subtle but important difference. I use small bits of onion, potato and carrot, but an assortment of other veggies can be added if you are so inclined. Frozen corn or peas, mushrooms, zucchini, and bell pepper would all be delicious.
Instead of using water to prepare the rice, chicken or vegetable broth is used for even more flavor. I always keep a jar of reduced-sodium Better than Boullion on hand. I love that I can mix up just exactly how much broth I need for a given recipe and control the strength. It’s good stuff.
How to Make Restaurant Style Mexican Rice
- Heat oil in a skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally for 3 or 4 minutes, until lightly golden brown.
- Reduce heat a little and add the onion, potato, carrot, and garlic. Season with taco seasoning and salt. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes.
- Add the tomato sauce and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Then, slowly stir in the chicken broth.
- Return heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes, covered.
- Remove cover, fluff with a fork, and garnish with cilantro, if desired.
I have some big cilantro loving folks in this family who I swear could eat it by the handful. I like to garnish my Restaurant Style Mexican Rice with some whole sprigs for the cilantro fans but keep it easy to avoid for those who are cilantro-phobic.
FAQ and Valerie’s Tips
The method used to make Mexican rice involves lightly frying the uncooked rice in oil which helps it absorb more flavor from the seasoning and cook to a perfect consistency. In addition, a traditional blend of spices and diced vegetables and potatoes create unique flavor.
For the best restaurant style Mexican rice, use a long grain white rice.
The key to making fluffy Mexican rice is lightly frying the rice in oil before adding the liquids. This step will toast the rice grains and cook out some of the starch which prevents the rice from becoming sticky. Broth is added last and then the ingredients simmer together until all of the liquid is absorbed, the vegetables are perfectly tender, and the rice is light and fluffy.
An authentic Mexican Rice recipe would most likely call for adding serrano chiles but this recipe is very mild as written. Serrano’s are muy caliente and without them there is only a very mild kick from the Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix. You can always add additional red pepper flakes to increase the heat to your liking.
This recipe results in light, fluffy, savory perfection. Absolutely the best from scratch Mexican Rice I’ve had outside a restaurant.
What to Serve with Mexican Rice
This rice is on regular rotation and I almost always include it when I do a Mexican-inspired menu. Here are just a few of my favorite ways to serve it.
- Use it as a delicious base for burrito bowls with my Shredded Mexican Beef or Slow Cooker Shredded Mexican Pork with Beans.
- Serve it as a side dish with my Green Chile Chicken Smothered Burritos.
- Make chicken and rice burritos with the super tender shredded chicken from my Crock Pot Chicken Taco recipe.
- Check my full collection of Mexican recipes for more ideas!
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Restaurant Style Mexican Rice
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 ½ cups long grain white rice
- ½ cup diced onion
- 1 large carrot, diced (approximately ½ cup)
- 1 Yukon Gold potato, diced (approximately 1 cup)
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
- cilantro for garnish, optional
- Heat oil in a skillet or sauté pan over MEDIUM-HIGH heat. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally for 3 or 4 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Reduce heat to MEDIUM and add the onion, potato, carrot, and garlic. Season with taco seasoning and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce; cook and stir for a minute or two and then slowly stir in the chicken broth.
- Return heat to MEDIUM-HIGH and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to LOW, place a lid on the skillet and simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes, covered. Remove cover, fluff with a fork, garnish with cilantro (optional) and serve.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, please refer to the labels on your ingredients at home.
This post was originally published on January 11, 2014. It has been updated with new text and images.
Questions and Reviews
Help! So I used jasmine rice and a cast iron pot rice was under cooked and sticking to pan I did add ground turkey to vegetables. did I need more water? if I add ground turkey? or is it that I used cast iron?
Hi Charlotte. Was the ground turkey cooked? If you want to add cooked meat, I would recommend cooking the rice as directed and then stirring it in at the end. It could be that the meat absorbed some of the liquid during the cooking process. Also, a nonstick pan would be a better choice and try stirring the rice every now and then while it cooks to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Made this for the family along with some ground turkey enchiladas today. This dish is easy enough and with the homemade taco spice also used from your recipe- this was very tasty! We really like the addition of the few vegetables as suggested. We used the basmati rice we had on hand (as that is what we are supposed to do these days!!🙃). Increased the rice to 2 cups and kept the liquids and everything else in same quantity as described. Thanks!!
Hi! If I want to double this recipe, does the time double too?
It might take a little longer for the rice to absorb the liquid and get tender but not double. Watch it closely after the recommended cooking time and you should be good to go once the liquid has been absorbed.
Can I substitute brown rice instead of white for your restaurant style Mexican rice recipe!
Hi Shelley. I do think it would work with a long grain brown rice but I have to say I haven’t tested it so I can’t be sure the liquid to rice ratio would be perfect. If you give it a try, please let me know how it works out for you!
I made this for my family and everyone went crazy for it! Thank you!