Mexican Rice (Arroz Rojo)

updated Apr 19, 2024
Mexican Rice Recipe

This flavorful tomato-based rice dish is tasty any time of day.


Makesscant 4 cups

Prep5 minutes

Cook45 minutes to 50 minutes

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Pot full of Mexican rice with fresh cilantro garnish.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: James Park

If you’re going to cook a homestyle Mexican meal, Mexican red rice (also known as arroz rojo) is a staple to master. Paired with most entrées, this tomato-based rice is a go-to grain that’s served as a side with refried beans. In this recipe, I add a little spin by roasting the tomatoes — while it isn’t a traditional take, it helps deepen its flavors. 

Mexican rice is delicious during breakfast with some easy chilaquiles, alongside fried eggs and beans, with thick slices of ripe banana, or served with heartier meals for dinner (and finishing with arroz con leche for dessert). And if you’re feeling snacky, try my childhood favorite: pairing the rice with sour cream or Greek yogurt.  

Why You’ll Love It

  • This classic Mexican red rice comes together easily by blending together a tomato-based salsa, which imbues the dish with its rich color and umami flavor. 
  • Roasting the star ingredient — the tomato — until tender really deepens and elevates its richness. 

Key Ingredients in Mexican Rice

  • Cilantro: For a touch of herbaceousness that balances the acidity of the tomato, the cilantro is dropped whole into the rice before it boils. 
  • Tomato: Roasting tomatoes on the comal or griddle takes this ingredient to the next level. Let it render in its juices and slightly caramelize for a bigger flavor. 
  • Tomato paste: Think of tomato paste as the bouillon version of tomato; a small amount packs a deeply concentrated umami punch that rounds out and carries the tomato sauce with more oomph.
  • Bouillon paste: Bouillon is a classic in Mexican homestyle cooking and elevates the savory element in this red rice. Depending on which bouillon you choose, you may need to adjust the amount of salt. 

How to Make Mexican Rice

  1. Make the salsa. First, roast the tomatoes on the comal or griddle to render and deepen their flavors. Allow them to cool before blending together with onion, garlic, water, tomato paste, bouillon, and olive oil.
  2. Add the rice. Next, fry the rice in a saucepan until opaque and fragrant. Add the salsa to the rice off-heat to avoid splatter, and incorporate together. 
  3. Let it simmer. Finally, add the water and salt, mix everything together, add the cilantro, and let it come to a boil. Then cover and reduce heat to low until the rice has finished cooking. The rice should be a little moist at first, but as it cools will be fluffy. 

Helpful Swaps

  • If desired, you can also roast the onion and garlic before blending for even more body in the salsa base. 
  • Add in a whole serrano or jalapeño pepper when dropping the cilantro for a verdant kick (the rice won’t be spicy unless you cut it open).

Storage and Make-Ahead Tips 

The salsa can be made up to five days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Any leftover rice can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.  

What to Serve with Mexican Rice

Mexican Rice Recipe

This flavorful tomato-based rice dish is tasty any time of day.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes to 50 minutes

Makes scant 4 cups

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 8 ounces

    Roma tomatoes (2 medium)

  • 1/4 medium bunch

    fresh cilantro

  • 1 1/2 cups

    water, divided

  • 3 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

  • 1/3 cup

    coarsely chopped yellow onion (about 1/6 medium)

  • 2 cloves

    garlic, divided

  • 1 teaspoon

    tomato paste

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    vegetable or chicken bouillon paste

  • 1 cup

    jasmine rice

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed


  1. Heat a comal, griddle, or large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add 8 ounces Roma tomatoes and let cook, turning them every 3 to 5 minutes, until browned or blackened in spots, and the skins start to split, about 15 minutes total.

  2. Transfer to a blender and let cool for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, pick enough fresh cilantro sprigs from 1/4 medium bunch until you have 1/2 cup.

  3. Add 1/4 cup of the water, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1/3 cup coarsely chopped yellow onion, 1 peeled garlic clove, 1 teaspoon tomato paste, and 1/2 teaspoon bouillon paste to the blender. Blend until smooth.

  4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add 1 cup jasmine rice and cook, stirring frequently, until some of the grains have turned opaque and the rice is fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.

  5. Take the saucepan off the heat. Carefully pour in the tomato mixture (it may spatter) and stir to combine. Add the cilantro, remaining 1 1/4 cups water, remaining 1 peeled garlic clove, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir to combine and turn the heat on to high. Bring to a boil.

  6. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Let cook until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover and use a fork to stir the tomato sauce on top into the rice and fluff the rice (you can remove the cilantro stems and garlic if desired). Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Let cool for about 10 minutes before fluffing again and serving.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The tomato mixture can be made up to 5 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.

Storage: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

A version of this recipe was first published in January 2014 by Nealey Dozier.

A version of this recipe was first published in January 2014 by Nealey Dozier.