Have you ever gone to a Mexican restaurant and wolfed down all the rice on your plate?
That’s me every time.
Every time I go to a Mexican restaurant that serves really good rice, I’m so happy.
I was even happier when I learned how to make restaurant style Mexican rice at home.
My recipe makes fluffy rice full of tomato and cilantro with a bit of heat.
There are very few Mexican restaurants where I live in Maine, aka the whitest state in America.
In fact, I can only think of one Mexican place in a 75 mile radius. So, learning to make my own Mexican rice was Crucial!
(Editor’s note: this post was originally published on March 15, 2015. Everything but the process shots (ugh!) was updated on July 23, 2019.)
How to Make Restaurant Style Mexican Rice At Home
This recipe relies on a jar of salsa. Use whatever salsa you like or even a salsa you don’t.
That’s the reason I made this dish.
I had a jar of salsa that none of us were nuts about languishing in the fridge.
The recipe that inspired my Mexican Rice is this one from The Kitchn. The author, Nealie Dozier, uses canned tomatoes and chops up onion and cilantro.
Because I’m lazy cook, I knew salsa would work just as well.
Nealie’s recipe includes a jalapeno.
I didn’t include a jalapeno because I was using a medium hot salsa.
But if you like a lot of heat, like my childhood babysitter’s husband Arturo, use a hot salsa and/or toss a jalapeno into the food processor when you puree the salsa and cilantro.
Blending the salsa and cilantro together is important otherwise you’re going to have rice with chunky pieces of tomato and such, which is fine, but it won’t be my authentic version.
This is an easy recipe that almost makes itself but not quite.
Don’t make it on a night when you just want to sit in a recliner and watch Supernatural or Pretty Little Liars while dinner is percolating on the stove.
You need to stand at the stove and keep a watchful eye, stirring every few minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn side dish.
Of course, you can probably manage a margarita while you’re stirring.
How to Make Restaurant Style Mexican Rice
Be sure to measure your rice and your broth so you have exactly two cups each.
Normally you would use four cups of liquid for two cups of rice but you’re adding two cups of salsa to compensate.
A side note, don’t pull a can of broth from your cupboard and assume that it contains two cups of broth.
I pulled a 14.5 ounce can out the other day and it felt light so I poured it into my measuring cup and it was a scant 1 3/4 cups of broth. What gives broth manufacturers? Your labels says “about two cups.”
I’m all about seat of the pants, a pinch of this and a squeeze of that cooking but not when it comes to cooking rice.
Use exact measurements or your rice isn’t going to turn out well cooked and fluffy.
Are you still with me? Wake up. This next step is the most important step. Don’t skip it.
Saute the two cups of rice in a 1/3 of a cup of canola or vegetable oil for 8 to 10 minutes or until the rice turns a light golden brown color.
Once you’ve sauteed the rice and added a chopped garlic clove or two and your teaspoon of ground cumin, stir in two cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil before reducing the heat, covering the rice and letting cook on low for ten to 15 minutes.
Then add salsa and stir well continuing to cook until all liquid has evaporated. If rice seems dry and needs to cook longer, you may need to add a bit more chicken broth or water.
My recipe for Mexican rice is fluffy and packed full of warm flavor thanks to salsa and a generous handful of fresh cilantro leaves.
- 2 cups salsa
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- 2 cups long grain white rice
- 1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 or 2 jalapenos, diced (optional)
- Puree salsa and cilantro together in a food processor. Set aside.
- In a dutch oven or skillet (I used 14-inch cast iron skillet), heat canola oil over medium heat. Pour in two cups of rice and saute, stirring frequently, about 8 to 10 minutes or until rice is a golden brown color.
- Add garlic and saute for 30 to 60 more seconds. Add cumin and chicken broth and stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and cover skillet.
- Cook rice for another 15 to 20 minutes stirring every few minutes to ensure rice doesn't burn. Add additional few tablespoons of water or broth if needed.
- Add pureed salsa and cilantro to rice and stir to combine. Cook another 5 minutes or until rice has absorbed the salsa.
- Perfect as is but serve with chopped green onion or diced avocado or a slice of lime if you'd like.
Childhood Food Memories
I like to order dishes I won’t typically make at home so I usually order a chimichanga (a.k.a deep-fried paradise).
When I was little and we lived in Arizona, I had a babysitter named Lola Gonzalez who was very glamorous and painted her face and she taught my mother how to make Mexican food, including chimichangas.
She had a little boy a few years younger than me named Renee who was always playing with Matchbox cars.
I never understood that little kid’s fascination with Matchbox cars until I had my own little boy kid. Then I got it.
Do you like Mexican rice? Have you ever made it at home? Do you have any good recipes for it? What’s your favorite dish to order at a Mexican restaurant?