This restaurant-style Mexican rice is aromatic, filled with flavor, and the perfect side dish for any main Mexican entree! Light and fluffy rice that goes with just about anything you’d like to serve with it!

Mexican rice in speckled plate

Aromatic, fluffy, and loaded with such good flavor. 

Mexican rice that’s just like your favorite Mexican restaurant.

We start by blending together fresh tomatoes, a bouillon cube, tomato paste, onions, garlic, ground cumin, and a packet of sazon to make a homemade tomato sauce. Then we’ll saute the rice and let it cook in this mixture until the rice is fluffy and perfect.

You won’t believe how good this rice is with Chile Colorado, shrimp enchiladas, chicken enchiladas, chicken carnitas, or in burrito bowls/ taco bowls topped with homemade pico de gallo, homemade salsa, chicken fajitas, steak fajitas, carne asada, with lots of guacamole salsa, and refried black beans.

Rice in plate with ceramic spoon

Ingredients for easy Mexican rice recipe:

  • Rice: I like to use long grain white rice for this recipe. I haven’t tested the recipe with brown rice, but I suspect it could be done with additional water and time.
  • Chicken Bouillon: You can also use chicken broth instead of the water and bouillon if you wanted. But I find the additional flavors in a bouillon cube make the rice even tastier! You can use vegetable bouillon here to make the recipe vegetarian-friendly. 
  • Roma Tomatoes: Fresh tomatoes are blended with water and a few other ingredients to create a homemade tomato sauce.
  • Tomato paste: adds a more concentrated tomato flavor to the rice.
  • Sazon and Seasonings: the Sazon seasoning I use is the culantro and achiote kind. Achiote or annatto adds natural color to the rice to make it look like that signature rice you get from your favorite Mexican restaurant! You can find this seasoning online as well as in the international aisle of many mainstream grocery stores. We’ll also use a pinch of ground cumin for smokiness and kosher salt.
  • Onions:Chopped onions add to the aroma.
  • Garlic: Adds aroma and flavor like the onions.
  • Oil: We’ll use oil to saute the rice for a good 10 minutes before we let it simmer and boil in the homemade tomato sauce.
  • Serrano pepper: This is optional, but I love to slit a pepper down the center and tuck it into the rice while it simmers and cooks. The serrano pepper adds a teeny tiny bit of heat but it’s mostly for the aroma!
  • Other add-ins: Many restaurants add frozen peas, carrots, and celery to their Mexican-style rice. After testing this recipe tons of times, I decided to leave this out. Though my favorite restaurant does add small specks of carrots and celery, I wanted to make this without it and just mention this is something you can do if you’d like! I would add the veggies during the last 3 minutes of sauteing the rice and then let them boil with the rice to cook them through.
Blender before and after tomato sauce

How to make fluffy Mexican rice:

  1. Rice. Start by adding the dry rice to a fine mesh strainer. Give the rice a long rinse under clean running water. When you’ve washed off a lot of that starch and the water runs clear, allow the rice to drain and hang out a bit while you prepare the tomato sauce.
  2. Blend it all together. Add the water, bouillon, tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, garlic, sazon, salt, and ground cumin to a blender and blend until completely smooth. Taste to make sure the salt is to your liking. You can add more if you’d like. If you are using a blender that is not high power, you might want to strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer when you pour it into the rice later.
  3. Saute the rice. Add the oil to a 3-quart saute pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add the rice and stir constantly so the rice doesn’t burn. You want it to turn golden and for some of it to brown. Add the blended tomato mixture and bring the rice to a boil.
  4. Cover and simmer. Tuck the serrano pepper into the rice and when the mixture is boiling, cover the pot with a lid and let cook on low heat for 20-25 minutes or until the rice is done. This will depend on the brand of the rice. Most of the ones I tried took 20 minutes, but sometimes I have had to let the rice cook for a few extra minutes. Let the rice hang out for 5-10 minutes.  so that the rice is tender, and soaks up all the liquid. Fluff with a fork and you’re ready to serve. 
Toasting the rice in a pan and adding tomato sauce and simmering

FAQs about Mexican rice: 

  1. How do you store leftovers? Leftover rice can be kept in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Reheat the rice in the microwave. You can also pop the rice into a freezer safe bag and freeze it for up to 3 months.
  2. Can I use basmati rice? It could work, but I’ve only tested the recipe with long grain white rice so I’m not completely sure. Basmati rice usually takes 15-20 minutes to cook, so my worry is that the liquid might be a bit much for basmati rice to absorb in the cooking time.
  3. Can I make this recipe in a rice cooker? I have only tested this recipe on the stove, so without further testing, I’m unsure if the recipe (as written) will be compatible for a rice cooker.

If you like this recipe, you might also like:

Mexican rice in speckled bowl with pepper on top
Yield: 5-6 servings

Restaurant-Style Mexican Rice

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

This restaurant-style Mexican rice is aromatic, filled with flavor, and the perfect side dish for any main Mexican entree! Light and fluffy rice that goes with just about anything you'd like to serve with it!

Restaurant-Style Mexican Rice


  • 1¼ cup long grain rice, rinsed under cold water
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 2 large Roma tomatoes
  • 4 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 packet sazon con culantro y achiote (optional)
  • ½ medium onion, chopped into a few pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 Serrano pepper, slit down the middle but attached at stem


    1. BLEND: In a blender, blend together the water, bouillon, tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, garlic, sazon, salt and ground cumin until you reach a smooth consistency.
    2. SAUTE: In a 3 quart saute pan or larger, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the rice and saute, stirring constantly for 10 minutes or until the rice deepens to a golden brown color. Add in the blended tomato mixture and bring the rice to a boil. 
    3. SIMMER: Tuck the Serrano chili into the rice and water mixture when boiling, lower the heat to low, cover and let cook for 20-25 minutes or until the rice has soaked up all the water and is cooked. Stir gently as there may be a layer of tomato on top. Cover and  let stand 5-10 minutes so the rice soaks up any remaining liquid before serving.

Have you made this recipe?

If you enjoyed this recipe, please consider leaving a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below. You can also share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #LITTLESPICEJAR, I'd love to see what you made!