Mexican Rice Recipes

Historically rice, along with maize, has been a foundation carbohydrate, the bland major part of the meal. It provided the main component and was enhanced with chilies, beans or salsas and only the rich had the ability to amend it with added protein or expensive vegetables. Meat stocks used in preparation are a relatively new addition made affordable and “convenient” with  the introduction of bouillon cubes, available in almost any market,  that add color as well as a variety of different flavors.

Here’s a little background on the history of rice in the Americas and a few mesoamerican recipes

Not indigenous to Mexico but introduced by the Spanish who in turn acquired it during the Moorish occupation of Iberia beginning in the 8th C.  Although rice appears as apart of the usual combo plate in the US it is a course in itself in Mexico and is called sopa seco or dry soup.  Preparing Mexican rice usually entails a brief saute in oil before adding any liquid and includes such addendums as garlic, onions, tomato, chili and ground annatto seeds or paste. Sweet version also exist that use cinnamon, raisins and coconut or regular milk. You can use a variety of rice types depending on what you’re making.  Use jasmine, basmati or long grain for separate non clinging grains or arbrio-short grain types for dessert and risotto like preparations but in either case you’ll need a thick sided sauce pot to cook your rice in or you can experiment with your rice cooker after you’ve initially sautéed the rice. As in most cultures you’ll want to wash the rice well in several waters to remove the starch and you could actually drink this with a little sugar and cinnamon, sometimes coconut or regular milk, kind of a poor mans horchata or infused beverage from Spain. The fancy version calls for grinding the rice and incorporating it in the beverage but the guys I worked with would just make a batch with the wash water and sugar.

ARROZ A LA MEXICANA Basic Mexican Rice

The simplest recipe would use one of the many available chicken stock bases that include a yellow/reddish colorant and make construction really easy.  The original hue came from saffron brought by the Spanish but of course this was soon replaced by annatto seeds, achoite powder or pastes, a familiar native ingredient. In any case you’d still wash the rice well then saute it in a moderate measure of freshly rendered pork, chicken or beef fat, lard or olive oil before you add any other selected ingredients or you can use the following recipe as your everyday formula. The real stuff wouldn’t have any base at all just a little well sautéed rice with some achiote powder or paste for color since it’s purpose as a bland foundation supporting other vegetable or protein partners.

1 Large tomato,  seeded or 4 tablespoons tomato paste or 3 Italian pear tomatoes

1 Teaspoon achiote paste

½ Yellow onion peeled, chopped

1 Tablespoon garlic, peeled

1 Tablespoon cumin

2 Ounces chili powder, optional

2 Cups rice

4 Cups stock, plain or chicken stock infused water

1.        Process the tomato, achoite, onion, garlic, cumin and chili powder

2.        Saute the rice in fat or oil till it is browned then drain excess oil

3.        Add processed ingredients and stock, water

4.        Bring to a rapid boil for 5 minutes, simmer for 20+ minutes covered

5.        Remove from heat, stir then let steam 10 minutes

6.        Place rice in large bowl and stir to separate grains and fluff

I produce a larger amount and then simply microwave as needed

Here’s a gringo chef’s take on the recipe … Traditionally lard would be the oil used to saute the rice


  • Add several processed fire roasted chilies for green rice
  • Add chopped clams, octopus or smoked oyster
  • Add fideo when sautéing for pilaf
  • Use short grain rice, using equal parts coconut and condensed  milk