Arroz Rojo (Red Mexican Rice)

Arroz rojo, also known as red Mexican rice or Spanish rice, has been a favorite of mine since childhood. It gets its color from a tomato-infused chicken broth. Once you master this recipe, you can easily make any Mexican rice. And once you have made this one, try your hand at my Cilantro Lime Rice and Arroz a la Primavera to make each of the colors of the bandera Mexicana!

Arroz Rojo - Mexican Red Rice

ARROZ ROJO RECIPE INSPIRATION

Arroz rojo is quite easy to make. But don’t underestimate the avenues of possibility for this recipe to go wrong:

  • Sauté it too long and it will burn.
  • Add too much broth, and you will end up with a pot of mush.
  • Heaven forbid that you stir it too much or prematurely remove the lid – it will be completely ruined!

For these reasons, I felt it was appropriate to turn the rice master, my mother, to walk me through one of her best Mexican recipes. She has prepared this one for well over 40 years and says:

As a young newlywed, I was under the false romantic illusion that one could live on love alone. Soon enough, I discovered that I also needed to eat! One of the first recipes I learned to make was my mother’s red rice. It was a practical side dish that could be paired with chicken, shrimp, beef, or pork. Decades later, I always remember to include the special ingredient that my mother always said made her food so good – love!”

Dolores M. Wiarco (my mother)
Arroz Rojo - Mexican Red Rice

WHAT IS ARROZ ROJO?

Arroz Rojo, translated as “red rice,” is actually orange in color and is a traditional Mexican dish made by cooking rice with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and a well-seasoned broth, resulting in its distinctive color and rich flavor.

In Mexico, the señoras blend fresh tomatoes to make their sauce. I’ve simplified the recipe and use a small can of tomato sauce or when I have time to spare or have an abundance of tomatoes, I’ll make my own Mexican Tomato Sauce.

FUN FACTS ABOUT MEXICAN RICE

  • Any type of Mexican rice requires that you sauté ingredients in oil to bring out its flavor. In this case, I sauté long-grain white rice with onions, garlic, and tomato sauce.
  • Instead of boiling rice in water, I bring this mixture to a boil in a well-seasoned chicken broth, and cook it down to a fluffy and flavorful rice. Vegetable broth also works if you want to keep it vegetarian.
  • These additional steps and ingredients take plain rice from zero to hero!
Arroz Rojo - Mexican Red Rice

WHY I LOVE THIS RECIPE

  • Flavorful: Sautéing ingredients brings out a rich nutty flavor in rice and releases the aromatics in the onions and garlic, and then boiling it in chicken broth introduces another layer of flavor.
  • Perfect side dish: I literally serve arroz rojo Mexican rice with seafood, chicken, and meat. It goes well with everything, especially my Tacos Dorados and Tacos de Papa!
  • Easy to prepare: From start to finish, this Mexican red rice recipe takes about 30 minutes!
Arroz Rojo - Mexican Red Rice

INGREDIENTS YOU’LL NEED FOR ARROZ ROJO

  • Oil: I like to use safflower oil or olive oil, but canola or vegetable oil will also work. 
  • Rice: I use Mahatma (long grain or extra long grain) when making any type of Mexican rice. It’s what I grew up with and my rice always comes out perfect when I stick to Mahatma. 
  • Onion: I typically use white or yellow cebolla (anything but sweet onions).
  • Garlic: 2 to 4 garlic cloves should be enough. You can slice, dice, or leave them whole. I like to leave them whole so that people can either fish them out or avoid them.
  • Tomato sauce: one small (8-ounce) can is all you need. For even more flavor, you can make my Mexican Tomato Sauce.
  • Broth: I use chicken broth in this recipe, but vegetable broth will also work. If you don’t have either, you can use water and additional salt, but it will not have as much flavor. I prefer homemade broth, but rarely have it made when I’m making rice, so I always have cartons of organic chicken stock on hand. Since this doesn’t have as much flavor as homemade broth, you’ll have to tasted and adjust for salt.
  • Vegetables: Fresh or frozen veggies are perfect for this recipe. I like a mix of peas, carrots, and corn. If you’re using fresh vegetables, be sure to chop them into very small pieces.
  • Salt: I always use Crystal Diamond Kosher Salt in all of my recipes, which is less “salty” than other salts.
Arroz Rojo - Mexican Red Rice

RECOMMENDED FOR THIS RECIPE

3-Quart Sauce Pan For Making Rice

pan for rice

HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE

1. Sauté rice, onion, and garlic

  • Over medium heat, add oil to your saucepan and once it’s hot, add rice, onion, and garlic.
  • Using a wooden spatula, move constantly and cook for 3 minutes until onion is translucent and some of the rice turns golden in color.
  • PRO TIP: If you notice that your rice is turning dark brown (or black!) too quickly, lower the heat.
Arroz Rojo - Mexican Red Rice

2. Add tomato sauce and sauté

  • Once you’ve lightly toasted the rice, mix in tomato sauce and sauté an additional 2 minutes.
  • PRO TIP: This step ensures that the tomato sauce is evenly distributed and that you don’t end up with a big red rim of sauce around the edges of your rice once it is cooked.
Arroz Rojo - Mexican Red Rice

3. Add broth and season with salt

  • Next, add broth and salt and stir ingredients. Taste the broth and adjust for salt if necessary. The broth should be flavorful so make sure it has enough salt before covering.
  • Raise your heat to high, stir well, and bring to a boil.
  • Once boiling, let the water evaporate until you begin to see the rice through the broth. This process should take about 3 to 5 minutes.
Arroz Rojo - Mexican Red Rice

3. Cover and simmer

  • Cover rice with a lid, lower heat to the lowest setting, and set a timer for 20 minutes. 
  • PRO TIP: Do NOT uncover your rice at any point to check if it’s ready. Uncovering your rice too soon may result in mushy rice. 
  • Remove from heat and let stand for another 10 minutes. When ready, fluff with spoon or fork and serve hot.
Arroz Rojo - Mexican Red Rice
This is what your rice should look like when it’s uncovered.
Arroz Rojo - Mexican Red Rice
This is what your rice will look like once it’s mixed and fluffed up.

4. Enjoy!

If you’re wondering which main dishes to serve with this arroz rojo, here are a few suggestions:

TIPS, TRICKS, AND VARIATIONS FOR MAKING MEXICAN RICE

  • Use the right rice. See the “Ingredients You’ll Need” section above for the brand I use when making any type of Mexican rice. 
  • Add veggies. Many versions of this recipe incorporate peas, red bell pepper, finely diced carrots, or mixed vegetables, all of which add a nice pop of color.
  • Broth vs. bouillon. Chicken broth adds the most flavor, but vegetable broth or water will also work in this recipe. I always taste my broth before covering the rice to make sure it has enough salt and adjust accordingly. I’m not a fan of using artificially flavored chicken bouillon, but if you use it, make sure to reduce the amount of salt you use.

HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT

  • Store arroz rojo in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
  • To reheat Mexican red rice, place it in a microwave-safe dish with a lid and heat for about 2 minutes or reheat on the stovetop (low heat) in a small sauce pan with a lid. You may need to add a sprinkle of water so it maintains its moisture.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

WHY DOES MY MEXICAN RICE GET MUSHY?

Mexican rice can become mushy if it’s overcooked, undercooked, or if there’s too much moisture (broth or water) in the cooking process. For all of my Mexican rice recipes, the rice to liquid ration is 1:2, so one cup of rice would require 2 cups of broth.

Additionally, using the wrong type of rice can also contribute to mushiness. That’s why I always stick to Mahatma long-grain rice.

Also, if you over stir or uncover your rice at any point before it has steamed for 20 minutes, this may also result in mushy rice. 

WHY IS RICE AT MEXICAN RESTAURANTS ORANGE?

Mexican rice that’s orange gets its color from tomatoes or tomato sauce that are mixed into the broth used to steam the rice.

DO YOU WASH YOUR RICE IN THIS RECIPE?

No, I never wash my rice and neither does my mom. This is a step that a lot of people feel is essential when making rice, but I have found that my rice comes out just fine without rinsing off the additional starches.

IS ARROZ ROJO GLUTEN FREE?

Yes, arroz rojo is typically gluten-free as it primarily consists of rice and vegetables.

CAN I MAKE THIS RICE AHEAD OF TIME?

Yes! If I’m hosting a crowd, I always make my rice a day in advance and reheat it once we’re ready to eat.

LOOKING FOR MORE ARROZ INSPIRATION?

Arroz Rojo - Mexican Red Rice

Arroz Rojo – BEST Mexican Red Rice Recipe

by Lola Dweck
Arroz Rojo, translated as "red rice," is actually orange in color and is a traditional Mexican side dish made by cooking rice with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and a well-seasoned broth, resulting in its distinctive color and rich flavor.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 10
Calories 187 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 small onion diced finely
  • 4 small garlic cloves diced, sliced, or whole
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt or to taste (I use Diamond Kosher Salt)
  • 4 cups chicken broth well-seasoned broth may require less salt in this recipe

Instructions
 

  • Sauté rice, onion, and garlic. Over medium heat, add oil to your saucepan and once it’s hot, add rice, onion, and garlic. Using a wooden spatula, move constantly and cook for 3 minutes until onion is translucent and some of the rice turns golden in color. PRO TIP: If you notice that your rice is turning dark brown (or black!) too quickly, lower the heat.
  • Add tomato sauce and sauté. Once you’ve lightly toasted the rice, mix in tomato sauce and sauté an additional 2 minutes.
    PRO TIP: This step ensures that the tomato sauce is evenly distributed and that you don’t end up with a big red rim of sauce around the edges of your rice once it is cooked.
  • Add broth and season with salt. Next, add broth and salt and stir ingredients. Taste the broth and adjust for salt if necessary. The broth should be flavorful so make sure it has enough salt before covering. Raise your heat to high, stir well, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, let the water evaporate until you begin to see the rice through the broth. This process should take about 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Cover and simmer. Cover rice with a lid, lower heat to the lowest setting, and set a timer for 20 minutes.
    PRO TIP: Do NOT uncover your rice at any point to check if it’s ready. Uncovering your rice too soon may result in mushy rice. Remove from heat and let stand for another 10 minutes.
  • When ready, fluff with spoon or fork and serve hot.

A Note from Lola

RECIPE VARIATIONS
  • Use the right rice. See the “Ingredients You’ll Need” section above for the brand I use when making any type of Mexican rice.
  • For an additional layer of flavor, make your own Mexican Tomato Sauce from scratch.
  • If you don’t have tomato sauce and are pressed for time, simply blend two Roma tomatoes with the onion and garlic in this recipe. You’ll want to add this after sautéing the rice in oil for three minutes, and sauté the mixture for at least 5 minutes to get rid of the raw tomato, onion, and garlic flavors. 
  • Add veggies. Many versions of this recipe incorporate peas, red bell pepper, finely diced carrots, or mixed vegetables, all of which add a nice pop of color.
  • Broth vs. bouillon. Chicken broth adds the most flavor, but vegetable broth or water will also work in this recipe. I always taste my broth before covering the rice to make sure it has enough salt and adjust accordingly. I’m not a fan of using artificially flavored chicken bouillon, but if you use it, make sure to reduce the amount of salt you use.

Nutrition

Calories: 187kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 4gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 0.4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0.02gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 924mgPotassium: 140mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 100IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 21mgIron: 1mg
187
LOVE THIS RECIPE?Leave a comment below or tag me on social media @lolascoina


Recipe originally published on February 21, 2014 and updated with more clear instructions and photos on May 2, 2024.

Lola’s Cocina is a small business that earns various revenue streams. This includes sponsored posts and affiliate commissions from linked products, which I use and love. This commission is an agreement between Lola’s Cocina and retailers, with no extra cost to readers. This income helps sustains the site.

Lola Wiarco Dweck

Lola is a Mexican-American recipe developer, writer, and cooking instructor who loves sharing her culture with the world. Growing up in California and spending summers in Mexico, Lola celebrates her family’s Mexican recipes and vibrant culture through Lola’s Cocina.

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15 Comments

  1. Oh, but it is true. Always remember to cook with lots of love and your recipe will be the best. Make it a family affair and it’s even more fun.

  2. Thanks for this recipe! This looks like the authentic rice I have been looking for. What type of ground pepper are you using? I was thinking of grinding up Japones peppers?

    1. Hi, Jason. I use ground black pepper. This rice isn’t meant to be spicy but I’ve been experimenting with a chipotle rice recipe, which I will post soon. Stay tuned! I post new recipes on here, on my Facebook page (Lola’s Cocina), and on Instagram (@lolascocina).

  3. 5 stars
    Thank you for the recipe!
    I already cook Mexican rice my self but it varies cause I’m always guessing the ingredients properly.
    And yours have made my experience even more appetizing.
    Specifically when I eat your enchiladas… mhhhmhh!!