Mexican Red Rice – or Arroz Rojo a la Mexicana – made with ingredients from your well-stocked pantry and a few fresh ingredients elevates your Mexican mains any day of the week! Add some rotisserie chicken for a quick arroz con pollo, or top with an egg for a hearty breakfast…
Some Trivia About Mexican Red Rice
Rice is not native to Mexico. It was brought to Mexico during the Spanish invasion during the 1500s.
Often called “Spanish rice” in the US, it hardly resembles the delicate saffron flavor of Spanish rice. At its most basic, Mexican rice is white rice browned in fat (often lard in Mexico) and flavored with tomato and broth.
In southern Mexico, you are more likely to find just plain white rice, and in northern Mexico, Mexican rice is flavored rice, but both are referred to as “arroz.”
We’ve all spurned the ubiquitous red rice on a Mexican-American combo plate right? Well, maybe you love it, but I leave most of it behind on the plate. Often bland or too salty, and frequently containing frozen and soggy vegetables, it just isn’t appealing. Just SAD.
The key to fluffy rice is in the proportion of liquid to rice. See your package instructions for quantity of liquid to 1 cup rice. THIS IS KEY!
My Mexican Red Rice (Arroz Rojo)
Taking my cue from traditional cooking methods, the rice is rinsed well to remove excess starch, then toasted in a bit of healthy coconut or olive oil prior to beginning to layer flavors.
My well-stocked pantry always contains ground cumin – a “go to” for Mexican cooking. Garlic is a must, as is some finely chopped onion or shallot. All 3 ingredients get sautéed for a couple of minutes prior to adding the liquid.
We like a bit of heat in our Mexican Red Rice, and there are several ways you can achieve that heat:
The key to fluffy rice is in the proportion of liquid to rice. See your package instructions for quantity of liquid to 1 cup rice. THIS IS KEY! I almost always use basmati, and while many cooks insist the ratio should be 1:1.5, I get perfectly fluffy rice with 1:2. I do cut it to 1:1.5 for jasmine rice.
When adding other liquids or very moisture-laden ingredients, it is important to include them in the liquid ratio. For example: My Mexican Cilantro Rice includes an entire bunch of cilantro. Cilantro is mostly water. I process it with some of the liquid, spoon it into a 2 cup measure, and then top it off with the appropriate amount of liquid. I get great results every time!
So, to my rice and aromatics browned in oil, I add a total of 2 cups liquid (broth, tomato paste, and chipotle in adobo). As it comes to a boil, I add the diced carrots and peas. If I have the time (and presence of mind), I will quickly steam the peas and add them when I fluff before serving. This avoids little shriveled green peas!
My basmati rice requires about 15 minutes once it comes to a boil. It is SO IMPORTANT to cover with a tight-fitting lid, lower the heat, and resist the urge to lift the lid. I cook on an induction stove, and turn it all the way down to 3 or 4 on a scale of 15. If dinner isn’t ready, I remove it from the heat, and don’t lift the lid.
At service time, fluff with a fork, check and adjust seasoning, add those peas if you waited, and garnish with cilantro if desired. I promise it won’t remind you of that salty, tomato-y stuff at Mexican-American restaurants! As I mention in the introduction, adding some rotisserie chicken or topping with an egg turns this into a tasty, light meal…
Mexican Red Rice (Arroz Rojo) is my contribution this month to Progressive Eats, a virtual dinner party hosted by a few of my favorite bloggers! It’s a Cinco de Mayo Fiesta! Cha-cha-cha. 🙂Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. This month’s theme is a Cinco de Mayo Fiesta, and our host is Jane who blogs at The Heritage Cook If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats it’s a virtual party. A theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out. Come along and see all of the delicious fiesta inspired dishes!
Cinco de Mayo FiestaBeverages
- Orejas Mexican Pan Dulce – Creative Culinary
- Instant Pot Barbacoa Tacos – The Heritage Cook
- Pork Pozole Verde – Karen’s Kitchen Stories
- Chicken Tostadas with Black Bean Guacamole and Salsa Fresca – From a Chef’s Kitchen
- Mexican Red Rice (Arroz Rojo) – Beyond Mere Sustenance
- 1 cup long grain rice, rinsed thoroughly (see notes)
- 1 teaspoon coconut or olive oil
- 1 small onion or large shallot, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 chipotle with 1 teaspoon adobo, mashed thoroughly (see notes)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- broth/stock to total 2 cups (including tomato paste and chipotle)
- 1/2 cup carrots, diced small
- 1/2 cup green peas (see notes)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
- several grinds pepper
- cilantro, chopped (for garnish)
- To a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the oil and rice. Sauté until fragrant.
- Add the onion, garlic, cumin, and stir an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Whisk the mashed chipotle and adobo, tomato paste, and broth to a total of 2 cups (or as per package).
- Add the diced carrots and peas (unless you're amazing and add them steamed at the end!). Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat. Cover. Cook 15 minutes (or as per package). Resist the urge to lift the lid!
- Remove from heat until ready to fluff and serve. If you've steamed your peas, add them at this time.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro if desired. Serve.
This recipe calls for a ratio of rice to liquid of 1:2. I usually have basmati rice in my pantry. If you are using a rice that requires a different rice to liquid ratio, adjust the recipe accordingly. Similarly, check the cooking time on your rice. I cook basmati rice 15 minutes. I have used this Royal Basmati Rice. The ratio given is 1:2. Read your package because many will call for something different!
Thoroughly rinsing your rice removes excess starch, and that means your rice is more likely to have separate grains!