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Mexican Restaurant Rice (Vegan-Friendly)

Mexican Restaurant Rice – Make your own Mexican rice at home, just like your favorite restaurant rice. Pair it with beans as a side dish, use for burrito bowls, and more! (Gluten-free, vegan-friendly)

Overhead view of a white bowl of Mexican Rice garnished with cilantro

One thing I LOVE about living in the Southwest is all the yummy Tex-Mex options we have around us! There are authentic Mexican restaurants and plenty of Tex-Mex restaurants near us, and I’ve really missed getting to go for weekly date nights in the last couple of years.

One of my favorite things on all our favorite Mexican restaurant menus (even more than tacos, burritos, or tamales!) is the beans and rice. Good-quality, flavorful beans and rice MAKE the meal for me, and while were at home in the last year, I started making my own since we couldn’t always visit or order takeout from our favorite places.

I tried to stay as true as I could to authentic Mexican rice recipe principles, to get the signature flavor and texture I love so much in restaurants–the gorgeous color, plump tender texture, and delicious flavor in every bite. You’ll build a base of flavor with a seasoned broth and veggies, then cook the rice to perfection using a few simple tricks along the way.

Thankfully, it’s easy to make your own restaurant Mexican rice at home using ingredients you probably already have on hand! Here’s what you need for this easy Mexican rice recipe…(It’s the best Mexican rice recipe we’ve ever been able to make at home!)

Close up Overhead view of a white bowl of Mexican Rice garnished with cilantro
Front view of a burrito served with Mexican rice and refried beans

Here’s What You Need TO Make Mexican Restaurant Rice At Home:

  • Long Grain Rice (I Like Basmati). I most often use basmati rice when making Mexican restaurant rice at home. It’s got great texture and is easy to work with.
  • A Little Onion. To start our flavor base for this simple Mexican rice recipe, I use a little onion. If you grate it, it’ll melt right into the rice (great for kids who don’t love pieces of onion!), or you can finely dice it. (Some folks even puree it with the broth!)
  • Olive Oil. A little oil goes into the pan to help you toast the rice. Toasting the rice gives it amazing flavor and helps the texture along, too. You’ll be amazed by the flavor difference!
  • Chopped Tomato. Different Mexican rice recipes use different techniques when it comes to tomato–with some blending the tomato and onion in with the broth and others cooking them separately. I like to finely mince mine so it maintains some of its shape during cooking. All my favorite restaurants do theirs this way, too!
  • Garlic. Garlic adds more flavor and is a must, in my opinion. If you’re a garlic love, you can take this all the way up to 2-3 cloves, but I usually find 1 clove enough for my taste.
  • Chicken Broth (Or Veggie Broth). Now, you’re ready for seasoned broth! You’ll start with good-quality chicken broth or or vegetable broth. For vegetarian Mexican rice, I really love Imagine’s no-chicken broth (I get it at Sprouts) or their low-sodium vegetable broth. For chicken broth, I usually opt for homemade or a good chicken bone broth for the best flavor.
  • Tomato Paste. To help season the broth and give the Mexican restaurant rice its signature color, you’ll add tomato paste. Again, different recipes use different amounts, but I love going all the way up to 3-4 Tbsp. in my recipe. Using good-quality tomato paste makes a big difference in taste (some brands taste tinny or acidic, while others have a rich, sweet flavor). I love Amore brand (sold in tubes) or Muir Glen brand (pretty widely available).
  • Salt. Then, you’ll add salt. This can be done to taste, but I find about 1/2 tsp. salt to be great for my taste. If your broth is salty, you may prefer to add less.
  • Cumin. Lastly, to give the Mexican rice its signature smoky flavor, you’ll add just a hint of cumin. It comes through in every bite without overpowering the dish.
  • Cilantro. Then, right before serving, you’ll add a little fresh cilantro (if you want). I love the pretty pop of green, and the note of freshness it adds to the warm seasoned rice.
Overhead view of a pan of Mexican rice being fluffed with a fork after steaming

How To Make Mexican Rice, Step-By-Step:

  1. WHISK UP YOUR SEASONED BROTH. First, you’ll want to whisk up your seasoned broth so it’s ready to add to the pan later. In a liquid measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together broth, tomato paste, salt, and cumin until smooth. Ideally, your broth should be room temperature or slightly warmed. (Feel free to pop it in the microwave for 30-60 seconds to help it along). Set this mixture aside for now.
  2. TOAST THE RICE. Heat the oil over medium heat in a medium skillet (one you have a lid for!) or a pot. Add the rice and onion and cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring regularly until the onion is starting to soften and the rice is beginning to toast a bit. It may turn golden and will give off a nutty, toasted smell.
  3. ADD TOMATO & GARLIC. As soon as the rice is toasted, add your tomato and garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds to stir into the rice.
  4. POUR IN YOUR BROTH MIXTURE. Pour the seasoned broth and gently stir to combine with the rice. (Don’t mix too much so that the rice doesn’t get too starchy.)
  5. SIMMER & COVER. Bring the broth and rice up to a bubbling simmer. Cover your pan and reduce the heat to low. Simmer 15 minutes and do NOT lift the lid or stir the rice during the cook time.
  6. STEAM. Turn off the heat and leave the lid on the rice as you let it steam for an additional 15-20 minutes. (I recommend checking the rice at the 15 minute mark to see if it’s as tender as you like. If it’s not, let it steam another 5 minutes or so.)
  7. FLUFF & GARNISH. When your Mexican rice is done cooking, remove the lid and add your cilantro. The tomato mixture will have settled on the top of the rice, so use a fork to gently fluff the rice, mixing in the cilantro garnish and the tomato mixture. Taste and add additional salt, if desired.
Overhead view of Mexican rice served with black beans
Front view of Mexican rice served with black beans

Yummy Ways To Eat This Mexican-Style Rice:

We love all things Mexican food & Tex-Mex! Here are some of our favorite ways to use this yummy rice:

  1. AS A PERFECT SIDE DISH WITH BEANS! Serve this Mexican rice with refried beans, charro beans, or seasoned black beans. Serve next to smothered burritos, enchiladas, tacos, and more!
  2. TUCKED INTO BURRITOS. This is the perfect Mexican rice for burritos! I love using this rice as a base with beans, my favorite proteins (like Barbacoa beef, Honey Lime Chicken, or Sweet Pork), lettuce, and plenty of guacamole to build epic burritos.
  3. AS A BASE FOR BURRITO BOWLS. Or, if you’re a big burrito bowl fan like me, you can use your Mexican restaurant rice as a base for burrito bowls. Top with all your favorite burrito goodies from veggies and proteins to salsa and more. Try these Chipotle Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls or Plantain Burrito Bowls as inspiration!
  4. IN LOADED TACO SALADS. Remember those old-school taco salads in the fried tortilla shells? We still love making those, though these days we skip the tortilla shell or use one of these to make baked tortilla shells for our taco salads. Load ’em up with this Mexican Restaurant rice, your favorite beans, proteins, lettuce, veggies, guacamole, and salsa or drizzle with our Tomatillo Ranch Dressing or Chipotle Ranch Dressing!
Front view of a vegan burrito with vegetarian Mexican Rice, black beans, avocado, and pico de gallo

FAQ + Tips And Tricks For The Best Mexican Restaurant Rice:

DON’T PEEK! I know it’s super tempting to lift the lid while the rice is simmering to check on it, but DO NOT lift that lid! The steaming process will be interrupted, and can throw off the cook time for your rice. Leave it alone to do its thing!

ADD VEGGIES! Some Mexican rice recipes are made with corn, peas, or even carrots. If you want to make your Mexican rice with veggies, a trick I learned from Chicano Eats is to add 1/2 cup of frozen veggies (corn, peas, carrots, or mixed veggies) to the pan when the broth comes to a boil. They’ll cook while the rice is steaming.

  • Mexican Rice With Bell Peppers: Add 1/2 of a green bell pepper (diced) to the pan with the rice and onion.
  • Mexican Rice With Corn: add 1/2 cup of frozen or fresh corn to the pan when the broth comes to a boil.
  • Mexican Rice With Peas: add 1/2 cup of frozen peas to the pan when the broth comes to a boil.

MAKE THIS AS A VEGAN + VEGETARIAN MEXICAN RICE RECIPE! The only ingredient you need to watch for in this recipe to make it as vegetarian Mexican rice is to use chicken-less broth (I love this one from Imagine) or vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth. It’s easy!

CAN I USE BROWN RICE INSTEAD? I haven’t tested this Mexican restaurant rice recipe with brown rice yet, but the cook time and broth requirements would be different. I recommend white rice here.

MAKE IT SPICY! If you like some kick or prefer spicy Mexican rice, feel free to add a minced jalapeño along with the onion and rice. It’ll add some heat!

Front view of Mexican rice served with refried beans

more tex-mex faves to fall in love with:

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Overhead view of a white bowl of Mexican Rice garnished with cilantro

Mexican Restaurant Rice (Vegan-Friendly)


  • Author: One Lovely Life
  • Total Time: 45-50 minutes
  • Yield: About 3 cups rice 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Mexican Restaurant Rice – Make your own Mexican rice at home, just like your favorite restaurant rice. Serve with beans as a side, use for burrito bowls & more!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup uncooked white basmati or long-grain rice
  • 1/2 small onion, grated or finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil or avocado oil
  • 1 2/3 cup chicken or vegetable broth–room temperature or slightly warmed
  • 34 Tbsp. tomato paste* (I prefer 4 Tbsp.)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Roma or Campari tomato, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp. minced cilantro

Instructions

  1. WHISK UP YOUR SEASONED BROTH. First, you’ll want to whisk up your seasoned broth so it’s ready to add to the pan later. In a liquid measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together broth, tomato paste, salt, and cumin until smooth. Ideally, your broth should be room temperature or slightly warmed so the tomato paste will dissolve fully. (Feel free to pop it in the microwave for 30-60 seconds to help it along). Set this mixture aside for now.
  2. TOAST THE RICE. Heat the oil over medium heat in a medium skillet (one you have a lid for!) or a pot. Add the rice and onion and cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring regularly until the onion is starting to soften and the rice is beginning to toast a bit. It may turn golden and will give off a nutty, toasted smell.
  3. ADD TOMATO & GARLIC. As soon as the rice is toasted, add your tomato and garlic and cook for about 30 seconds to stir into the rice.
  4. POUR IN YOUR BROTH MIXTURE. Pour the seasoned broth and gently stir to combine with the rice. (Don’t mix too much so that the rice doesn’t get too starchy.)
  5. SIMMER & COVER. Bring the broth and rice up to a bubbling simmer. Cover your pan and reduce the heat to low. Simmer 15 minutes and do NOT lift the lid or stir the rice during the cook time.
  6. STEAM. Turn off the heat and leave the lid on the rice as you let it steam for an additional 15-20 minutes. (I recommend checking the rice at the 15 minute mark to see if it’s as tender as you like. If it’s not, let it steam another 5 minutes or so.)
  7. FLUFF & GARNISH. When your Mexican rice is done cooking, remove the lid and add your cilantro. The tomato mixture will have settled on the top of the rice, so use a fork to gently fluff the rice, mixing in the cilantro garnish and the tomato mixture. Taste and add additional salt, if desired.

Notes

*Using high-quality tomato paste will greatly improve the taste of your Mexican rice. I recommend Amore brand (sold in a tube) or Muir Glen brand.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35-40 minutes
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Keywords: Mexican Restaurant Rice, Mexican Rice, Mexican Style Rice, Restaurant Style Mexican Rice, Vegetarian Mexican Rice Recipe

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