Mexican Rice

I worked for years to figure out how rice was made in Mexican restaurants. I’m still working on it, but here’s where I am right now. Don’t over-do it with spices and aromates when the rice is only a back-drop to what you’re really serving. See also my lime-cilantro rice recipe.


4 servings per 1 cup of uncooked rice


  3 cups rice
olive or canola oil
4½-6 cups chopped canned tomatoes and chicken stock
½ cup finely chopped white onion (optional)
3 cloves crushed, fresh garlic
½ tsp fresh-ground cumin
ground pepper
kosher salt
2 tbsp adobo sauce


1. Rinse rice until water runs clear. Drain as well as possible in collander. You want it as dry as possible. You can let it drip drier if set aside a few hours until needed. You don’t absolutely have to wash the rice; I don’t when I’m in a hurry.

2. Place oil in hot pan (big enough to hold rice and liquid ingredients and it needs a good lid that fits reasonably tight) along with cumin. Clarify finely chopped onions, then add garlic and cumin. One of the points of adding the cumin now is to bloom its flavor in the oil. It might be a good idea to remove the onion, garlic and cumin so they don’t burn in the next step.

3. Add rice to pan and stir in oil until most of the rice becomes pearly white.

This is the single most important step in cooking rice that will ressemble what you get at the restaurant: you cannot cook the rice in an oriental-style rice cooker and you cannot boil it.

4. Add adobo sauce to liquid ingredients, heat liquid to very hot in the microwave. Note that if you use tomatoes and their juice in your liquid, don’t use very much.

5. Carefully pour the boiing into the hot rice, add back in the onions and garlic, plus addition stuff you want. Cover and don’t lift the lid for a good 20 minutes unless you know you must add liquid. You can set a timer and put this into a 350° oven for 30 minutes instead to avoid buring the bottom. (Allowing you to turn your attention to other matters.)

If the lid of your pan lets too much water vapor out during cooking, you will need to compensate by increasing the amount of water.

6. Remove lid, fluff rice and serve.