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Arroz rojo is an authentic Mexican red rice side dish that pairs well any protein. Make this rice recipe using just 6 simple ingredients!
Rice is a staple ingredient because it’s budget-friendly, versatile, simple to prepare, and can be made in so many different ways. The flavor can be changed using just a few simple spices, and it pairs well with nearly every cuisine.
The Spanish term arroz rojo in English literally means red rice.
Actually, there are several different variations of arroz rojo.
For example, in Mexico, authentic arroz rojo is made with fresh plum tomatoes, and jalapeno and onion are always included. They use a cooking technique that’s similar to making a risotto. Rather than allowing the rice to steam like you would for cilantro lime rice, making authentic Mexican red rice requires constant stirring throughout the entire cooking process.
To shorten the prep for this recipe, I use tomato paste instead of fresh tomatoes. Because it’s nothing more than concentrated tomatoes, it isn’t necessary to use fresh ones.
Also, rather than making a risotto style dish, I allow the rice to simmer. As a result, the flavor is fresh and it has a vibrant red color, but the process to make it is much simpler!
Difference between Mexican red rice and Spanish rice
Although many people associate the two dishes, there are significant differences between an authentic Mexican rice recipe and a Spanish version. The most significant difference is the appearance.
Authentic Spanish rice has a yellow in color, from the use of saffron. In comparison, arroz rojo gets its color from fresh tomatoes.
Mexican rice recipe video
Want to see how easy arroz rojo is to make?
Scroll down to the recipe card and watch the video!
How to make arroz rojo
- Sauté the vegetables.
Place a large pot over medium-high heat and get it really hot before you add any oil. After a minute or two, go ahead and add the oil. After a minute or so, the oil will begin to shimmer. At that point, add the onion, carrot, and garlic.
Using this technique ensures that the veggies sauté rather than steam, and it also produces the best flavor.
- Add the spices, tomato paste, and rice.
The spices go into the pot first so they can fry in the oil. This method of tempering spices releases the natural oils, giving them a more vibrant flavor. In Indian cuisine, the cooking method is called tadka.
After a couple of minutes, add the dry rice to the pan so that the grains can toast in the oil a bit too.
- Deglaze the pot.
After the rice cooks a few minutes, you’ll notice specks of brown on the bottom of the pot. The culinary name for this is “fond” and it is where much of flavor in arroz rojo comes from! Add some chicken stock to the pot and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom.
- Simmer and serve!
Bring the contents of the pot to a full boil. Then, immediately reduce the temperature to medium-low, cover the pot, and cook the arroz rojo until the rice is tender and fluffy.
Recipe tips and notes
- Rinse the rice prior to cooking.
If you were making arroz rojo the authentic, risotto-style way, you’d want to leave the starch in the rice to help thicken the cooking liquid. In this case, you want to remove as much starch as possible so the grains don’t clump together.
- Serving suggestions
I like to serve arroz rojo with authentic Mexican carnitas and birria de res tacos. But honestly, it’s the type of rice side dish that could be served with dishes that aren’t Mexican, from grilled pork chops to chicken.
And if you’d like to try a different version of this Mexican rice recipe, make arroz verde, which is green rather than red.
This post, originally published on Kevin is Cooking Apr. 15, 2020, was last updated with new content on Dec. 22, 2021.
Arroz Rojo (Mexican Red Rice) + Video
- Heat oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or pot. Add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for a minute. Add the carrot and sauté for 2 minutes more.
- Add the cumin, salt, pepper, tomato paste and jalapeño. Stir and cook for 2 minutes, scraping browned bits up from the bottom. Add the rice and sauté for several minutes.
- Pour chicken stock into pot and stir to mix thoroughly. Bring to a boil and cover. Lower heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed.
- Turn off heat and allow to rest 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork and serve with lime wedges and chopped cilantro.
- Rinsing the rice removes some of the starch, which prevents it from becoming clumpy.
- Diced jalapeño is included in the recipe, but was omitted from the dish in the photos because I didn’t have one on hand.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.