It’s hard to beat a great serving of Mexican rice. Seriously, think about it: What other side dish pairs perfectly with eggs at breakfast, with a lunch salad, or with tacos, tamales, or burritos at dinner? What other dish is just as at home on the traditional dinner table as it is enjoyed out of a styrofoam to-go container you grab from a food truck on the corner? And what other side boasts so much flavor despite using just a few base ingredients?
Seriously, this isn’t rhetorical: What other dish can do all that? Not many. This tasty, easy dish is a favorite of registered dietician, food writer, and chef Kristen Carli, RD, founder of Camelback Nutrition and Wellness, who loves its versatility (you can swap in different rice and tomato types with ease) and, of course, its flavor. "I serve this rice along with tamales for Christmas dinner," Carli says, but adds that it goes well with "quesadillas, taco salads, chimichangas," and the list just goes on and on. What doesn’t go on long is prep time: You’ll have this rice simmering on the stove with about five minutes of hands-on work. And about 45 minutes later, you’ll have a superlative side on your hands. And plate.
Gather your ingredients for this Mexican rice recipe
There are a lot of recipes out there with a deceptively small number of ingredients, and then there’s this one. If you discount the water and the optional lime and sliced green onions used for a touch of added flavor and looks, this rice dish requires just a few ingredients. (Speaking of which, Carli recommends using brown rice "for the extra nutrition from the whole grain" but says that "you could use white rice if you want, just adjust cook time down to 20 minutes cooking and ten minutes steaming.)
For this Mexican rice, You’ll need two tablespoons of canola oil, one cup of (uncooked) brown rice, a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes, a cup of warm water, two teaspoons of tomato bouillon (Carli uses Knorr’s caldo de tomate), and a half teaspoon of garlic powder.
For good measure (and taste and presentation), you can also prep a few sliced green onions and lime wedges. And that’s it.
Brown the rice, then add the rest to make this Mexican rice
The secret to prepping this Mexican rice dish perfectly is letting the rice cook a bit in oil before adding the wet ingredients. That bit of browning on the grains unlocks flavors usually left dormant inside the rice, so attend to this step with care.
In a large sauté pan or Dutch oven at medium heat, heat the oil. Once it’s well warmed, add all of the rice. Allow the rice to fry and toast in the oil until most of it has gotten slightly darker in color. Now, add everything else. Then, just pour in the water, add the canned tomatoes, add the garlic powder and bouillon, and stir it all up.
Boil, then simmer, then wait on your Mexican rice to be done
Now that you have all the ingredients for your Mexican rice save your optional toppers together in the pan (or pot or Dutch oven or even in a slow cooker), bring things up to a boil. Then, immediately lower the heat to a simmer, stir once, and cover your wonderfully easy side dish up. Now you need only wait for all the water to be absorbed, which should take about 35 minutes.
Watch out here for a common mistake Carli points out, which is "notting let the rice cook thoroughly. It’s important to test to make sure rice is done," and cooked fully, so add a bit more water if needed, or be ready to cut the heat early if it cooks fast but grows tender.
Now, fluff the rice and re-cover for ten minutes, then serve and top with scoops of green onion and spritzes of lime.