Red rice is the default Mexican rice. Or at least the default in central and southern Mexico, probably also the default in the northern variety of Mexican food known as Tex-Mex. This is something that some Peruvian friends of mine complained about. If you go to a restaurant and order rice but do not specifically order white rice, arroz blanco, you will almost surely be served Mexican red rice. The menu sometimes is helpful enough to specify arroz a la mexicana, Mexican-style rice, meaning it's going to be red, but not always. Be forewarned.

Red rice is a side dish and served with just about anything. It is therefore meant to be simple and generally uninteresting as far as Mexican food goes, hardly ever plays the starring role of a meal. Despite its relative simplicity in appearance and flavour, and the apparent simplicity of the recipe I give below, it is also exceedingly easy to goof things up and produce sub-standard red rice. It's a fickle dish that demands attention and love during its concoction.

Red rice features prominently in another recipe of mine noded here, mole de olla. There are many ways to make red rice, and for consistency I have decided to also present the recipe that our cook Mariana prepares, so that it matches with her conception of mole de olla. Variations on this recipe are of course possible, although I cannot guarantee their compatibility with mole de olla (actually, it probably will all taste great no matter what).

You will need

  • 1 cup of rice, short grain is probably best.
  • cooking oil
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 slice of onion
  • 1/4 clove of garlic
  • 1/4 cup of green peas and chopped carrots (optional)
  • Salt, water

You will do

  1. Soak the rice in warm water. Mariana says to wait about one hour until it changes colour. Rinse it, strain it, and wait for it to dry.
  2. While you're waiting, put the tomatoes, onion and garlic into the blender and liquify them. This is why it's going to be red rice.
  3. Using just a wee bit of oil, fry the rice until it's a golden brown. Drain away the oil before proceeding. Switch the rice to a pot if you've been frying in a pan.
  4. Pour the liquified tomato mix and cook the rice until it's dry. At this stage it should be a deep red colour but still look like rice, not a stew. Keep cooking until it's dry.
  5. Now is the time to pour in the chicken broth, the salt and the optional peas and carrots. Pour in a bit extra water, about half a cup, if adding the extra veggies. Cook it covered for thirty minutes or until all the water evaporates and gets absorbed, like ordinary rice. Do not stir it at all during this final stage, or it won't cook properly.

That's it! It shouldn't be sticky at all, although you should be able to serve it in compact little domes shaped with a small cup. Mariana warned me more than once to be very careful about the cooking times and the amount of liquid used for cooking; it's very easy to make mistakes at either level. Accompany it with some black beans and the Mexican dish of your choice, such as enchiladas or inside the bowl in which you will pour the mole de olla. Enjoy!

For my sweet Lometa, who asked me to post this. Bet you didn't think I was going to node again, did you?

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Swap in Ohio recently, and I can tell you with confidence that not only is his recipe for Mexican red rice (above) outstanding, but he is really good looking and downright sexy. Nevertheless, I was taught how to make a variation of this staple of Mexican cuisine by my housemate Jorge, a first generation Mexican American from Fontana, California, and it varies significantly from the red rice you might find in many restaurants outside of Peru, not to mention my dear Swap's recipe. It's somewhat similar to Tomato rice as noded, but less "fake" somehow.

Now, you should know that the instructions I list below are not exactly what I was taught, as I have a rather common habit of making minor adjustments to every recipe I come upon while I'm cooking, until I suit it perfectly to my particular individual taste. I've made dozens of batches of this rice by now, as it's become something of a staple in my vegetarian diet over the past year or so, and so it has seen numerous modifications before reaching the point at which I'm willing to share it with you now.

Being a major part of my own diet, I've recently doubled the old recipe in order to keep from having to make the damn stuff so often. I bought a brand new non-stick 4-quart cooker (Is it a pan? A pot? It's hard to say) specifically for this purpose, and I've been delighted with the results. You will want something similar to prepare this recipe in, as it yields just over half a gallon (two quarts) of rice. Alternately, you can safely halve the recipe and do it up in a standard 3-quart pot with no problems. Now, on with the cooking already!


  • 2 cups of rice, standard bleached short grain
  • 4 tablespoons of corn oil
  • 2.1 oz. (6 cubes) of Knorr Vegetarian Vegetable Bouillon
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 7 3/4 oz. (1 can) of El Pato Brand tomato sauce ("Salsa de Chile Fresco")
  • 4 medium fresh tomatoes, or 3 large
  • 2 medium white or yellow onions, or 1 large
  • 2 fresh anaheim peppers, seeded
  • 2 fresh jalapeño peppers, with seeds (optional)
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste


First off, you are going to need a 4-cup Pyrex® measuring cup, or something similar that will not break when you pour boiling water into it. Get a tea kettle and put at least a quart of water into it, and put it on to boil. If you don't have a big measuring cup, you will need to pre-measure the water before boiling. Whatever you plan on pouring the boiling water into, sit it out and break up the six cubes of boullion into it. If you're not a vegetarian, you can use chicken or beef boullion of course, whatever suits your fancy. You should use the Knorr brand if possible, however, as their cubes are soft and extra large, and will produce a very dense concentration of stock, which is ideal for the purpose of this recipe.

While the kettle is on the boil, get out your chopping block and work on the veggies. Finely slice the peppers first, then the onions, with the tomatoes last. It's your call on how chunky you want your veggies, as they will all get soft in the pot with the rice. You can substitute canned tomatoes for fresh if you really have to, but fresh is always better. I dice mine up in half-inch cubes, which works well. Put all your veggies together in a large serving bowl for safekeeping until later. Grind your fresh black peppercorns over the top.

When the tea kettle boils, pour the water over the boullion and use a spoon to break up the chunks as much as possible. Mix the resulting broth up well so that it's dark and doesn't have any sizable bits of boullion left, then sit it aside.

Now for the rice. Pour the corn oil in the pan - corn oil is important here, and should not be substituted unless you absolutely have to. It makes a noticable difference in the flavor of the rice if you use canola or some other kind of oil instead of corn oil - just trust me on this. Heat the oil up on medium-high heat until it gets little air bubbles in it, then add your two cups of dry white rice. You are basically stir frying your rice in oil, which seems really weird if you've never done this before, but trust me - this is how it's done. Stir the rice with a wooden spoon (any spoon will do I guess), and keep stirring it. Don't let your rice burn! If you burn the rice, you've already ruined the recipe... throw it out and try again. Keep the spoon moving through the rice over medium to medium-high heat for about ten minutes, until the rice is a nice golden brown.

When the rice looks good and toasty (the nose knows - it will smell awesome!), turn the heat down to low and give the boullion mixture a stir. Put on an oven mitt and pour the 4 cup boullion mixture over the rice. Open the can of spicy tomato sauce and add it to the mix. (You can use regular tomato sauce if you prefer.) Stir well. Turn the heat back up to medium and let it bubble for a while. This is an important step in the process which I have screwed up numerous times, so pay attention! You want to reduce the rice and boullion mixture until the rice is no longer swimming around, and has plumped up some but not completely. The more liquid you reduce at this stage, the dryer and fluffier your rice will be in the finished recipe. If you leave too much liquid before adding the veggies, your rice will be sticky and moist, so it's your call on how you like it. This takes a little practice to figure out, so be advised.

When the rice is ready to your eye, add the veggies and mix well. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Your pot does have a lid, right? It better. Let everything simmer under the lid for about half an hour. Keep an eye on it though, so that it doesn't overcook or burn.


Hot damn! This recipe yields just over two quarts of cooked rice, and can probably serve as many as eight people at once, if called for. I like to mix mine with a cup or two of pinto beans usually, or black beans occasionally, and eat until I'm full. I totally dig on spicy food, so this recipe is muy caliente, by the way. I even like to splash it all generously with Tapatío picante sauce and mix it up before eating, so if you've a cast iron stomach like I have, kick it up a notch! Fire rice is nice, baby, but I can't be held responsible for eating injuries.

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