Spanish Rice

My mother's signature Spanish rice recipe, a delicious accompaniment to steak, chicken, and Mexican entrees such as tacos or enchiladas

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

My mother’s Spanish rice (aka Mexican rice) is a mandatory accompaniment to any Mexican dish we serve at our house, whether it’s with enchiladas or tostadas, or with steak and black beans.

This rice is our family’s comfort food. My mom always makes a big batch when she makes it, because we can’t get enough!

Spanish rice is essentially a rice pilaf, but with southwestern flavorings. To make it you brown the raw rice first with onions and garlic, and then cook the rice in chicken broth with added tomatoes.

The browning is essential to the nutty, almost toasty flavor of the rice. And although bouillon can be substituted for the chicken stock, nothing beats homemade chicken stock, whose rich flavor is absorbed by the rice as it cooks.

Mom has perfected the art of preparing the rice quickly. She heats the tomato-y stock in a separate pot while the rice is browning, and then combines the two to cook while she prepares the rest of the meal. You could easily make it one pot if you wanted.

Spanish Rice Recipe

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  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6

My mother browns the rice in a separate pan from the pot she uses to heat the stock. This is just to save time. You could easily brown the rice and onions, and add cold stock and tomatoes to it, bring to a simmer, cover and cook, all in one pot.

If you have homemade stock, use it! That's what will take this Spanish rice from good to great.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (can use up to 1/4 cup)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups of medium or long-grain white rice
  • 3 cups* chicken stock (or vegetable stock if vegetarian)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste or 1 cup of diced fresh or cooked tomatoes, strained
  • Pinch of oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt

*Check the instructions on the rice package for the proportions of liquid to rice. They can range from 1:1 to 2:1. If your rice calls for 2 cups of water for every cup of rice, then for this recipe, use 4 cups of stock for 2 cups of rice.

Method

1 Brown the rice: Heat olive oil in large skillet on medium/high heat. Add the rice and stir it so that the rice is lightly coated with the oil. Cook on medium high heat, stirring often, until much of the rice has browned.

2 Add onion, garlic: Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently another 3 minutes, until the onions begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook until the onions are translucent and softened, about a minute more.

3 Combine broth, tomato, oregano, salt, and browned rice and onions: To save time you can bring the stock to a simmer in a separate saucepan, with the tomato, oregano, and salt.

Add the browned rice to the simmering broth (or broth to the rice, depending on which pan has a cover). Or you can skip the simmering step and just add the broth and tomatoes to the rice.

4 Simmer, cover, cook until the rice has absorbed the stock: Bring everything to a simmer, cover the pot and lower the heat to barely maintain a low simmer. Cook for 15-25 minutes, depending on the type of rice and the instructions on the rice package. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

Fluff with a fork or spoon to serve.

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Spanish Rice

Showing 4 of 173 Comments

  • Mary K

    In addition to the changes I made to the recipe, I also used a can of diced tomatoes and its juices. I had to experiment with the water to rice proportion because it’s a 1:1 ratio in my rice cooker, but it’s 1:5 to a little more in the skillet (and that’s over low heat with the lid on). Browning the rice before cooking is GENIUS!

  • Mary K

    I used 2 heaping teaspoons of Beef Better than Bouillon and added a pound of cooked hamburger (salted and peppered) and a chopped green pepper to the recipe. I didn’t have to add any additional salt and my family loved it! We will definitely make this again!

  • Helena K. Keith

    I’m going to try this recipe but will use a mixture of red rice + non-long grain white rice (both locally, Bali, grown rice). Would that work, plus adding some sweet paprika powder?

  • Vonnie

    I have always doubled the amount of liquid to long grain rice and it comes out great. If you don’t put enough liquid the rice won’t cook. Also, one teaspoon of salt isn’t enough for my taste but you can always more salt after it’s cooked. Cilantro adds such a nice flavor. If you want rice quick and are too lazy to use fresh onion or garlic, onion and garlic powder work nicely.

  • Vicki

    The boxed Mexican rice has been our “go to” more and more we found it had no flavor. I found this recipe and gave it a try. We loved it. I used chicken broth and a can of Ro Tel w/green chili’s cause that’s what I had it worked great. I’ll make this again for sure.

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