If you're looking for a fluffy, flavorful Mexican red rice to serve on your next Taco Tuesday, look no further! This arroz rojo recipe has been tested and perfected and will give you a memorable side dish to serve with all your favorite tacos, tostadas and burritos.
Today's recipe is a stovetop warrior and one of my favorites in the world of Mexican food - deeply flavorful red rice. The texture is just what you love from your favorite Mexican restaurant, and it's 100% vegetarian - perfect for your next taco extravaganza.
The simple ingredients you'll need for this arroz rojo recipe:
- 1 cup long grain rice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup diced canned tomatoes in sauce
- ½ cup yellow onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, diced
- 1 tablespoon vegetable bouillon paste or 2 bouillon cubes (enough to season 2 cups water)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup cilantro leaves, for service
- ½ jalapeno, optional
- 1 cup water
In a medium pan with a tight fitting lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the cup of rice to the pan and saute until the the grains are golden brown, about 6-8 minutes.
While the rice is browning, in a separate small saucepan, add the butter, diced onion, diced garlic cloves, and a pinch of salt. Saute over medium heat until the vegetables are tender and fragrant.
Add the cup of diced tomatoes in sauce, cup of water, tablespoon of vegetable stock concentrate or cube, and teaspoon of salt to the pan of sauteed onions and garlic. Bring the mixture up to a simmer.
Once the rice is golden brown, pour the rice into a sieve over a bowl and allow any excess oil to drip off the rice. Return the rice to the pan with the tight-fitting lid.
Next, add the simmering broth and vegetables to the pan of rice off the burner. The broth will hiss and bubble as soon as you add it to the rice - this is what you're looking for! But still, be careful not to get splashed.
Return the pan to medium-high heat and return to a simmer.
Stir the rice gently and reduce the heat to low. If using, add the half jalapeno pepper to the top of the rice and broth (if using), and then cover the pan.
Simmer the rice for about 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the rice from the heat and leave, covered, for another 5 minutes. These final minutes of steaming prove to be valuable in creating a fluffy rice dish!
Remove the lid. The tomatoes will be sitting across the top of the rice.
Fluff with a fork, garnish with cilantro and fresh tomatoes, and serve.
Notes: Once I've added the broth and sauteed vegetables to the rice and it comes to a simmer (before I lower the heat and cover it), I taste the broth. It should be just a little too salty at this point. If it tastes a little bland, I'll add another ¼-1/2 teaspoon of salt. If it's a tad too salty, I silently pat myself on the back, cover and lower the temperature to simmer for 20 minutes. A salty broth will absorb into the rice and give you a lovely, perfectly seasoned rice dish.
Rice cooking times can vary based on the type of rice you're using and the age of the rice. Older rice requires more liquid and a few extra minutes to cook. So if you test your rice at 20 minutes and it is too firm and the pan is dry, add a couple of tablespoons of water or vegetable stock to the pan (pour in around the outer edge of the pan), cover, and cook an additional 5 minutes. Retest the rice for doneness.
FAQ's and Serving Suggestions:
So many different types of rice can be used, but each will create a little bit different flavor or texture. I like this rice dish best with a basic long grain white rice - it seems to work best with the rice ratio to tomatoes and the cooking method. Basmati rice is my every-day rice to cook at home, but the texture was missing that sticky-fluffy combo we love so much in good Mexican rice. Brown rice has a heartier texture, and takes longer to cook, but it would also work in this Mexican arroz recipe. The beautiful red color of the rice will be a little muted on brown rice, but it will still have a delicious flavor.
A lot of people religiously rinse and drain rice and dry it very well before adding it to the hot pan to brown. For this recipe, I have found that browning the rice has a similar de-starching effect on the final product. So I skip the step and get right to browning the rice in olive oil. But if your heart tells you rinsing is the best way, I won't stand in your way.
Chicken bouillon or chicken broth are the traditional flavors for this dish, so if you're not vegetarian or pescatarian, that's a great option. If you can get your hands on tomato bouillon, that would be especially tasty, and add even more beautiful red color to your red rice. If bouillon isn't an option at all, add an extra teaspoon of salt to the pureed tomato mixture.
Only all of my favorite dishes in Mexican cuisine! A main dish like fish tacos or shrimp tostadas is always a winner. The red rice is the perfect side dish to serve with pickled red onions, Mexican caesar salad, authentic refried beans, black beans, mango habanero salsa and crispy tortilla chips.
If I'm cooking for people who all love spice, I add a diced seeded jalapeno to the the pan with the diced onion and garlic to help infuse the entire dish. The chili pepper cooks in the fluffy rice and gives off a much spicier flavor. If you're short on fresh chili peppers, add a half teaspoon of red pepper flakes and serve the rice with a bottle of your favorite hot sauce.
In addition to the diced onion, tomato and garlic cloves, adding diced bell peppers to the browning rice would add nice flavors to the rice. Some Mexican restaurants add a handful of frozen mixed vegetables (corn, carrots, green beans) to the rice, lending flavor, texture and bulk.
You can substitute flat leaf parsley or skip the fresh herb altogether.
I've had great success making this red rice and my authentic Mexican refried beans the day before a party, and storing them in the refrigerator to heat quickly before service. It clears valuable time in my schedule the day of an event when two main side dishes are already finished!
To store, transfer the rice to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator up to 3 days. I don't recommend freezing this rice recipe.
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