Arroz a la Mexicana (aka Arroz Mexicano, Arroz Rojo, Spanish Rice) – Mexican Tomato Rice – Recipe

Arroz a la Mexicana (or Arroz Mexicano, Arroz Rojo, Spanish Rice)

Arroz a la Mexicana (also known as Arroz Mexicano or Arroz Rojo) is the tomato-flavored rice that is commonly served with just about every Mexican meal in this country, and quite frequently in Mexico as well. It is also known as Spanish Rice, though I suspect that is more of a 1950s era American misnomer.

I made an "intuitive" version of this for years, but it wasn't always up to par. So recently I studied a bunch of recipes and picked the best part of each to create this one. It is very simple, but paying attention to a few details makes it especially delicious.

I think you will find that having this basic preparation in your repertoire will round out many delicious meals, and it makes great leftovers the next day. Cold for breakfast, if you are like me.

Much like risotto or paella, the rice is fried in oil before any liquid is added. Unlike those dishes, the frying time is extended to about 7-10 minutes, allowing it brown slightly. I haven't found that it turns out so well in a rice cooker, so I prefer to do it on the stovetop.

The rice itself can be medium grain or long grain according to your preference. I like medium. It can't be a converted, par-cooked rice. 

My version of this recipe calls for canned tomato puree and frozen peas, because I like to make it all year. If you are making this when either ingredient is seasonal, by all means feel free to use them fresh. For tomato, you would grate, discard the excess skin, it and then fry briefly in oil to remove excess liquid.

Some people also like carrots, but I'm not a fan.

Arroz a la Mexicana (aka Arroz Mexicano or Arroz Rojo or Spanish Rice)
Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free
Serves 6

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups medium grain rice
  • 3/4 cup finely diced white onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 2 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons vegetarian broth powder (Seitenbacher is my favorite brand; optional, but add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt if not using)
  • 1 cup defrosted but uncooked frozen peas
  1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil, rice, and onion and fry for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is light brown.
  2. Add the garlic and stir briefly.
  3. Add the tomato puree, water, and broth powder or salt and stir. Reduce heat to find a light simmer, and then cover the pot.
  4. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand 10 minutes without disturbing.
  5. Fluff the rice with a fork, mixing in the peas at the same time.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, December 7th, 2009 in Gluten-Free or modifiable, Recipes, Side Dishes, Vegan or Modifiable.

18 Responses to “Arroz a la Mexicana (aka Arroz Mexicano, Arroz Rojo, Spanish Rice) – Mexican Tomato Rice – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    December 7, 2009 at 9:31 am #

    Very nice, simple recipe. Love anything Mexican, used to visit Mexico every two weeks working on the ships and going to the restaurant while in Cozumel was my priority 😉

  2. Reply
    December 7, 2009 at 2:02 pm #

    I love this rice but never seem to make it at home. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Reply
    December 7, 2009 at 5:26 pm #

    I have no idea why but I was thinking that chili would also be an ingredient….is that possible???

  4. Reply
    December 8, 2009 at 11:42 am #

    This is my secret weapon side dish and it always slays. It’s all about the right moistness. But I’d recommend you add some ground cumin before you add the broth to give it a bit more depth.

    Also, adding ripe sliced bananas on top is an amazing balance of sweet and salty.

  5. Reply
    December 8, 2009 at 2:15 pm #

    I love rice and this is one of my favorite ways to prep it. Sounds great!

  6. Reply
    December 9, 2009 at 4:01 pm #

    i am mexican and german american and my mexican side (pretty white-washed, but good in the food dept.) made this at least once a week. you’ve got it exactly right! unlike gramma, my mom and I like to toast some cominos and add those as well… or like AllEnglandClub, ground cominos.

    for some reason it took me forever to learn how to make this correctly!!!

    another tip, i sometimes use Sazon GOYA Coriander & Annato / Con Culantro Y Achiote seasoning packet instead of the boullion powder (chicken of veg flavor). its different but delicious as well.

  7. Reply
    March 23, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

    Hmm… I wonder if the thickness of tomato puree varies much? I bought Muir Glen and putting a cup in resulted in very, very tomatoey rice.

  8. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    March 23, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

    @leek – hmm… was it much redder than the picture above? I can't say for certain what brand I was using at the time, though it may well have been San Marzanos.

  9. Reply
    March 23, 2010 at 11:27 pm #

    Yes, I think so–and each kernel of rice looked more coated than in the shot above.

    link to

  10. Reply
    April 20, 2010 at 3:35 pm #

    you dont put any salt on it???

  11. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    April 21, 2010 at 8:34 am #

    @alex – Look a little more closely, the recipe calls for salt if your broth is unsalted.


  12. Reply
    July 9, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

    Looks delicious and I especially like the fact that you don’t need chicken broth to make it. Thank you for sharing your recipe with us Michael. 😀

  13. Reply
    January 8, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    Looks AMAZING. Wheres the recipes for the other stuff in the picture???

  14. Reply
    January 27, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    I made this just today and really liked it. I was thinking of wanting it spicier though. I added canned green chilies, but I’d like to ask you if you were making it spicier what would you try to add?

    • Reply
      January 27, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

      I guess if I wanted to make it spicy I’d add some form of dried red chili, like a ancho or guajillo. I’d toast it, seed it, soak in boiling water, puree, and use that puree as part of the cooking liquid.

      • Reply
        January 28, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

        Thanks a bunch for the tip. I’ll have to try it out next time.

  15. Reply
    Sherie Lynn Vela
    August 8, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    I did this recipe and triple it and was delicious! I only used a 6oz can of tomate paste because it was all I had and 1/2 cup of mexican salsa, added cumin and some nutritional flakes and it was soooo tasty!!! Here is a photo of my rice 🙂

    link to

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