Fluffy, beautifully seasoned Mexican Red Rice! With a whisper of coriander / cilantro fragrance and delicate tomato flavour, this Mexican staple is so tasty you can eat it plain. Never be disappointed by gluggy, mushy, bland Mexican Red Rice again!
2 years ago today, I was in Oaxaca, arguably the food capital of Mexico and an ideal place to watch the festivities of Day of the Dead, an annual multi-day holiday during which family and friends gather to pray and celebrate the life of those who have passed. It’s colourful, it’s joyous, there’s a seemingly endless stream of parades that weave through the streets. It’s a bustle of energy, cemeteries come alive with parties once the sun sets, the town squares are packed with stalls and restaurants serve special festive foods.
It was epic. It was so unexpected. If you know nothing about it, it would be easy to assume that Day of the Dead is macabre or sad. It’s the complete opposite. It’s like a big party – albeit serious undertones because the true purpose of Day of the Dead is for families and friends to pray and support the spiritual journey of those who are no longer with us.
Oaxaca. That’s my tip for where to go to join the Day of the Dead festivities (and the food, the food, the fooooood is sooooo good!!!!). Don’t just watch. Get into the action!
Maybe one day I will make you a real-deal Mexican mole with 100 secret herbs and spices – now that would be a dish worthy of Day of the Dead! For today, I’m keeping it easy and sharing an essential Mexican staple – Arroz Rojo, Mexican Red Rice. 🙂
A good Mexican red rice should be fluffy and tasty enough to eat plain. Honestly, try some straight out of the pot and tell me if you agree.
But to be sensible and round out a meal, I like to use it on a loaded Mexican plate of goodness, just like what you get at Mexican restaurants (particularly in the States). Like piling on Pork Carnitas, steamed corn, and a Pico de Gallo. Few wedges of lime, sprinkle of fresh coriander / cilantro and dig in.
Or use it to stuff into Burritos. Now, I must confess in the burritos pictured below, I just used plain rice! The beef in these burritos stained the rice red. 🙂 (PS These are freezer friendly, they are brilliant standby meals).
If you’ve ever been disappointed by a Mexican Red Rice recipe before, chances are that the liquid to rice ratio was off (anything more than 2 cups = soggy, mushy rice), it lacked seasoning because it wasn’t cooked in broth or it used too much tomato paste / puree which makes the liquid too thick so the rice doesn’t cook evenly = soggy gluggy mess.
It’s not hard. It’s just about getting the ratios right.
Real deal Arroz Rojo is made with pureed fresh tomatoes, sometimes with tomato bouillon cube (I haven’t seen that here). One day I’ll share that with you, but it does require super ripe, intensely tomatoey tomatoes to have the same effect as using a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste. Truly great tomatoes are hard to come by here in Sydney. Tomato paste is far easier – and it does the job great. 🙂
Is it weird that I’m sharing a recipe in honour of Day of the Dead but blew right past Halloween?? I’m not really the spooky cakes sort of gal. But Mexican food is all me!! – Nagi x
PS We did loads of foodie research before the Mexico trip, do you want a Mexico foodie map? We visited: Mexico City, Oaxaca and Playa del Carmen.
Fluffy, beautifully seasoned Mexican Red Rice (Arroz Rojo). With a whisper of coriander / cilantro flavour, this is tasty enough to eat plain. The key to fluffy rice is the right water to rice ratio, and don't use too much tomato paste otherwise the liquid gets too thick = gluggy rice. Makes just over 3 cups, once fluffed. Scale up recipe by using slider on Servings. See AUTHENTICITY note below. Recipe VIDEO below.
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves , minced
- 1/2 small white onion , finely chopped
- 1 cup white rice , long grain, uncooked (Note 1)
- 1 3/4 cups / 435 ml chicken or vegetable broth (Note 2)
- 2 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 serrano or jalapeno pepper , whole (optional)
- 1 sprig coriander / cilantro
- Finely chopped coriander / cilantro leaves
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, stir briefly, then add onion. Cook for 4 - 5 minutes until translucent (not browned / golden).
Add rice, broth, salt and tomato paste. Stir until tomato paste is dissolved.
Plonk in jalapeno and coriander. Cover, bring to simmer, then lower heat to low so the water is simmering gently.
Cook for 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed (tilt pot to check).
Remove from heat, leave lid on and rest for 10 minutes (KEY STEP). The residual liquid on the surface of the rice will get absorbed and rice will go from sticky to fluffy.
Fluff with fork then serve! (Optional: garnish with extra coriander)
1. RICE: Long grain rice will give you the fluffiest rice. Jasmine and basmati rice will produce similar fluffiness but will have a different fragrance because of the rice flavour. Medium grain will also be pretty fluffy. Short grain will be a bit sticky, but not gluggy, still very good. Risotto and paella rice are not suitable for this. For brown rice, cook for 35 - 40 minutes on low.
2. BROTH: You can also use water plus 1 bouillon cube, crumbled (vegetable or chicken is best). To reduce overall sodium, use low sodium broth and skip the salt.
3. AUTHENTICITY: As with all traditional dishes, there are many ways Arroz Rojo is made in Mexico the authentic way. Typically, the common ingredient that I do not use is to puree really ripe, fresh tomatoes and often you see it made with tomato bouillon cubes rather than liquid stock which I don't see here in Australia. Truly great, intensely tomatoey tomatoes are not easy to come by for normal folks like myself. And while there are versions made with tomato puree (i.e. pureed tomato, thinner than tomato paste), I find that tomato paste works better to colour and flavour the broth while keeping it really thin and thus allowing for the rice to cook really evenly and come out fluffy. Also the slight acidity of tomato paste is a great touch of freshness.
So this version Arroz Rojo is one that is doable for normal folk like myself that yields a rice that looks and tastes like the real deal - and it's easier too, no pureeing tomatoes! 🙂
4. This recipe replaced an old recipe I published years ago called Mexican "Fried Rice" made by frying cooked rice with enchilada sauce, spice flavourings, beans and corns. I didn't think anyone was using that recipe but I've had a couple of requests for it, so here it is!
5. Nutrition per serving, assuming 4 servings.
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
LIFE OF DOZER
This is Geoff, the homeless man who I take hot meals to who you’ve been hearing about for years. His car is his home, and he has special permission from the Council to stay at the dog park. He tells the worst jokes (😂), he seems to know everyone – and their dogs – by name and we always joke that he has the best backyard in the northern beaches: barrel gun views over the beautiful Pittwater waterway.
He’s a valuable member of our community, and looks after the dog park so well for us. Bayview would not be the same without him and his little companion, Cleo.
And there’s Dozer. Shame on you. Shame on you.