A Mexican rice recipe everyone loves, better with brown rice.
Often relegated to the scoop of semi-forgotten, obligatory add-on to most Mexican meals (at least in American Mexican restaurants), a well-made homemade Mexican rice is flavorful, colorful, and all-around great. This easy Mexican (or Spanish) rice recipe checks all the boxes — with extra nutrition from brown rice.
Why Is Mexican Rice Also Called Spanish Rice?
The short answer is that no one is completely certain why Mexican rice also gets called Spanish rice. We do know, however, that the Spanish first brought rice to Mexico in the 1500s, when they began conquering and settling the territory.
Another explanation for the interchangeable name lies simply in the fact that Spanish is the predominant language in Mexico. Hence the name Spanish rice. Mexican rice recipes evolved to include ingredients native to South and Central America, such as tomatoes and peppers.
Restaurant-Style Mexican (Spanish) Brown Rice: Recipe Notes
Whether you call it Mexican or Spanish rice, this healthy brown rice recipe yields fluffy rice with a bright orange color and mild chili flavor.
This is a fairly straightforward, one-pot recipe. Cooking the onions and peppers first softens them and starts to “bloom” the flavor into the rice. The rest is just a matter of regular steamed rice with some bonus ingredients stirred in. Below are some more notes.
Can I Substitute White Rice Instead? (And Other Variations)
- Swapping the rice: Most Spanish rice recipes use white rice. This recipe calls for brown rice to make it heartier and more nutritious. You can easily substitute white rice. Just be sure to adjust the proportion of liquid.
- Whatever rice you choose, make it a long-grain rice and not a starchier short-grain variety.
- Make this a vegan Mexican rice. To make this vegan, swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth or water.
- Top with scallions and cilantro for a pop of color, and you have a fabulous, festive side dish that finally gets the attention it deserves.
Pair your Mexican Brown Rice with these other great dishes:
Restaurant-Style Mexican Brown Rice (Spanish Rice)
- 3 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
- 1/2 green or red bell pepper, diced small
- 1 1/2 cups long-grain brown rice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
- 2 teaspoons mild chili powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste (I sometimes do up to 2 teaspoons)
- 2 1/2 cups no-sodium chicken broth, water, or both
- Heat the oil over in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. Add the rice, onion, and bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are slightly tender and the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic, drained diced tomatoes, salt, chili powder, and broth. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook, covered, until fluffy, about 45 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Taste for seasoning and serve hot. PRO TIP: Feel free to substitute white rice instead of brown. This will cook faster and is more "restaurant style." Just make sure you adjust the ratio of liquid according to the package directions, as well as the cooking time. You may also want to rinse the white rice several times to remove excess starch.