A Mexican side dish recipe everyone loves.
Is it just me, or could you eat a big bowl of Mexican rice as a meal? Often relegated to the scoop of semi-forgotten, obligatory add-on to most Mexican meals (at least in American Mexican restaurants), a well-made Mexican rice is flavorful, colorful, and all-around great. This easy Mexican (Spanish) rice recipe checks all the boxes — with extra nutrition from brown rice.
Food History: 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 or Spanish Brown Rice: Recipe Notes
Whether you call it Mexican or Spanish rice, this recipe yields fluffy rice with a bright orange color and mild chili flavor. Most recipes use white rice. This Mexican rice recipe calls for brown rice because I find it heartier and more nutritious. But you can easily substitute white rice. Just be sure to adjust the proportion of liquid.
Chicken broth is the most common liquid for cooking Mexican brown rice, but feel free to substitute water for a simpler, vegan variation that tastes just as good. 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: Chicken & Black Bean Enchilladas and Homemade Pico de Gallo
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 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.