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Mexican Cilantro Lime Rice

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Better than Chipotle.

You don’t have to know Chipotle’s famous Mexican cilantro lime rice to guess that this recipe tastes really, really good. Fluffy white rice combined with bay leaf, lime, cilantro, and onion makes a fantastic side dish — a little more “dressed up” than plain white rice, but almost as effortless. It’s a Chipotle dupe, done better. 

Mexican cilantro lime rice recipe

All About This Mexican Cilantro Lime Rice Recipe

I used to think there were two types of rice: plain white and plain brown. Within those, you could find short grain, long grain, and the like. But it essentially boiled down to (sorry — pun!) those two basic categories.

But rice can be much more than a plain-Jane scoop of grain. Rice makes an excellent blank canvas for lots of variations. Cooking ingredients into the rice itself makes rice a flavorful dish that stands all on its own.

This easy cilantro rice is a prime example. Onion, bay leaf, lime, and a generous amount of cilantro are all you need to transform plain white rice into a truly tasty side with almost no effort.

Chipotle cilantro rice ingredients

Recipe Notes: Cilantro Lime Rice

  1. Choose the right rice. Any long-grain white rice will do. Long-grain rice generally has less starch than short-grain rice, making it fluffy and light. I like to use basmati rice.
  2. Can I substitute brown rice? Definitely. Just increase the amount of liquid per the package directions.
  3. How do I make this dish? Easy. Cook the rice with the bay leaf, onion, oil, salt, and water. Fold in the lime, zest, and minced cilantro, and eat!

Can I Use the Cilantro Stems?

Yes, please! Cilantro is a soft herb, meaning that the stems are edible. The same is true of parsley. They have the same great flavor as the leaves, so don’t waste them.

How to Store Fresh Cilantro

Have leftover cilantro? You can keep it fresh for about two weeks if it’s stored correctly. Read how to store fresh cilantro and other fresh herbs here.

rice with ingredients

Start to finish, you can have this fresh vegan rice dish on the table in about 20 to 25 minutes. This is a very versatile rice recipe, but pairs especially well with (you guessed it) Mexican food, plus seafood and grilled meat and vegetables.

Love cilantro rice and Mexican food? You’ll also love:

pot of Mexican cilantro rice with lime

pot of Mexican cilantro rice with lime

Mexican Cilantro Lime Rice

Fluffy white rice with lime, cilantro, and onion makes a fantastic side dish: more "dressed up" than plain rice, but almost as effortless. (PS -- This Chipotle cilantro rice dupe is better than the original!)
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Course: dinner
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Keywords:: cilantro, easy, healthy, rice, side dish, vegan, vegetarian, whole grain
Servings: 6 people as a side dish


  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice, such as basmati
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/4 cups cold water (or whatever your rice package directions say)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • 2/3 cup cilantro, leaves and stems, finely chopped, plus more to garnish
  • Sliced jalapeño pepper to serve (optional)


  • Rinse the rice under cold water to release some of the excess starch.
  • Heat a medium sauce pot over medium heat. Add the oil. When the oil is warm, add the diced onion, rinsed rice, and bay leaf. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring, until the onion starts to turn translucent.
    TIP: You don't want to add the garlic at this stage because it risks burning while the onion cooks.
  • Add the water, salt, and garlic. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook, covered, until the water is fully absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  • Remove the lid. Fluff the rice with a fork. Remove the bay leaf. Stir in the lime juice, zest, and cilantro. Taste for seasoning. Serve hot with sliced jalapeño pepper and a few stems of cilantro as a garnish, if desired.


  • Delorise

    5 stars
    This recipe is so delicious! The flavors comes together which makes it a delicious light tasting recipe. Goes very well with my teriyaki tilapia with caramelized onions and sweet peppers recipe!

    • Unpeeled

      So glad you liked it! It’s always good to have a way to “jazz up” rice a bit. It makes such a difference.

  • 5 stars
    Hi! Your recipes sound & look DE-lish!! A friendly note for this Mexican Cilantro Lime Rice recipe: It says to add the garlic in Step 2 AND in Step 3.
    I’m guessing the garlic only should be added in Step 2. Always sending best wishes & Thank you.

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Margie! Oh goodness–thank you for catching this! That’s what happens when I have to be my own editor. I’ll correct this right away. Thank you.

  • 5 stars
    An easy and tasty way to change up my normal rice routine! Will make this again.

  • 5 stars
    We enjoyed this for dinner last night and it turned out deliciously. I think this is a good recipe for “spicing up” what I would otherwise just serve as plain white rice.

  • 5 stars
    Excellent! Perfect for summer!!

  • 5 stars
    Tastes fantastic. Does not overpower the “main” course but definitely is good enough to stand on its own. Pretty colors as well.

  • 5 stars
    I know the recipe says this is like Chipotle, but I thought it was even better. Very fresh and flavorful.

4.91 from 11 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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