Arroz Rojo (Red Rice)

Arroz Rojo (Red Rice)
An essential side dish found on plates throughout Mexico, this red rice can accompany almost any meal. (Courtesy of Mely Martinez)

Arroz Rojo (Red Rice)

Red rice is prepared almost every day in some Mexican homes. An essential side dish found on plates throughout the country, this red rice can accompany almost any meal. In my home, we sometimes like to enjoy a small bowl of red rice topped with slices of avocados or a fried egg.

Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 35 minutes

Serves 6
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or lard
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped white onion
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and diced (optional)
  • 1/3 cup green peas (if canned, drain, and if frozen, thaw) (optional)
  • 1 sprig fresh cilantro (optional)
  • 1 serrano pepper (optional)
  • Salt, to taste
Place the rice in a large heatproof bowl and add enough hot water to cover the rice. Stir once, then let stand for 15 minutes. Drain the rice in a strainer, then rinse it under cold water until the water runs clear. Shake the strainer well to remove any excess water, as the rice needs to be as dry as possible. Set aside to continue drying.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or cazuela over medium-high heat, then add the rice. It should sizzle as it touches the oil. Fry until it starts to acquire a light golden-brown color, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure that the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan. When it’s done, carefully tip the pan to one side and use a spoon to remove the excess oil.

While the rice is cooking, place the tomatoes, onion, and garlic into a blender, and blend until smooth. Pour the tomato mixture into the rice using a strainer and stir. Continue cooking over medium high heat until all the liquid has been absorbed, stirring to make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, any of the optional vegetables, and the salt, and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, cover the pan and cook over low heat until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice and vegetables are cooked, about 15 minutes.

Once you cover the rice, it is important not to stir or touch it until it is cooked; otherwise, it will become mushy. Check the rice to see if there is any moisture remaining (you might have to use a fork to check the bottom of the rice). If there is still some moisture, continue cooking over low heat for a few more minutes, still covered, until tender.

Once the rice is cooked, remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes to let the rice continue steaming. Using a fork, lightly fluff the rice before serving.


Long-grain rice works best, as it renders a fluffy and moist end result. It has less starch content, so the grains of the cooked rice will not stick together, provided you rinse them well before cooking.

Some people only rinse the rice. However, I’ve found that when you soak it, the grains are more tender and fluffier.

Recipe reprinted with permission from “The Mexican Home Kitchen: Traditional Home-Style Recipes That Capture the Flavors and Memories of Mexico” by Mely Martínez. Text and photography copyright 2020 by Mely Martínez. First published in 2020 by Rock Point, an imprint of The Quarto Group.
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