Restaurant style Mexican rice has been an ongoing struggle for me.
I loooove ordering it at restaurants, but every time I’ve tried to make it at home, it completely flops.
Instead of the delicious, fluffy, salty, chewy rice of my dreams, I get a gloppy, sticky, overly tomato-y mess. More like sticky Spanish rice… Which I love, but not as a side to fajitas or enchiladas!
What was I doing wrong???
Well, as it turns out, pretty much everything.
- I didn’t rinse my rice. Although I was already choosing the right type of rice (long grain white rice), I missed the all important step of rinsing it. Rice naturally has a powdery coating of starch on each grain, which dissolves into the cooking liquid, thickening it and creating a stickier batch of rice. If you rinse the rice before cooking, you wash away the starchy coating, and the rice grains don’t stick together as much while cooking. It makes it easier to get that fluffy texture you’re looking for.
- I skipped the saute. THIS is probably the number one tip. By sauteing the rinsed rice in a generous amount of oil, each grain develops a golden crust. This crust keeps each grain intact and gives the cooked rice a chewy, toothsome feel. Browning the rice is the secret to rice with plump, distinct grains, instead of a mushy pot with globs of rice.
- I forgot about the fresh mix-ins. Even if you follow all the steps, rinse the rice, saute the grains until golden, add delicious spices, and cook it in a flavorful broth…. Mexican rice just isn’t complete without a few extra mix-ins. Fresh lime juice and cilantro give the rice a fresh zing, and deepen the layers of flavor. Without the fresh ingredients, the rice can feel a little one-note. Don’t skip the fresh stuff!
These, my friends, are the secrets to amazing restaurant-style mexican rice.
And guess what? I raise you one.
I made it in a rice cooker!
Yep, that means that once you’ve toasted the rice & pureed your tomato/onion/garlic mixture, you combine everything in the rice cooker & set it and forget it. Leaving you tons of time to finish the rest of dinner, and you never have to worry about burnt rice.
Enjoy this one. It’s a keeper!
- 2 cups roughly chopped fresh tomatoes, about 1 inch pieces
- 1 cup roughly chopped yellow onion
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 cups long grain white rice
- 1/4 cup high-heat safe oil, like grapeseed oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
- Juice of 2 limes
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Place the tomatoes, onion, and garlic cloves in a blender and process until smooth. Set aside.
Put the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse with cool water under the faucet until the water runs clear. Shake dry and set aside.
Pour the oil into a large nonstick skillet and warm over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the rice and cook, stirring often, until the rice turns a light golden brown. When the rice is golden, add the cumin, coriander, salt, and tomato paste to the pan. Stir with a spatula to combine, and cook for just 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the spices are fragrant.
Use the spatula to remove the rice from the pan to and transfer it to a rice cooker. Pour in 1 1/2 cups of the tomato mixture from the blender and 2 cups of chicken broth. Stir to combine, close the rice cooker, and cook on the white rice setting until done.
When the rice is done cooking, remove from the rice cooker and transfer to a large bowl. Fluff with a fork and stir in the minced cilantro and fresh lime juice. Add more salt and pepper to taste and enjoy.