Happy holidays! I’m tremendously thankful for you all. Thank you for being patient with me on this rice recipe that I promised you last week. I made this rice about six times as I was packing up all of my stuff. Want to guess how many jars of coconut oil I’ve found after unpacking in a larger kitchen with ample cabinet space?
Seven. Seven jars of coconut oil. Seems excessive to me, does it seem excessive to you? I’m stocked for a while.
I’m excited to finally share this healthier Mexican rice recipe with you. To tell you the truth, I rarely get excited about Mexican rice when I’m eating out. It tends to be a little mushy and a little bland. Since they make it with white rice, eating that rice is a sure-fire way for me to feel cranky-hungry a few hours later. I often just ask for more beans instead.
So, a Mexican rice recipe wasn’t on my radar to make until Mallika emailed to request it a few months ago. Here it is, Mallika! Mine calls for long-grain brown rice, which is first rinsed to remove starches that can make rice clumpy, and then lightly toasted in oil for extra flavor and separation.
Then, you just bring the rice to a boil with rich, tomato-y broth (you can use ripe tomatoes or canned) and bake it in the oven for perfectly fluffy Mexican rice with amazing flavor. I adapted this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, and found that I could decrease the amount of oil used and increase the oven temperature to speed up the cooking process.
It’s still not necessarily a quick recipe, but it’s easy to make and totally worth the effort. Most of the cooking time is passive, too. If you have the room for it, I think you could bake the rice and a casserole on the same rack simultaneously. Please let me know how you like it!
- 2 medium ripe tomatoes, or 1 small can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 small yellow onion, root end trimmed and quartered
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups long-grain brown rice, rinsed well
- 1 medium jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped (scale back or omit if sensitive to spice)
- 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- Red pepper flakes, optional, for extra heat
- 1 lime, sliced into wedges, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a food processor or blender, combine the tomatoes, onion and garlic, and blend until smooth. In a liquid measuring cup, measure out 2 cups of the tomato mixture and discard the rest.
- Warm the olive oil in a medium Dutch oven* over medium heat until shimmering. Add the rice and jalapeño and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes.
- Add the vegetable broth (watch out for splatters), tomato mixture, tomato paste (add a little extra if you're using fresh tomatoes that aren't super flavorful), and salt. Stir to combine, then increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Cover the pot with the lid and carefully transfer it to the oven. Bake until the liquid is absorbed (the rice will look dry when you take off the lid, but don't worry) and the rice is tender, about 60 to 75 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking.
- Stir in the cilantro and season to taste with additional salt, if necessary (I often add another 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon). If you'd like spicier rice, add a pinch of red pepper flakes and stir again. Serve with lime wedges on the side.
*Equipment notes: I used a medium Dutch oven for this recipe, which worked great. America's Test Kitchen suggests that a large, straight-sided sauté pan or 12" oven-safe pot will work; you'll need an oven-safe, snug-fitting lid for either one.
Rice substitutions: I think you could use medium-grain brown rice here without any changes. If you want to use white rice, reduce the oven temperature to 350, reduce the broth to 2 cups, and reduce the baking time to 30 to 35 minutes.
Shortcut: You can replace the blended tomato/onion/garlic mixture with 2 cups mild red salsa (opt for regular salsa, as opposed to thick and chunky). When I use this trick, I reduce the amount of salt added to the pot by half and then add more to taste at the end, since salsas are already pretty salty.
Protein booster: After the rice is done cooking, you can stir in one or two cans of rinsed and well-drained black beans (or up to 3 cups drained home-cooked black beans).
Slow cooker note: I tried making this rice in a slow cooker (about 4 hours on high), and it didn't turn out nearly as well (really mushy).
Freeze the leftovers: Laurie says she freezes her leftovers in a large freezer bag (be sure to let it cool completely before bagging). When she wants more, she breaks off a piece or two, heats it slowly and it’s good to go.
Serving suggestions: This rice is great with my roasted veggie enchilada casserole, and would go well with my other Mexican entrées.
Recipe update 12/9: There's nothing worse than sharing a recipe that has worked successfully several times, only to have it start acting up on you! I (and several commenters) encountered rice stayed crunchy/al dente no matter how long we cooked it. I've reduced the amount of time that the rice cooks in oil before adding liquid and I think it helps. I also upped the baking time range from 45 to 60 minutes to 60 to 75, but I'm going to try baking this rice at higher temperature to see if I can reduce that time (I suspect my old oven was running hot when the rice cooked for me in 45 minutes a few times). Sorry to anyone who ended up with too-firm rice!