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How to Make Authentic Mexican Rice
Prep Time: 10 to 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 to 25 Minutes
Total Time: 30 to 45 Minutes
In every family where one finds a beloved cook, there are always a few recipes that just don’t taste them same anywhere else. In my family, that beloved cook was my Litah, my grandmother Maria Theresa. Gone from this world now for almost thirty years, the food that she used to serve at her table in the days of my earliest youth still make a regular appearance on my dinner table today.
With great thanks to my father, who passed these traditions on down to me, I now present to you this recipe for Mexican Rice that I have never tasted anywhere else outside the tables of my own family. This simple, yet elegant, side dish can be made to come with a subtle spicy edge and is versatile enough to add the perfect contrast flavor to almost any Mexican meal.
Let’s get cooking!
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NOTE: All measurements listed are approximate except for the rice itself and the water. Neither my grandmother, my father nor myself have ever used exact measurements, though I have gone to the trouble of figuring them out here for the purposes of this recipe. As always, spice it to your taste!
- 1 c. Long-Grain White Rice
- 1 Bunch of Green Onions (around ½ cup chopped)
- 1 Large Tomato (around ¾ cup chopped)
- 2 Medium Cloves Fresh Garlic
- 1 ¼ t. Salt
- ¼ t. Menudo Mix (¼ t. makes it fairly mild—I prefer ½ t. to make it spicy) [substitute 1/4 tsp oregano and 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper if not available]
- Dash of Pepper (more if you like it hot)
- Dash of Oil (vegetable or lightly-flavored olive)
- 3 c. Water
- Place 1 c. of long-grain white rice in a medium microwave-safe ceramic bowl: Traditionally, the browning process is done in a pot on the stove, but this takes far longer. The microwave is easier and does not diminish the flavor. NOTE: I have tried this before in plastic dishes and the individual kernels of rice sometimes get hot enough to scar the plastic—be careful!
- Add a dash of oil to the rice and mix it, coating the rice kernels lightly with oil: I prefer to use extra light olive oil, but any vegetable oil will do. Be sure not to use extra virgin olive oil as that will mess up the flavor.
- Microwave the rice uncovered on high for 2 minutes: As always, microwaves vary so adjust as necessary for your kitchen.
- Remove and stir, checking the rice for a light golden-brown color: Browning the rice has a significant effect on the final flavor. The darker the color the stronger the flavor will be. You will find your own preferences, but be careful not to let the rice get too dark as it will then begin to taste burnt.
- If the rice is not sufficiently browned, return it to the microwave and cook on high in 30-second increments, checking the color in between: Rarely do I find the color dark enough in two minutes. I have, however, ended up with burnt rice before when I ran the microwave for 2 minutes and 30 seconds straight away.
- Chop the green onions medium fine: The flavor of the onions spreads throughout the rice during the cooking process, so the dicing size is mostly a matter of preference.
- Dice tomato medium fine: Most of the tomato will dissolve during the cooking process, so, once again, it’s mostly a matter of preference.
- Dice garlic as fine as possible: Fresh garlic always provides the best taste, though jarred minced garlic and even dried garlic can work in a pinch.
- Place browned rice into a medium pot with vegetables
- Add 3 cups of water to the pot: Be careful—if the water goes in shortly after the rice has come out of the microwave, the water will steam as it hits the rice. I’ve been mildly burned a few times.
- Add salt, pepper and Menudo Mix to the mixture: As mentioned earlier, measurements on all of these are not precise. Adjust to your personal preferences as you develop a taste for the dish.
- Mix all the ingredients thoroughly
- Turn oven burner to high and cook uncovered until the water boils
- Turn oven down to medium and let the rice continue to boil uncovered and undisturbed for 20 to 25 minutes: I will often prepare the rice first when making a Mexican meal as I can now spend these 20 to 25 minutes working on other food preparation.
- Check water level and turn the burner off once the water level reaches about ¼ inch from the bottom of the pot: Be sure to watch closely once the water level gets low. Turning it off too early makes the rice soft and watery, turning it off too late will burn it.
- Allow the rice to continue cooking as the burner cools: This will burn away the last of the water without scorching the bottom layer of rice.
- Mix the rice and place it into a serving bowl
This Mexican rice recipe makes a wonderful addition to any Mexican meal simply added on along the side or placed beside a spoonful of refried beans. There are, however, a number of other creative ways to use this recipe that make it even more versatile:
Burrito: Many people love the taste of rice in their burritos; this rice makes an ideal burrito filling.
Quick Lunch: The day after this rice makes its appearance on my family's dinner table, it makes its way to lunch with me the next day. Adding a touch of Mexican spiced ground beef or roast meat with a touch of cheese and salsa makes for a tasty—and quickly prepared—lunch meal.