This simple arroz rojo or Mexican red rice is a simple and flavorful side dish to serve alongside your favorite Mexican dishes like these vegan cauliflower tacos or lentil tacos. This vegan and gluten-free recipe has all the authentic ingredients and tons of flavor!
We are crazy about Mexican food around my house (also called Spanish Rice or Arroz Rojo). When I’m running low on inspiration on what to make for dinner, I know tacos will make everyone happy!
Our favorite take-out Mexican restaurant makes the most amazing arroz rojo, or Mexican red rice.
When I told my kids we were having tacos for dinner, they lit up. When they realized we weren’t getting taco take-out, their faces fell.
Why? Because they love the arroz rojo from the take-out restaurant! This Mexican red rice is SO good! So I can’t really blame them for the disappointment.
The kids love it! They would be happy with a large side of red rice and black beans every single day.
I never attempted to make it at home, but with the enthusiasm in which my family devours it, I thought it was about time I give it a try!
This recipe for arroz rojo has a few modifications to make it whole food plant-based.
Most recipes call for toasting the rice in oil. Since I wanted to make this an oil free version, I skipped this step, instead sautéing the garlic and carrots in vegetable broth.
Traditional recipes also call for long grain white rice. This version uses brown rice for added fiber.
Arroz rojo recipes always call for peas and carrots. This recipe is not any different! I love the addition of the vegetables in this rice dish, as it gives it a nice texture!
Of course, if you’re making this recipe at home, and don’t have brown rice, long grain white rice (arroz blanco) is just fine and more authentic!
Why you’ll love this Arroz Rojo recipe…
- Simple technique
- Add to your easy recipes
- Fresh Ingredients
- Super flavorful
- Adjust the spice level to suit your taste
- Kid friendly
- A versatile rice dish to serve with all your favorite Mexican recipes
Recipe Ingredients and Notes
Garlic: You will need 2 cloves of garlic minced. I recommend using a garlic press to quickly and easily mince the garlic. The vegetable broth is used in place of oil.
Large Carrot: Peel and chop one large carrot into small cubes.
Fire Roasted Tomatoes: You will need about half of a 15 ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes, or about 1 cup. Do not drain the liquid from the tomatoes. Alternatively, if you want to save time, use a 15 oz can of tomato sauce.
Brown Rice: This recipe calls for brown rice instead of long grain white rice to increase the fiber and make this recipe whole food plant-based compliant. However, if you prefer a more traditional recipe, then opt for the long grain white rice.
Vegetable Broth: Traditional recipes call for chicken broth, or bouillon cubes. But to make this recipe vegan all you need to do is substitute vegetable broth. I recommend a low-sodium broth to keep this recipe heart healthy!
Jalapeño Pepper: For added spice and flavor, the jalapeño pepper is seeded, sliced, and cooked with the rice. You can remove the pepper slices before serving. This adds a subtle spice and flavor that isn’t overwhelming. Even my kids who don’t like spicy food, don’t mind it!
Frozen Peas: Add the frozen peas at the very last minute. The heat from the rice will defrost the peas. If you add them too soon they will turn a brownish green color.
Cilantro: Finely chop and sprinkle over top the rice as a garnish.
What is the best rice to use?
The most traditional rice to use is long grain white rice. Long grain white rice is fluffy and separates after cooking. It is thin and long. It is not a sticky rice, and for this recipe you want a fluffy rice that will absorb all the flavors.
Long grain white rice includes Jasmine rice, Basmati rice, and American long-grain rice.
You can also get long grain brown rice, which is a great option for this recipe.
Tools and Equipment
Medium Sized Pot with Lid: A medium size pot with a lid is just the right size for the amount of ingredients you have. Make sure you have a deep pot that will allow your rice enough room to expand. You want a pot that isn’t too big or too small. In order for the rice to cook evenly you want it to have enough room to simmer.
Garlic Press: A garlic press is not a necessity, but it does make mincing garlic quick and easy!
How to Make Arroz Rojo – Step by Step
Step 1: Add tbsp of vegetable broth to a medium sized pot. Add minced garlic. Sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add chopped carrots and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.
Step 2: Place fire roasted tomatoes into a food processor. Blend until a smooth puree forms.
Step 3: Add the rice, vegetable broth, and tomato puree to the pot with the garlic and carrots. Add the slices of jalapeño. Bring the water and rice to a boil on medium-high heat. Reduce to medium heat, cover, and cook for 35-45 minutes.
Step 4: Taste the rice to see if it is cooked. Add a bit more water or broth if needed.
Step 5: After rice is cooked stir in the frozen peas.
Step 6: Serve topped with fresh cilantro.
- Do not stir the rice while it’s cooking. I know it’s tempting! But keep the lid on and allow the rice and liquid to do it’s job! If you stir the rice too soon, you allow the steam to escape. Over stirring can also cause the rice to stick together, and fall apart. You want your rice to be nice and fluffy!
- Use a fork to fluff the rice when it’s ready. This will prevent your rice from becoming mushy.
- Since this recipe calls for low-sodium vegetable broth, taste the broth to be sure it is nicely seasoned. If you think it needs a bit more flavor, add a touch more salt to taste.
If you’re using rice that has been previously opened, I recommend sorting your rice before adding it to the pot.
Why? Opened rice can sometimes have small bugs that look like worms. I rarely if ever find any, but who wants to take that risk?
Simply measure the amount of rice you need to use. Pour it out onto a large white plate and carefully sift through it to see if any small black worm like bugs appear.
The best way to avoid bugs appearing in your rice is to store it properly.
I prefer to store my rice in an air tight canister. It makes it easy to keep it fresh, and scoop the amount you need when you’re ready to prepare.
While it isn’t necessary to wash rice there are a few benefits.
Washing your rice will remove any extra debris. It’s the first step to removing anything that could have been added during processing.
Another benefit, and perhaps the most important reason, is that rinsing your rice removes the extra starch attached to the grains.
Removing this extra starch will help you to create light and fluffy rice that doesn’t stick together.
While this recipe does not call for toasting your rice, some recipes do. Toasting rice, allows you to enhance the flavor. It gives the rice a nutty flavor.
Toasting rice also helps to remove the extra starches. So, if you don’t rinse your rice, toasting it is another method to help you achieve a light fluffy texture.
What ratio of rice to water should you use for arroz rojo?
Depending on the type of rice you are using, the water to rice ratio is slightly different.
A typical rule of thumb is to use a 1:2 ratio. That is 1 cup of rice, to 2 cups of water/broth.
However, not all rice needs a 1:2 ratio. My recommendation is to always follow the instructions on the back of the rice you purchase.
However, if you’re purchasing your rice in bulk, you may not have the back of a package to refer to.
In general this is my recommendation for the different types of rice you may be using for this recipe. This recipe ratio for this recipe is based on using long grain brown rice.
Short Grain White Rice: 1:1
Medium Grain White Rice: 1:1 1/4
Long Grain Rice: 1:1 1/4
Jasmine Rice: 1: 1 3/4
How to Store and Keep
Store: Allow the rice to cool completely before storing in an air tight container in the refrigerator.
Keep: The rice will keep for up to 4 days.
Reheat: When ready to reheat, transfer to a microwave safe container. I usually use the glass storage container the rice is already in. Then add a tablespoon or two of water, cover and heat in the microwave until warmed.
Variations and Substitutions
Add More Spices: Feel free to add more spices to amp up the flavor! I like adding in a 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, or chili powder.
More Fresh Ingredients: Add diced red onions on top, fresh chopped tomatoes, or diced bell peppers.
How to Serve
Serve this red rice with all of your favorite Mexican recipes. I particularly enjoy serving with a side of black beans, pickled vegetables, and tofu fajitas with bell peppers!
I also suggest serving with your favorite refried beans
Check out these other healthy vegan side dishes!
- Bulgar Pilaf
- Air Fryer Baked Sweet Potato
- Air Fryer Baked Potato
- Cinnamon Butternut Squash
- Vegan Corn Casserole
Recipe inspired by Rick Bayless
Arroz Rojo (Mexican Red Rice)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup diced fire roasted tomatoes about half of a 15 oz can
- 1 1/2 cups brown rice
- 1 3/4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 jalapeño stemmed, seeded, and cut into strips
- 1 carrot peeled and chopped into small cubes
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 1/4 cup cilantro chapped for garnish
- Add 2 tbsp of vegetable broth to a medium sized pot. Add minced garlic. Sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add chopped carrots and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.
- Place fire roasted tomatoes into a food processor. Blend until a smooth puree forms
- Add the rice, vegetable broth, and tomato puree to the pot with the garlic and carrots. Add the slices of jalapeño.
- Bring the water and rice to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook for 35-45 minutes.
- Taste the rice to see if it is cooked. Add a bit more water or broth if needed.
- After rice is cooked stir in the frozen peas.7. Serve topped with fresh cilantro.