Fluffy Mexican Rice — Restaurant-Style!

Holy bejeezus, I’ve figured out the holy grail of RICE, dudes. I don’t know where you come from, but where I come from, Mexican (and Tex-Mex) restaurants have the BEST rice in the world. I can only call it “Fluffy Mexican Rice”. It’s almost like Minute Rice with as fluffy and crumbly and soft as it is, but the grains still remain separate and it’s thick with garlic and onion and chickeny goodness. And lots of chicken fat or lard, probably – I can taste it in there.

So, yes, this rice is way more calorically dense than plain rice, but it’s also way way way more delicious.

Mexican Rice Recipe

And I know this is not what any self-respecting Mexican would call rice, but I’ve already covered that base. Round these parts (Texas) the true Mexican rice (sauteed dry, then cooked in stock) is often called Spanish rice. The restaurants serve this kind of rice, for whatever reason.


Fluffy Mexican-Restaurant-Style Rice

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

4.6 from 27 reviews

  • Yield: 4-6 1x


  • 1 cup dry long grain white rice
  • 1 tablespoon butter or oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups rich chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper


  1. Put the rice in a sieve, and put the sieve in a bowl of enough water to completely cover the rice. Let soak for 15 minutes then drain.
  2. Saute over medium heat the onion, celery, garlic and bay.
  3. Add the rice and stir.
  4. Add the tomato paste and stir until the rice is coated with tomato paste and begins to look toasted – about a minute.
  5. Add the chicken broth and salt and pepper.
  6. Cover.
  7. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer.
  8. Simmer 10 minutes and remove from heat but leave the lid on for another 5-15 minutes before serving.
  9. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Did you make this recipe?

Share a photo and tag us — we can't wait to see what you've made!



  1. Mother Effingby on June 7, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Ah, it’s a real staple in our house! We love Caribbean rice. Rice with black beans, with pigeon peas, with corn, with all manner of yummage. Try cooking with Goya’s sofrito or with achiote! I use just a spoonful of coconut oil, toss in some mango salsa, maybe cook it in unsweetened coconut milk, and boy howdy! You got every delicious violation of the health codes on your plate, ma’am!

    • Hilah on June 8, 2012 at 10:55 am

      Ooh, yum! That sounds great! It’s been a long time since I’ve had pigeon peas. Do you find them dried or canned? I think I’ve only ever seen them canned here. I love the coconut milk idea.

      • Mother Effingby on June 8, 2012 at 2:37 pm

        The best way to get them, because they take a long time to cook, is to buy them frozen if you can. But you can buy them canned or dried as well. We have a large Puerto Rican community, and pigeon peas and rice with roasted adobo pork is a Christmas tradition in many families. If you can buy recaito (a cilantro/lime/green pepper/garlic paste) you can make Arroz verde.
        As for the coconut rice, I just sort of stumbled upon the idea, based on Thai cooking and Caribbean cooking. If you coat the rice (jasmine) in the coconut oil and sort of fry it before adding the coconut milk, it adds even more flavor.
        I use a fresh made mango salsa that can be bought in the produce section of most grocery stores.
        Now, a question: Have you ever had or made Tres Leches cake? If you make it for Freakzone, you can call it Très Lecherous cake…pardon my French.

        • Hilah on June 10, 2012 at 7:10 pm

          Ha! That’s a great idea! I have made Tres Leches cake a couple of times. It’s been on the list for a while, but with that clever name it might actually get made now!

          • LD on September 19, 2019 at 2:07 pm

            Please make this

      • J.Michael on August 23, 2017 at 4:28 pm

        I use frozen pigeon peas. They are much more tastier than canned. You should be able to find them in the frozen food section of most grocery stores in their ethnic food section.

    • Don.E on December 31, 2012 at 7:32 pm

      Have you tried it with Goya azafran ?

      • Hilah on December 31, 2012 at 8:56 pm

        I haven’t. I’m sure it would work, though!

  2. Victor on June 7, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Looks amazingly delicious!! Can I give you one tip though? You can tell me to eff off.
    Instead of soaking the rice, fry it by itself in oil until golden brown. That’s how we Mexicanos do it anyway. That is what insures that the rice kernels remain seperate and fluffy.
    I believe that there is no right or wrong way to cook food if the results are good and yours looks very good indeed. And just as a side note, I love food and I want to die with a spoon in my mouth.

    • Hilah on June 8, 2012 at 10:54 am

      Hi Victor!
      I will NEVER tell you to eff off! 🙂
      I used to do it that way – that’s how my Mexicana friend taught me – but I don’t think that’s how the Tex-Mex places do it. At least, I haven’t ever gotten it super-fluffy with that method. Actually, I kind of suspect some places even use minute rice to get it that texture, but I have a moral issue with minute rice, so this is my fake minute rice.
      Anyway, thanks for sharing your method. I totally agree with your philosophy of no right or wrong, just yummy or not. 😉
      It’s great to hear from you.

      • julia` on February 17, 2014 at 5:33 pm

        I also learned to make the rice by frying first (in bacon grease) then adding the other veggies which usually turns out good. By I will try the soaking rice 1st version to see what happens. Spanish rice has to go with the taco’s, chalupa’s etc… when you live in TX!

        • Hilah on February 18, 2014 at 9:29 am

          Hi Julia!
          Let me know which way you prefer. I learned the way you described, too, but it still just never turns out quite as fluffy as the soaking method. I still use both methods, depending on how much time I have, though. Don’t forget the refried beans! 😉

          • marie on June 6, 2016 at 11:57 am

            I prefer the soaking I have tried both ways and when I fry the rice it always turns out sticky and not fluffy. from now on I will soak the rice. Do you have a recipe for refried beans?

          • Hilah on June 7, 2016 at 7:11 am

            So glad this technique works for you. I love it. Here’s my refried beans recipe https://hilahcooking.com/how-to-make-refried-beans/

          • Rick Melcher on May 14, 2018 at 3:07 pm

            I’ve tried the,”toasting” the rice in oil method. My experiences have turned out sticky. The soaking method THEN toast in oil is “magic”! Then add the veggies and chicken stock. The original recipe I stumbled across required me to finish in a Dutch oven for 30-35 min. TOTALLY amazing!
            If anyone wants the recipe…my email is rmelcher0268@mac.com
            Cheers & good luck!

          • Hilah on May 15, 2018 at 12:40 pm

            Excellent, Rick! 😀

    • Kirsten on September 27, 2014 at 6:56 pm

      Victor how much oil and about how high heat would you fry the rice?

  3. Jeff on June 7, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    That fork pic is the money shot.

    • Hilah on June 8, 2012 at 10:46 am

      Ha! Thank you!

  4. abdellatefelgammal on June 8, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    thank you

  5. GodPluce on June 11, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    I did this with a can of mixed vegetables. Sooo good. Quick and easy.


    • Hilah on June 11, 2012 at 11:19 pm

      Glad you liked it! 🙂

  6. Amber Boegly on June 14, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Not a big fan of Mexican food, but I will agree the rice is amazing. I always wondered how they got it to taste the way it is. Just not sure what to serve with it… Anyway, can’t wait to try it out.

    • GodPluce on June 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm

      I did it with some steaks (thin ones you find, not with bones). I think it’ll go good with most meats.

    • Hilah on June 14, 2012 at 5:56 pm

      It would be great with any meat, or anything with some saucy goodness for it to soak up.

  7. Bill on June 16, 2012 at 11:05 am

    I need the home made chicken stock recipe. Thanks!

    • Sasha on December 22, 2013 at 7:19 pm

      You just boil the bones and skin from a whole chicken for at least 5 hours. I boil mine all day. Then strain it through a sieve or a strainer lined with cheese-cloth.

      • Julia on March 28, 2016 at 9:59 am

        Secret tip for making chicken bone broth- use the carcas from a roasted chicken! About 10-15 minutes before finishing the stock add 2 T of vinegar- it pulls all the good gelatin and minerals from the bones and you won’t taste it at all! I also add a very generous amount of organic chopped parsley at this time. Another trick of mine is to add a quartered sweet potato and a large handful of fresh dill with the simmering bones for flavor and a nutritional punch!

        • Hilah on March 28, 2016 at 7:58 pm

          Love the sweet potato and dill idea, Julia

  8. Jack on June 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    OMG…. you are so beautiful in this vid!!!!! We love you Hilah. Keep up the fantastic work.

    • Hilah on June 21, 2012 at 12:06 pm

      Thanks, Jack! You’re great! 🙂

  9. Johnny Galvan on June 20, 2012 at 11:27 am

    When cooking rice do you brown it at all?

    • Hilah on June 21, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      Hi Johnny!
      I assume you’re talking about just cooking plain rice here and if so, then, no, I don’t brown or toast it first. For just regular plain old rice, combine a cup of rice with two cups of water and a pinch of salt in a saucepot and cover with a tight lid. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to simmer and cook 15 minutes.
      Does that answer your question?

  10. Chris on June 27, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Yei! I’m mexican but I never learnt how to cook rice! :/ I’ll use your tricks today and see if finally I can serve a decent rice haha. Thank you Hilah! Without your recipes I don’t know what I would be eating but I’m sure it wouldn’t be good 😀

    • Hilah on June 28, 2012 at 8:54 am

      I hope it’s exactly what you want it to be, Chris! Thanks for writing. 🙂

      • Anthony on March 4, 2024 at 10:31 pm

        I love mexican rice when it’s made well. I tried twice with no success and definitely think it’s because I didn’t cold water soak. I just tried and success perfect fluffy mexican rice. The ingredients need adjusted to a good strong flavor profile but the process works well.

  11. Ross on July 7, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I’ve been putting together “Spanish Rice” for 40 years… We eat it most weeks..I’ve adopted various ingredients to enhance tastes, etc., but… the texture basically remained the same.. Good but not…well..just the way I wanted it..
    This “soaking the rice” tip has lifted my Spanish Rice approval rating (from family and friends) by leaps and bounds..
    Thank you, Hilah

    • Hilah on July 8, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      Hi Ross! I’m so so happy to hear this helped you in your quest. I was ecstatic when I finally figured out the soaking trick. Really glad to hear other people are as excited as I am about it.

  12. Chris on August 18, 2012 at 10:10 am

    I did it! Yeah! Good stuff! I’m from NM and moved to Missouri (Misery) and really miss New Mexican food. Mil Gracias – 1,000 Thanks!

    • Hilah on August 18, 2012 at 12:43 pm

      That’s great, Chris! I’m glad you share my joy over fluffy rice! 🙂

  13. Marj on August 19, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    This is our new favorite recipe. I added green peppers from the garden and some leftover chicken, yum! Keep up the great tips.

    • Hilah on August 20, 2012 at 7:39 am

      Thank you, Marj! Great idea you had to make it into a full meal with chicken. Glad you enjoyed it!

  14. Linda on January 21, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    Omg, I hadn’t made Mexican rice in so long – I tried this version and it was sooo good! I never would have thought to add a bay leaf to the rice. I might have over-salted it just a little, but the flavor was really good – reminded me of Rice-a-Roni, but better.
    I saw Victor’s comment about frying the rice right off the bat, so I did it that way (my Mexican family does that, too). I didn’t add celery just because I was too lazy to chop it. Also, I was nervous about turning off the heat after 10 minutes, because there was still a lot of liquid and I was afraid the rice wouldn’t cook fully. So I let it simmer for 15 minutes, turned off the heat, and by the time I finished preparing my fajitas, the lid on the rice stayed on for a good 20 minutes. When I lifted the lid, I was nervous about how it looked (the tomato paste gave it a good dark color) – but I fluffed it with a fork and it was delicious 😉

    • Hilah on January 22, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      Thanks, Linda!
      I think the bay leaf really adds a lot, right? I love it. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the recipe (with your own twist, of course!).

  15. Amelia on April 21, 2013 at 5:30 am

    Hi Hilah! I love watching your videos; you’re so entertaining and your food always looks good. I tried making this rice today and even though I used ketchup instead of tomato paste, it still tasted awesome! Thanks for the recipe:)

  16. Todd Mullin on June 28, 2013 at 9:33 am

    THANK YOU!!!!!! I have been searching for this SECRET to fluffy rice for most of my life!!!!!!

    • Hilah on July 1, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      Hope your quest is fulfilled now, Todd! 🙂

  17. Mary on October 11, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Made the Mexican rice last night with my pulled pork tacos. It was great! I love your website. The videos are a big help, since I am a visual learner. Thank you so much!

    • Hilah on October 12, 2013 at 10:04 am

      Yay! Sounds like a fabulous combination, Mary! Thanks for writing.

  18. Greg on March 24, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Rice was really good. Yay! It’s the first time I was able to get Mexican rice to turn out like the restaurant. I substituted diced carrots for celery and added more liquid toward the end. Thanks 🙂

    • Hilah on March 25, 2014 at 9:03 am

      Great to hear, Greg! I bet the carrots added a nice flavor and even more color to the rice.

  19. Mary on July 13, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    This looks wonderful an so easy, i tried making Mexican style rice today and i followed all the instructions but its still kinda mushy an moist, not fluffy:( the only difference my recipe did not use a sieve? do you think that made the difference?

    • Hilah on July 13, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Hi Mary,
      Yes it could have been that the rice wasn’t drained well enough before cooking, leaving too much water.

  20. Jessica on January 12, 2015 at 8:47 am

    I’ve never made rice this way before, but I will definitely be using this technique again! It was the fluffiest rice I’ve ever made, and it was still delicious even though I used water instead of broth.

    • Hilah on January 12, 2015 at 9:49 am

      Great! It’s a little bit of a pain in the ass, but the fluffiness is worth it. 🙂

  21. Sarah on May 11, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    Made this tonight and I loved it! I’m also really bad at making rice for some reason, it never comes out just right, but this time it did!

  22. Charles on October 13, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    I’ve been trying to figure this rice out forever. Did this recipe and NAILED it. Thanks!!!

  23. Jennifer on November 16, 2015 at 10:34 am

    I just got done making this recipe!! 🙂 Love it!!! Have to add a little more salt next time because I was afraid of getting it too salty… I did make one addition to it tho! I added a half teaspoon of ground cumin (a friend of mine swore by it!!) and it was great!!! 🙂 Love the FLUFF of it!!! Amazing! Just like our local Mexican restaurant!! Thanks!!! 🙂

    • Hilah on November 19, 2015 at 7:17 am

      Yay! Thanks for writing, Jennifer!

  24. Lauren on November 30, 2015 at 8:27 am

    Just curious, have you tried this recipe in a rice cooker? I think I’m going to attempt this tonight exactly as is but in my rice cooker. Hope it works 🙂

    • Hilah on November 30, 2015 at 5:24 pm

      I haven’t, Lauren, but let me know if it works!

    • Wanda on February 10, 2016 at 4:39 pm

      Most rice cookers make the rice mushy not fluffy like it should be…. Skillet method make the rice fantastic and fluffy. I also cut my tomato sauce by 1/2 just make up difference with chicken broth.

  25. Josh on December 18, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    This recipe is HORRIBLE. Doesn’t taste ANYTHING like Tex-Mex rice from a restaurant. Not even close!! I followed the instructions exactly and it’s simply not good. I can get much better rice from the local El Mariachi down the street and save money, time, and cleanup. Don’t waste your time. I lived in Texas for 10 years and I’ve never come across rice that was anywhere close to this stuff. Just nasty.

    • Hilah on December 19, 2015 at 7:27 am

      Sorry you had such a bad time with it, Josh. Without any more details, though, I really can’t help. Do you still live in Texas? I am from Austin and lived there for 35 years until recently moving to LA. If you’re ever in Austin, stop by La Palapa! They have really good rice that’s very close to this recipe! (Except not “horrible” of course! LOL)
      Have fun at El Mariachi!

  26. mark on February 14, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    I followed the recipe and while it tastes good, it is not fluffy like in the Mexican restaurants. I’ve tried at least five different recipes, each with different methods to get the rice really fluffy (soaking, browning, baking). The secret is very simple, if you want rice truly light and fluffy like you’ll find in the restaurants, use instant rice.

  27. Leonard Manzanares on March 18, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    I am trying out your recipe right now and I am keeling my fingers crossed that it comes out like the one in your video. I live in Santa Fe New Mexico and we love Spanish rice here. You will find it in all different styles, none of which ever use instant rice. There is a place called Rancho de Chimayo that I absolutely love their rice. I wish I could get their secret on how to make it because it is fluffy and flavorful. So the one tweek i did to your recipe is added some Azafran to the broth like a tea and strained it out, I am hoping that this will not only impart more color but perhaps some flavor. I wish I could send you a photo of my results.

    • Hilah on March 19, 2016 at 2:11 pm

      Hey Leonard!
      If you’re on facebook or twitter or instagram, send me a picture there!

  28. Jo on April 18, 2016 at 8:47 am

    Best Spanish rice I’ve ever made! Thank you! I was lazy and didn’t want to wash an extra bowl so I soaked the rice in the pot *after* the sautéing and mixing everything together and it was wonderful! Also I’m a vegetarian so I used vegetable stock.

  29. Tori on May 7, 2016 at 4:23 am

    I made this and it came out perfect! I used my electric pressure cooker and just changed the water to rice ratios. Saving this! Thank you!!

  30. Mlcs on June 4, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Can you use jasmine rice?

    • Hilah on June 6, 2016 at 11:19 am

      I think you could, it will taste different but should work.

  31. Brittni on May 3, 2018 at 8:47 am

    I subbed with a veggie “not chicken” broth, turned out great! Rinsing the rice is the trick. I read it on a few recipes & finally got to Confirm with yours – I was so happy that it turned out fluffy, not sticky. Thank you! And got some good ideas from your comment section too!

    • Hilah on May 4, 2018 at 9:21 am

      I’m glad to hear, Brittni! I love this method of making rice

  32. Matthew on July 31, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    There is no need to soak the rice in water for 15 minutes. Using any strainer, rinse the rice under hot water and squeeze the grain with hand to remove the starch. Removing the exterior starch render the rice not sticking upon cooking. They will cook individual fluff.

    Good day,

  33. DeeAnn on September 3, 2018 at 11:00 am

    When you have children who love Spanish rice you learn not to put yucky stuff in it. Yucky stuff being onions, tomato, celery, garlic, peas, carrots. My go-to, fail proof secret ingredient is Knorr tomato bouillon with chicken flavor, the powdered one, not cubes. My recipe:
    Good ole fashion extra long grain rice.
    Add just enough oil to cover the bottom of your pan, let it get nice & warm. Then add just enough rice to also completely cover the bottom of your pan, no spaces showing.
    After browning, I start with 1 tablespoon of Knorr, 1/2 teaspoon of salt. (Season to your taste & pan size). Here’s what I’ve tried with water, first, use hot water & add enough to where it covers the rice by about 2-3 times over the rice. Bring it to a full rolling boil, stir a few times, not too much & keep a close eye on water level. If it looks like the grains are starting to fluff then turn heat to simmer & wait a full 20 minutes. It may come out a bit moist but that’s better than crunchy. If this still doesn’t work, then I’m convinced rice packers are mixing old & new rice. Happy cooking.

  34. Grant on December 11, 2018 at 11:08 pm

    I seriously had my doubts, it is one of those dishes that is simple, and should be easy but is not. I followed your recipe and have made it several times, it is amazing. Thank you so much!!! I would suggest adding a bit of cumin to make it more authentic, but truly amazing.

  35. Tyler Johnson on March 20, 2019 at 8:04 am

    That looks really good! I’ll have to try that sometime when I feel like cooking. Most of the time I just go to a restaurant, but I might want to try this sometime. I love the rice at my local Mexican restaurant and this looks just like it, so I’ll have to try it sometime.

  36. Ciara on June 22, 2019 at 9:51 am

    Do you drain the oil after frying? Every time I make Mexican rice it comes out soggy?
    What am I doing wrong?

    • Hilah on June 22, 2019 at 10:10 am

      Don’t drain the oil. Have you tried following this recipe exactly? Soggy rice usually means too much water

  37. Jennifer on October 16, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    This is the first time I have mastered rice in general! I use this Cooking method on most of my rice recipes and it comes out flawless!

  38. Rosemary Armstrong on April 2, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    This was very good. Followed your recipe. I did add cumin about 1/2 teaspoon. Been trying for that fluffy rice . Feel like I nailed it. Thank you Hila.

  39. Dan on January 19, 2023 at 4:59 pm

    That was terrible. The rice still came out wet and sticky, but now also crunchy in the middle because it was under cooked. I let it sit the whole 15 minutes.

  40. Nicole on June 5, 2023 at 9:41 pm

    The other day I had rice at a Mexican restaurant and I couldn’t believe how fluffy it was. I think you’re right—they must use minute rice because I can’t understand how long grain rice could produce such a light grain.
    I tried your recipe and it was fluffier than my usual non-soaked rice. The one thing I did differently was to to use double the liquid, because I always use a 2:1 (water to rice) ratio. I wanted to try it your way but it makes me nervous that it will be hard. Can you explain how less liquid still works?

  41. Julie on August 2, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    This recipe saved the day. I am cooking for 48 people and I needed a fluffy Mexican rice. Another recipe that said it was fluffy was anything but! So I tried this yesterday for my husband and I and it was a hit. So today I have cooked enough for 48 to serve tomorrow. The only thing I did different was the tomato paste. I didn’t have any so I too my home canned crushed tomatoes and ran them through the blender then strained them in a fine sieve. They worked just fine. Thanks for this really wonderful recipe.

    • Hilah on August 4, 2023 at 7:40 am

      Wow! That’s a lot of rice! I’m so glad my recipe worked for your feast!

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.