Mexican Rice Pilaf

Tested & Perfected Recipes

This easy Mexican rice infused with onions, garlic, cumin and chili, makes a regular appearance at our dinner table.

mexican rice

My family loves Mexican food so this easy Mexican rice makes a regular appearance at our dinner table. It’s not really authentic — true Mexican rice is more complicated and time-consuming to make — but my kids claim it tastes just like the rice served at their favorite Mexican restaurant. That’s authentic enough for me! I typically serve it with my Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce, Peruvian Chicken, or Chicken Chili.

What you’ll need to make Mexican Rice Pilafingredients

How to make ThE Rice Pilaf

Begin by finely chopping the onion and mincing the jalapeño pepper. To keep the rice on the mild side, I cut the flesh of the jalapeño pepper away from the seeds, ribs, and stem, leaving the spiciest part of the pepper behind. If you think you might like more heat, I recommend holding onto the seeds and adding them at the end to taste.


When handling jalapeño peppers, be sure to keep your hands away from your eyes and wash your hands immediately afterwards so the juices don’t irritate your skin.


Cook the minced jalapeño and chopped onions in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes.


Add the rice, tomato paste and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is evenly coated with oil, 2-3 minutes.


Add the water and seasoning and bring to a boil.


Cover the pot and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the rice is tender, then stir in the peas, cilantro, and fresh lime juice.


Serve with lime wedges.Mexican-Rice-Pilaf-from-Once-Upon-a-ChefYou may also like


Mexican Rice Pilaf

This easy Mexican rice infused with onions, garlic, cumin and chili, makes a regular appearance at our dinner table.

Servings: 6
Total Time: 30 Minutes


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1-1/2 cups white long grain rice, such as Uncle Ben's Original
  • 3-1/3 cups low sodium chicken broth (see note*)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and jalapeño and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Turn the heat up to medium and add the tomato paste, garlic and rice; cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken broth, salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin; turn the heat up and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  5. Add the peas, cilantro and lime juice and fluff the rice with a fork to mix. Let the rice sit for a few moments to "dry out" and lose that wet, just-steamed texture. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and lime if necessary.
  6. Note: Some rice brands will require a little less or a little more liquid; check the package for specific instructions.
  7. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: This rice can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. (Putting it in a flat layer in sealable plastic bags works well as it will take up less space in the freezer.) No need to thaw before reheating; remove it from the freezer and reheat in the microwave with 1 to 2 Tbsp. of water.

Nutrition Information

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  • Calories: 253
  • Fat: 6 g
  • Saturated fat: 1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 43 g
  • Sugar: 2 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 7 g
  • Sodium: 491 mg
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • Made this last night to take to a family taco dinner (along with your Chicken Quesadillas) and it was a big hit. Both dishes were prepared ahead of time, and reheated beautifully. One guest doesn’t care for the taste of peas, so I substituted a frozen Tex-Mex vegetable blend with corn, red & green bell peppers and onions. I also used a combination of cilantro and parsley instead of just cilantro, which can sometimes be overpowering. The flavor and texture of the dish was great, and the large jalapeno was just the right amount of heat. Will definitely make this one again!

    • — PaulainVA on August 10, 2019
    • Reply
  • Awesome rice. Cooking it almost every other week.

    • — EDITH on June 3, 2019
    • Reply
  • Used this to go with a baked cod – replaced the jalapeno with green bell pepper so as not to overpower the fish. Result was everything I could hope for. So simple, and so good. These two recipes should not have worked together, but made an excellent combination. Once again, a preparation that makes magic from simple ingredients. Almost bored by my constant five star reviews – when I decide what I want to make for dinner, this is the first place I come to figure out how to prepare it.
    Time and again, thank you Jenn. You make all of us look so talented.

    • — Craig on May 27, 2019
    • Reply
    • 😊

      • — Jenn on May 28, 2019
      • Reply
    • Craig, I totally agree with you! I want to pack up all my 50 years of cookbooks and throw them away. Every single recipe on Once Upon a Chef is more delicious and there should be a 6 star rating. Even my picky grandchildren and picky husband love everything I make from Jenn’s recipes. Thank you Jenn for making dinner fun and delicious. Oh yes, of course this recipe is absolutely delicious.

      • — carol on June 26, 2019
      • Reply
      • 💕

        • — Jenn on June 26, 2019
        • Reply
  • This rice is wonderful! I doubled the recipe and took around 45 minutes to cook. This was a side dish for your Mexican Lasagna. I made both for a friend who is going through Chemo…organic fresh ingredients for health! I also used the other half of the rice and paired it with grilled old bay shrimp to feed my family. It is reminiscent of paella…so good! Thanks Jen! Your recipes are amazing!

    • — Nancy on May 26, 2019
    • Reply
  • Great recipe, thanks for sharing!

    • — Danielle on May 5, 2019
    • Reply
  • Can you freeze and then reheat? If so how would you reheat?

    • — Lesley on April 17, 2019
    • Reply
    • Sure, Lesley. I would place the frozen rice in a microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle it with a tablespoon or two of water. Cover the bowl, then microwave in 45-second bursts until warmed through. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on April 18, 2019
      • Reply
  • Made this to accompany the Peruvian chicken as recommended. Goes great with the chicken and it was very tasty.

    • — RPaw on April 13, 2019
    • Reply
  • Delicious and so easy to prepare!

    • — Ileana on March 5, 2019
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I have two questions for you.
    1. Can I use Basmati rice? Will it be still good for this recipe?
    2. Can I use Veg broth instead of chicken broth.


    • — SK on March 22, 2018
    • Reply
    • Yes and yes! (Although use the amount of liquid called for on the basmati package.) 🙂

      • — Jenn on March 22, 2018
      • Reply
      • Thanks Jenn!

        • — SK on March 23, 2018
        • Reply
  • We enjoy this recipe. Have it as a side dish with our Mexican flair. Always comes out perfect.

    • — Connie on March 3, 2018
    • Reply
  • This is begging to made in the Instant Pot. Has anyone tried it yet?

    • — Meg Mayo on February 1, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Meg, I haven’t made this in an Instant Pot (I don’t have one), but hopefully some other readers can weigh in if they have.

      • — Jenn on February 1, 2018
      • Reply
  • I’ve made this several times and my family loves It! I find cutting the chicken broth back to 2 1/3 cups works best for ne using Uncle Ben’s rice.

  • Hi, I wonder if this can be made in a rice cooker? Only way I r ever managed to not bungle rice cooking 😩

    • Hi Alison, I haven’t worked with a rice cooker, but I think that would work. You’d probably need to saute the jalapeño and onions on the stove first as the recipe directs. Also, I’m not certain if the amount of liquid would differ at all with a rice cooker, so just make sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions. I’d love to hear how it turns out in a rice cooker!

  • Any chance this could be made ahead and reheated, covered in the oven before serving to guests?

    • Hi Diane, it can definitely be made ahead and reheated. I would typically reheat something like this in the microwave, but as long as it’s tightly covered, I guess you could reheat it in the oven. Just keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t dry out.

  • This was so easy to make and delicious. We love rice and peas so this was perfect.

  • Jen you are the best. This was really good. I used brown rice and cooked it for 45 minutes instead of 20. I also used corn instead of peas. Thank you.

  • We loved it! I’ve tried many recipes on your site and the family has loved them all. I used Uncle Ben’s rice but it was to much broth so I had to cook it longer. Next time maybe less broth and will add more if I need to.

  • I followed this recipe 100% and it was delicious. Usually I like to bake my rice in the oven to prevent it from being soggy. I decided to try it the way the recipe suggested. The rice was moist but not soggy. The spices made it very aromatic and tasty!

  • This recipe is delicious. Family really liked

    • — Margaret Higgins
    • Reply
  • I’ve finally found a Mexican rice recipe that I love! We like to eat carnitas or fajitas and this goes very well as a side dish. Delicious!

  • I’ve tossed out my old recipe for Mexican rice and replaced it with this one! Super flavorful and easy. I had company so I made two cups rice. I didn’t change anything else and it was perfect : )

  • Would it be possible to use a rice cooker with this recipe? Thanks!

    • Hi Jane, I’m not an expert with a rice cooker, but I think that would work. You’d probably need to saute the jalapeño and onions on the stove top first as the recipe directs. Also, I’m not sure if the amount of liquid would differ at all with a rice cooker, so just make certain to check the manufacturer’s instructions.

      • Thanks Jenn. Also, just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying your recipes. Everything I’ve tried has been terrific. Keep up the great work!

  • We all hate cilantro in my family ( think Ivory Soap). Can I just leave it out or should I substitute something else?

    • Hi Lisa, It’s perfectly fine to leave it out. Enjoy!

  • Easy to make and delicious. I realized I didn’t have peas so I substituted frozen diced carrots and corn. Turned out great.

  • This rice recepe is wonderful! I used brown rice (didn’t have white rice) , it came out delicious. The family loved it. Thank you for posting this recepe. This one is a keeper!

  • Perfect! just the way it is. My picky eaters even loved it. Made it for Cinco de Mayo and it was a HIT!

  • This was the best Mexican rice it turned out perfect!

  • Hi Jenn,

    Is there any way I can substitute the packaged par boiled rice for a regular rice (like the kinds used for your perfect basmati and the basmati with the dried fruit.) Or can I parboil the regular rice to be like how I would get it already packaged? Does that make sense? Many thanks in advance.

    • Hi Karen, You can just use standard white rice here. Sorry if the mention of parboiled rice confused you- I’ve updated the recipe!

  • Hi Jenn,

    Could this recipe be made with brown rice and vegetable broth?


    • Yes and yes! Hope you enjoy-

  • I am finding difficulty printing out your recipes….sorry I’m old school!….:)

    • Hi Marlene, Are you clicking on the print tab at the top of the recipe?

  • Hello! Can I substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock? I am cooking for a non-meat eating crowd, and want to be sure it’s going to turn out delicious before I try the recipe. Thanks!

  • Hi. Would you suggest basmati or jasmine rice as an alternative for long grain rice in the pilaf? Nicole

    • Hi Nicole, You could easily use either of those– just look at the package as you may need to adjust the cooking time for the rice.

  • Looks great! Would brown rice be a good sub here, or do you think the tomato paste etc would overcook due to the longer cooking time of brown rice?

    • Hi Erika, I think brown rice would work well. Enjoy!

  • I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and used the whole pepper. Delicious!

  • Hi Jenn,

    Could this be made ahead and reheated for dinner?

    • Absolutely 🙂

  • Think it would be ok to double, even triple the recipe? I’m having a party with about 18. Thanks for the delicious recipes!

    • Hi Jamie, I’d say double it — somehow tripling recipes never works out! Or you could make two double batches in separate pots.

      • Will do. Thanks a bunch

  • how long do you parboil the rice?

    • Hi Cheryl, There is no need to parboil the rice.

  • Made this last night for our Mexican dinner, we had a few extra people that I didn’t plan for so needed extra bulk!

    This was so simple to make and tasted really good. So glad I’m finding use for all my farm grown cilantro too!!

  • This was lovely. To start with, I followed your recipe completely – no changes – and I rate the recipe a definite “5.” 🙂 However, to make use of some other ingredients I wanted to use up, I stirred in: pre-cooked Quinoa, Haricot Beans, Lentils and Spinach. This was served with your Peruvian Chicken and French Green Beans. These are the first three recipes I have ever followed from your website, and I am wowed by how delicious they all were! Thank you for your terrific work. Looking forward to trying some of your amazing looking desserts. 🙂 Bisous from Belgium!

    • — Hannah, an Australian in Belgium
    • Reply
  • Made this last night with chicken tacos. I also served a side of black beans. Made for a very full yummy plate. It’s a enjoyable side dish for all palates.

  • Regarding partially used cans of tomato paste: I measure out approximately 1 tablespoon portions, freeze them until firm, and keep the frozen paste in a freezer bag in the freezer. When I need just a small amount of paste I use that rather than opening another can. The frozen tomato paste melts easily in a warm stew or soup or you can microwave it until it is soft.

  • Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video
    to ake your point. Yoou obviously know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos too your weblog when you could
    be giving us somethkng informative to read?

  • This was a big hit last night! Perfect with a grilled steak and sauteed spinach! You are my “go to” gal when it comes to finding new recipes!

  • I made this tonight and it is a winner. Everyone loved it. No leftovers. I’ll make it again.

  • Very easy and tastes just like what you get in a Mexican restaurant. Really doesn’t have much heat with just the green parts of the jalapeno, so next time I will add some of the ribs and seeds. Otherwise perfect as is!

  • Made this with your chicken enchiladas for dinner last night and both were a hit. Best Mexican rice I’ve tried and so easy. Thank u!!

  • Made this the other night, it was delicious! It beats all other Mexican rice recipes I have tried. I have to say I love all your recipes, most of them are becoming staples in our house! Thank you for sharing.

  • Thank you, this recipe is all win. I used 2ish cups of basmati rice and the entire can of tomato paste (I have exceeded my life-time limit of sacrificial half-used tomato paste cans), eye-balled the chili powder and cumin def more than double and I scorched the bottom of the pot, but in this house, that charred bit is a bonus that the kids fight over, so all win. Next time I’m going to use two jalapenos, but that’s just our preference, otherwise, all win. Thanks for sharing your talent.

    • So glad you enjoyed, Marji. You’re right, this recipe can definitely handle two jalapeños. I considered it but decided to keep it mild for my kids. Also, you can avoid the half-used can of tomato paste dilemma by buying tomato paste in a tube.

  • Glad to have this recipe—I was looking for one like this last week. I try this one next time. Thanks.

  • I would like to see every recipe list the nutrition values.

  • Think we could make it with quinoa? One if my kids has a rice allergy, thanks.

    • Hi Lynn, Absolutely. You’ll just have to adjust the quantities a bit. For the broth, I typically use 1-2/3 cup liquid for every 1 cup quinoa; so, if my math is right, you’d need about 2-1/2 cups. I’d also reduce the tomato paste to 1 tablespoon, the salt to 3/4 teaspoon, and the chili powder and cumin to 1/4 teaspoon each. Please let me know how it comes out!

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