mexican red rice


Unforgettable Rice from El Chepe

I wish each day had ten more hours so I could tell you about so many dishes already.

This is how behind I feel in all I want to share: Six weeks ago our family came back from the Copper Canyon in Mexico. I took notes, pictures, short videos, interviewed cooks, planted myself in their kitchens until forcefully uprooted by my husband, and ate like a mad woman from any interesting sounding dish, which was practically everything (partly with the purpose to come and tell you all about it…).

Then we came home, and life got in the way… I took longer to launch this site because I wanted to add more sections. By the time it was ready, so many weeks had gone by, I was eager to share more recent food excursions from my kitchen.

Yesterday, these red tomatoes reminded me of my delayed purpose. They looked perfectly ripe to become the base for that Mexican Style Rice we ate at the Chepe train (formally known as the Chihuahua al Pací­fico). It was unbelievable. Not only how good it tasted, but where and how it is made, every day.

Unforgettable rice from el chepe 2-thumb-510x342-1914
I expected to find scrumptious food along the Copper Canyon, but not aboard the train.  Used to pre-packaged sandwiches and microwaved hot dogs on the Amtrak, it was such a treat to choose from a full menu of home-style food.

As we sat on the cushy blue seats, we were amazed at how the individual place settings set on the wooden tables jumped without falling as the train rocked on the old wooden tracks.  With the light from the sun peeking through the window, the formally dressed waiters coming out of the kitchen appeared to step out from the Mexican 19th century, with charming mustaches in the like of the long gone Profirian era and all.

Unforgettable rice from el chepe 3-thumb-510x342-1916
More amazement, as they poured coffee, dancing as on a tight rope with the steaming pots at least 10 inches away from the cups they were aiming to fill. But even more amazement, after we tasted the food. Such good food on a train? I had puntas de filete with a side of refried beans, quesadillas and the best ever Mexican style rice. Even before dessert, this felt like a trip within the trip itself.

Each time, I would ask the waiter to introduce me to the cook in turn. There were not one but three cooks in a fully sized and stocked kitchen. Balancing as if on steady ground, up and down bridges, inside tunnels and around curves, they made some of the most comforting foods I can think of.

Unforgettable rice from el chepe 4-thumb-510x342-1918
Here is a tip:  when you go to the Chepe, disregard when train officers say the Restaurant is closed.  It seems to be a technique to help guests avoid long waits (or a bottleneck in the kitchen).  Go check it out yourself, there is typically no line and by the time they announce its open, the train ride may be over.  If you are not planning on going to the Chepe train soon, here is the recipe for that deliciously satisfying Mexican rice, shared by the chef in charge of the Chepe’s food and menu, Jesus Ley.

unforgettable rice from el chepe 5-thumb-510x342-1920
There are of course many variations to this dish. You can substitute fresh tomato puree for 1 1/2 cups of canned puree. Except for few rice dishes, I always add some fresh squeezed lime juice. It makes it crisp and helps the flavors of the other ingredients shine through, but it is optional.You can include the carrots and peas, exclude them or change that vegetable such as by adding green beans and red bell peppers.

And yes, that chile serrano you see in the picture is optional. You can omit it, substitute it for a jalapeño, and can add a couple more if you like. But if you are having Mexicans over, watch out: those chiles that have absorbed the flavors from all the ingredients in that pot, are the rice treasure we all hunt for.

Mexican Style Rice

Recipe Yield

6 to 8 people

Cooking time

35 minutes

Rate this recipe

4.67 from 6 votes


  • 2 cups white rice
  • 2 tomatoes or about 1 pound, quartered
  • 1/3 cup white onion roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt or more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth or water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice optional
  • 2 parsley sprigs
  • 3/4 cup carrots peeled and diced, optional
  • 1/2 cup shelled green peas fresh of frozen, optional
  • 1 or 2 chiles serranos optional

To Prepare

  • In a bowl, soak the rice in hot water for about 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water and drain very well.
  • While the rice soaks, purée the tomatoes in the blender along with the onion, garlic and salt. Pass through a strainer and reserve.
  • Heat the oil in a thick heavy skillet (if you have one with a transparent lid, pick that one) over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the rice and sauté, stirring often, until the color of the rice changes to a strong milky white and it shows more resistance and makes a heavier sound as you stir it around, probably about 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Pour in the strained tomato purée, mix it gently and let it cook until the color of the purée has darkened, thickened and is mostly absorbed, about 3 more minutes.
  • Stir in the chicken or vegetable broth and lime juice, give it a gentle stir and top with the parlsey sprig, the diced carrots, peas and serrano chiles, if so desired.
  • Let it all come to a boil, and when it does, put the cover on and reduce the heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes. Here is where that transparent lid becomes so handy, as you can see what is going on inside the pot without losing steam. You know the rice is ready when it is cooked through and tender, most of the liquid has been absorbed, but there is a lot of moisture in the pot. If the rice is not yet tender and the liquid has dried up, add a couple tablespoons more water, cover again and let it cook for a couple more minutes.
  • Let the rice sit covered for at least 5 minutes before you fluff with a fork and serve. You may also make it beforehand and reheat it covered over low heat with a tablespoon of water.


98comments inUnforgettable Rice from El Chepe

  1. Cindy

    Jun 15

    Very tasty

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 04

      Glad you liked it!

  2. Estella Tamayo

    Jun 14

    How do I make rice for 60 people?

    1. Pati Jinich

      Nov 09

      You could do this recipe 6 times Estella However I would recommend to do it in batches, at least 3, because if not is is very easy to get the rice overcooked and it might end up soupy or mushy 🙂

  3. Violet Ewing

    Jun 30

    Thank you for the rice recipe. That’s the way I learned to cook what we called ‘ Spanish ‘ rice; sauté first , then add the other ingredients, and cover
    I do the same with fideo.
    You’re right about the merits of glass lids for pans. One can see what’s going on , with the rice, etc.,without interrupting the cooking process.
    Copper Canyon is on my list of places to visit one day, and a train trip would be great.
    I traveled by train from El Paso, to Chicago, and back again when I was a kid, so I’m looking forward to a train trip, as an adult.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 18

      Thanks for reaching out Violet, so happy you liked this recipe. Hope you can take the Chepe ride soon 😉

  4. Laurine N.

    Jun 29

    Did I miss the corn in the recipe?

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 18

      No Laurine, I did not add corn to this recipe 🙂

  5. Teresa

    Jun 29

    PATI. THANK YOU for such a good & easy rice recipe.. interesting
    Train ride..will check it out.. Pati you always spoil us with your wonderful recipes..but you also always show us pictures and surroundings.. wish I could have seen more
    Pictures of this travel adventure.. Thank you again !!!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 18

      So glad you liked this recipe Teresa! Please do not miss the Chepe ride if you have the opportunity, it is an experience of a lifetime 🙂

  6. Jimmy K.

    May 29

    The best red rice recipe I’ve ever made and as good if not better than most Mexican restaurants in San Antonio! Love your show and have your latest cookbook!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 10

      So glad you liked this rice Jimmy and thanks so much for purchasing the book, I hope you are cooking tons out of it 😉

  7. Donna Keli’ikuli

    Feb 21

    Best red rice recipe ever! It’s now my go to recipe whenever I cook Mexican food. Thank you Patti!!!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Feb 23

      My pleasure Donna, thank you!

  8. Kim S

    Jan 15

    This is the best rice recipe ever and it’s easy to make

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jan 16

      Love that you liked it Kim 😉

  9. Luz Rivera

    Jan 08

    Hola Pati,
    I love all of your recipes.
    My favorite food is Mexican.
    Especially the rice with flijoles.
    Your way of making it is so exquisite.
    Thank you.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Feb 04

      Thanks to you for following Luz, un abrazo!

  10. Marisa Sauceda

    Nov 20

    My Mother has always added whole serrano peppers to her rice . I find it interesting that cumin isnt an ingredient… In Nuevo Leon Cumin is a staple…. I wonder what influence that has from a historical point of view
    It looks Amazing even without the cumin…. :/
    we find whole cumin in ours in a molcajete

    1. Pati Jinich

      Dec 28

      Yes Marisa, serranos are yummy in the rice! In my mind, truly Mexican style rice goes without cumin. Enjoy!

      1. Ana Ochoa

        Jun 29

        Hola Pati-
        Me gustan todas tus recetas 😃
        Im from Monterrey and we use cumin a lot but not in the rice but en los frijoles. You have to try tamales de frijoles. Los hacen refritos con chile piquín y comino. The best tamales ever 😋

        1. Pati Jinich

          Jul 18

          Hola Ana! La nueva temporada del show la grabamos en Nuevo Leon, te va a encantar! Sale en septiembre 😉

      2. ELSA Luna

        Jul 02

        I am from Mexico City and we do not cook rice with cumin. The only times I have seen rice with it are the Tex-Mex recipes and one person from Chihuahua who added cumin to everything.

        1. Pati Jinich

          Jul 18

          Absolutely, I have seen many versions and family recipes for rice, some with cumin some without, I guess it is just a personal preference 🙂

  11. Cristina

    May 25

    Does she serrano make the rice spicy? Or more so flavorful?

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 10

      It adds a ton of flavor Cristina, you don’t have to it eat it, but please do if you like a bit of heat 🙂

  12. Galina

    Mar 30

    For those who had a “mushy” result, it could be that they did not allow the rice to drain long enough after soaking in the hot water. Just a thought. Looking forward to making this soon!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Apr 11

      Thanks for sharing this Galina, hope you made and liked this rice 😉

  13. Koyya Pugh

    Feb 27

    There is nothing to a meal if it doesn’t have rice .I love a good rice.👍🤩

    1. Pati Jinich

      Mar 07

      We agree on this one 😉

  14. Pamela Zimmer

    Oct 14

    I made this per instructions and used the optional pepper at well. Will not be making again, it was very mushy and bland as well. While preparing I felt that there was to much cooking of the rice for it to come out right and I was correct. I enjoy other of Pati’s recipes, one being veggie loaded Mexican lasagna. Not this one.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Oct 19

      So sorry this one did not work for you Pamela 🙁

    2. Diana Romero

      Nov 06

      Hello Pati, I made this recipe came out great , I had to substitute the tomatoes with tomato sauce , since I didn’t have tomatoes. Everyone loved it 😊

      1. Pati Jinich

        Jan 04

        Glad it worked, yay!

  15. Kristina

    Oct 01

    This was delicious! Mine came out just a little mushy / wet, but I think it might have been from stirring the rice too much at some point. Or possibly didn’t cook long enough? What’s the reasoning behind straining the tomato puree mixture? I’m tempted to just throw it all in the pot next time and see how that turns out.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Oct 04

      Hey Kristina, next time maybe do just 3 cups of chicken broth and do not stir or mix after combining with the broth. I do like to strain my tomato mixture so there wouldn’t be any seeds in the rice, but if you blend them well, you can throw them in without straining. Enjoy 😉

  16. Laura

    May 26

    Thank you so much for this perfect recipe! My husband and I really enjoyed it. We haven’t been to his family’s house lately because of the quarantine, so we were craving it. I appreciate detailed recipes, like this one, which ensured our success. We can’t wait to make your Tres Leches cake recipe next!

    1. Pati Jinich

      May 28

      Thanks for the feedback Laura, glad you like this rice. Enjoy the Tres Leches!

  17. Kim

    Jul 24

    Absolutely delicious!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 24


  18. Mary

    Jul 09

    I made this as directed but it was kinda mushy. What did I do wrong?

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 18

      I’m sorry to hear that, Mary. It may have had too much water.

      1. Michael

        Aug 13

        Before cooked rice contains a lot of water, and also rice is a hard food to cook correctly, most people tend to under cook and over cook rice.

  19. Laura Hedlund

    Mar 22

    Wait, you dont toast the rice first??? Do my eyes deceive me? 🙂

    1. Pati Jinich

      Mar 23


      1. Katrin Threet

        Sep 21

        Yes, she did saute that rice until it changed color, you may have skipped a step. Pati, can I use brown rice, I know it needs to cook longer?

        1. Pati Jinich

          Sep 24

          Yes Katrin, go for it and enjoy!

  20. Sandra morgan

    Nov 26

    Dear Patty you are my favorite cook !! We love your recipes keep them coming our way yours truly sandra!!!

    1. Pati

      Nov 27

      I’ll for sure keep them coming, Sandra. Thanks for trying my recipes☺️

  21. Nathan

    Jan 13

    I added a rehydrated ancho Chile to the puree. Turned out great.

    1. Pati

      Jan 15


  22. Thom Pegg

    Nov 08

    Hola Pati!!! You are the best. I will marry you some day, and I will cook for you!! (but only after you teach me!) All the best to you from Pittsburgh

    1. Pati

      Nov 11

      Hahaha, let’s see what my husband thinks about this…

  23. Haylo

    Sep 17

    I have never been able to make Mexican/Spanish rice but I made this yesterday as a side at my Dad’s birthday dinner and it was fantastic! Wonderful recipe, thanks for sharing!

    1. Pati

      Sep 19

      So happy to hear that Haylo! And happy birthday to your dad!

  24. Patty

    Aug 19

    Holy Pati! 🙂 I was wondering if Roma tomatoes would be good in this rice?

    1. Pati

      Aug 22


      1. Patty

        Sep 08

        Darn auto correct! I meant Hola Pati! I sounded like Robin from Batman. Thanks for answering. I followed your recipe but with the Romas and my kids said my rice was the best! I never knew about soaking the rice first. Gracias! 🙂

        1. Pati

          Sep 11


  25. James Wilson

    Dec 26

    This recipe works! I’ve tried several Mexican rice recipes and it usually comes out mushy or underdone. I served this yesterday for Christmas and everyone liked it. I omitted the extra vegetables, I added 1 Serrano pepper, and I used 4 Roma sized tomatoes from a can to make the purée. I also used a sprig of cilantro instead of the parsley because we were out of parsley. This is actually one of the easier rice recipes I’ve used, too. Thanks Pati!

  26. June

    Sep 02

    Hello Pati. My husband and I came across your show recently and we fell in love with it! I think my husband will love me even more after I make a few of your recipes :-). I really want to make this recipe, but Serrano Chiles are difficult to find in my area! Would jalapeno pepper be a suitable replacement for the Serrano Chile? Also, could I just use dried parsley? Thank you!

    1. Pati

      Sep 06

      Yes of course! Thank you for watching my show 🙂

  27. Isabel

    Jul 31

    Hi Pati, i have also never soaked the rice in water beforehand but i sure will try it now. what exactly does it do to the rice that is not accomplished by not soaking it? I’m trying this rice tonight along with the Chile Rellenos 🙂

    Many thx,

  28. Patsy

    Jul 01

    No wonder my rice turns out mushy (I haver never soaked mine in hot water beforehand). I can’t wait to try this recipe, it reminds me of my home town El Paso,TX.

    Gracias .

    1. Pati

      Jul 05

      With pleasure!

  29. Susan

    May 09

    I love your show and your boys are adorable,they really love your food,so cute. I have 2 sons, they are already grown and graduated from college. So it reminds me of my sons when they were still growing,sigh. For the rice,I would like to add paprika and cayene, for color and flavor. Maybe even some cumin. Thank you for show and recipes. Many blessings to you and your family.

    1. Pati

      May 09

      That sounds like a good spin, give it a try!

  30. Heidi

    Mar 06

    Sounds delicious. When making this recipe for a large crowd (50) do the liquid/rice ratios stay the same?

    1. Pati

      Mar 06


  31. Darla

    Oct 18

    Hi Patti!

    We recently moved to TX and I am trying to embrace the Tex-Mex culture by cooking local favorites.

    When I saw Nopales in the grocery store, I was intrigued and came across your site to learn about them. I have only tried one recipe so far and have another planned within the next few days.

    Now, I came searching for a good rice recipe and this sounds delicious! I am commenting, however, to find out about pureeing (sp). I have never owned a blender or food processor and have no idea what kind I might need. I don’t have much money to drop on one but I want one of good quality, that will do the job I need it to do effectively.

    I was wondering if the Magic Bullet is a good one, or not. What kid do you recommend and why??

    1. Pati

      Oct 18

      Hi Darla,
      I have tried many blenders through my cooking life… This is what I recommend, go with your hunch with the sturdiest looking blender you can get. Don’t get the small ones that specialize in making smoothies, they won’t resist much…

      1. Darla

        Oct 22

        Thanks! I think that I will try to make do, by hand or by can, until Christmas and ask for a Kitchen Aid, seeing as I love my mixer and cooking utensils.

        1. ann p.

          Oct 22

          I have a blender and an older very powerful Cuisinart and both will puree well.
          But, I’m lazy and hate cleaning a blender by taking it apart so I bought a variable speed immersion blender (a fancy stick with a motor) and it has taken the place of a blender for many sauce recipes. (At least two fewer bowls to wash as well.)

          1. Darla

            Oct 28

            Ann, do you feel like it will hold-up for a while? What brand do you recommend? I was asking because I thought that something like that might be cheaper, therefore more readily available to me, but I was unsure of how well it would perform and last. Thanks!

            Reply Icon
  32. K

    Apr 18

    Hi! I found your site after checking out your cookbook from my local library. Problem: I don’t want to turn it back in! 🙂 I will have to purchase it soon:) I made the rice recipe (red) and the refried beans and my family all enjoyed…a rare thing! This rice recipe looks very similar to yours I may try the changes just for fun. Thanks!

    1. Pati

      Apr 18

      Gracias! I’m so happy you like my cookbook, and I hope you will consider getting a copy of your own: Thank you so much for writing to me!!

  33. ann p.

    Apr 03

    This takes rice to a whole new level. I agree with Pati that it will keep in the frig for a day. I’m also trying freezing it in and I may use some chickenstock plus lime juice to refresh it. There are only the two of us, so this makes enough to also become a welcomed left over.

  34. Mimi

    Feb 20

    Pati, Thank you again for this site! I have been combing your recipes and copying them, since I did not write my Moms recipes down. This was the rice she always made and my sons favorite. In season we top it with fresh, sliced cantelope. My Mom’s parents were from Spain and she always ate it like this. It adds a cool sweetness to the rice.
    Muchisimas Gracias por tus recetas. Me has dado alegria…

    1. Pati Jinich

      Feb 24

      Thanks again for your lovely comments Mimi! The cantaloupe is a great addition!

  35. Sandra

    Dec 06

    Thanks Pati, we love this rice recipe! So so good.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Dec 08

      Glad you all love it Sandra! 🙂

  36. wardrobe designs

    Aug 03

    Keep up the great work , I read few articles on this web site and I conceive that your blog is very interesting and contains bands of great info .

  37. Judy

    Jun 27

    Pati – I recently found your site and have added it to my favs. You suggested using Goya sauce in a recipe and I made the switch when I made sopa. WOW what a wonderful difference. Thank you and I’ll look forward to visiting your site again and again.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 27

      Hi Judy,
      Thanks much! Yes, please come visit often!!

  38. Manuel (Café Fenix)

    Sep 29

    Thanks Pati
    My son loves Mexican Rice he calls it “Arroz Naranjita”
    Your recipe is wonderful. As a traditional recipe it changes a little in every mexican home.
    Your´s is so much better than the one we where using. We like adding some kernel corn (sometimes yellow canned, sometime white fresh).
    Thank you

    1. Pati Jinich

      Sep 29

      Hi Manuel! My boys call it “arroz rojito”, almost the same as yours… Great idea about the corn, will give it a shot… Thank you…

  39. emilee

    Sep 16

    Hi Pati,
    I’m just wondering how long this rice (as well as your refried beans recipe) will keep stored in the fridge? We’re going to have a big Mexican meal and I’m trying to decide which dishes I can make in advance. Thanks!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Sep 16

      Hi Emilee,
      I suggest you make the rice up to one day ahead of time, if prepared before, it hardens too much in the refrigerator and acquires a watery taste. After you make it, let it cool, store in a covered container and refrigerate. The next day you want to eat it, place it in a pan, add about a tablespoon of water, close it with a lid and reheat it over the lowest possible heat. However, it tastes the best when made the same day. You don’t have to make it right before you want to eat it, you can make it that same day, 4 to 6 hours ahead of time, and just reheat it over lowest possible heat.
      As for refried beans, you can make them up to 4 to 5 days ahead of time and just reheat in a pot, covered, over lowest possible heat as well. They taste great with crumbled Cotija or Farmers’ Cheese on top. Hope you have a great meal!!

  40. Bonnie Johnston

    Jun 18

    Pati, Your site is absolutely wonderful, and I’m so excited to try the new recipes. Can’t wait for the next Mexican Table events in the fall! We miss seeing you and learning all the new recipes and history of Mexico. Have been using the previous recipes on a VERY regular basis. I agree with one of the comments,chicken tinga on a tostada is the best.
    See you soon!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 18

      Dearest Bonnie, Thank you very much for your comments! I am so happy the recipes from the classes are working in your kitchen and I really look forward to seeing you all in the next batch of classes…. I will try my best to have new menus and recipes you will also enjoy! Meanwhile… I will keep on posting things you can try here on this new site, let me know how you like them if you try them!! See you very soon…

  41. Eliza

    Jun 08

    Hi Pati,
    This rice transported me back to Mexico! What a gorgeous photo, recipe and well, site!! I look forward to many more of your postings…and I’m doing that trip next time.
    -Un gustazo conocerte!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 08

      Hi Eliza! Many, many thanks for your comments.
      El gusto es mutuo y nos veremos pronto!

  42. Daniel

    Jun 03

    I love the pictures. Whoever took them is a great photographer. Now how about an entry titled “unforgettable scallops from Cabo” to start to get the stomach juices flowing….

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 03

      Thank you Dany for taking such beautiful pictures!!!! Ok… I will write about those scallops…

  43. Tamara

    Jun 03

    I love this post. I want to take the train ride and eat the steak with the refried beans. What is better the trip or the food?!?!??!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 03

      Hey there! The food, the food, the food and the food… but that train helps too… (!)

  44. Adriana Kocornik-Mina

    Jun 03

    Patricia, Thank you for sharing news about your trip to Chihuahua, and of course the yummy sounding rice recipe. I did not understand when to include the lime juice nor the chile. Could you please clarify? Many thanks. Adriana

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 03

      My pleasure Adriana! Look for the specific directions inside of the recipe, which follows directly form that post. But you add the lime juice after you add the chicken or vegetable broth, then you mix it all gently and add the chile, parsley sprigs and vegetables of your choice. Let me know if you try it!

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