Loaded with flavor and so easy to make, this Instant Pot Mexican Rice is made from scratch with real ingredients, including tomato puree, cumin, chili powder, and jalapeño. You’ll love this versatile and comforting side dish!
Zesty, Authentic Mexican Rice in the Instant Pot!
I make a lot of rice on the side for various main courses, and one of the best ways to serve rice as a side dish is this simple Mexican rice dish. Studded with fresh carrots and peas, spiced with cumin and chili powder, and elevated with jalapeño, lime juice, and cilantro, it’s like a party in your mouth – and so hearty that it’s almost too robust to be just a side dish.
This recipe has all the flavor of Mexican rice, and it’s made easy in the Instant Pot. If you’re as big a fan of Instant Pot cooking as I am, you’ll love making this rice. It’s so easy. All you have to do is a quick saute of the aromatics, and then pressure cook everything together briefly. Let the pressure release naturally, and then it’s ready to serve!
What’s the Difference Between Mexican Rice and Spanish Rice?
While the term “Spanish rice” is often used interchangeably with “Mexican rice,” they’re technically a bit different. They do taste similar, and both work really well with all kinds of Mexican or Tex-Mex foods, but Spanish rice is especially celebrated for its vibrant yellow color, which comes from the saffron in the dish.
Mexican rice, or arroz rojo (red rice), gets its reddish-orange color from the tomato bouillon or sauce added to the recipe. It also typically includes cumin, rather than saffron.
The Ingredients List
One ingredient you won’t find on this list is tomato bouillon granules (or cubes). Tomato bouillon tastes great and is often used in Mexican rice, but I don’t usually keep it on hand, and don’t use it in this recipe. Instead, to add that intense tomato flavor, I add some tomato puree.
- Avocado Oil: For sauteing. You can also use olive oil, if you prefer.
- Garlic: Mince three cloves of fresh garlic, or put them through a garlic press.
- Jalapeno: To lessen the heat, remove the seeds and membrane from the jalapeno, and mince the jalapeno. I recommend wearing gloves (and never touching your face!) if you’re sensitive to spicy peppers.
- Onion: I use white onion for this recipe, but yellow, sweet, or even red onion would be just fine.
- Tomato Paste: You’ll need just a bit of tomato paste, in addition to the tomato puree.
- Chili Powder and Cumin: These two spices give authentic Mexican flavor to the rice.
- Rice: You should rinse the rice, and drain it well, before using. It’s easiest to put the rice into a large, fine sieve, and hold it under running water until the water runs clear.
- Vegetable Broth: You can use vegetable broth, vegetable stock, chicken broth or stock, or just water if you prefer.
- Tomato Puree: If you don’t have tomato puree, you can also use strained tomatoes, which are sold in most grocery stores near the other canned and boxed tomato products.
- Carrot: Peel and dice one carrot.
- Peas: Fresh or frozen peas are best. Canned peas are not recommended for this dish, as they will turn out very soft and mushy.
- Corn: Again, fresh or frozen corn is best, but in this case, canned is not a bad substitute. It may still turn out softer than you would like, but it holds its shape and texture better than canned peas do!
- Lime Juice: Fresh lime juice gives the brightest flavor, but bottled will work also.
- Cilantro: I love cilantro in this dish! However, if you’re not a fan, feel free to leave it out.
How to Make Instant Pot Rice
Making this recipe involves two main phases: sautéing, and pressure cooking. The sauté phase is what really develops the special texture and taste of Mexican rice, so don’t skip it! Here is an overview of the process.
- Heat the Instant Pot and the Oil. Turn on your Instant Pot, and set it to Saute. If you can choose a temperature setting, go with “Medium.” (If that turns out to be too hot, you can press “Cancel” and then select “Sauté” “Low.”) Once the Instant Pot is hot, add a swirl of avocado oil, and let that heat up until the avocado oil begins to shimmer.
- Sauté the Aromatics, Tomato Paste, and Seasonings. Add the garlic, jalapeno, and white onion to the hot oil. Cook them for a couple of minutes, or until the onion turns translucent. Next, add the tomato paste, the chili powder, the cumin, and the salt. Stir this all thoroughly to make a smooth, consistent blend. Don’t let the tomato paste scorch. This only takes about one minute.
- Add the Remaining Ingredients and Pressure Cook. Turn off the Instant Pot. To the sautéed ingredients, add the rice, vegetable stock, tomato puree, carrots, peas, and corn. Stir everything up, and then lock the lid of the Instant Pot into place. Make sure the valve is set to the “sealed” position, and pressure cook the rice on “High” for four minutes. It will take some time for the Instant Pot to come to pressure and start counting down the minutes.
- Let the Pressure Release Naturally for 15 Minutes. Once the 4-minute timer is complete, allow the pressure to naturally release for 15 minutes. Don’t do a quick release, or the rice won’t finish cooking.
- Release the Remaining Pressure and Serve. Once the pressure has released for 15 minutes, carefully slide the valve to “vent” so that any remaining pressure can release. Sprinkle the lime juice over the cooked rice, and fluff it with a spoon. Garnish and enjoy!
Tasty Tips and Variations
As you can imagine, a versatile recipe like this comes with a ton of easy tweaks! You can customize it in a lot of ways. Here are some of my favorite hacks for making the best Mexican rice ever!
- Understanding Tomato Puree: Tomato puree is slightly thicker than tomato sauce, and has a richer flavor. You can find it in the same section as tomato sauce or other canned tomato products. If you can’t find puree, you can substitute it with tomato sauce and add an extra ½ tablespoon of tomato paste to the recipe.
- Make It Easier: If you’re short on time, you can make this recipe easier by using garlic powder, onion powder, and crushed red pepper instead of the fresh garlic, onion, and jalapeño. Plan on using a little less than half a teaspoon of garlic powder, and about one and a half teaspoons of onion powder. Shake in a bit of crushed red pepper, to your taste, or omit it completely.
- Make It Fluffy: Be sure to rinse your rice to help it turn out fluffy. You can also substitute basmati rice, which tends to cook up drier and chewier than other rice. Also, the 15 minute natural release time is essential for soft and fluffy rice. Quick-releasing will result in hard, undercooked rice.
- Add Protein: Feel free to add a little bit of cooked, shredded chicken, cooked ground beef, or cooked ham to the rice once it’s ready. You can also add scrambled eggs for a delicious, vegetarian alternative. Top with sour cream and pico de gallo, and you’ve got a complete meal!
What to Serve with Mexican Rice
This versatile, zesty rice is the perfect thing to serve with your favorite Mexican entree, or just with something simple like fried eggs or baked chicken pieces! It is healthy, flavorful, and goes with just about everything! Here are some easy recipes to try:
- Mexican Lasagna: Cheesy layers of seasoned ground beef, salsa, beans, and tortillas make this easy Mexican Lasagna a family favorite. Add a little oomph with a side of Mexican rice!
- Enchilada Casserole: Another family-friendly bake, this one features juicy shredded chicken in a mouthwatering casserole of corn, black beans, enchilada sauce, and plenty of cheese. Chicken Enchilada Casserole is sure to be a regular on your weekly menu!
- Chicken Fajitas Casserole: Creamy Chicken Fajitas Casserole is filled with white-meat chicken, peppers, and onions. It’s a simple dish that’s loaded with Tex-Mex flavors, and it goes beautifully with a side of Mexican rice.
Storing and Reheating the Leftovers
- To refrigerate your leftover rice, pack it into an airtight food storage container, and pop it into the fridge. It will keep for 3 to 4 days.
- To freeze, just place the cooled rice in freezer bags or containers, and store in the freezer for up to two months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
- To reheat, place the desired portion of rice in a saucepan with a splash of water or chicken broth. Heat on low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until all of the rice is hot through.
Instant Pot Mexican Rice
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small jalapeno, minced (seeds and membranes removed)
- ½ white onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups long grain white rice, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- ½ cup pureed tomato
- 1 carrot, diced into small ¼ inch pieces
- ½ cup green peas
- ½ cup corn
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Turn on your Instant Pot and set it to Saute. Once hot, add avocado oil.
- When the avocado oil heats up and begins to shimmer, add the garlic, jalapeno, and white onion. Stir occasionally and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
- Add the tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, and salt. Stir constantly until the tomato paste melts into the mixture and the spices are fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Turn off the Instant Pot. Add the rice, vegetable stock, pureed tomato, carrot, peas, and corn. Stir to combine.
- Place the lid on your Instant Pot and set the valve to the “sealed” position.
- Set your Instant Pot to pressure cook on high for 4 minutes. Once the 4-minute timer is complete, allow the pressure to naturally release for 15 minutes.
- Open the steam valve to release any excess pressure. Then, add the lime juice and fluff with a fork or spoon. Garnish with cilantro and serve.