Food Guide

Mexican Rice: The Fascinating Reason Why It’s Red You Never Knew

Mexican Rice is one of those dishes that once you’ve had it, you can’t get enough of it.

It’s a great side dish that’s also perfect for any Mexican dish you might be serving.

The problem is that sometimes you’ll find yourself wondering why is Mexican rice red? Is it always red? What makes it red?

1. The Type of Rice Used

I use long-grain rice.

Some people like to use shorter grain rice, but I find that long-grain rice is more versatile and works better for Mexican rice.

I also like the texture of long-grain rice better.

You can find rice at most grocery stores and at any Mexican or Latin American market.

I prefer to use rice that is imported from Mexico because it is more authentic.

However, you can also use rice that is grown in the United States.

Just be sure to look for rice that is labeled “long-grain.


The most important thing to look for when buying rice is that it is fresh.

Rice has a shelf life of about six months, so if you’re buying rice that’s been sitting on the store’s shelves for a while, it’s probably not as fresh as it could be.

I recommend buying rice in small quantities so that it stays fresh longer.

2. The Ancho Chile Pasilla Oleoresin is Added

The Ancho Chile Pasilla Oleoresin is Added

The ancho chile is the dried version of the fresh green chile known as the poblano.

It is dark red or brown in color and has a rich, nutty flavor.

The dried chiles are often ground into a powder or paste and used in a variety of dishes.

The ancho chile is often used in Mexican cooking to add a bit of heat and flavor to dishes.

The pasilla oleoresin is made from the leaves of the chilaca pepper, which is a small, dark green chili with a long, narrow shape.

The chilaca pepper is related to the jalapeno and is often used in Mexican cooking to add a bit of heat and flavor to dishes.

The pasilla oleoresin is often used in combination with other spices and herbs to create a rich, complex flavor.

The Ancho Chile Pasilla Oleoresin is Added.

3. Cinnamon is Added to the Rice

The Mexican Rice is red because of the tomato paste and tomatoes in it.

The rice is cooked in a tomato broth with onions, garlic, and spices like cumin, cilantro, and chili powder.

There is also tomato sauce in the rice.

The chili powder is what gives it its heat.

The tomatoes and tomato paste also give it its redness.

In addition, cinnamon is added to the rice, which also gives it a red shade.

The cinnamon also adds a sweet flavor to the rice.

4. A Little bit of Chocolate is Added to the Rice

Mexican rice is often dyed red because of the addition of annatto seeds.

Also known as bixa orellana, annatto is a plant that grows in Mexico and in the Caribbean.

Its seeds are rich in carotenoids, which provide flavor, color, and nutritional value to foods.

In addition to adding color to dishes, annatto also provides health benefits.

It is believed to have antioxidant properties and to be good for the heart and eyes.

Some cooks also add annatto to dishes to thicken them.

The flavor of annatto is often described as nutty, earthy, or bitter.

It is also sometimes compared to chocolate, as it can have a slightly sweet, chocolatey taste.

The amount of annatto added to Mexican rice varies, but it is typically used in small quantities, to provide color and flavor without being too overpowering.

Some people like the taste of annatto, while others do not.

5. The Rice is Fried with a Little Oil Onion

When the rice is fried in oil with onion it turns red.

This is the beginning of the flavor.

Take your time with this step, and don’t rush it.

The more you fry the onion, the more flavor you will develop.

Be patient, and keep stirring occasionally.

You are aiming for the onion to start caramelizing.

If there’s not enough oil, the onion won’t be able to cook slowly, and it will start to burn.

Burnt onion is bitter, and it will ruin the flavor of your Mexican rice.

In a nutshell

So, technically, Mexican rice isn’t Mexican at all.

It’s actually Italian.

And that’s because it’s influenced by RIAA or Italian rice.

Coincidentally, it’s also a very similar dish to the rice that’s served with Argentinean or Uruguayan steak.

However, Mexican rice is usually not served with steak.

It’s served with Mexican food.

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Emily W.

Emily Wong is an Asian-American food writer the founder of With nearly 8 years of experience, she has a passion for making cooking accessible to everyone and sharing her personal experiences with food. Emily's vision for is to create a community of food lovers who are passionate about cooking, eating, and sharing their experiences with others. Read my story
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