Learn how to make your own favorite Mexican restaurant rice at home in 25 minutes or less! This easy Mexican cauliflower rice recipe is so satisfying, packed with veggies and bursting with bold Tex-Mex flavors! This healthy, low-carb option is a great way to sneak more nutrition into your meal! It’s a fast, flavorful dish that will quickly become an all-time family favorite! (Healthy, vegetarian, gluten-free and grain-free with keto-friendly option)
Try serving this healthy Mexican rice as a light vegetarian lunch or as a side dish with Mexican Shredded Beef Tacos, Mexican Shrimp Ceviche Tostadas, Mexican Lettuce Wraps or Baja Chicken in Beer! Continue to read on for simple tips and tricks for preparing the best cauliflower rice at home! And, don’t miss the comprehensive step-by-step photos and recipe video showing you exactly how easy this restaurant-inspired dish is to make from scratch!
Update: This post was originally published in January 2020. I made updates to the post below to include more information about low-carb Mexican rice. I also step-by-step photos showing you exactly how easy it is to make this cauliflower rice at home!
If you are a fan of ordering red rice at your favorite Mexican restaurant then you are you going to love this healthier homemade option!
Mexican cauliflower rice recipe: overview
This cauliflower rice has all of the same bold, delicious flavors found in your favorite Arroz Rojo with none of the guilt! This cauliflower rice is fluffy, moist, bursting with bold seasonings and overflowing with nutrient-rich vegetables!
This recipe is a seriously tasty, low-carb and modern take on Mexican rice! It features fluffy cauliflower rice infused with pungent garlic, earthy cumin, smoky paprika and spicy chili powder, gently simmered in a complex tomato-spiked broth. Overflowing with vegetables and generously garnished with fragrant cilantro and tart lime juice, this restaurant-inspired side dish will quickly become a family favorite!
Plus, this homemade Mexican red rice is incredibly simple to prepare! With just a few easy-to-find fresh ingredients along with a couple pantry staples, you can prepare healthy restaurant-style Mexican rice right at home!
Make this recipe once and I promise it will become your family’s favorite go-to weeknight side dish! But, you’ve been warned, it’s so delicious you may find yourself eating it straight from the skillet as a vegetarian main! (Side note: this rice is so good as a “dip” with crunchy, salty tortilla chips!!)
Why you will love this recipe
- Easy to find and affordable ingredients: This recipe requires just 10 simple ingredients plus a couple pantry staples!
- One pot recipe: This Mexican cauliflower rice recipe is made entirely in one pot!
- Quick to prepare: This rice is so quick and easy to prepare! This recipe only requires 10 minutes of preparation and 15 minutes of active prep time – meaning, you can have this dish on the table in 25 minutes flat!
- Bold, Mexican flavor: This healthy rice is so hearty, satisfying and bursting with robust, Tex-Mex flavors!
- Healthy: Unlike traditional Mexican rice, this version is healthy, low-carb, low-calorie and packs a nutritional punch!
- Easy to customize: This recipe is totally flexible, allowing you to get creative in the kitchen! Feel free to omit, substitute or add ingredients!
- Stores great in the refrigerator or the freezer: The leftovers taste amazing! They make the perfect grab-and-go lunch or quick heat-and-eat light vegetarian dinner!
What is Mexican rice?
Mexican rice, also known as Arroz Rojo, red rice or Mexican-style Spanish rice, is a classic and beloved Mexican side dish. It’s traditionally made by sautéing rice with tomatoes, onions, garlic and aromatic seasonings until golden brown in color and fluffy in texture.
Mexican cauliflower rice has the same bold flavor as traditional Mexican rice – it just replaces long grain white rice with healthier cauliflower rice.
Are Mexican rice and Spanish rice the same?
While some people will refer to Mexican rice as Spanish rice, they are not one in the same!
Spanish rice, also known as paella, is firm in texture and yellow in color from the addition of saffron. Meanwhile, Mexican rice is reddish in color and soft with a moist, melt in your mouth texture. Also, while Spanish rice includes saffron, Mexican rice does not and instead it includes cumin.
How is Mexican rice seasoned?
The exact seasonings in Mexican rice can vary greatly depending on region and family tradition. However, most authentic Mexican rice recipes are seasoned with at least fresh garlic and either tomato bouillon (also known as Caldo de tomate), tomato paste, or tomato sauce. Variations can also include chili powder, cumin, oregano, cilantro and lime juice.
Is it spicy?
Traditionally, Mexican rice is not overly spicy or hot. Authentic Arroz Rojo is fluffy in texture and complex in flavor with delicate notes of tomato and a bold, slightly piquant punch.
You can easily customize red rice to be spicier or mellower in flavor! If you prefer a lot of fiery heat, you can add lots of fresh chili peppers. Or, if you prefer a milder flavor, you can omit the peppers and chili powder entirely and substitute red bell pepper instead!
Why is Mexican rice red?
Traditional Mexican red rice gets it characteristic reddish-orange color from the addition of tomatoes. Depending on the region and family recipe, the reddish color and tomato flavor can come from either tomato bouillon, tomato puree or tomato paste.
What ingredients are in Mexican rice?
The ingredients in traditional Arroz Rojo can vary greatly depending upon the region and family tradition. Most traditional recipes use the same basic ingredients as a base, such as rice, tomatoes, onions and chicken broth or stock. This healthy, modern take on Mexican rice substitutes the white rice with cauliflower rice and also utilizes more vegetables for a boost of nutritional goodness!
Ingredients you need to make healthy Mexican rice at home
- Cauliflower: You will need one large head of cauliflower to transform into rice. If you want to save time and energy on prepping, you can purchase cauliflower rice in the produce section of most major grocery stores.
- Onion: One small yellow onion adds a touch of mild onion flavor.
- Peppers: Fresh chili peppers provide a little heat! I like to use mild jalapeño peppers, slightly spicy serrano peppers or a mix of the two. If you prefer a very mild pepper flavor, make sure you remove most (or all) of the ribs and seeds from your peppers before dicing.
- Garlic: Two to three cloves of garlic provide a subtle, yet distinctive punchy taste. Make sure you use fresh garlic, not the minced variety sold in a jar!
- Spices and Seasonings: A combination of ground cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder, kosher salt and ground black pepper all provide a tons of flavor!
- Tomato Paste: Two tablespoons of thick tomato paste give the rice that traditional red color while also adding a highly concentrated tomato flavor.
- Corn: Corn adds plenty of sweet flavor and juicy texture! You can use fresh, frozen or canned corn depending upon your preference and if corn is in season! (See below for types of corn you can use)
- Tomatoes: Roma tomatoes add delicious, juicy pops of tangy, garden-fresh flavor!
- Stock: 6 tablespoons of stock help soften and cook the cauliflower rice. You can use chicken or vegetable stock depending upon your personal preference or what you have on hand.
- Cilantro: Fresh cilantro adds a ton of earthy flavor! If you aren’t a fan of cilantro you can substitute parsley or scallions!
- Lime Juice: Fresh lime juice adds a bit of acidity. Make sure you purchase limes and squeeze them yourself for the best flavor!
Substitutions, variations and toppings
Looking to make a few changes or additions to this rice? No problem! This recipe is super flexible and incredibly easy to customize! Get creative in the kitchen – eliminate any ingredients that you don’t have on hand or simply don’t like and replace them with ones you love! Below are a few ideas to help get you started!
- Corn: You can use any type of corn you have readily available! Fresh, frozen or canned corn all work great in this recipe. I like to use leftover grilled corn (cut off the cob) when fresh corn is in season during the summer. If you use frozen corn, make sure you defrost it before proceeding with the recipe. If using a can of corn, make sure you drain it thoroughly first. Looking to keep things low-carb? You can omit the corn completely or substitute it with your favorite fresh vegetable (see below for ideas)!
- Tomatoes: Are fresh tomatoes not in season? No worries – substitute a can of diced tomatoes instead, just make sure you drain the tomatoes first! Or try using your favorite salsa instead of tomatoes!
- Peppers: Not a fan of spicy chili peppers? Try substituting bell peppers instead! I love sweet red or yellow bell peppers in this recipe, but green bell peppers work fabulously as well!
- Vegan-option: Looking to make this vegan? Simply substitute the stock with vegetable broth!
- Beans: Want to add some plant-based protein? Toss in a can of your favorite beans along with the corn in step 2 of the recipe. Make sure you thoroughly drain and rinse the beans prior to using!
- Chicken: Prefer a lean, complete protein? Stir in some shredded rotisserie chicken before serving!
- Carrots: Give your rice a boost of β-carotene by adding carrots to the mix! Finely dice your carrots and add them to the pan when you add the peppers!
- Peas: Love sweet peas? Try adding a few handfuls when you add in the corn!
- Zucchini: Need to use up all that summer-fresh zucchini? Shred your zucchini and gently squeeze out all excess moisture before stirring it into the rice in step five!
- Dairy: A generous dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt is the perfect creamy compliment to this rice!
- Avocado: Buttery slices of avocado are a wonderful way to add healthy fats!
- Cheese: I’ve never met a dish that didn’t benefit from a generous sprinkling of cheese! To keep things authentic, try using Cotija or Queso Fresco!
- Salsa or Pico de Gallo: Topping your rice with your favorite salsa or fresh pico de gallo is a great way to enhance that juicy, fresh tomato flavor!
- Hot Sauce: I like to bring the heat, so a few dashes of Mexican hot sauce is a must for me!
How to make cauliflower rice?
Turning cauliflower into rice is so incredibly easy! There are two different techniques for making cauliflower rice at home, depending upon your preference and what kitchen equipment you have readily available.
- Food Processor (pictured below): Personally, I prefer to make cauliflower rice using the food processor. I find the process much quicker and easier. To make cauliflower rice using the food processor, cut your head of cauliflower into florets. Next, add the florets to the food processor in batches. Pulse the cauliflower until it resembles rice. Alternatively, you can use the grater blade (S Blade) attachment to blitz the cauliflower into small pieces. I typically don’t use the grater blade, because it’s just one more thing to clean!
- Box Grater: If you don’t have access to a food processor, you can easily use a box grater to make cauliflower rice! Cut the head of cauliflower into large chunks and use the medium-size holes on the box grater to grate the cauliflower into rice.
Storage: After ricing the cauliflower, transfer it to a resealable bag and store it in the refrigerator or freezer.
Pro-tip: Cauliflower rice will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days; however, I recommend storing it for no more than 1-2 days. Upon storage the cauliflower rice will start to develop a strong sulfur smell, so it’s best to use it right away or within the first 2 days.
How to make Mexican cauliflower rice from scratch?
This healthy Mexican cauliflower rice recipe is so simple to prepare! This recipe requires just one pan, a few easy-to-find ingredients and 15 minutes of active cook time!
(Scroll down for the detailed measurements and instructions in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.)
- Prep cauliflower: On a clean work surface, cut the cauliflower into 1-inch florets. Working in batches, add the florets to a food processor or standing blender. Pulse until the cauliflower florets resemble rice, about 8-12 pulses. Transfer cauliflower ‘rice’ to a large bowl and continue to process remaining florets. Set the bowl of cauliflower rice to the side.
- Sauté the vegetables and seasonings: Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onion, jalapeno, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft. Add the garlic and seasonings. Stir and cook until fragrant. Add in the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until tomato paste is fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add the cauliflower, corn and tomatoes. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
- Add the liquid and cook covered: Add the stock and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover the pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 4 minutes.
- Uncover and continue to cook: Uncover the pan and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender about 4-5 minutes.
- To serve: Remove pan from heat and stir in fresh cilantro. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with lime wedges and optional garnishes on side. Enjoy!
How to prepare Mexican rice with cauliflower step by step photos:
Tips for serving cauliflower rice
Looking for a new or exciting way to serve your rice? Below are a few unique and authentic ideas, plus some of my family’s favorite ways to enjoy heathy Mexican rice!
What to serve with Mexican rice?
You can serve Arroz Rojo as a light vegetarian main dish with chips, or as a flavorful side-dish alongside with various Mexican main dishes!
10 side dishes to serve alongside Mexican rice
Looking for another side to serve alongside your Mexican cauliflower rice? Try pairing it with these delicious side dishes for a meal everyone is sure to love!
- Pico de Gallo: Classic, chunky pico de gallo and chips are an obvious pairing option!
- Corn Salsa: Double down on the fresh corn by pairing your rice with a crowd favorite – Roasted Corn Salsa!
- Guacamole: Is it even Mexican night if you don’t have a large vat of ‘guac?!
- Queso: Got a cheese lover in the house? Warm, melty queso and plenty of crispy tortilla chips will keep them happy!
- Coleslaw: Crisp Mexican Coleslaw is a wonderful option if you are looking to keep things light and healthy!
- Salad: Refreshing Mexican Bean Salad is a great way to add protein to your spread!
- Black Bean Soup: Hearty black bean soup is always a welcome addition, especially if the weather is cold!
- Chicken Tortilla Soup: Classic Mexican tortilla soup is a great option if you are looking for a cozy meal!
- Corn: If fresh corn is in season, flavorful Mexican Corn fresh off the grill is the way to go!
- Refried Beans: Looking to create an authentic Mexican fiesta at home? Creamy beans are a must!
12 entrees to pair with cauliflower rice
Need a delicious entree to pair with your rice? Below are a few delicious entrees you can serve with Mexican rice to create an epic fiesta!
- Ceviche: Fresh ceviche is perfect if you need a refreshing and light, yet totally delicious entree!
- Taco Salad: Great taco salads are life! For even more flavor, try using the Mexican rice as a base for your salad!
- Carnitas: If you are a pork lover, juicy, tender Carnitas are a must!
- Carne Asada: Easy Carne Asada is always a winner with a crowd!
- Mexican Beef: Tender, fall-apart beef will have everyone coming back for more!
- Cilantro Chicken: Juicy, herbaceous chicken breasts or thighs are a wonderful healthy option!
- Burritos: It’s not a fiesta unless you have jumbo burritos with all the rice!
- Chimichangas: Every deep-fried burrito needs two things: queso and Mexican rice!
- Tacos: No taco Tuesday is complete without a side of Mexican rice!
- Enchiladas: Saucy enchiladas are a classic for a good reason!
- Fajitas: Sizzling skillet fajitas are always fun and easily customizable!
- Quesadillas: Melty quesadillas are the perfect pairing option if you are looking to keep things quick and easy (and cheesy)!
Tips for storing and freezing leftover Mexican cauliflower rice
Food safety is important when it comes to storage! Follow the simple tips below for properly storing your leftover rice!
How long will Mexican rice keep?
Leftover Mexican cauliflower rice can always be put to good use! You can enjoy leftovers plain as an easy grab-and-go lunch or a heat-and-eat vegetarian meal! Follow the below steps when storing to preserve the flavor and texture of your leftover rice!
- Cool it: Always allow your leftovers to cool completely to room temperature before storing. Since rice is moist – which is a breeding ground for bacteria – you want to cool it as quickly as possible. To quickly cool your leftover rice, try spreading it out on a large baking sheet!
- Store it: Transfer the cool rice to an airtight storage container or resealable bag and store it in the refrigerator.
- Use by: When properly stored, cauliflower rice will keep well for up to 5 days.
Can I freeze Mexican rice?
Mexican-style Spanish rice freezes exceptionally well! Freezing is the great way to further extend the shelf-life of your dish! Follow the simple steps below when freezing to prevent freezer burn!
- Cool it: Always cool your cauliflower rice to room temperature as quickly as possible before storing!
- Bag it: Transfer the cool rice to a freezer-safe storage bag. Gently press the bag to remove as much as possible before sealing.
- Store it: Store your leftover rice flat in the freezer – this way it takes up less space and defrosts more quickly!
- Use by: Cooked Mexican cauliflower rice will keep well in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- To use it: You can use the rice straight from the freezer or thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before reheating it using one of the methods below!
Pro-tip: Freezing leftover cauliflower rice in individual or family-sized portions will help you get a nutritious side dish on the dinner table in a flash!
How to reheat it?
Low-carb Mexican rice is so easy to reheat, making it perfect for quick lunches or easy weeknight dinners! You reheat this rice from the refrigerator or straight from the freezer (no thawing necessary!)
- Microwave: Transfer an individual portion of leftover cauliflower rice to a microwave-safe container. Place a lid on the container, leaving the lid slightly cracked at the side to form a vent. Reheat on high power, stirring every 30 to 45 seconds, until the rice is warm throughout. (Note: The exact cook time will depend upon the strength of your microwave.)
- Stove-top: Transfer leftovers to a skillet and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until warm throughout.
Is Mexican Cauliflower Rice healthy?
This cauliflower rice is a wonderful, healthy alternative to traditional Mexican rice! Plus, this side dish is a great way to sneak more vegetables into your diet! This recipe is packed with vegetables, low in calories and loaded with nutrients including fiber, potassium, vitamin C, K and B6!
Is this ketogenic and low-carb?
You can easily adapt this recipe to be low-carb and ket0-friendly! If you are limiting your carbohydrates, omit the corn from the recipe.
Is this red rice gluten-free?
Yes, this Mexican-style rice recipe is gluten free! Please note, this recipe does contain stock! Always make sure you check the ingredient labels to ensure the products you are using are in fact gluten-free!
How many calories in this dish?
The exact number of calories and carbohydrates in Mexican cauliflower rice will depend upon the precise measurements and brands of ingredients you use. This recipe serves 8 as a side dish and contains approximately 86 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
You and your family will love this easy, delicious and nutritious lightened-up restaurant classic!
Looking for more delicious rice recipes?
If you love this cauliflower dish, try one of these delicious recipes next:
The best Mexican Cauliflower Rice recipe and step by step video👇
Mexican Cauliflower Rice recipe
- Large Saucepan or Large Straight Sided Skillet (with lid)
- 1 (2 pound) Head Cauliflower (SEE NOTES)
- 2 TBS Olive Oil
- 1 small Yellow Onion – small dice (about 1 ½ cups)
- 2 Jalapeno or Serrano Chile Peppers – seeded and finely chopped (SEE NOTES)
- 2 Cloves Garlic – peeled and minced
- 1 ¼ tsp Cumin
- ¾ tsp EACH: Smoked Paprika & Chili Powder (SEE NOTES)
- 2 TBS Tomato Paste
- 1 Cup Corn Kernels (SEE NOTES)
- 2 Roma Tomatoes – seeded and diced (about ½ cup), plus more for garnish
- 6 TBS Unsalted Chicken or Vegetable Stock
- Kosher Salt & Ground Black Pepper
- 1-3 TBS Fresh Cilantro – chopped, to taste
For Serving: Lime Wedges, Avocado Slices, Sour Cream, Hot Sauce and/or Scallions
- Prep cauliflower: On a clean work surface, cut the cauliflower into 1-inch florets. Working in batches, add the florets to a food processor or standing blender. Pulse until the cauliflower florets resemble rice, about 8-12 pulses. (DO NOT OVER PROCESS!) Transfer cauliflower ‘rice’ to a large bowl and continue to process remaining florets. Set the bowl of cauliflower rice to the side.
- Sauté the vegetables and seasonings: Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onion and jalapeno (or serrano). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently until onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, paprika and chili powder. Stir and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds – 1 minute. Add in the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently until tomato paste is caramelized and fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add the cauliflower, corn and tomatoes. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
- Add the liquid: Add the stock and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
- Cook covered: Cover the pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, COVERED, for 4 minutes.
- Uncover and continue to cook: Uncover the pan and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the cauliflower is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 4-5 minutes.
- To serve: Remove pan from heat and stir in fresh cilantro. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with lime wedges and optional garnishes on side. Enjoy!
- Amount of Cauliflower: 1 large (2 pound) head of cauliflower is equivalent to 10 cups of cauliflower florets or 20 ounces of riced cauliflower.
- Jalapeno: If you don’t like a lot of smoky spice in your food, omit jalapeno pepper and substitute red bell pepper.
- Chili Powder amount: If you aren’t a fan of spicy foods, reduce chili powder to ¼ teaspoon.
- Corn: You can use frozen, defrosted corn, canned corn or leftover cooked fresh corn for this recipe. I like to use leftover grilled kernels of fresh corn in the summer. When corn isn’t in season I use canned fire-roasted corn. Make sure you defrost frozen corn or drain canned corn before proceeding with recipe.
- STORAGE: Cooked Mexican rice should be stored in an airtight container. Properly stored, rice will last in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Alternatively, the rice can be frozen for up to 3 months!
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