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How to make easy Tex-Mex Rice with leftover rice

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Use up that leftover rice!

A plate of Mexican rice.

There are lots of recipes out there for this kind of dish that start out with uncooked rice, but I’ve never made Tex-Mex Rice that way. I first started making this as a way to use up leftover rice, but now I always make extra rice on purpose so that I can make it!

What kind of rice?

This recipe will work with any leftover long-grain rice, white or brown. But if you have a choice, I think it tastes best with basmati, which tends to stay firmer. My husband disagrees, and says it tastes better with a regular old long grain brown rice, like this one, which is what I buy.

But about half of the time, I make it with leftover rice from Chinese take-out. Whatever’s in the fridge!

What to call it?

I agonized over what to call this. Most recipes with some combination of these ingredients are called either Mexican Rice or Spanish Rice, and I have NO idea if this kind of rice is at all authentic to either place.

I was trying to recreate the kind of rice I’ve gotten in my favorite neighborhood Mexican restaurants, but the couple of times I went to real Mexican restaurants I discovered that the “Mexican” restaurants I usually go to don’t really serve Mexican food, it’s more like Tex-Mex-by-way-of-the-northeast, or a heavily Americanized version of Mexican cuisine.

Plus, I make mine with my marinara sauce, which is not Mexican. But tomato-based sauces probably originated in Mexico anyway, so you can go crazy and use whatever tomato sauce you want, even salsa if that’s what you have on hand, although it will give your rice a different flavor.

Whatever this rice really is, Tex-Mex Rice seemed like a more appropriate name. I’ll take it with some vegetarian refried beans, chips, and not-too-spicy salsa please!

Yield: 4 servings

Tex-Mex Rice Recipe

Have a question about this recipe? I may have answered it here.


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2-3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 4 cups leftover rice
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 lime, quartered, for serving


    1. Heat a large pan over medium heat and add the vegetable oil
    2. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 5 minutes
    3. Add the garlic and ground cumin and cook for another minute, stirring constantly
    4. Lower the heat to medium-low and add 2 tablespoons of water and the marinara sauce, stirring to prevent splattering
    5. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is hot, adding another tablespoon of water if things get too dry
    6. Remove from the heat, taste, and add salt if necessary (if your leftover rice was well-salted, you might not need any)
    7. Serve immediately, garnished with the lime

Did you make this recipe? I'd love to see it!

Please leave a comment, a great star rating, or share what you made on Instagram, tagging @amyoztan. It really helps me out!


Wednesday 10th of November 2021

This was so good! Thank you for the recipe :)

Amy Oztan

Thursday 11th of November 2021

You're so welcome! I just made a big batch of it yesterday. :-)

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