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How to make easy Tex-Mex Rice with leftover rice

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!

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. We always have leftover rice in the fridge, and I mean always. Three of us are on Weight Watchers, and for the two of us on the Purple Plan, brown rice is a zero-point food. My husband prefers regular old brown rice, while I like brown basmati. And when I make either one, I make a lot! 

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. 



Yield: 4 servings

Tex-Mex Rice

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  • 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

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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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