Mexican rice, also known as Spanish rice or arroz rojo, is a flavorful side dish commonly served with Mexican food. It is made by sautéing rice with tomatoes, garlic, onions, and spices to create a red colored rice.
What are the main ingredients in Mexican rice?
The primary ingredients in traditional Mexican rice are:
- Long grain white rice
- Diced tomatoes
- Tomato sauce or tomato paste
- Chicken or vegetable broth
- Oil, such as canola or vegetable oil
- Spices like cumin, oregano, chili powder, garlic powder, salt
The rice is first browned in oil along with aromatics like onion and garlic. Then tomato products are added to give it the classic red coloring. Chicken or vegetable broth provides additional flavor. Finally, the spices are added to give Mexican rice its signature flavor profile.
What are the nutritional values of the main ingredients?
Here is a breakdown of the nutritional values of the main ingredients in Mexican rice per 1 cup cooked:
Long grain white rice
- Calories: 241
- Carbs: 53g
- Protein: 4.2g
- Fat: 0.4g
- Fiber: 0.6g
- Calories: 41
- Carbs: 9g
- Protein: 1g
- Fat: 0g
- Fiber: 2g
- Calories: 48
- Carbs: 10g
- Protein: 1g
- Fat: 0g
- Fiber: 2g
- Calories: 64
- Carbs: 15g
- Protein: 1.4g
- Fat: 0g
- Fiber: 3g
- Calories: 149
- Carbs: 33g
- Protein: 6g
- Fat: 0.5g
- Fiber: 2g
- Calories: 46
- Carbs: 5g
- Protein: 5g
- Fat: 2g
- Fiber: 0g
- Calories: 1927
- Fat: 218g
As you can see, the main nutrients in Mexican rice come from the rice itself and the onions and garlic used for aromatics. The tomatoes add fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The broth provides additional protein. The oil is mostly just added fat calories.
What are the nutritional values per serving?
The total nutrition in Mexican rice depends on the specific ingredients and amounts used in the recipe. However, here are some estimates per 1 cup serving (makes 4 servings):
Mexican rice is relatively high in calories since it is centered around white rice. A 1 cup serving provides around 250-300 calories depending on the amount of oil used.
Over half the calories in Mexican rice come from carbohydrates. A serving contains around 50-60g of carbs, primarily from the white rice.
You get a moderate amount of protein from the rice, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and broth in Mexican rice. Expect 5-8g of protein per serving.
The amount of fat depends on how much oil is used to cook the rice. Keep it on the lower end by using just a small amount of oil to coat the pan.
The fiber in Mexican rice comes from the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and any other vegetables included.Aim for at least 2-4g per serving.
Sodium levels can vary based on the salt and seasonings added. Limit salt to keep sodium in check.
What are the vitamins and minerals in Mexican rice?
Mexican rice contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, though not in highly concentrated amounts since rice itself does not provide much micronutrition. Approximately per 1 cup serving you can expect:
Vitamin A: 15-20% DV
From the tomatoes primarily.
Vitamin C: 15-25% DV
Also provided by the tomatoes.
Thiamin: 15% DV
Part of the B vitamin group, from the rice.
Folate: 10% DV
Important for metabolism and cell growth.
Iron: 5-10% DV
Helps transport oxygen in the blood.
Potassium: 5-10% DV
Important electrolyte for muscle and nerve function.
The tomatoes in Mexican rice provide the majority of vitamins A and C. The rice contributes some B vitamins like thiamin and minerals like iron. Overall the dish provides a range of important vitamins and minerals, though not in huge amounts. It is best consumed as part of an overall varied diet.
What are the health benefits of the main ingredients?
Here are some of the top health benefits provided by the main ingredients in Mexican rice:
- High in carbs for energy
- Gluten free
- Source of B vitamins like thiamin and niacin
- Provides iron
- Excellent source of antioxidant lycopene
- Provide vitamins A, C, and potassium
- May promote heart health
- Help fight inflammation
- Contain antioxidants
- Provide vitamin C, folate, and potassium
- Prebiotic effects
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Boosts immune system
- May help lower blood pressure and cholesterol
- Antimicrobial effects
- Contains antioxidant allicin
In summary, Mexican rice provides a good source of carbohydrate energy from the rice, antioxidants and vitamins from the tomatoes, prebiotic effects and anti-inflammatory benefits from the onions and garlic. It makes for a satisfying and nutritious side dish.
How does Mexican rice fit into a balanced diet?
Here is how Mexican rice can fit into a healthy, balanced diet:
Main dish pairing
Mexican rice goes great paired with a protein-rich main dish like grilled chicken or fish. This makes it a satisfying meal high in nutrients.
Since Mexican rice is fairly carb-heavy, pair it with a vegetable side like a salad or roasted broccoli to balance the meal.
Healthy fat source
Add a source of healthy fats like avocado or olive oil to provide antioxidants and unsaturated fats to balance the carbs from the rice.
Stick to reasonable 1 cup serving sizes to keep calories under control and balance it with other non-starchy veggies and lean protein foods.
Skip the extra salt
Avoid adding extra table salt to Mexican rice to limit sodium levels.
Make it vegetarian
Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth to create a vegetarian/vegan version.
Bake instead of fry
Baking the rice reduces the amount of added fats.
Overall, Mexican rice can be part of a healthy diet when portion sizes are controlled and it is paired with lean proteins, healthy fats, and vegetables.
Low calorie and low carb options
There are also options for lightening up Mexican rice:
Replace a portion of the rice with riced cauliflower to reduce carbs and calories.
Mix in extra veggies like diced bell pepper, corn, or zucchini to bulk it up.
Use chicken broth instead of oil to cook the rice to limit added fats.
Substitute brown rice for a portion of the white rice for more fiber and nutrients.
Add fresh lime juice for flavor instead of relying on oil, salt or other seasonings.
Tomato paste provides richness with less calories and carbs than full-fat tomato products.
With some simple substitutions, Mexican rice can be adapted to be a flavorful, lower calorie, and lower carb dish.
What about Mexican rice makes it unhealthy?
Mexican rice is often thought of as an unhealthy food for a few reasons:
Since it is centered on white rice, it is high in refined carbohydrates and lower in nutrients than brown rice.
The rice and any added fats bump up the calorie count quickly.
Frying the rice adds unnecessary amounts of oil, which provides mostly empty calories.
Salt and seasonings can make Mexican rice high in sodium.
It is easy to overeat a carb-heavy side dish like Mexican rice.
However, Mexican rice doesn’t have to be unhealthy if it is prepared with care. Opting for brown rice, limiting added fats, controlling portions and salt can all help keep its nutrition in check.
Here are some substitutions you can make to create a healthier version of Mexican rice:
|Brown rice, cauliflower rice
|Frying in oil
|Cooking in broth
|Full-fat coconut milk
|Low-fat coconut milk
|Herbs and spices to season
|Chicken or vegetables
With simple subs like using brown rice, cooking in broth, reducing fatty ingredients, and seasoning smartly, you can still get all the taste of Mexican rice in a healthier package.
What are some creative ways to use Mexican rice?
Beyond a side for Mexican dishes, here are some fun ways to enjoy Mexican rice:
Stuffed peppers or tomatoes
Spoon Mexican rice into halved bell peppers or tomatoes for a flavorful vegetarian stuffed bake.
Build a burrito bowl on a base of Mexican rice and top with beans, salsa, avocado and cheese.
Mexican rice salad
Chill leftover rice and toss with corn, black beans, peppers and dressing for a filling salad.
Wrap Mexican rice in tortillas with enchilada sauce and cheese for an easy enchilada bake.
Top Mexican rice with grilled veggies or proteins like shrimp for a hearty rice bowl meal.
Add Mexican rice to a veggie stir fry for a Southwestern twist.
Toss chilled Mexican rice with eggs, veggies and soy sauce for Mexican fried rice.
With its dynamic Southwest flavor, Mexican rice can be used creatively in stuffings, salads, burritos, stir fries, and more.
Mexican rice is flavorful side dish that can be a healthy component of a balanced diet when prepared properly. It provides carbs from the rice, antioxidants from tomatoes, and a kick of flavor from spices. Just be mindful of portion sizes, added oils and sodium levels. Balancing Mexican rice with lean proteins, veggies, and healthy fats can help keep its nutritional value in check. With a few easy ingredient swaps and creative uses, Mexican rice can be a tasty addition to a healthy lifestyle.