Mexican Rice: A Surprisingly Versatile Ingredient & Horchata Recipe

November 20, 2020  |  By Peg Kern
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Mexican rice with vegetables during a cooking vacation in Mexico.In the U.S., you’re probably used to a simple side of rice accompanying your main dish at a Mexican-American restaurant, but in reality, rice takes on so much more dimension in Mexican cuisine. In Mexico cooking, the simple grains can be transformed into a variety of colors, flavors, and textures, and they can also be featured as the main ingredient in drinks and dessert.

Red, yellow, green, and black are just some of the colors Mexican rice can take on, and that color is all based on the ingredients added during the cooking of the rice. For example, yellow rice or arroz amarillo is made from adding achiote (similar to saffron) to the cooking fat (butter, olive oil, or vegetable oil) along with chicken stock, seasonings, and vegetables.

Travel to Mexico on a culinary vacation.Enjoying the sunset during a beach vacation with The International Kitchen.

Green rice or arroz verde is made by adding a mix of pureed fresh herbs like cilantro and parsley to the chicken stock before adding it to the rice, which will soak up the green liquid, color, and flavor. Red rice or arroz rojo is made by adding pureed ancho chiles or dried poblano chiles to the cooking fat for a nice earthy, slightly fruity flavor with a mild heat before adding chicken stock to the rice for tenderness.

Bags of rice ready for a cooking class.Take the opportunity to learn some of these diverse rice recipes along with other delicious local recipes with the help of the chefs of our wonderful Mexican cooking vacations.

After enjoying these colorful and flavorful rice dishes, perhaps soothe your taste buds with this traditional deliciously cold, sweet almond rice drink recipe from the late Chef David Sterling of our trip Culinary Yucatan.

Horchata in a jarRecipe for Horchata

Serves: 6
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 8 hours
Cook method: Steep


  • 1 1/4 cups long grain rice
  • 1 1/4 cups blanched almonds
  • 1 5-inch cinnamon stick
  • 6 whole allspice berries
  • 1/2 oz. green lime peel
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 cups ice water
  • 3/4 cup sugar


Drinking a frothy, cold horchata during a cooking vacation in Mexico.1. Grind or blend the rice.
2. In a medium size mixing bowl, add ground rice, almonds, cinnamon stick, allspice, and lime rind.
3. Pour 4 cups of hot (not boiling) water to dry mix and cover for a minimum of 8 hours.
4. Remove cinnamon stick, allspice, and lime rind.
5. Blend rice/almond mixture with vanilla extract for a few minutes. If mixture is still coarse, continue blending until smooth.
6. Pour the mixture through a cheesecloth or a fine strainer into a pitcher. Twist or push on the solid to get as much liquid out of it then throw away solid.
7. Finally, add the 6 cups (or as much as you prefer) of ice water, sweeten to your liking, and place in refrigerator until time to serve.

This Mexican rice drink is perfect for cooling off in the hot afternoon after exploring all that Mexico has to offer on one of our cooking vacations.

By Peg Kern

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