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Instant Pot Spanish Rice is an easy and flavor-packed restaurant-style side dish. You’ll love to serve it with all of your favorite Tex Mex meals. And by using your pressure cooker, you get perfect fluffy results every time! This Mexican rice recipe is also naturally gluten free with a simple vegan option.
Spanish Rice vs Mexican Rice
Spanish rice is a side dish that you’ll often see served at Mexican restaurants. It is similar to a rice pilaf in that it is lightly toasted in oil before adding the cooking liquid. In the case of Spanish rice, though, it is flavored with aromatics like onion, garlic, and cumin. Then it is cooked in a mixture of broth and tomato sauce or another tomato product.
So you may wonder why it is called Spanish rice when it should probably be called Mexican rice. In fact, rice isn’t even usually made this way in Spain, and in Mexico. They just call it arroz (rice) or arroz rojo (red rice).
The term is actually only used in the United States. But it may be due to the fact that it was the Spanish who introduced rice to Mexico after traveling to Asia and then bringing it back to their new colonies.
Whatever you call it, there is no reason you have to visit Mexico or even your favorite Mexican restaurant to enjoy this simple side dish. Especially when you use your Instant Pot to make it fast, easy and perfectly fluffy and flavorful! Once you learn how, you’ll be making it every time you serve tacos, burritos, or even just alongside grilled steak or chicken!
Why Make Spanish Rice in the Instant Pot
Following the traditional method, the rice is first toasted in fat, here a mixture of oil and butter. This helps makes it nice and toasty to enhance the nuttiness of the rice. Then the seasonings and spices are sauteed with the rice to release all of the flavors. After adding the cooking liquid, bring to a boil. Finally, reduce heat and let it simmer.
However, instead of doing this all in a pot, we are going to use the Instant Pot. An electric pressure cooker makes cooking rice super fast. And once you’ve added the liquids and turned it on, you can walk away to prepare the rest of the meal. No need to babysit in order to ensure it cooks to perfection!
In addition, Instant Pot Mexican rice is naturally gluten free, and can easily be made vegan. So it’s a perfect side dish to serve to company or even for a family that has multiple dietary needs.
Of course, you’ll also need an Instant Pot. If you don’t have one, the Instant Pot Duo is a good starter option. It’s a 7-in-1 model, meaning it has the functions of seven different appliances. And its 6-quart size is what you’ll need for most used.
This savory and aromatic dish comes together with just a few simple pantry ingredients. Gather what you need and let’s get cooking.
- Avocado oil: Or another neutral oil such as vegetable or canola.
- Butter: Vegan butter works too.
- Long grain white rice: Long grain rice gives a better texture to the finished dish, ensuring that it isn’t mushy. Traditionally, Spanish rice is made with white rice, but brown rice can also be used. It just needs to cook longer. Rinsing rice is not necessary.
- White onion: A small one or half of a large one, diced.
- Garlic: Minced or crushed with a garlic press.
- Kosher salt
- Dried oregano
- Tomato sauce: A simple canned tomato sauce, preferably one that is unseasoned is your best option. You don’t necessarily want a lot of extra chunks and seasonings.
- Vegetable broth: You can also use chicken broth or even simply water if that’s what you have on hand.
How to Make Mexican Rice in the Instant Pot
Saute: Heat oil and butter in the Instant Pot set on the Saute setting, then add the rice. Stir frequently for several minutes until the rice is golden brown. Add the onion and garlic and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Then add the salt, cumin, and oregano before cooking for a few more seconds until the spices are fragrant.
Simmer: Add the vegetable broth and tomato sauce to the pot. Stir to make sure nothing is stuck on the bottom. Place the lid on the Instant Pot and press the Rice function button or set it for Manual or High for 5 minutes. It will take about 5-10 minutes for it to come to pressure and start the timer.
Serve: When it beeps at the end of the cooking time, allow for a natural release of the pressure for 5 minutes before doing a quick release to release the remaining pressure. Remove the lid, fluff with a fork and serve right away.
Tips for Success
Use Long Grain Rice: This will give you the best consistency for your Mexican rice. But in a pinch, you really can use any rice you have on hand. In fact, a long grain brown rice will work too, if you prefer a whole grain option. You will just need to cook it longer, setting the timer for 15 minutes.
Add More Flavor and Spice: Try it with salsa instead of the tomato sauce or add some chili powder.
Make it Vegan: Using vegan butter and vegetable broth makes this Spanish rice recipe a completely plant-based dish.
Customize It: You can kick up the spice by adding some jalapenos. Mix a bag of frozen mixed veggies. Stir in shredded chicken or a can of black beans. Or just pile on some toppings, like these:
- Salsa: Use your favorite from a jar, or make your own, like Mango Avocado Salsa.
- Guacamole: Or if you want something a little more smooth and creamy, try Avocado Crema.
- Cheese: Cheddar and Monterey Jack are favorites, but try something traditional like queso fresco or cotija.
- Sour cream: You can also go lighter with Greek yogurt, traditional with Mexican crema, or add some spice with Jalapeno Ranch Dressing.
- Veggies: Some chopped tomatoes, red onion, or peppers add some freshness.
- Garnishes: A sprinkle of cilantro or scallions is always a nice finishing touch. Or give it a squeeze of lime juice.
What to Serve With Spanish Rice
Well, it can be the base for delicious grain bowls, adding more flavor than just plain rice. Try it with these ideas:
- Chicken: Have your crockpot going all day so you can easily make Chicken Burrito Bowls.
- Ground Beef: Or take a package of ground beef out of the fridge or freezer for Instant Pot Beef Burrito Bowls.
- Pork: Or take it down to South America with Peruvian Pulled Pork Rice Bowls.
- Seafood: Just add super fast Chili Lime Shrimp and all of your favorite toppings.
Or it’s a simple side for all of your favorite Tex Mex meals.
- Soft Tacos: Let your pressure cooker do double duty and make Instant Pot Ground Beef Tacos.
- Crunchy Tacos: For an easy way to make tacos for a crowd, these Baked Chicken Tacos are a total breeze.
- Taquitos: These may not be traditional, but the kids love Hot Dog Taquitos.
- Nachos: Super simple and fun, you can’t go wrong with Sheet Pan Chicken Nachos.
- Enchiladas: Or go for a meatless meal with Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas.
- Tostadas: These easy Chicken Tostadas are always crowd-pleaser Mexican food.
After cooking, be sure to allow rice to cool before transferring it to an airtight food storage container or Ziploc bag. You can store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
The leftover rice can also be frozen. Make sure it is cooled completely before sealing in a container or bag in order to avoid freezer burn. You’ll want to enjoy it within 2 months for the best quality. Let it that in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
Reheating Leftover Spanish Rice
Because it can dry out, you’ll want to add a tablespoon or two of liquid or broth to the rice. You can then use one of two methods to reheat it:
- Microwave: Put the rice and liquid in a microwave-safe container and cover loosely with a lid or paper towel. Heat for 1-2 minutes on high power to warm it through.
- Stovetop: Add the rice and liquid to a saucepan and use a fork to break up any large clumps.
More Rice Side Dish Recipes
Instant Pot Spanish Rice
- 1 Tbsp avocado oil or another neutral oil like vegetable or canola
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter (can use vegan)
- 2 ½ cups long grain white rice
- 1 small white onion, diced (about ½ cup)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- ¼ tsp cumin
- ¼ tsp dried oregano
- 2 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
- 1 cup tomato sauce (one 8 oz. can, preferably with no added sugar)
- Turn the Instant Pot to the Saute function. Add the avocado oil and butter to the inner pot and once hot, add in the rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is golden brown.
- Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook another 2-3 minutes before adding the salt, cumin, and oregano to the pot. Cook 30 seconds just until the spices are fragrant.
- Add the vegetable broth and tomato sauce to the pot and stir to make sure nothing is stuck on the bottom. Place the lid on the Instant Pot and press the Rice function button or set it for Manual or High for 5 minutes. It will take about 5-10 minutes for it to come to pressure and start the timer.
- At the end of the cooking time, allow the pressure to come down naturally for 5 minutes before doing a quick release and removing the lid. Fluff with a fork and serve.