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Side Dish | February 23, 2009

Mexican Rice with Cilantro dressing

Mexican Rice with Cilantro dressing is inspired by everyone’s favorite Cilantro Lime Rice at Cafe Rio, a popular fast-casual restaurant with roots in Utah! I crave Cafe Rio on a daily basis. Luckily I don’t have to go to the restaurant every day because I can make our favorite dishes at home!  You’ll love this easy homemade version of this side dish. It will quickly become a go-to recipe for your Mexican themed meals.

I still remember my high school Spanish teacher, Señor Turner. I don’t recall learning a lot of Spanish, but I do remember some of his mannerisms. He spent a lot of time talking about his travels abroad, and told us to spend our money on travel, instead of cars and clothing while we were young. Good advice. Where was I going with this? Maybe I was wishing I was in Mexico! This cilantro lime rice is transporting me to a resort vacation in Mexico 🙂

This side dish is easy to cook on the stove top or make in your rice cooker. Whisk together the fresh cilantro dressing in a few minutes, pour over and toss the rice. How easy is that? I use about 1/2 of the dressing over the suggested amount of rice and then keep the rest for dressing chicken before or after grilling, or for making another pot of rice! This delicious dressing is yummy on so many things. When you take the first bite of this rice you’ll have to make sure you aren’t sitting in a Cafe Rio restaurant- it tastes just  like the real thing. 

Interested in making more copycat Cafe Rio recipes? Don’t worry- I’ve got you covered! Any true Cafe Rio fan needs the sweet pork recipe…

These are all great recipes to make for a crowd. I don’t know a soul that doesn’t go crazy over that sweet pork recipe. Make it when you have company in town or when your kid’s friends show up unexpectedly for dinner! That sweet pork recipe is delicious on tacos, burritos, and even the classic Cafe Rio salad. Any way you do it, you’ve got one amazing dinner ready to serve.

5 from 2 votes

Mexican Rice with Cilantro Dressing



  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large white or yellow onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 small can chopped green chilies mild, or one cup chipped fresh Anaheim chiles, chopped and seeded
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth without MSG
  • salt to taste I used about 3/4 teaspoon

1/2 to 3/4 cup Cilantro Dressing* (see recipe notes)

  • 1 1/4 cups packed chopped cilantro about 1 small bunch
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar or fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon minced seeded Serrano chile


for rice:

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add onion, garlic, and green chilies. Cook until onion is soft, about 5-10 minutes over medium heat.
  3. Mix in rice, stir about 2 minutes.
  4. Mix in broth. Bring to boil.
  5. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook until rice is tender and broth absorbed, about 15 minutes.
  6. Turn off heat and let rice sit, covered for 5 minutes.
  7. Transfer rice to serving platter or bowl. Let rice sit for about 5 more minutes to cool slightly.
  8. Pour dressing over rice, tossing gently together.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Can be prepared ahead.
  11. Let stand at room temperature. 

for dressing:

  1. Combine all dressing ingredients in blender or food processor, blend until smooth.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Can be made one day ahead. Chill.
  4. Use about 1/2 of this amount for the rice suggested above.  

Recipe Notes

  • The dressing for the rice will be enough for double the amount of rice in this recipe. You may either half the dressing amount or the dressing is  good for dressing salads, or as a marinade for fish or chicken. You may add about 1/3 cup of mayo and a little milk if you like a creamy salad dressing.


20 thoughts on “Mexican Rice with Cilantro dressing

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Recipe Rating

  1. How many people would you say this fed for your school luncheon? I need to scale the recipe to about 400 for cafe rio-style salads, insane as that sounds, and can't seem to figure out how much rice I'll need. Everyone's recipes seem to feed about six people. 🙂

  2. Hello! I am wanting to make this rice a day in advance. When you say, “let stand at room temperature”, do you mean don’t put it in the fridge is I make it ahead of time? I’m making it for a lunch tomorrow. What do you suggest for reheating, etc? Thanks! -Whitney

    1. Whitney, Sorry I missed this comment! Yes, just leave the rice out at room temperature. If it is refrigerated, it will change the gesture of the dish. I would leave the rice at room temp and add the mixed in ingredients the next day for make ahead!

      1. Hi, I’m making this for about 300 missionaries. I’m going to make it a day ahead as discussed above and leave it at room temperature and mix in the ingredients the day of, but how do you recommend I reheat it? Also any tips for cooking the rice in an instant pot? so far it is not turn out right.

        1. How did this go? I am needing to prepare this rice for girls camp for about 200 people. Any suggestions or tips are greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Pamela,
      The recipe should have said cider vinegar or fresh lime juice. I just corrected it. Thanks for the heads up!

      1. 5 stars
        Thank you! I made this a couple weeks ago with the black beans and sweet pork. It was all great, but I am excited to try it this weekend with the lime juice! Thanks for great recipes!

        1. Thanks Pam, I think you will love this with the lime juice. It’s great either way, but I like the fresh lime juice. Thanks for reading ABK,

  3. Hey!! I have had it recommended to me to make this rice ahead of time and freeze it. Would you recommend this? I am having to times the recipe by 13 to have enough for 200 people. Do you have any recommendations to make it go seamlessly? 😊 Thank you for all your recipes!

    1. Megan,

      THat’s a lot of rice! I would test a single batch at home first. Make as directed, freeze and see how the texture is afterward. I have not ever frozen this recipe but would love to know the result. Let us know!
      thanks for reading ABK,

      1. Si,
        Can I ask you what you would do if you needed to make enough rice for 200 people? 😳 Are we just crazy for attempting it?!

    2. Do not freeze the rice! It changes the texture and makes it taste like sawdust! I froze my extra rice and tried to use it a week later. I had to throw it out! Even refrigerated rice will change in texture, but I was able to reheat and use the refrigerated rice okay. It is much better fresh though.

  4. 5 stars
    I made this for a missionary homecoming. Everyone said it was the best cafe Rio salad ever!