If you’re like us, Mexican food is a staple in our house (we live in Texas, after all!). From Tex-Mex tacos to street tacos, from enchiladas or grilled skirt steak, Mexican food makes an easy weeknight meal.
I was looking for ways to increase the protein value of Mexican rice, so I looked to amaranth, which is an ancient grain of Mexico. It was a staple of the Inca and Aztec people groups, making it a logical choice to add to Mexican rice.
Amaranth is really small, almost the size of a poppy seed, and when cooked is a bit sticky–similar to oatmeal. By combining it with whole grain rice, instead of replacing it, I was able to keep the familiar texture of Mexican rice while increasing the protein.
This kept both of my kids, who can be picky eaters, happy!
This recipe takes my basic stove-top amaranth and combines it with a loved-by-all side dish, Mexican rice.
A super-flexible recipe, use what you have. You can omit or replace the vegetables, but you’ll want either tomato sauce, a can of petite diced tomatoes, or some fresh tomatoes. The tomatoes not only give Mexican rice their color, but adds the acidity for it’s famous flavor.
What is Mexican rice?
Mexican rice has no exact recipe. Variations are often passed down in families, but it’s usually a rice with tomatoes (sometimes just a sauce and sometimes chopped tomatoes), spices, and other vegetables.
It’s not unusual for my Mexican rice to look different from one meal to another, which is what makes it such a great side dish. Use up veggies that are about to go bad, use ingredients you only have in your longer-term pantry (rice, canned diced tomatoes, shelf-stable spices), or anywhere in-between.
What to serve with Mexican rice
There are so many options that go well with this side dish. So many options include:
- Taco bowl: Forgo the typical tortillas or taco shells and make a taco bowl. Add your Mexican rice with amaranth at the bottom and add beans (black or pinto), meat (chicken or ground beef), veggies (tomatoes, lettuce, avocado), cheese, and your favorite toppings (jalapeños, cilantro, lime juice)
- Steak: Grill skirt steak or flank steak, on the stove or on a grill, and pair it with a grilled veggie (corn or zucchini both taste great) and rice
- Grilled chicken: An alternative to steak, marinate the chicken in salt, pepper, lime juice, olive oil, and a little bit of dijon mustard to “hold” the marinade together. Serve with a grilled veggie and rice
- As a main dish: Mexican rice is so yummy it can be easily eaten by itself
- Tamales: My sister-in-law makes the BEST tamales (taught by her husband’s family, who is from Mexico) and we love to combine Mexican rice with her tamales, serving beans, avocado, and lime juice
- Over medium egg: Add an over-easy/over-medium egg over your rice, or any of the combinations listed here. It’s another way to enhance the flavor and nutrients of your meal
Mexican rice with amaranth
- 1 Medium-size pot
- 1.5 cups water
- 1 cup amaranth
- 1/4 tsp salt or more to taste
- 2 cups cooked whole grain brown rice
- 1 can petite diced tomatoes
- 1 medium-sized onion or half of a large onion
- 1 medium-sized green bell pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil preferably extra virgin
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- chopped jalapeños optional, for garnish
- chopped cilantro optional, for garnish
- Make sure your amaranth grains are clean and free of debris. Most amaranth purchased is already cleaned, but you want to make sure.
- Bring the water to a boil in a medium pot. Add salt.
- Add the amaranth grains to the boiling water.
- Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the grains are tender and the water has been absorbed.
- The amaranth is now fully cooked. Spoon it out of the pot onto a plate. We'll add it back in soon.
- Add olive oil to the pot. Heat for a few minutes on medium to high heat.
- Add onions, green peppers, and garlic. Sauté for 5-8 minutes until tender.
- Add cooked amaranth, petite diced tomatoes (drained), sautéed onion/pepper/garlic mixture, and spices.
- Stir to combine.
- Add cooked whole grain brown rice (I cook mine in a rice cooker with equal parts of dry rice to water).
- Mix to combine. Add any pepper or additional salt to taste. Serve immediately. Top with cilantro and jalapeño, if desired.