Cilantro Lime Rice
This Cilantro Lime Rice is incredibly fragrant and flavorful, and very easy to make. It’s the perfect side dish for most proteins, including beef, pork, chicken, and fish. I love it with Carne Asada and Ground Beef Tacos.
“THIS TASTES INCREDIBLE” is what my cilantro-hating husband said about this rice the first time he tried it.
Quite an endorsement from someone who usually avoids cilantro at all costs.
But the fresh cilantro + lime flavor combination is truly special, especially when paired with Mexican food.
On this blog I’ve shared Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice, this very popular Cilantro Lime Dressing, and even Cilantro Lime Jalapeño Sauce. I still make them all regularly, and appreciate how two simple ingredients that pair so nicely together can be the base to so many delicious recipes.
I’ve experimented with various ways of making this dish, and the key to a great cilantro lime rice is two-fold.
First, it’s best to cook the rice like you would Mexican Rice or a Rice Pilaf. It needs to be toasted in oil first to have perfect rice that’s fluffy but not sticky. You don’t want to just take some rice cooker steamed rice and stir cilantro and lime into it.
The other really important part is to add lots of fresh lime zest from fresh limes.
Believe me, if you add only lime juice, it will not taste like lime rice. It will taste more like sour rice.
The lime zest adds incredible aroma and flavor. It’s yet another example of citrus zest being one of the most amazing ingredients you can cook with.
What kind of rice to use?
Basmati rice is my favorite long-grain choice for this recipe, but you may use jasmine rice as well. They are both quite different from each other, so try both to see which you like better.
You may also use the generic “long grain rice” or standard white rice from the store, but keep in mind that quality ranges quite a bit.
Make sure you’re using white rice here, and not brown rice, which has a completely different cooking time.
Step by Step Overview:
In a large nonstick skillet that has a tight-fitting lid (you’ll need it later), melt your cooking fat of choice. I currently favor ghee, though you can also use butter or olive oil:
Add rinsed and drained basmati rice to the pan, then toast the rinsed rice in the ghee for 5 minutes, until it takes on a more chalky and opaque look:
Do you really have to rinse the rice?
Yes, for two big reasons. First of all, it cleans the rice of any debris or bugs (sorry, I know it’s gross, but it happens sometimes).
Second of all, it rinses away excess starch, giving a less sticky and more fluffy rice at the end with separate grains.
Rinse the rice under cold water using a strainer until the water runs clear, about a minute or two.
Add 3 cups of water to the pan, preferably filtered water:
In many of my rice recipes like Rice Pilaf I will use chicken broth as the liquid to add extra flavor, but here I recommend water.
There’s a lot going on in a typical chicken or vegetable broth that can be overpowering to the cilantro lime flavor profile.
Then some kosher salt to season it:
Give it a quick stir to distribute the salt, then put a lid on. Bring the water up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, keeping it covered the whole time:
After 20 minutes, the rice should absorb all the water:
Fluff the rice by giving it a good stir, then let it sit for 5 minutes off the stove top to let more steam escape.
Then it’s time to add all the flavor.
You’ll need freshly chopped cilantro leaves, lots of fresh lime zest, and fresh lime juice:
[Side note: Since I get asked every time I share, these are the liquid beakers I use here -affiliate link]
Stir everything up very well, then your delicious cilantro lime rice is ready to serve. It’s such an easy recipe!
The rice is at its absolute best for about a half hour after making it. After that, the rice is not quite as fragrant (though it’s still good).
This delicious rice is a great side for Carnitas, Slow Cooker Shredded Mexican Beef, Ground Beef Tacos, and Chicken Fajitas.
Or, serve it as a great base for burrito bowls, with black beans, your favorite vegetables, and your favorite meat.
There are many different ways to enjoy it, and it is especially good paired with Mexican recipes.
Tips and FAQ
Keep in an airtight container so the rice doesn’t dry out, and store for up to 5 days in the fridge.
Technically yes, for up to two months, but I don’t recommend it. The freshness is a big part of the great flavor in this recipe, and that won’t be retained after freezing.
Cooking the rice in the oil is essential, so a rice cooker won’t work well. An Instant Pot (affiliate) or pressure cooker with a saute feature is a better option.
Reheat in the microwave, always with a lid or some sort of cover to trap the steam in, otherwise the rice will dry out.
I recommend looking up a different recipe specifically tailored to brown rice. Swapping in a brown rice here will not work well. This is best suited to plain white rice.
Did you enjoy the recipe? Please leave a 5-star rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page.
Cilantro Lime Rice
- 2 cups basmati rice (or jasmine rice)
- 2 tbsp ghee or other cooking fat of choice
- 3 cups water
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
- zest of 2 limes
- Place the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly under running water until the water running through comes out clear instead of cloudy, about 2 minutes. Let rice drain in strainer for 2 more minutes.
- In a large nonstick pan (must have a tight fitting lid for use later), melt the ghee over medium heat. Add the rice and toast for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The look of the rice will change, and eventually become evenly coated in oil and have a chalky and opaque look to it.
- Add the water and salt, and stir. Cover with a lid, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low, to maintain a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, making sure not to lift the lid during cooking.
- After 20 minutes, the liquid should all be absorbed. Stir and fluff the rice, and let sit off the heat for another 5 minutes to cool slightly and let the steam rise off.
- Stir in the cilantro leaves, lime juice, and lime zest, then serve. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
6 Comments on “Cilantro Lime Rice”
I am so excited to have a recipe for the Peruvian green sauce. There was (maybe still is) a Peruvian restaurant in Stamford, Ct, out near shipman. I ate there everytime I came to town for business, even started bringing a cooler to take extra sauce home! Cannot wait to try it!
I love this recipe, so simple yet very delicious!
Have you tried this with any varieties of brown rice? I was wondering how it might taste and also how to adjust the cooking times? This looks incredible.
Hi Dave, I haven’t, but it sounds like maybe you cook with brown rice as your default? Have you ever made a brown rice pilaf? That would give you a good sense of how it is. I’ve cooked a little bit with brown rice but I admit I haven’t taken to it. Anyway, I would try to find a guide for brown rice pilaf and pull the cooking time from that. Then stir in the flavorings. Hope that helps.
This sounds so good. I’m not crazy about cilantro either but since your husband says it’s good, I’m going to try it.
This will be delicious on cauliflower rice.