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.

Cilantro Lime Rice - With Fresh Lime Zest and Cilantro Leaves Stirred Throughout

“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.

A small white bowl filled with cilantro lime rice with fresh lime rounds on the side

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:

Melted Ghee in a Nonstick Skillet

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:

Rice Toasted in Ghee Until Opaque and Chalky in 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:

Adding Filtered Water to the Basmati Rice

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:

Salt Added to the Water and Rice

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:

The Pan Covered Tightly With a Glass Lid

After 20 minutes, the rice should absorb all the water:

Basmati Rice - Cooked in a Nonstick Skillet Until Tender and Fluffy

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:

How to Make Cilantro Lime Rice - Adding Cilantro Leaves, Lime Zest, and Lime Juice to the Cooked Rice

[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!

Lime and Cilantro Rice - In a Bowl with Fresh Lime and Cilantro Around

Serving Recommendations

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 CarnitasSlow Cooker Shredded Mexican BeefGround 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

How do you store leftover cilantro-lime rice?

Keep in an airtight container so the rice doesn’t dry out, and store for up to 5 days in the fridge.

Can the leftover rice be frozen?

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.

Can the rice be made in a rice cooker?

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.

How do you reheat the homemade cilantro lime rice?

Reheat in the microwave, always with a lid or some sort of cover to trap the steam in, otherwise the rice will dry out.

Can you use brown rice?

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. Or, follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest!

A white bowl filled with cilantro lime rice on wood cutting board

Cilantro Lime Rice

This Cilantro Lime Rice is fragrant and flavorful, and very easy to make.

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  • 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!


Calories: 270kcal, Carbohydrates: 50g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 13mg, Sodium: 397mg, Potassium: 78mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 90IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 21mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.