Side Dish for Mexican Food

April 8, 2010

The problem with being a self-described “cookbook cook” is that it takes a little more oomph for me to step outside the assurance of my books and just create a recipe.

The other night, while making Black Bean Tostadas (recipe coming soon), I started imagining a good hearty rice dish as a side.  I almost started to go through the tedium of looking up “rice” in my cookbooks when I realized I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, why not just make it?

So I did.  And as with most things I have made without a recipe, I was very pleased with how it turned out.  (Note to self: cook more often without a recipe.)  I included some of my favorite flavors in here but, of course, this dish is infinitely adaptable.  I happen to love the slight punch and tang of canned green chiles, but if you like more spice, by all means add a fresh jalapeño or two.  I used queso fresco partly because I also needed it for the tostadas, but partly because I love how mild it is.  But you could certainly use Cheddar or Monterey Jack.  Like more cheese?  Add more and sprinkle some over the top before baking.

A rice note.  Unless I am making risotto or something where I specifically want brown rice (or if I am using sushi rice for this dish), I almost always use basmati rice.  I think it fluffs up beautifully and has terrific flavor.  Trader Joe’s has nice big (and affordable) bags of it.

One Year Ago:  Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Chickpeas

Baked Rice with Chiles and Pinto Beans
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4-6

Canola or other neutral tasting oil
Small red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 cup white rice
2 cups water or vegetable stock
1 15-oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 7-oz. can diced green chiles
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¾ cup queso fresco, crumbled

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.  (I used a 3 quart.)  Add just enough oil to coat the bottom, then add the onion and a healthy pinch of salt.  Sauté until softened, then add the garlic.  Cook for another 3 minutes, then add the oregano.  Sauté for another minute.  Add the rice and toss to coat with the fat and herbs, then pour in the water or stock.  Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Oil an 8×8 baking dish.  Once the rice is done cooking, allow it to sit, off the heat, for 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and, using a fork, carefully fluff the rice.  Add the chiles and the beans and, without mushing the rice, carefully stir them in.  Sprinkle on the cheese and cilantro and stir them in.

Scrape the rice mixture into the prepared pan, cover with foil, then bake until the cheese is starting to melt and the dish is hot throughout, about 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

(This is totally the kind of dish you could make a day ahead.  Prepare up through putting the finished rice in the baking dish, allow the whole thing to cool, cover with foil, then refrigerate overnight.  From there, just put it directly into the oven and you will need to add 5-10 minutes to the baking time.)


  1. Dana,
    This looks great. We’re making the transition to vegetarian in our household now, so I am in search of hearty dishes like this one. Going to do a big scan of your recipe index today. How are you? If you’re going to be in the Bay Area anytime soon, drop a line! I’m signed up for BlogHer Food in the fall. You coming down again?

    Comment by Amy Wilson (StreamingGourmet) — April 8, 2010 @ 4:56 pm

  2. I am the worst at coming up with my own recipes. Okay. Not the worst. But my confidence in myself, er, not so much. Participating in recipe contests recently has really helped with that.

    This looks and sounds delicious. All that cheesy rice goodness. Mmmm. Anytime you want to experiment – you are welcome in my kitchen.

    Comment by Joanne — April 8, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

  3. oooh! i think mr. coops is gonna LOVE this. Anything rice and bean related and he’s soo there. Thanks for this inspiration. Gonna make soon and report back!

    Comment by Tracy — April 8, 2010 @ 6:38 pm

  4. Nice dish Dana. You should definitely do more cooking without recipes, although your food is always lovely :)

    Comment by Jacqueline — April 8, 2010 @ 9:15 pm

  5. yes, i second the above encouragement on cooking without recipes… you are plenty capable and talented. bring on the dana treat originals :)

    Comment by Sara — April 8, 2010 @ 10:53 pm

  6. I happened to stop by when she was making this and it smelled absolutely incredible. A must cook.

    Comment by Julie — April 9, 2010 @ 12:43 am

  7. This rice looks and sounds lovely so I agree that you should continue to experiment. Great side dish!

    Comment by Kristen Doyle — April 9, 2010 @ 2:38 am

  8. This would work for a main dish for me! YUM!

    Comment by Sook @ My Fabulous Recipes — April 9, 2010 @ 4:02 am

  9. This dish looks so good!

    Comment by Cherine — April 9, 2010 @ 5:55 pm

  10. What a yummy little dish you created!!! Ditch those cookbooks!

    Comment by Leslie — April 9, 2010 @ 9:19 pm

  11. I seriously bookmark just about every single one of your recipes. Especially the Mexican ones, I love veggie-Mexican meals!

    Comment by maris — April 10, 2010 @ 3:48 pm

  12. I am a Mexican-cuisine lover and I also think anything with basmati is fabulous! Yoy proved me right here!

    Comment by tasteofbeirut — April 11, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

  13. Mmm love this Mexican side dish creation. I finally found queso fresco at this little Mexican place! But didn’t get any as I wasn’t going to be home anytime soon.

    Comment by Ashley — April 14, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

  14. Yay for following your gut! This looks very flavourful.

    Comment by Marisa — April 15, 2010 @ 10:31 am

  15. Dana!!! Tag this as mexican.. it’s always a hunt to find in the archives ;) Please!

    Comment by catherine — May 29, 2011 @ 11:35 pm

  16. The WebMD website has your recipe as part of their October 22, 2011 newsletter and the recipe calls for 1 1/4 pounds broccoli crowns. Well, I just grabbed some when shopping so I could try out this recipe and what do you know; it doesn’t say anything about broccoli in the directions! I clicked on your name and followed the link to your site to find your original recipe and as I suspected… no broccoli! Thought broccoli sounded out of place in the recipe but I love all vegetables and was willing to try. LOL

    Comment by Patty — October 23, 2011 @ 12:07 am

  17. This Mexican side dish looks great! I make a similar version (with more beans and cheese) that I bake and serve as a dip. It doesn’t need a recipe either. Just taste and go.

    Comment by Dixie Caviar — November 1, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

  18. Re comment no. 16 by Patty on 10/23/11, a newsletter I received from WebMD 1/13/12 had a link to the incorrect recipe again (looks like the first four ingredients should have been omitted). I emailed them about it today and am also leaving a comment here so that maybe one way or the other it’ll be correct the next time around.

    Comment by Jan — January 15, 2012 @ 10:44 pm

  19. Needs an extra can of chiles and longer in the oven, the beans were not cooked enough

    Comment by melis — January 28, 2012 @ 10:58 pm

  20. good morning Dana. My kitchen smells great as i’m busy prepping this favourite dish yet again. Just wanted to say how much i appreciate these recipes and although the posts have dwindled (I understand), I do still frequent these pages. I hope you are well.

    Comment by catherine — January 18, 2015 @ 2:26 pm

  21. All these years later- this is still a favourite Dana! hope you are well

    Comment by catherine — September 24, 2017 @ 12:20 am

  22. Hi Catherine! I am just now signing on for the first time in 6.5 years and so nice to see a lovely comment from you. I am hoping to get my blog up and running again after so long and some health things. Stay tuned…

    Comment by dana — June 3, 2020 @ 11:30 pm

  23. STILL making this one!
    our daughter leaves for college in a week and this was one of her requested recipes before leaving home again. (btw- we add zucchini to this- it’s her fave veggie and it goes very nicely with it all)
    so pleased to see your blog up again

    Comment by catherine — August 13, 2020 @ 12:05 am

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