Easy Cilantro Rice

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Cilantro rice is a colorful and flavorful Latin side dish. It pairs well with nearly every protein and is quick and easy to make.

Cilantro rice close up in black bowl.

What is Cilantro Rice?

This cilantro rice recipe comes to me from my friend, Michelle. A few families met one evening for a concert and picnic. Since we were going to be listening to music from South America, we all brought something to fit that theme.

I can’t remember what I brought, since all I could do was eat Michelle’s “green rice.” One bite just knocked my socks off! The “green” comes from a cilantro sauce and green serrano peppers. It’s sometimes referred to as Peruvian green rice.

It seems as though cilantro rice should be really spicy, but it’s actually more medium spicy. I know that’s subjective, but it’s only 2 small chiles for the whole recipe. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, substitute jalapenos, which are much milder.

Cilantro, olive oil, and spices on a table.

I know there are a whole slew of you out there who abhor cilantro. I don’t think I’ve ever met a “cilantro neutral” person. Most either love or hate it. 

My sister-in-law is in the dislike camp, and when I served this cilantro rice at one family event, I warned her. She tried it, and declared that it was the only cilantro dish she’d ever tasted that she liked. 

Seriously, it even converts non-cilantro enthusiasts!

How to Make Cilantro Rice

Cilantro Rice ingredients on a table.

To make this Peruvian cilantro rice, you’ll need:

  • yellow onion
  • garlic
  • serrano chiles (or jalapenos for a milder version)
  • long grain rice
  • chicken broth (vegetable broth for vegan or vegetarian)
  • cilantro
  • olive oil
  • white wine vinegar
  • cumin
  • salt (this is my absolute favorite salt!)
  • pepper
Onions sauteing in a pan.

Begin by sauteing the onion, garlic and serrano chile. Add the rice and broth, and cook until tender.

Rice, broth, and onions in a pot with wooden spoon stirring.

While the rice is cooking, make the cilantro dressing. Puree all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. You can do this step ahead of time. Refrigerate the cilantro dressing until ready to use.

Cilantro and other ingredients in blender.

Allow the cooked rice to cool completely, about 45 minutes, before tossing it with the dressing. You can spread it out on a platter or baking sheet to allow it to cool faster.

Cilantro Rice FAQs

Do you serve cilantro rice warm or cold?

You can serve this rice at room temperature or chilled.

What goes well with cilantro rice?

This recipe goes well with any Mexican or Latin dish, or virtually any protein. I love to pair it with Slow-Cooker Green Chile Pork Tacos al Carbon or  Quick Chicken Tacos.

Bowl of cilantro rice closeup.

Can you make this recipe vegan or vegetarian?

For a vegetarian or vegan version, simply substitute the chicken broth for vegetable broth.

Can you make this rice ahead of time?

There are two ways you can make this rice dish ahead of time. First you can prepare the whole recipe and when cooled, cover and refrigerate. In fact, the consensus in our house is that it’s actually better the second day. 

The second way is to make the cilantro sauce and refrigerate it. Then finish the dish the next day.

Have you made this cilantro rice recipe? Let me know in the comments!

cilantro rice closeup.

Cilantro Rice

This cilantro rice is delicious either warm or cold and is perfect for pot lucks or picnics. Recipe from Epicurious. This recipe works equally well with brown or long-grain white rice. If you like more heat, increase the serrano chile. If you prefer milder flavors, substitute the serrano chile for canned, diced, mild green chiles.
5 from 31 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Latin
Servings 8
Calories 318 kcal


  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 Tablespoon seeded serrano chiles
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 3 1/4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth for vegetarian/vegan
  • 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • Cilantro Dressing:
  • 1 bunch cilantro stems removed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced seeded serrano chile


  • In a large pot, heat 1 Tablespoon oil over a medium heat. Add onions, 1 Tablespoon (or more), minced serrano chile, and sauté about 8 minutes. Add 4 cloves minced garlic and sauté another minute or two.
  • Add rice, broth and salt, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until rice is tender and broth is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes.
  • While rice is cooking, in a food processor or blender, combine cilantro, 1/2 cup olive oil, white wine vinegar, 1 garlic clove, cumin and 1/2 teaspoon (or more) minced seeded serrano chile. Puree until smooth. Set aside.
  • Transfer rice to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Toss with cilantro dressing and adjust seasoning salt and black pepper if needed.
  • Serve warm or chilled.


Serving: 1gCalories: 318kcalCarbohydrates: 39gProtein: 4gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 572mgPotassium: 161mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 34IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 25mgIron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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  1. I make my rice in a rice cooker, do you think I could make the sauce and add it to the uncooked rice and water then prepare the rice as usual. This sounds so delicious I want to try it!

  2. Cynthia, I am in the love cilantro camp and my mother is in the opposite camp. I would absolutely love this spicy rice dish. It’s jam packed with fresh flavor!

  3. I need to make a trip out to the Huntington Gardens again. Such a beautiful and inspiring place to be! I’ve had cilantro rice on my radar to try for awhile now, and have yet to make it. You’ve reminded me to do so and may have to start with this great recipe! Thanks for sharing. 😉

  4. I live in the UK and we call it corriander. I love the flavour as it is so fresh, I have never used it in a rice dish before, but I will have to give it a try.

    1. We call the seeds coriander and the leaves cilantro. In Asian communities it’s referred to as Chinese parsley. It’s definitely a staple here in Southern California where Mexican food is prevalent! I hope you enjoy it!

  5. It is flavorful and delicious. Rice is one of my favorite side dishes to a meal. There are so many good ways to make it, including this one.

  6. 5 stars
    I LOVED this – such a comfort food – I’m using it as a rice base to a BBQ’d salmon with jalapeno peach salsa. I used the canned Chile peppers vs. the serrano peppers for a mild heat. I also added a nob of butter to the onion/garlic saute. It turned out really well. thanks!

  7. Hey Cynthia! Love the cilantro rice. Thanks for sharing! I linked to it from my buttery smoked lobster tail recipe as a great side dish. Thanks again!

5 from 31 votes (29 ratings without comment)

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