I miss restaurants. Specifically, I miss waiting at a busy Tex-Mex restaurant on a Friday night, with a frozen strawberry margarita in one hand and, in the other, a plastic buzzer that will light up when my table is ready. I miss nodding when the server asks if we want queso, placing my order without even looking at the menu, and knowing exactly what it will look like when it shows up. 

And while I’ve indulged in making a few of my favorite Tex-Mex staples since I’ve been stuck at home (enchiladas, queso, margaritas), I’ve thus far ignored a crucial yet oft-overlooked Tex-Mex element: Tex-Mex rice. Who has the time, honestly? 

Your Instant Pot, that’s who. This is a truly simple number that uses ingredients you probably have on hand, and it will fill a gap you didn’t even know was there. Just make sure you do not skip rinsing the rice; it’s the key to the whole recipe. This recipe serves four to six, depending how hungry your crew is, but can easily be cut in half or doubled. (Don’t do more than double it, though.) If you’re really going all out? I’ve included a bonus recipe for refried beans from a can, below.

Photograph by Jenn Hair

Instant Pot Tex-Mex Rice

2 cups long-grain white rice
2 tablespoons cooking oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, diced fine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoons salt

  1. In a mesh strainer, thoroughly rinse the rice and set aside.
  2. Set the Instant Pot to sauté. Add the oil, garlic, and onion. Sauté briefly until the onions are translucent. Cancel the sauté function and add the tomato paste. Sauté briefly (the bottom of the pot will still be hot).
  3. Add the chicken stock and use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to scrape up everything sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add the cumin and salt. Add the rinsed rice; do not stir.
  4. Close the lid and set the Instant Pot to low pressure at 5 minutes. Do not use the “keep warm” function.
  5. When the 5 minutes are up, let the pressure come down naturally while you make your tacos/enchiladas/fajitas/margaritas/queso/guacamole/what have you. It will take about 20 minutes. When the little metal pressure stopper drops, you can open the lid and stir the rice gently to disperse the onions throughout.

Bonus: Refried Beans From a Can

2 15.5 ounce cans pinto beans
4 tablespoons lard, bacon grease, or cooking oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt

  1. Set a mesh strainer over a small bowl and pour the beans into the strainer, saving the liquid. Set aside both the beans and the liquid.
  2. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and melt the lard. Add the garlic and sauté briefly, 2 minutes.
  3. Add the beans (not the bean liquid) to the pan and sauté briefly with the garlic. Use the back of a spoon or fork to mash the beans.
  4. Add the drained can liquid by the spoonful until you reach your desired consistency; the beans should become creamy. Salt to taste and serve with your Instant Pot rice.