This super easy cilantro lime rice recipe is a fantastic dupe for Café Rio’s delicious side! Use it as a side for Mexican meals, as the base of burrito bowls, or on taco night.
Why you want this recipe:
- tastes just like the rice from your favorite restaurant
- made in the instant pot
- super easy steps
- full of flavor
- perfect side dish
- super easy!
What do I need to make Cilantro Lime Rice?
White long grain rice works best for this copycat recipe. All times and proportions have been developed using long grain white rice. Substituting any other kind of rice, like brown rice, will necessitate changing the amount of liquid and cooking time, so be aware if you decide to sub. Do NOT use instant rice as it will get soggy and overcooked in the instant pot.
This is just for the sautéing. It adds a slight buttery flavor to the finished product. Margarine and olive oil are both fine substitutes.
Dried onions can be subbed for fresh, chopped yellow onion. If you use fresh onion, sub 1/4 cup chopped onion for the dried onion.
I like jarred minced garlic for this. It’s tasty and just so convenient! You can also use fresh garlic cloves — you’ll need 2, finely chopped.
Canned Salsa Verde
You can control the heat of this recipe by deciding on which level of canned salsa to use. When I make this for my family, I use mild, but if the kids aren’t going to be eating, I love the kick of medium. Canned salsa verde has a stronger chile verde flavor than jarred, which is why I recommend the canned version for this recipe. You can use jarred salsa verde if you can’t find canned in the store. Another possible sub is a can of chopped chile verde.
This adds some nice umami to the recipe. If you don’t have chicken broth, you can sub chicken bouillon cubes and water for the broth.
What is cilantro lime rice without cilantro? In a pinch, you can sub dried cilantro for fresh, but it won’t have quite the same flavor. The best (and closest to the original) is to get a bunch of fresh cilantro and chop it roughly, then sprinkle it on top as a finisher.
Fresh lime juice tastes soooo good in this recipe! You can also zest your lime and sprinkle the lime zest on top for extra lime flavor. If you don’t have fresh limes, 1 tbsp lime juice from a bottle works. The taste is not as fresh, but it’s still good!
How do I make Cafe Rio Rice?
Step 1 | Sauté
Turn your instant pot to “Sauté,” then melt the butter. Add your garlic and onion and sauté until it’s fragrant. That’s probably about 1 minutes.
Add the rice and let it cook with the onion and garlic for about a minute. This helps that delicious flavor get into the rice grains and makes sure you have the most flavorful rice around!
Step 2 | Cook
Then, add the chicken broth and salsa verde and stir eveyrthing together. Put the lid on your pot. Set the pot to “Rice” and let it cook!
Step 3 | Chop
While the rice is cooking, you can half the lime and chop the cilantro so that it’s ready to mix in with the rice once it’s finished.
Step 4 | Juice
Juice your lime. You can either use a juicer, or try one of these juicer-free methods.
Step 5 | Assemble and Eat!
When the rice is finished cooking, allow the instant pot to naturally release. Once that’s done, you can fluff the rice with a fork and mix in the lime juice and cilantro.
You can zest the lime and sprinkle the finished Cafe Rio rice with cilantro and lime zest as a garnish!
How to serve Copycat Cafe Rio Cilantro Lime Rice
- As a flavorful side dish: This is a perfect addition to just about any Mexican dish. Just like in a Mexican restaurant, you can create a platter by adding black beans or pinto beans, a salad, or pico de gallo to your favorite entrée.
- As a burrito bowl base: This recipe works as more than just a delicious side dish! It can form the base of burrito bowls. Add protein (try our Cafe Rio Shredded Chicken!), veggies, and salsa to the top for a healthy and filling dinner.
- As a burrito or enchilada filling: Round out your homemade burrito with a little lime cilantro rice. This delicious recipe can help you stretch meat, whether you’re looking to decrease your meat consumption or just trying to lower your grocery bill!
Storing, Freezing, and Reheating Leftovers
You can store your rice in an airtight container for up to one week in the fridge. Make sure your rice has cooled down completely before you put the lid on it. Otherwise, the condensation from the rice will make it soggy.
To freeze your rice, leave out the lime juice and cilantro (you can put them in when you heat it up). Freeze the rice in a freezer-safe airtight container for up to a month. To thaw, place the rice in the fridge overnight.
When you’re ready to reheat your rice, you can place the rice in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. To keep the rice from drying out, cover the container with a damp paper towel. The water from the paper towel will create steam, which will keep the rice from drying out in the microwave.
Is this recipe gluten free?
The only ingredient you need to check on is the chicken broth. Some varieties use flavorings or preservatives that contain gluten. As long as the your chicken broth is gluten-free, this recipe is too!
Can I make this in a rice cooker?
Yes! To make this in a rice cooker, just sauté the onion and garlic and toast the rice in a small pan, then transfer all your ingredients to your rice cooker and let it cook!
Can I substitute _______ for _______?
Please check the recipe notes (“What do I need to make Cilantro Lime Rice” section) for notes on substitutions. If you are interested in a substitution we have not covered there, either use our Contact Us form or leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Instant Pot Cafe Rio Cilantro Lime Rice
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp dried onion
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 cup rice
- 7 oz can salsa verde
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro
- 2 tbsp lime juice (juice of 1 lime)
- Set the instant pot to sauté. Sauté garlic and onion in butter until fragrant.1 tsp minced garlic, 1 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp dried onion
- Add the rice and toast for 1 minute.1 cup rice
- Add the salsa verde and broth. Stir the ingredients together.7 oz can salsa verde, 2 cups chicken broth
- Put the lid on the instant pot, set the pot to "Rice" and let it cook.
- When the pot beeps, let it release naturally.
- Chop the cilantro and juice the lime.1 bunch fresh cilantro, 2 tbsp lime juice (juice of 1 lime)
- When the pot has fully released, fluff the rice with a fork.
- Add the cilantro and lime juice.