A bowl of food on a plate, with Rice

Cilantro-Lime Rice Just Like Your Favorite Restaurants

I have no idea why on the one hand I seriously do not care for cilantro but on the other hand, I’m crazy for Cilantro-Lime Rice as served by both Chipotle and Qdoba casual Mexican restaurants.

A bowl of food on a plate, with Rice and Basmati

How do they do that? How do they take rice, lime, and cilantro for goodness’ sake, and turn it into such a delicious side dish?

I’ve been asking that question for a long time. Finally, I believe I have figured out how to make delicious, amazing Cilantro-Lime Rice that tastes for all the world just like the restaurants’—and for just pennies.

But before I get into the specifics for how to make Cilantro-Lime Rice, I want to tell you about something I have learned in this process—a super fast way to prepare plain rice from scratch in about 12 minutes give or take.

My rice cooker takes longer than an hour to do the same thing. More traditional methods include preparing rice on the stovetop or in the oven with proper liquid to rice measurements followed by covered cooking at low temperatures until all of the liquid is absorbed.

There is another way and I’m talking about the way we prepare pasta: Get a big pot of water boiling, add salt and pasta. Boil rapidly for 8 to 12 minutes. Drain, rinse. Done. Perfect every time. Yes, that defies every rule we’ve ever learned for how to prepare rice, but it just works!

For months now I have been preparing all kinds of white rice this way—basmati, long-grain, short-grain, and jasmine. A lot of boiling water (at least 4 cups water for each cup of rice), salt, rice and about 12 minutes (for basmati; other types may require a few minutes more or less). Check it by tasting a few grains. When exactly right, drain it (in a sieve, not a colander), rinse with hot water, and done. Perfect every time.

I call this my super-fast method for preparing rice—when plain cooked rice is going to be on the menu or when cooked rice is an ingredient in a specific recipe. Just keep in mind that many recipes call for uncooked rice as an ingredient, in which case you would not use this method.

I am excited to share two recipes for Cilantro-Lime Rice. The first uses the super-fast method described above. The second is equally delicious, using the more traditional cooking method and is just slightly more involved.

My take on this is that the first super-fast recipe resembles nearly perfectly, Chipotle’s Cilantro-Lime Rice while the Traditional Cilantro-Lime Rice nails Qdoba’s version. Honestly, I love them both equally.

Quick and Easy Cilantro-Lime Rice

These are the ingredients you will need for this super-fast, copycat Chipotle cilantro-lime rice

  • basmati rice
  • salt
  • 1 bay leaf (this is not optional—you need a bay leaf!)
  • olive oil
  • cilantro
  • fresh lime juice
  • fresh lemon juice

Bring at least 8 cups of water to a boil in a big pot. Add rice, 2 teaspoons salt, and the bay leaf. Stir and bring back to a rolling boil. Boil uncovered for 12 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Drain rice in a fine sieve. Rinse under hot tap water. Pour into a large bowl. Stir in olive oil, cilantro, lime and lemon juices, 1/4 teaspoon salt or more, to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature. Serves: 1 in my house, or more appropriately, perhaps, 6 to 8.

A bowl of food on a plate, with Rice
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4.5 from 4 votes

Quick and Easy Cilantro-Lime Rice

This super-fast recipe resembles nearly perfectly Chipotle’s Cilantro-Lime Rice.
Prep Time2 mins
Cook Time12 mins
Total Time14 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 8
Calories: 297kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  • Bring at least 8 cups of water to a boil in a big pot.
  • Add rice, 2 teaspoons salt and the bay leaf. Stir and bring back to a rolling boil. Boil uncovered for 12 minutes. 
  • Remove bay leaf. 
  • Drain rice in a fine sieve. Rinse under hot tap water.
  • Pour into a large bowl.
  • Stir in olive oil, cilantro, lime and lemon juices, 1/4 teaspoon salt or more, to taste.
  • Serve hot or at room temperature.

Nutrition

Calories: 297kcal

Traditional Cilantro-Lime Rice

These are the ingredients you will need for this traditional copycat Qdobas cilantro-lime rice

  • olive oil
  • basmati rice
  • bay leaf
  • chicken broth
  • garlic
  • fresh lime juice and zest
  • fresh cilantro
  • salt
A bowl of food on a plate, with Rice
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5 from 4 votes

Traditional Cilantro-Lime Rice

Delicious, amazing Cilantro-Lime Rice that tastes for all the world just like the restaurants'—and for just pennies.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 4
Calories: 207kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ½ cups chicken broth
  • 2 to 3 clobes garlic, minced finely
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • zest from one lime
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • Add the oil to a saucepan and heat on low.
  • Add the garlic and rice to the oil and sauté for two minutes on medium heat, stirring frequently.
  • Add the chicken broth, salt, lime juice, bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Cover and cook on Low for about 15 minutes. 
  • When the rice is done, add lime zest and chopped cilantro and stir to mix in. Serve immediately.

Nutrition

Calories: 207kcal

First published: 4-24-15; Updated and Republished: 4-30-20

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8 replies
  1. Olga Clarke-Jackson says:

    First things first
    I LOVE your site. I’ve never replied before but I am today. My grandmother was an excellent cook, my mother was a good cook but she (mom) could not cook rice the traditional way. So she cooked her rice like pasta when I was a child. I always remember her rice being perfect and it was because of this method. It’s how I used to cook my rice until I learned how to perfect the traditional way by my grandmother. Which was set it and forget it. 2 cups water to 1 cup rice, bring to a boil then low simmer for 20 minutes perfect every time. But thanks again for today’s post (and recipes) it brought back memories of my mom. Stay Safe!

    Reply
  2. Barbara Ann Tarleton says:

    This style of rice is quite good with a combination of parsley and basil.There is just no way to make cilantro palatable.

    Reply
  3. Tami says:

    5 stars
    I rarely leave comments, but your traditional recipe is THE BEST rice, ever! Better than any restaurant. We make this ALL THE TIME!

    Reply
  4. Deb says:

    5 stars
    Don’t forget the pressure cooker! 1 C rice, 1.5 C water, bring to high pressure then set timer for 4 minutes and VOILA! Perfect rice and the perfect amount for 2-4! I gave away my 2(!) rice cookers.

    Reply
  5. Cally Ross says:

    5 stars
    Cilantro-Lime rice also freezes well. I make a full recipe then divide it into freezer bags and freeze flat. super easy to thaw and warm up when i need it.
    I’ve never tried your fast method of cooking rice, makes perfect sense, I’ll give it a go!

    Reply

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