5 from 6 votes
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Easy Cilantro-Lime Rice Recipe for Perfect Side Dish

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Learning how to make this cilantro lime rice recipe isn’t hard at all! And the best part? You don’t even need a rice cooker to make it! You can make cilantro rice on the stovetop for the perfect side dish time and time again. No matter if this is your first time, or you’re looking for a way to get a new and fresh flavor, this cilantro-lime rice recipe is the best!

A bowl of cilantro lime rice with a lime wedge on top sitting on a brown checkered cloth.

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The simple side dish can be paired with any of your favorite meals. The lime flavor paired with the texture of the fluffy rice is what has everyone always telling me that this is the best cilantro lime rice that they’ve ever had.

If you love this recipe, you’d also like this Creamy Cilantro-Lime Sauce, and you might also like these Cilantro Lime Sheet Pan Shrimp Tacos!

Why You’ll Love This Flavorful Cilantro Lime Rice

  • It’s a simple way to cook up a bag of rice with basic steps
  • The homemade version is better than anything that you’ll eat at a restaurant!
  • This stove top recipe tastes like the copycat version of Chipotle’s cilantro lime rice

Ingredients For Cilantro-Lime Rice

Ingredients for cilantro lime rice on a white countertop.
  • Cooked rice – Basmati or any long-grain rice is a great foundation for this recipe, contributing a fluffy texture that perfectly absorbs the flavors of the dish. While brown rice can also be used, long-grain rice holds its shape well and enhances the overall presentation.
  • Fresh lime juice – This is what gives our rice that tangy kick. Freshly squeezed limes are crucial as they impart a zesty freshness that elevates the dish. Lemons can be an alternate, but limes are highly recommended for an authentic flavor.
  • Lime zest – Using lime zest intensifies the citrus flavor, giving the dish a delightful zing and aromatic depth.
  • Fresh cilantro – The cilantro introduces a lively, herby note to the rice. If catering to cilantro skeptics, you can easily omit this ingredient in individual servings, but it’s this key player that lends the dish its name and characteristic flavor.
  • Salt and black pepper are essential for seasoning. They bring out the flavors of the other ingredients. Always adjust these according to your taste.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Add some spice – You can add some chipotle seasoning to the rice and make a delicious chipotle cilantro lime rice recipe! This just proves how versatile this flavorful side dish is, pairing it with any main dish or Mexican recipe.
  • Substitute the rice – If you’re looking to make this dish low-carb or grain-free, try using cauliflower rice instead of traditional rice. This substitution will keep the overall flavor but with a fraction of the carbs.
  • Add some protein – For a more substantial dish, you can add cooked shrimp or chicken. Just make sure to cook your protein of choice separately before mixing it in with the finished rice.
  • Extra veggies – For an added nutritional boost, mix in some peas, bell peppers, or corn. These will provide additional color, texture, and flavor to the dish.
  • Go Vegan – To make this recipe vegan-friendly, Swap out any non-vegan ingredients for plant-based alternatives. For instance, use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

How To Make Cilantro-Lime Rice

  1. Cook rice in a medium saucepan as stated on the pack.
  2. Stir lime juice, lime zest, and cilantro into the rice using a fork. Add salt and black pepper as desired. Serve straight away.
Cilantro lime rice in a bowl with a wooden spoon and lime wedges in the background.

Expert Tips 

  • Avoid Overcooking the Rice: To ensure your rice is fluffy and not sticky, avoid overcooking. It’s better to err on the side of undercooking as the heat within the rice will continue to cook it even after removing it from the stove.
  • Use Fresh Ingredients: When possible, use fresh lime juice and cilantro for the most vibrant flavors. Canned or bottled lime juice and dried cilantro can’t match the fresh versions in flavor or visual appeal.
  • Rinse the Rice: Before cooking, rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs clear. This removes surface starch and helps prevent the rice from clumping together.
  • Fluff with a Fork: Once cooked, fluff the rice with a fork rather than a spoon to prevent the grains from getting crushed.
  • Add Ingredients Gradually: Add the lime juice, zest, and cilantro gradually, tasting as you go. This will help you to balance the flavors according to your preference.
  • Warm Lime: If you find your limes a bit tough, microwave it for 15-20 seconds before juicing. This will help you get more juice out of each lime.
  • Season Properly: Don’t forget to season your rice! A pinch of salt can really bring out the flavors in the lime and cilantro.

Other Cooking Methods For Cilantro-Lime Rice Recipe

You can certainly use other cooking methods for this cilantro-lime rice recipe. If you prefer, you can use an Instant Pot or a Slow Cooker

Instant Pot Method

To make cilantro-lime rice in an Instant Pot, add the rice, water (or broth), and some oil to the pot. Secure the lid and set the valve to “Sealing.” Cook on high pressure for about 5 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes. After this, release any remaining pressure manually. Open the lid, add the lime juice, lime zest, and chopped cilantro, and then stir well using a fork. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slow Cooker Method

If you opt for a slow cooker, add the rice and double the volume of water (or broth) into the cooker. Cook on low for about 2 hours or until the rice is tender and the water has been absorbed. Then, stir in the lime juice, lime zest, and chopped cilantro, and season with salt and pepper. 

Remember, no matter which cooking method you choose, the key is to adjust the cooking time and liquid ratio accordingly and to add the cilantro, lime zest, and lime juice just before serving to maintain their fresh flavors.

Cilantro lime rice in a bowl with slices of pieces of bread on the side sitting on a brown cloth.

Storing Tips 

More than likely, you’re going to have some of this flavorful rice leftover to enjoy again! All you need to do is store it in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge. It should stay good for up to 3 days.

This cilantro-lime rice freezes exceptionally well, making it a great option for meal prep or for saving leftover portions. To freeze, ensure the rice is completely cooled, then transfer it into a freezer-safe bag or container. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 months. 

When you’re ready to enjoy the frozen rice, you don’t need to thaw it. Reheat it directly from the freezer. You can do this by microwaving the rice in a microwave-safe dish for 2-3 minutes, stirring halfway through to ensure even heating. If you prefer, you can also reheat the rice on the stovetop; just add a bit of water or broth to prevent it from drying out. 

Whether you’re reheating refrigerated or frozen rice, for the best flavor and texture, consider adding a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro after reheating.

What To Serve With Cilantro-Lime Rice Recipe

Rice is such a versatile dish, and there are so many things that you can pair with it! Here are some of my favorites below!

Recipe FAQs

How do I turn leftover rice into soft and tender rice?

Leftover rice will harden in the fridge, but there are ways to make it soft again. Add a tiny bit of butter or stock to the rice and heat it in the microwave. This will make it soft again in no time!

Why is my rice sticky?

If the rice is sticky after cooking it, you may have cooked it for too long. Just pay attention to the cooking directions on the rice box or package and it should turn out fine.

Can I use other types of rice for this recipe?

Sure! While this recipe uses long-grain rice, you can also use other types of rice. However, different types of rice have different cooking times and liquid ratios, so be sure to adjust these as needed. 

What can I use if I don’t have fresh cilantro?

If fresh cilantro isn’t available, you can use dried cilantro, though this will alter the flavor somewhat. Fresh parsley can also be used as a substitute, but keep in mind that the flavor will not be exactly the same. 

Can I make this recipe in advance?

Absolutely! You can cook the rice in advance, and just before serving, mix in the lime juice, lime zest, and cilantro. This way, you can enjoy warm, fresh-tasting cilantro-lime rice even if you prepared it ahead of time. 

Why is it recommended to rinse the rice before cooking?

Rinsing the rice removes surface starch that can cause the rice to clump together and become sticky. It also removes any impurities that might be on the rice. 

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Bowl of cilantro lime rice with a lime wedge.
5 from 6 votes

Easy Cilantro-Lime Rice Recipe for Perfect Side Dish

Author: Kim Schob
Course: Side Dishes
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Yields 6 Servings
Learning how to make this cilantro-lime rice recipe isn't hard at all! And the best part? You don't even need a rice cooker to make it!


  • 3 cups (474 g) cooked rice
  • 3 T fresh lime juice
  • 2 t lime zest zester and grater
  • 3 T fresh cilantro chopped
  • Salt and black pepper to taste


  • Cook rice as stated on the pack in a medium saucepan.
    3 cups cooked rice
  • Stir lime juice, lime zest, and cilantro into the rice using a fork.
    3 T fresh lime juice,2 t lime zest,3 T fresh cilantro
  • Add salt and black pepper as desired. Serve straight away.
    Salt and black pepper


You can use white, brown, or jasmine rice. I used white for this recipe.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1Serving Calories: 103kcal (5%) Carbohydrates: 22g (7%) Protein: 2g (4%) Fat: 1g (2%) Saturated Fat: 1g (6%) Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g Monounsaturated Fat: 1g Sodium: 1mg Potassium: 29mg (1%) Fiber: 1g (4%) Sugar: 1g (1%) Vitamin A: 14IU Vitamin C: 1mg (1%) Calcium: 8mg (1%) Iron: 1mg (6%)

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5 from 6 votes (1 rating without comment)

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  1. 5 stars
    We made this yesterday, and it turned out perfect the cilantro with the lime add the perfect flavor. I can’t wait to make it again.

  2. 5 stars
    It’s so easy to make and the flavors are perfect. It’s the ideal side dish for so many meals. I love how fresh and vibrant it tastes. Definitely a go-to recipe!

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