~ A fun, easy way to shake up Taco Night! This Mexican Rice Skillet Dinner is so simple (with mostly hands-off cooking time), plus we’ve got make-ahead strategies, too! Loaded with yummy Tex-Mex flavors, it’s a quick, one-pot dinner recipe your whole family will love! ~
This Recipe Is: • Make Ahead •
Happy Cinco de Mayo, friends!
You know I’ve been dragging out my party bins to find all our festive decorations …
Tchotchke ponchos, Mariachi vests, and cactus-shaped stir sticks? Check, check, and double-check!
Like I’ve said before … “everything we need to make Cinco de Mayo memorable … even on a school night!”
But wait … what do I NOT have on a school night in early May?!?!
You know what I mean. Once you become a parent of school-age kiddos, May is high season for the scheduling crazies! We’ve got lacrosse (both kids!), track, soccer, student government, writing club, plus plenty of awards ceremonies, get-ready-for-next-year meetings, and final concerts. And, of course, it all happens more or less exactly at the dinner hour … and often at conflicting times on opposite ends of town.
So how do you still manage to have a family meal, with balance and nutrition and even a little time together to connect and talk?
You work fast, you prep ahead … and you keep recipes like this on hand at all times!
Because while this Mexican Rice Skillet is the perfect way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo tonight … you’ll love how quick and easy it is, and your whole family will love how delicious it is … so you’ll no doubt want to keep this recipe in your back pocket year-round!
It’s got all the yummy flavors of taco night, in one easy skillet dinner that’s ready in just over 30 minutes (with mostly hands-off cooking time)! And with a few nutritional upgrades and simple tips, you can make this even faster, even easier, and healthy, too!
Extra-Lean Meat – Be sure to choose extra-lean ground meat for this recipe. We typically use ground beef, but you can substitute ground turkey if you prefer. For ground beef, at a minimum, we suggest selecting 90% lean, but we almost always use 93% or even 96% when we can find them (our local stores sometimes vary in exactly what they carry). Don’t automatically assume that choosing ground turkey will make this recipe lower in fat. Depending on the exact blend, ground turkey can actually be higher in total fat than very lean ground beef. Just check the nutrition labels to be sure.
Brown Rice – Brown rice, which still has the fiber and germ intact, has more vitamins, minerals and fiber than white rice. It’s an easy, healthy upgrade, especially now that brands such as Minute Rice offer quick-cooking versions. It’s also a great starting point if you’re just easing your family into eating more whole grains, since they probably won’t notice any flavor difference at all in recipes like this Mexican Skillet.
Veggies, Veggies and More Veggies! – Not only is there a lot of nutrient-rich produce cooked right into the Mexican Rice itself – onions and corn, plus a little garlic and all the lycopene-rich tomatoes in the salsa – but the big nutritional hit comes with all the fresh veggies you can pile on top. From green onions and chopped fresh tomatoes, to avocado and minced cilantro – make sure to offer plenty of fresh, healthy choices for toppings!
Make-Ahead Options and Time-Saving Tips
This is one of those recipes that’s very flexible and forgiving. There’s not a whole lot of work involved, and you can time the prep and cooking to fit into your schedule!
First, most of the veggies and toppings can be chopped and prepared ahead, then kept in the fridge until dinner. This skillet meal also reheats just beautifully! You can cook the meat, garlic and onion in advance, and then finish the final cooking step at mealtime. Or, you can go a bit further and cook this all the way through in the morning or even the day before – just reheat it at dinnertime, adding your fresh toppings at the table.
So easy, right?!?
Dinner is totally do-able, even on the busiest of evenings!
And, no matter how crazy your May evenings are … with this quick Mexican Rice Skillet Dinner, you can still manage a little Cinco de Mayo festiveness, too! Sombreros and maracas are optional … but highly encouraged, of course! 😀
Happy Cinco de Mayo, friends!
- 1 pound extra-lean ground beef or turkey
- 2 cups chopped sweet onion (about 1 medium onion)
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 1/4 cups water
- 1 16-ounce jar of your favorite salsa
- 1 cup fresh or frozen corn (no need to thaw if frozen)
- 1 cup uncooked instant brown rice
- 7 teaspoons taco seasoning (see note)
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce (such as Tapatío)
- 1/2 cup shredded, reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
- Optional toppings: additional cheese, additional salsa or hot sauce, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, minced fresh cilantro, guacamole or chopped avocados, chopped green onions, reduced-fat sour cream
- In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook beef (or turkey), onions, and garlic, stirring to crumble, until meat is browned and onions have begun to soften (about 8-10 minutes). Drain if needed.
- Add water, salsa, corn, rice, taco seasoning, and hot sauce to skillet, stirring to combine. Cover and continue cooking over medium heat until rice is done, stirring occasionally (about 18-20 minutes).
- Remove from heat and stir in cheese.
- Serve with desired toppings.
Taco seasoning: We recommend avoiding taco seasoning mixes that contain MSG. Also, there are differences in the amounts of sodium (and other ingredients) in various brands, so it's a good idea to read the nutrition information for the brands offered at your store.
Make-ahead tips: Most of the veggies and toppings for this recipe can be chopped and prepared ahead, then kept in separate, sealed containers in the refrigerator. In addition, this Mexican Rice Skillet reheats well, so it's a good make-ahead dinner option. You can cook the meat, garlic and onion in advance, and then refrigerate that until you're ready to finish the final cooking step at mealtime. Or, you can actually cook this recipe all the way through ahead of time – in the morning or even the day before – refrigerating it until you're ready to reheat it at dinnertime, then adding your fresh toppings at the table.