Cotija Rice


Back in mid-October, I had to attend a conference in DC for my day job. I convinced Matt to come with me (he has some old college friends living in the area) and off we went. After the first full day of the conference I was exhausted and starving and craving Mexican food something fierce, so Google found us a Mexican restaurant nearby. After some navigational difficulties and increased crankiness, we finally found the place and got ourselves seated. Upon reading the menu, we realized that this restaurant was owned by Richard Sandoval, of New York City Maya fame! Only, unlike Maya, it was a casual dining place.


Needless to say, we were quite enthused to order. We began our meal with table side served guacamole and then both ordered Mole specials. Mine came with pork, his with steak. I had a side of Mexican green rice, a most tasty and traditional dish, and Matt’s came with a side of what they called Cotija Rice.


Well, I must say, as delicious as the entrees were, we both mostly devoured Matt’s rice. It was unique, and some of the most delicious rice I’ve ever tasted. When our waiter came to clear our plates I asked him what, besides Cotija*, was in that rice? He basically gave me the recipe! I don’t know if that restaurant is just cool with their staff giving away their secrets or if it was his last day working there or what, but he just readily and cheerfully gave it up. I’ve had to play around with amounts a little to make it work smoothly, but it’s now all figured out and so, so perfect.


I warn you, this is NOT diet food. It’s rich and calorie-laden; but after your first bite you won’t care – it’s worth it. And the next day when you have to put an extra half hour on the treadmill, you’ll do so with a smile as you think fondly of how delicious the fattening rice tasted. Serve this alongside any Mexican entrée and watch as it is completely upstaged.

*Cotija is a hard Mexican cheese. You can substitute queso fresco if necessary.


3 tbs unsalted butter, divided
1 shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ½ cups white rice
3 cups water
1 cup heavy cream
3 handfuls finely grated (not crumbled) Cotija cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Minced cilantro, for garnish

In a medium pot, melt 1 tbs of butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and saute for about a minute, until just softened. Add the rice and stir to toast and coat with the butter. Next add the water and turn the heat up to high. Stir the rice around to make sure it doesn’t stick together.
When the water comes up to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover the pot and don’t touch it for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, uncover the pot and fluff the rice with a fork. It should be done, but if it’s not then cover the pot again and let it go another few minutes, until no liquid remains and the rice is soft but not mushy.
When the rice is cooked, add the remaining 2 tbs butter, the cream and the cheese. Stir to make sure the butter and cheese melt and incorporate with the cream. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Remember to go easy on the salt because the cheese has a lot of salt already. Stir in some minced cilantro and serve immediately.

13 responses to “Cotija Rice

  1. I have a cotija cheese source…what did you serve with this? it sounds very good.

    • Texan New Yorker

      I’ve made it several times, I think I did carnitas once, Mole Poblano one time, and just some Mexican black beans another time. It’ll work with as a side dish to any Mexican or Tex-Mex entree.

  2. This sounds just delicious. I’m so glad that you scored both at the restaurant and at home!

  3. I will give it a go with Carnegie Asada…what an interesting recipe:-) (the rice, I mean) 🙂

  4. Carne Asada…my iPad is overly enthusiastic when it comes to spell checking.

    • Texan New Yorker

      Lol! I love Carne Asada, so good! And I haven’t had it in forever. The rice will compliment it well, I think. Hope you enjoy it! 🙂

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  8. Yes!!!! Thank you so much for posting this. I had this rice at one of Sandoval’s restaurants in San Diego (Venga Venga), and I’ve gone back for more several times. Going to make this for dinner tonight. It is so, so good!

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  10. Thank you so much. I think this is the rice that I had years ago from an exes mom, and didnt know what it was called, but it was sooooo delicious!!! I am definitely going to try this recipe out!!!

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