Mexican rice with cilantro pesto

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This Mexican-inspired rice dish is super simple, with an easy coriander (cilantro) pesto and black beans. It serves as either a side dish or a vegetarian main course, and can be made in just 20 minutes!

Mexican rice with cilantro pesto and black beand in a white bowl, topped with avocado and cherry tomatoes.

I love dishes like this Mexican rice. Not only is it inspired by my favourite cuisine (definitely not authentic, but who’s complaining?), but it’s also so, so simple and so, so easy. And you know how I like easy. I’m sure I’m getting more and more lazy as the years go by – but even I can manage this quick 20 minute dish! (Though if I ever get to the point where I can’t even manage to spend 20 minutes on dinner, I will revel in ordering pizza every single night)

Mexican rice with cilantro pesto, in a saucepan with black beans and fresh cilantro.
What’s in this Mexican rice?

There are a few main elements to this dish:

– rice (I used white rice, but brown rice would be great too!)
– black beans (tinned, obviously)
– an easy homemade cilantro pesto
– …yeah, that’s about it.

This dish may be super simple, but it’s also really effective. Don’t go thinking that just because it’s simple, it will be boring – far from it. Sometimes less is more.

Mexican rice with cilantro pesto, black beans and sunflower seeds in a saucepan

Cilantro pesto

Pesto is usually made with fresh basil, but switching it for fresh coriander (cilantro) in this recipe really adds a pop of citrussy freshness, and keeps with the Mexican-style theme.

It’s super quick to make – pop just a few ingredients in a mini food processor, and blitz. It’s ready in seconds.

As well as the cilantro, you’ll need some garlic (just a small clove, as it’s going in raw!), veggie parmesan cheese, and some kind of nut or seed. I used sunflower seeds, which worked really well, but just about anything will do. Traditionally, you’d use pine nuts, but there’s not much that’s traditional about this dish, so I say just use whatever you have on hand.

The end result is a creamy, cheesy cilantro pesto that really elevates plain white rice to something a bit special.

Mexican rice with cilantro pesto and black beans in a white bowl topped with avocado and cherry tomatoes.

How would I serve this Mexican rice?

The great thing about this dish is that it’s really versatile.

If you’re having a party and serving a big Mexican feast, it makes a great side dish – it’s a bit more interesting than just offering plain rice. A big scoop of this would be amazing alongside some enchiladas!

Or, it also works really well as a standalone dish, if you’re not expecting guests. It’s got protein from the black beans and sunflower seeds, so you don’t really need to serve it with anything else at all – perhaps just a few cherry tomatoes and some sliced avocado to add a bit of interest.

And that’s all there is to it! This Mexican rice is super simple, but has tons of flavour, and is a great recipe to have on stand-by for any number of occasions.

Mexican rice with cilantro pesto and black beans in a white bowl, topped with avocado and cherry tomatoes

Mexican rice with cilantro pesto and black beans

This Mexican-inspired rice dish is super simple, with an easy coriander (cilantro) pesto and black beans. It serves as either a side dish or a vegetarian main course, and can be made in just 20 minutes!

If you’ve cooked this recipe, don’t forget to leave a star rating!

4.75 from 4 votes
Print Pin Comment
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 2 people
Calories: 435kcal
Author: Becca Heyes


  • 150 g (~ 2/3 cup) long-grain white rice

For the cilantro pesto:

  • 1 small clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 tbsp sunflower seeds (or pine nuts)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp finely grated vegetarian parmesan-style cheese
  • Small bunch fresh coriander (cilantro)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp water

To assemble:

  • 120 g (~ 2/3 cup) cooked black beans (I used tinned)
  • 1 tbsp sunflower seeds (or pine nuts)


  • Boil the rice in plenty of water, until soft, then drain.
  • While the rice is cooking, prepare the cilantro pesto. Add the garlic, sunflower seeds, parmesan, coriander (cilantro), and olive oil to a mini food processor, and blitz thoroughly, scraping down the sides if necessary. Add a little water and blitz again to get the consistency you want – it should be a thick paste.
  • To assemble the dish, add the cilantro pesto to the cooked rice, along with the tinned black beans and a few more sunflower seeds. Mix thoroughly, and serve warm.


Nutrition Facts
Mexican rice with cilantro pesto and black beans
Amount Per Serving (1 portion)
Calories 435 Calories from Fat 94
% Daily Value*
Fat 10.4g16%
Saturated Fat 2g10%
Cholesterol 3mg1%
Sodium 152mg6%
Potassium 302mg9%
Carbohydrates 72.9g24%
Fiber 5.6g22%
Sugar 0.2g0%
Protein 12g24%
Calcium 70mg7%
Iron 1.8mg10%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on your exact ingredients. Please calculate your own nutritional values if you require accuracy for health reasons.

Tried this Recipe? Leave a Comment!Comments and star ratings really help support the site – thank you!

Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose. Information above is for 1/2 the recipe.

You only need half a tin of black beans for this recipe – why not put the rest into my cheesy bean bake?

4.75 from 4 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  1. A great basic Mexican rice recipe. After mixing the pesto in with the rice and beans I found it a bit bland so I toasted the sunflower seeds and added 1 teaspoon of southwest spice mix (salt. powdered garlic, black and white pepper, sage, cumin, dehydrated green chili pepper, powdered onion). That’s all it needed to be a wonderful side dish to our SW dinner!4 stars

  2. This was amazing!!! I skipped the parm, and added more fresh cilantro ontop cuz i am crazy obsessed with it… I actually sliced some big chunks of bell pepper i used as scoopers to eat it since i need some veggies.
    So good! Ended up being three lunches for me with some veg. Put it ontop of some baby spinach another day which was great since the spinach wilts a bit5 stars

  3. Wow! This is so rich and delicious! I don’t know why I thought it would be lighter but it really could be a meal itself.
    I used brown rice (didn’t have white) and topped with avocado, cooked it longer, and it turned out great.

  4. This looks so good. The cooking method is very like what you’d do with a risotto, and I always like experimenting with those. I’ll have to try this– I like Smith’s suggestions about avocado and lime! Always good with black beans. I tend to make mine up from dry too– nothing wrong with tinned, but I like cooking them, and they’re just that little bit nicer, I think.

  5. Rice and beans is probably my favourite combination ever, and I’d been meaning to try coriander pesto for a while now, so I just had to make this, not to mention your pictures are so very inviting. I couldn’t stop thinking about it last night, when I started the beans and pesto, but I didn’t have a chance to bring it all together until today. I was a bit hesitant at first, as though I love the components of pesto, I’ve always hated them combined – be it basil, rocket, mint or parsley – but coriander is just something else, this is definitely the pesto for me.

    I skipped out on the parmesan (didn’t have any), added extra coriander, and used lightly toasted almonds instead of pine nuts, and the result was zingy and flavourful without any of the heavy undertone I usually associate with pesto. Used some soaked and boiled beans (with onion, garlic, bay leaf) instead of canned, then just added bouillon to the leftover water. I topped it with avocado and a spritz of lime as well as spring onions and cherry tomatoes. So good. A delight to eat, creamy melt-in-your-mouth delicious, with that coriander zing and freshness to keep it from being too heavy, but completely satisfying. Thank you for sharing this, I might be hooked.

  6. Wow, this looks delicious!
    You know, I was extremely uncreative when I was a vegetarian. I would make baked potatoes or beans every night. Where was this back then?! :p But I’m sure I’d enjoy this just as much now, YUM!

  7. I love all the ingredients in this dish! The rice and beans together makes for a full meal in itself. Was it the pine nuts that added to the creaminess? Yum!