Mexican Skillet and Rice: Dinner on the Table in 30 Minutes or Less!

Mexican Skillet and Rice: super-quick dinner in less than 30 minutes!

I have gotten myself in the habit of always only cooking elaborate dinners every night. I typically spend 2-3 hours working on dinner every night, with cleanup and everything. That’s way too much time in the kitchen every day when I have so many other projects I’d like to be working on. I do find it fun and satisfying, and our food is pretty fantastic (if I do say so myself) as a result; but sometimes, I’d like to give myself a break. Without resorting to junk food.

Part of the reason I spend so much time in the kitchen is my desire to make everything from scratch. That takes longer than opening up a can of this and mixing it with a box of that. USUALLY.

But real food can be quick, too. I just have to remind myself of this fact every once in a while.

Lately, I’m interested in building up a repertoire of super-quick and easy (but still wholesome) dinners for hectic days when I don’t have time for elaborate ones. I don’t have a lot of these types of recipes, to be honest.

But this recipe for Mexican Skillet fits the bill perfectly and has been a staple my whole life. Honest. I’ve been making it since I was ten years old.

Back then, we used minute rice and bouillon cubes for flavour. (In fact, the recipe originates from the back of an Uncle Ben’s Minute Rice box, circa 1992). We topped it with chopped iceberg lettuce and orange Kraft cheddar (Cheese should not be orange, you guys. It’s made out of milk. When did you last see orange milk.) Over the years I’ve adapted it for a more real foods diet, but it’s still simple, quick, and delicious. Better lettuce, better cheese, no powdered flavours, and real rice make this a winner.

The next time you have to whip together a quick dinner in less than half an hour, try this one out. You don’t even have to have the beef defrosted ahead of time — just throw the meat right in your skillet, frozen, with a bit of water; put on the lid and let it simmer until it’s ready to brown. It’ll only add another 10 minutes to your total cooking time. I did this the other day and still had time to tidy the kitchen before calling the family in to eat.

Mexican Skillet. Dinner in 30 minutes

Mexican Skillet and Rice

  • 1 cup uncooked rice (I like basmati)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 quart jar canned tomatoes, diced or whole (I use home-canned)
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • chopped romaine lettuce (or other favourite. We’ve used arugula and spinach in a pinch)
  • grated cheddar cheese (preferably raw organic)

To start, get the rice cooking. I usually use basmati because it cooks up so quickly (20 minutes or less), but you can use your  favourite long-grain rice (including brown) — just adjust water and cooking time as needed. For basmati, add rice and 1 1/2 cups water to a small pot over high heat. Cook until it starts to bubble; then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until tender.

Meanwhile, brown ground beef with chopped onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes, salt and chili powder. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 5-10 minutes. Add cooked rice. Taste and adjust flavouring.

You’re done! Serve with lettuce and cheddar.




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  1. I love it!!! I’m always looking for quick wholesome meals!!

  2. This is a great idea! I am like you, always enticed by the super-elaborate meal (double fry 1/4 inch thick slices of 5 eggplants? roast and peel 6 anaheim peppers over an open flame? sure, why not?), only to realize halfway through that I’ve been spent two hours cooking dinner and an additional hour cleaning. Plus those recipes often call for elaborate stuff like Romertropf clay bakers or blowtorches or double boilers or something, and there really is no guarantee that those meals are always tastier than the simpler ones. But I’m a picky eater myself and love variety, and I often say I want to cook a simple dinner and then keep adding new recipes to the menu till I’m juggling three dishes, two of which I have never tried before.
    But now I’ve got two kiddies, a job, and zero free time. So I’ve been trying to focus on creating a repertoire of maybe 5 to 7 healthy, tasty recipes take just one pot to cook, require less than 30 minutes to get on the table, that I can do from scratch, and that everyone likes. So far, I’ve got a baked cherry omelet from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, pasta puttanesca, spicy buffalo wings, Persian grilled chicken strips, and Tempeh teubens. But I’m always on the lookup for easy, unfussy recipes that are delicious and healthy.

  3. oh and forgot to mention that being able to do it from memory and that it can be done with ingredients I almost always have in the house is also a must!

  4. I have been making something very similar to this. Here are some time saving steps I use. When I fry down hamburger I always do 2 pounds. One to use now and one to put in the frig to use later. We always use brown rice but I didn’t like waiting for it to cook. I now use my pressure cooker to make 2 batches of brown rice. One to use now and the other goes into the freezer to be used later.

    When I make this I normally throw in a can’s worth of black bean to stretch it a little bit further.

    Sometimes we eat this plain most times it is used as burrito filling or on a quesadila.

  5. Wendy Wittine says:

    Thank you for this recipe Kathleen! I made it today and Willi and I both enjoyed it. I am going to make your chickpea chocolate cake soon.

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