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Rice 101: The Different Varieties of Rice, Their Uses, & How to Cook Them

Rice stands as a versatile and cherished staple in cuisines worldwide. From the American classic to the exotic Thai and savory Spanish varieties, rice is the cornerstone of numerous cherished traditional dishes. With around 40,000 rice types globally, as revealed by Bon Appétit, chances are you've encountered a few. Yet, mastering the art of cooking each type may elude you.

Fear not, as this guide is your passport to becoming a rice virtuoso. Join us as we navigate through 9 distinct rice varieties, unveiling the secrets to perfect preparation. Ready your rice recipes, for we are about to transform you into a maestro of the rice cooking realm. Continue reading to unlock the expertise needed for crafting delectable dishes with some of the most renowned rice types.


Brita Lundberg, a fourth-generation farmer at Lundberg Family Farms, explains that all rice begins as brown, and the hulling process determines its color—brown, black, red, or white. Rice is characterized by three main qualities: color, length (short- or long-grain), and texture.


Cooking rice requires attention to each type's unique liquid-to-grain ratio and cook time. Lundberg recommends following package directions for precise results but also suggests using a rice cooker for convenience. Whether cooking on the stove or using a rice cooker, Lundberg advises relying on package directions for the best results.


Varieties of Rice


Jasmine Rice

Jasmine rice, a commonly found rice variety in kitchens, is versatile in its uses. Originating from Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, jasmine rice comes in various colors such as white, brown, red, purple, and black, and is also known as Thai fragrant rice due to its subtle buttery flavor. It is a staple as a side dish, serves as a base in curries and stews, and can be sautéed with vegetables for stir-fries.


Jasmine Rice

To cook jasmine rice on the stovetop, the recommended ratio is 1 ½ cups of water to 1 cup of rice, covered and simmered for 15 minutes according to Mahatma Rice.


 

Wild Rice

Wild rice stands out due to its high fiber content, which surpasses that of white rice by three times, according to Healthline. Given this information, incorporating wild rice into your diet could serve as an effective means to boost overall fiber consumption. Furthermore, a study featured in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry revealed that wild rice exhibits 30 times more antioxidant activity than its white counterpart. This discovery is particularly promising for enthusiasts of wild rice, as antioxidants play a crucial role in neutralizing cell-damaging free radicals within the body.


Wild Rice

For stovetop preparation of wild rice, combine 4 cups of water with 1 cup of wild rice in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid, and allow the wild rice to cook for 45 minutes, as per Allrecipes.


 

Basmati Rice

Basmati rice, available in both white and brown varieties, requires distinct cooking methods for each type. Achieving ideal basmati rice involves ensuring a fluffy texture, making it an excellent accompaniment to curries, stews, or transforming it into a flavorful pilaf. Basmati rice is a bit longer than jasmine rice and is similarly known for its aroma.

Basmati rice has a low to medium glycemic index, which means that it is fairly slow to digest and does not cause the typical blood sugar spike you may see from other types of rice (via Tilda)


Basmati Rice

For white basmati rice, add rinsed rice, 1 ½ cups water, and ½ teaspoon of salt to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Stir once, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer for 18 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep the lid on to steam for five minutes. Fluff with a fork, and serve (via Real Simple).


Because brown basmati rice is a whole grain, it takes a bit longer to cook. To do so, combine 1 cup of brown basmati rice with 2 cups of water and ½ teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, stir, and cover. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 50 minutes. Remove from heat, and keep the lid on to steam for five additional minutes. Fluff with a fork, and serve (via Real Simple).


 

Sushi Rice

Sushi rice, a short-grain variety, is versatile and suitable for sushi, nigiri, poke bowls, and more. Despite its sticky texture, it differs from glutinous rice.


Sushi Rice

To prepare, combine 3 ½ cups of uncooked white short grain rice with 1 ½ cups of water in a rice cooker, placing a piece of kombu on top. Cook until done, then stir in a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and kombu. If storing for a few hours, cover with a damp towel.


 

Bomba Rice

Bomba rice, a type of Spanish rice traditionally used in paella, has a unique quality of expanding in width rather than length. This characteristic makes it ideal for absorbing the flavorful tomato sauce in paella. Originating near Valencia, Spain, bomba rice is the authentic choice for this renowned local dish.


Bomba Rice

To prepare, combine 3 cups of water and 1 cup of bomba rice in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a boil, then simmer with a lid for 15 minutes (via Vintage Kitchen).


 

Arborio Rice

Arborio rice, commonly featured in Italian risotto recipes, shares similarities with bomba rice in its excellent absorption of liquid and flavor. Due to its minimal milling, it retains a higher starch content, creating the ideal creamy texture for risotto, as noted by The Spruce Eats. Given its typical use in risottos, it's advised against boiling it directly with water; instead, a slow, medium heat cooking method is recommended.


Arborio Rice

Risotto preparation is a dedicated process requiring continuous stirring, often lasting a minimum of 20 minutes. While it demands effort, the end result is a delectable dinner, serving as a unique arm workout with a delicious payoff!


 

Brown Rice

Brown rice is often praised for its positive impact on health, being a whole-grain rice that is packed with fiber and antioxidants. Research from sources like Healthline and U.S. News & World Report suggests that incorporating brown rice into your diet may contribute to better blood sugar control and a reduced risk of heart disease.

Brown rice is essentially white rice before undergoing the "polishing" process at mills; it retains the bran layers of the rice kernel, as explained by USA Rice.


Brown Rice

For those preparing brown rice at home, the recommended method involves boiling 1 cup of water with 2 cups of brown rice. After reaching a simmer, cover the mixture and let it cook for approximately 45 minutes, as suggested by Love and Lemons.

 

Forbidden Rice

Forbidden rice, also known as black rice or purple rice, not only enhances the visual appeal and texture of rice dishes but also brings added nutritional benefits. According to EatingWell, black rice contains more protein than both white and brown rice. A single serving of black rice contributes 4% of your daily fiber needs and 6% of the recommended iron intake. The texture of this type of rice is most often described as "chewy."


Forbidden Rice/ Black Rice

Black rice can be enjoyed by cooking 1 cup of it with 2 ¼ cups of water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, as suggested by Feasting at Home.


 

Sticky Rice

Sticky rice, commonly referred to as glutinous rice, holds a significant place in Southeast Asian culinary traditions due to its unique sticky texture. One delightful dish that highlights this characteristic is Thai Mango Sticky Rice. Unlike Western rice varieties, it requires a unique cooking method—steaming.


Sticky Rice

To prepare, soak the sticky rice for at least six hours (or up to 24 hours) and then drain the excess water. Utilize a bamboo or metal steamer over boiling water with a liner to prevent sticking. Spread a thin layer of rice, cover, and steam for 30 minutes. Allow the rice to rest before serving. This steaming technique can also enhance the stickiness of other short-grain rice varieties.


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