10 Types of Rice—and What to Do With Them
Rice is one of the most commonly consumed foods in the world, and for good reason: It’s versatile, substantial, easy to prepare, and delicious, making it a perfect staple in every kitchen. Whether it’s incorporated into a main dish, served as a side, or transformed into a snack or dessert, rice can do it all while providing comfort and satiety. Here, we break down 10 different kinds of rice, explore their distinctions, and provide the best ways to enjoy them.
Short-Grain vs Medium-Grain vs Long-Grain Rice
First, though, a word about grain length. Rice grains come in three sizes: short-, medium-, and long-grain. Each type has distinct characteristics and works best in a specific dish. Short-grain rice, like arborio rice, bomba rice, and sushi rice, is similar in length and width and takes on a sticky texture when cooked. Medium-grain rice is about twice as long as it is wide and becomes moist and tender when cooked. Long-grain rice, like jasmine rice and basmati rice, is anywhere from three to four times as long as it is wide and takes on a drier, fluffy texture when cooked.
Arborio rice, a short-grain Italian white rice, is best known for being risotto’s go-to grain. It’s rich in amylopectin starch, so when it’s cooked, arborio rice is chewy, firm, and creamy all at once, making it the perfect vehicle for richer rice dishes like pudding and risotto. As a cultivar of japonica rice, it’s closely related to glutinous rice (also known as sticky rice).
This aromatic long-grain rice is quintessential to Indian, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian cuisine. Basmati rice is native to India, where more than 70% of the world’s basmati supply is produced. The fragrant rice’s global demand is high, so a number of countries, such as the United States, grow their own basmati varieties and hybrids. Basmati rice works best in dishes like pilaf or biryani or as an accessory to curries and stews.
Also known as purple rice or forbidden rice, black rice is named for its raw appearance. It turns dark purple when cooked, thanks to its high anthocyanin content, and is a good source of antioxidants, iron, and vitamin E. Black rice has a nuttier flavor than other varieties and a soft texture, making it ideal for dishes such as porridge, pudding, and baked goods.
This nearly spherical short-grain rice, also known as Valencia rice, is cultivated in Spain and the preferred variety for paella. Bomba rice is highly absorbent and requires more water to cook, and tends not to stick thanks to its high amylose (a type of starch) content.
Also known as whole-grain rice, brown rice is a lot like white rice, but hasn’t had as much of the grain removed—the only part removed from brown rice is the outer hull, which is inedible. White rice, on the other hand, has the outer hull, germ, and bran removed, and is polished once the milling process is complete. Brown rice thus has a denser texture, nuttier flavor, and higher nutritional value, including much more fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, and iron. It’s super versatile and makes a healthier substitute wherever white rice is used, but can also pair with most dishes.
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Glutinous rice, also known as sticky rice or sweet rice, is extremely popular in various Southeastern and Eastern Asian cuisines. When it’s cooked, glutinous rice becomes sticky as it’s low in amylose. Glutinous rice is primarily used in breakfast, snacks, or sweets, or ground into sweet rice flour such as mochiko.
Jasmine rice is a long-grain rice that’s known for its mild, sweet flavor. Primarily grown in Southeast Asia, jasmine rice is a staple in Thai and Cambodian cuisine. Jasmine rice, especially white jasmine rice, takes on a slightly sticky texture when cooked and is usually served steamed and as a companion to other dishes.
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Also known as Himalayan or Bhutanese rice, red rice gets its name from its red husk and is mostly grown and consumed in Central Asia. Similarly to brown rice, red rice is a good source of nutrients including fiber, magnesium, iron, and B vitamins. Thanks to its coloration, red rice is also high in antioxidants. Like brown rice, red rice adapts well to a variety of dishes, especially those that rely on texture.
Recipes to Try: Red Rice and Quinoa Salad with Orange and Pistachios, Coconut Red Rice Pudding.
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Sushi rice is a short-grain white Japanese rice that’s cooked and combined with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt and then incorporated into sushi. It’s known for its stickiness, but doesn’t possess the same qualities as glutinous rice.
Wild rice isn’t exactly rice—rather, it’s a term for the grain produced by a certain type of grass native to North America and China. Wild rice is more difficult to cultivate and harvest than true rice, and has a tougher texture, but it’s a good source of protein, B vitamins, and lysine, an amino acid used in the biosynthesis of proteins.