Rice is a staple in any kitchen, and with so many different types, it lends itself to an endless number of recipes. Each type of rice has its own taste, texture, and unique properties that work best in different applications. Plus, rice is naturally gluten-free, making it an easy way to offer gluten-free entrees to accommodate alternative diets on your menu. This guide examines factors that differentiate types of rice, from nutty basmati to fragrant jasmine, so you can choose the best rice for your next recipe.
There are a variety of factors involved in choosing what rice will best suit your establishment's needs. Take a look at these 10 common types of rice to determine which grain size, texture, and flavor profile will work best for your next recipe.
Arborio rice is a medium grain rice that is wider in size and has a characteristic white dot at the center of the grain. It is named after the town of Arborio in the Po Valley of Italy, where it is grown. Due to the high starch content of Arborio rice, it has a slightly chewy and sticky consistency and develops a creamy texture when cooked.
Arborio rice length: Medium grain
Arborio rice flavor: Creamy
What is arborio rice used for?: Risotto, rice pudding, and soup
When cooked, basmati rice grains are long, dry, and separate. They impart a pleasant, nutty aroma and flavor in any dish. It is common in Indian and Asian cuisine, but it can be used in a variety of flavorful recipes.
Basmati rice length: Long grain
Basmati rice flavor: Nutty
What is basmati rice used for?: Dal, curry, pilafs, and saffron rice
Black rice, also known as forbidden rice, gets its color from anthocyanins, the same antioxidant that's found in blueberries and blackberries. Black rice features a mildly nutty, earthy flavor and has long been used in Chinese cuisine for its health-promoting properties.
Black rice length: Chinese black rice cake
Black rice flavor: Mild, nutty, and earthy
What is black rice used for?: Bowls, rice pudding, soups, rice salads, and Chinese black rice cake
Bomba rice is a medium grain rice that is cultivated in the Valencia region of Spain. It has a firm texture that lends itself well to Spanish paella, as it needs more liquid to asborb when cooking than other rice varieties.
Bomba rice length: Short
Bomba rice flavor: Mild; absorbs the flavor and aroma of the stock and spices it's cooked with
What is bomba rice used for?: Paella, Meditteranean dishes, and risotto
Brown rice is a whole grain that has its bran and germ layers still intact, which gives the rice its characteristic tan color. It has a firmer texture and nuttier flavor than white rice, and it provides more fiber, vitamins, and minerals per serving. Brown rice can be substituted in any recipe that calls for white rice to increase its nutritional content.
Brown rice length: Long grain
Brown rice flavor: Mild, nutty, and earthy
What is brown rice used for?: Stuffing, bowls, casseroles, stir fries, and rice pilaf
Cultivated in Thailand, jasmine rice will bring an exotic flair and flavorful accent to any dish. It develops a pleasant floral aroma and a moist, soft texture when cooked. Use it when making a variety of traditional Asian dishes, including curries and stir-frys.
Jasmine rice length: Long grain
Jasmine rice flavor: Floral, nutty, and aromatic
What is jasmine rice used for?: Curry, stir-fry dishes, and other Thai and Asian dishes
Long grain white rice is most common rice used in traditional American recipes, and it's also popular in Asian and Mexican cuisine. Compared to brown rice, it has a mild flavor and a lighter, fluffier texture when cooked. It also takes much less time to cook white rice than brown rice, but the trade-off is that it has a lower nutritional content due to its milling process. Carolina Gold rice, a variety that originated in Africa but can now only be found in the United States, is known as the grandfather of all of America’s long grains.
White rice length: Long grain
White rice flavor: Mild
What is white rice used for?: Stuffing, bowls, casseroles, stir-fry dishes, rice pilaf
Parboiled rice is rice that has been partially boiled in its inedible outer husk. This process improves the texture of the rice, cuts down on cooking time, and saves some of the original vitamins and minerals found in the rice. It is technically a cooking method for rice rather than a variety, so it can come in long, medium, and short grain rice varieties.
Parboiled rice length: Long, medium, or short
Parboiled rice flavor: Mildly nutty
What is parboiled rice used for?: Stuffing, bowls, casseroles, stir fries, and rice pilaf
Sticky rice, also known as glutinous rice or sweet rice, is a long grain white rice that has a low amylose starch content, which causes the rice to have an extremely sticky texture when steamed. It is grown mainly in Southeast and East Asia and is used in many savory and sweet Asian dishes.
Sticky rice length: Long grain
Sticky rice flavor: Mild
What is sticky rice used for?: Dumplings, desserts, rice balls, and stuffing
Sushi rice is technically short-grain white or brown rice that has a soft, tender, and very sticky texture. Sushi rice is made by combining short-grain white or brown rice with sugar, salt, and vinegar. Often times short-grain white or brown grain rice will be labeled as "sushi rice" on its packaging to denote that it is ideal for using to roll sushi.
Sushi rice length: Short grain
Sushi rice flavor: Mild
What is sushi rice used for?: Sushi, rice balls, poke bowls, and sushi burritoes
Long grain rice will have a longer cylindrical shape, whereas short grain rice will have a shorter and wider shape. Rice is often characterized as one of three varieties - long grain, medium grain, or short grain rice, which refers to the length and shape of the grain. The grain size affects the texture of the rice, therefore long grain, medium grain, and short grain rice are all used for different cooking applications.
Long grain rice is at least three to four times as long as it is wide. Due to its starch composition, it has a light, fluffy texture and separates when cooked.
What is long grain rice used for?
Long grain rice is commonly used to make bowls, pilafs, casseroles, and stir fries.
Medium grain rice is shorter and wider than long grain rice. It has a chewy, tender, and slightly sticky texture when cooked.
What is medium grain rice used for?
Medium grain rice is commonly used to make risotto, paella, and side dishes.
Short grain rice is less than twice as long as it is wide. It has a soft, tender, and sticky texture when cooked.
What is short grain rice used for?
Short grain rice is commonly used to make sushi, poke bowls, and rice balls.
There are two subtypes of Asian rice varieties: indica rice and japonica rice. Indica rice, which is more commonly eaten, features a long, slim grain and is aromatic whereas japonica rice features a short to medium grain, little aroma, and a distinct, sticky texture when cooked.
Rice is one of the 8 true cereal grains, along with wheat, oats, corn (maize), barley, rye, millet, and sorghum. There a 4 parts to the rice grain: the hull, bran, white rice, and germ. Below we will break down the different parts of a rice grain. Use the diagram to reference where each part is located on the grain.
Each grain of rice is enclosed in a tough outer hull, or husk, that needs to be removed before it can be consumed. This layer is removed in all rice types.
Under the hull, the bran layer is not removed in all rice types. This nutritious whole grain section is usually tan-colored, but it may be reddish or black depending on the pigmentation in the bran layers. The bran layer may be consumed, but it is often removed when further processing rice.
Once the bran and germ layers are removed, white rice remains. Known as the endosperm, this is the part of the rice that is most commonly consumed.
Found under the hull, the germ, or rice kernel, is nutrient-dense. Full of B vitamins, minerals, and proteins, it helps give rice its color and added nutritional benefits.
Read on to learn the answers to some frequently asked questions about rice.
Wild rice is actually not a variety of rice at all but instead come from the seeds harvested from four types of semi-aquatic grasses that are native to North America. Wild rice has a long grain size and has a more pronounced earthy and nutty flavor and firm texture. Wild rice can be prepared similarly to white or brown rice, but with a longer cook time, and is great for using in soups, casseroles, and rice pilafs.
Converted rice, also known as parboiled rice, is a type of rice that's been partially boiled and dried, which allows the rice to retain more nutrients compared to ordinary white rice.
Yellow rice is long-grain white rice that is flavored and turned yellow with the addition of saffron or turmeric. It is popularly used in many different cuisines, including South and Central American, South African, Indian, and Asian cuisines.
Yes - washing your rice prior to cooking it will eliminate any pesticides that may still be on the grain, help give it a consistent texture, and also gets rid of excess starch. Generally it is a good idea to rinse most types of rice, but always be sure to check the packaging on your rice first. Some rice comes enriched with water-soluble vitamins and minerals, which will dissolve if the rice is rinsed.
Polished rice, which is another name for white rice or milled rice, is rice that has been milled to remove the husk, bran, and germ and is polished to have a shiny white color. Polished rice cooks much faster than unpolished, or brown, rice but has less nutritional value than unpolished rice.
Use the rice types chart below as a guide to learn about the type of rice and popular varieties of each type.