Katie's Healthy Bites: Exotic Rices, Explained



Wooden scoops with different rice types scattered from them

Photo by: Andrii Gorulko

Andrii Gorulko

Rice is a dietary staple in cultures all around the world, and with over 40,000 different varieties, it can be difficult to decide which rice is right for you. I used to steer clear of the rice aisle because I always felt it was time consuming and difficult to cook. Now it is a staple in my diet. I figured if I shared a few facts and tips rice could become a staple in your diet too.

Size Matters! There is a difference between long grain and short/medium grain rice and one is in the way it cooks. Short and medium grain rice tends to produce a stickier final product where long grain rice is fluffy and light when cooked.

So many choices! If you are like me, you have stood in the rice aisle and stared at the many varieties with no idea which you should choose. Hopefully these brief descriptions can help you out.

Arborio Rice: Primarily used in risottos, this medium-grain, round rice is named after the town in Italy where it is grown. Arborio rice has a creamy, slightly chewy texture when cooked.

Basmati Rice: A long-grain, aromatic rice from India and Pakistan. It has a nutty flavor and light, fluffy texture when cooked.

Bhutanese Red Rice: Grown at 8000 feet in the town of Bhutan this short-grained red rice is irrigated by a glacier rich in minerals. It has a nutty, earthy flavor and soft texture when cooked.

Black Rice: Also known as forbidden rice, this short-grain rice that originated in Asia is black when raw and deep purple when cooked. It is rich in fiber, minerals and amino acids and has a nutty flavor.

Brown Rice: Short, medium and long grained rice that is milled to remove the hull but keep the bran in tact. It is more nutritious then white rice because the bran contains an abundance of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Jasmine Rice: Aromatic, long-grain rice grown in Thailand that cooks up soft and slightly sticky. Jasmine rice is a good source of complex carbohydrates.

Cooking Rice: Here is where it can get tricky. Rice cooks a bit differently depending on the type so here are a few basic steps to get a perfect final product.

  • Rinse and drain your rice. It helps to remove sediment, excess starch and makes the grains less brittle.
  • Use 1 1/2-1 3/4 cups water to one cup white rice and about 2 cups water to 1 cup brown rice. You can experiment with how much water you like. The more water the softer or stickier the rice will be.
  • Use a heavy based pot to prevent burning and a tight fitting lid to allow steam to form.
  • Let the rice sit for 5-10 minutes once cooking completes.
A few more tidbits:
  • Still not comfortable? A rice cooker is the answer for perfectly cooked rice every time!
  • Love the boxed rice mixes but hate all the sodium…just omit or use half of the seasoning packet to significantly cut back on the salt.
  • Want rice in a pinch? Pre-cooked, frozen white and brown rice is available at the grocery store (Whole Foods and Trader Joes have it for sure).
  • Rice is not just a side on your dinner plate…it's also used in other preparations such as desserts and salads.

Try this quick and simple orange pistachio rice salad recipe for a flavorful side.

Katie Cavuto Boyle, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, personal chef and owner of HealthyBites, LLC. See Katie's full bio »

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