21 easy rice recipes

Rice is white, brown, long grain and short, and everything in between. Here’s how to buy, store, cook and enjoy this delicious grain.
Published 22 October 2020

Rice is a fantastic staple to keep in your pantry. Dense in nutrients and fibre, to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Every supermarket offers a range of different rices and each has its own distinct flavour, texture and best uses. Here’s a quick guide.

What is the difference brown and white rice?

All rice must have its inedible hull removed during processing. What's left is the bran lying over a creamy endosperm. If the bran is removed with the hull, the rice is white rice. If the bran remains, the rice is brown. Any varietal can thus be white or brown.

Brown rice benefits

White or brown, all forms of rice are similar in terms of calories, carbs, fat and protein content. The real difference lies in the vitamins, minerals and fibre. By removing the bran to produce a white rice, the grains lose B1, B3 and iron. That said, "enriched" rice has one or more of these nutrients added back to the grains in processing. However, white rice grains lose magnesium and certain beneficial fatty acids which are never added back. Brown rice is also a much better source of fibre: 3.5 grams per 1 cup, as opposed to 0.6 grams for white.

Long and short grain rice

Rice grains are often categorised as short, medium or long. For example, Arborio is a medium-grain rice; basmati, a long-grain rice. Sushi rice is almost always short-grained. But contrary to what you might think, the categorisation refers to the grain's starch content rather than its actual length. So, a short-grain rice is sticky when cooked, a long-grain rice appears drier and more compact, and Arborio, a medium-grain rice, achieves a chewy-sticky balance (i.e. risotto).

Which rice to use for what

In general, long-grain rice like basmati and jasmine are best for pilafs, fried rice and other dishes where the grains should be separate. They are also the best choice for simply adding a starch to a plate of food. Medium-grain rice is better for paella, casseroles and rice puddings. The grains are slightly sticky, holding the sauce and thickening the dish. By the way, risotto can only be made with a medium-grain rice. Short-grain rice are best for fried rice cakes, sushi and sticky Thai desserts. That said, a sticky, short-grain rice is a great side for spicy Southeast Asian dishes like Thai or Vietnamese curries.

Tips for storing rice

Once a package has been opened, transfer the rice to zip-closed plastic bags or sealed glass jars for storage. Unless you're going to eat it in a year, don't buy the 10 kg bag. Moths in your pantry are most often hatched from eggs dormant on rice grains. Brown rice goes rancid more quickly than white because of the bran's fatty acids and oils. Always smell brown rice before you cook it to make sure it doesn't have a sour, off smell like oil that's gone bad.

Rice cookers

Almost every Asian home has a rice cooker. And why not? Just add the rice and water, and the machine cooks the rice in a steamy, sealed environment. Better still, a rice cooker will keep rice warm for hours, so dinner's ready when you are. Look for:

  • An automatic keep-warm cycle.
  • Multiple settings for brown rice, white rice and other varietals.
  • A non-stick coating if you'll make lots of sticky rice.
  • A snap-shut lid for keeping the steam in the pot.

Colours and types of rice

  • White rice: Not only have the bran and hull been removed, but the white endosperm has been polished. It has a fluffy texture and neutral flavour.
  • Brown rice: Any type of rice may remain brown: brown arborio, brown basmati and even brown sushi rice are available at high-end markets and many health-food stores.
  • Red rice: This brown rice has a distinctive, nutty taste, favoured in many Southeast Asian dishes. Its colour comes from the distinctively red bran.
  • Black rice: There are two types of this wholegrain varietal: forbidden rice from Asia which is very sticky, and black japonica from the U.S. which has a crunchy, earthy taste. Black rice works well in sushi and desserts and is full of antioxidants.
  • Wild rice: It's actually a wild grass, not a paddy rice. In fact, it's a separate genus altogether, indigenous to the Upper Midwest of the U.S. Wild rice has nutty texture works well in salads.