Everything you wish you knew about rice, including common types of rice, storage tips, and recipes! Learn the difference between long-grain and short-grain rice and which one to choose. Rice 101.
Different Sizes of Rice
Rice varieties are categorized into three sizes: short grain, medium grain, and long grain. The categories are based on their length in comparison to their width.
Long grain rice is roughly 4 times longer than its width, while short grain rice is short and wide, and medium grain lands somewhere in the middle. You may be thinking, why does this matter? The length determines the starch content of the grain and ultimately affects the texture of the cooked rice.
Long-grain rice has the lowest starch content, which results in light, fluffy, and dry grains that don’t stick together.
Short-grain rice has a high starch content, which results in sticky rice that clumps together. This is why it’s crucial to use the right type of rice for the job! Basmati rice would make an awful risotto, and arborio rice would ruin a pilaf.
Different Types of Rice:
There are more than 100,000 types of rice in the world, but thankfully your local grocery store doesn’t carry all of them! Here are eight common types of rice and how to use them. Remember to check the box or bag if you’re unsure what size the grain is.
1. White Rice
White rice is any type of refined rice with a white appearance, including long-grain and short-grain varieties. The husk, bran, and germ have been removed, which extends its shelf life but also removes nutrients. There are plenty of white rice varieties including jasmine, basmati, arborio, bomba, and parboiled rice. White rice cooks faster than brown rice with a more neutral taste.
Best used for: All dishes. It’s important to choose the right grain size for your recipe though. See the importance of grain size above.
2. Brown Rice
Brown rice is a type of whole-grain rice with only the inedible husk removed. It contains bran and germ, which provide plenty of fiber, phytochemicals, trace minerals, and antioxidants. Due to the bran layer, it typically takes longer than white rice to cook, up to double the amount of time. It has a chewy consistency and strong, nutty flavor.
Best used for: Soups, casseroles, stir-fries, stuffed peppers, or burrito bowls. Look for recipes that call specifically for brown rice, since the cooking time & method differ from white rice.
3. Jasmine Rice
Jasmine is an aromatic long-grain rice grown in Thailand and Cambodia. It’s commonly found in Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian dishes. It has a slightly floral aroma and a soft, fluffy texture when cooked. You can find it in both brown and white varieties, with white jasmine rice more delicate in texture.
Best used for: Thai stir-fries, turmeric rice, curry dishes, and Indian classics like tikka masala, and pilafs. It’s a perfect vehicle for saucy dishes that you can mix with rice.
4. Basmati Rice
Jasmine and basmati rice are very similar with a few subtle differences. Both are long-grained aromatic varieties, but basmati has a firmer and drier texture. It has a slightly floral and nutty aroma compared to plain white rice. Seventy percent of the world’s supply is grown in India.
Best used for: Pilafs, curry dishes, biryani, butter chicken, & tikka masala. Basmati rice is commonly used in Indian, Persian, and Middle Eastern dishes.
5. Parboiled Rice
Parboiled rice or converted rice is partially cooked before its processed, hence its name. It’s soaked in warm water, boiled or steamed, then dried so it can be milled. This process helps retain more nutrients than regular white rice, specifically fiber, protein, and essential vitamins. It boasts a subtle nutty flavor and has a slight yellow hue. It can be found in short, medium, or long-grain varieties.
Best used for: All dishes. Just be sure to use the right length/variety for the recipe.
6. Paella Rice
Paella is a saffron-infused rice dish, originally from Spain, with rice and seafood or meat that’s cooked and served in a large, shallow pan. So, paella rice refers to bomba rice, a short grain variety cultivated in Spain. It can absorb a substantial amount of liquid without bursting or getting mushy, which makes it great for thin and saucy dishes.
Best used for: Arroz con polo, paella, & Mediterranean dishes.
7. Arborio Rice
Most commonly known for risotto, arborio rice is a short grain rice named after the Italian town of Arborio. It’s a pearly white color with oval-shaped grains. It’s high in amylopectin starch which is why it works so great in risotto. The rice releases the starch creating a firm but creamy texture. Similar to bomba rice, arborio rice can absorb a substantial amount of liquid without getting mushy or losing its shape. It’s essential to cook arborio rice low and slow, stirring often, and gradually adding liquid.
Best used for: Rice pudding and risotto.
8. Sushi Rice
Sushi rice is short-grain rice with a high starch content that’s ideal for making sticky rice for sushi rolls. It’s labeled on the bag as sushi rice. It’s typically cooked and then prepared with rice wine vinegar to give sushi its signature flavor.
Best used for: Sushi rolls, rice balls, or rice cakes.
9. Wild Rice
Wild rice isn’t actually rice, but a seed from an aquatic grass found in freshwater marshes. It has a firm texture, and strong flavor, and takes a while to cook. Wild rice looks similar to long-grain rice but ranges in color from light brown to black. It has an earthy, nutty flavor with a chewy bite. It provides more fiber and protein than regular rice, but it’s costly due to labor-intensive harvesting. Anticipate a solid 40 minutes to cook this hearty grain.
Best used for: Stuffing, casseroles, soups, and salads
How to Store Rice:
Cooked Rice Storage:
- It’s important to cool the rice quickly before you store it in the refrigerator. Don’t let it sit on the counter all day or even a few hours. Rice is moist, which makes it a breeding ground for bad bacteria that can make you sick. Thankfully, if it’s not left in a hot pan, it cools quickly on its own, but you can also spread it onto a sheet pan to speed up the process.
- Transfer the cooled rice to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Reheat in a microwave-safe bowl with a splash of water in 30-second increments until hot.
- Freeze cooked rice for longer storage. Cool it down quickly, then transfer it to a ziplock bag. Release as much air as possible before sealing. Freeze for up to 3 months.
- Thaw frozen rice directly in hot dishes, or microwave as directed above.
Dry Rice Storage:
- Rice absorbs moisture and strong aromas, so it’s important to store rice in a sealed container in a cool, dry place.
- White rice has a shelf life of 2 years and brown rice 6 months.
- If the rice smells rancid, looks discolored or wet, or shows signs of bugs, it’s no longer good and should be thrown out.
Most Popular Rice Recipes
- Garlic Butter Rice – Versatile and simple, this garlicky rice goes with just about anything!
- Leftover Salmon Fried Rice – Don’t let leftover rice go to waste. This quick salmon fried rice is super quick, flavorful, and nutritious!
- Cilantro Lime Rice – It’s a classic for a reason! I make this rice on repeat every week, and store it in the fridge for quick lunches.
- 5-Ingredient Saffron Rice – Saffron transforms regular rice into a golden-hued, nuanced side dish.
- How to Cook Rice in Instant Pot – A foolproof method to cook white and brown rice in an Instant Pot.
- Turkey Wild Rice Soup – An incredible way to use up leftover turkey or rotisserie chicken!
- How to Make Sushi Rice – A thorough tutorial perfect for beginners.