These days many of us are swapping in brown rice for white in all sorts of ways. When cooked well, brown rice is absolutely delicious — firm, nutty, toothsome, and chock full of some nice health benefits. Badly-cooked brown rice can be grainy and mushy, but perfectly cooked brown rice results in plump, chewy little grains with loads of flavor and great texture.
Once you’ve learned how to get perfect brown rice every time, you’ll find yourself swapping it in for white rice on the regular. Pretty much everything under the sun goes with rice! Think about stir-fries, chilis, fish and seafood dishes, Asian food, Mexican food, and anything that needs a simple side to soak up some sauce.
Table of Contents
- Types of Brown Rice
- Perfect Brown Rice to Water Ratio
- How to Prepare Brown Rice Before Cooking
- How to Cook Brown Rice in a Rice Cooker
- How to Cook Brown Rice on the Stovetop
- How to Store Brown Rice
- How to Freeze Cooked Brown Rice
- Brown Rice Nutrition
- What to Serve With Brown Rice
- Brown Rice Recipes
- More Basic Grain Recipes
- How to Cook Perfect Brown Rice on the Stove Recipe
Types of Brown Rice
Which type of brown rice should you buy? Pretty much every rice comes in a brown version, from short-grain to basmati. Long-grain rice or medium-grain rice is best for most preparations, including simple cooked brown rice. Short-grain rice can be stickier and is sometimes preferred for Asian rice preparations.
Perfect Brown Rice to Water Ratio
The basic brown rice to water ratio is 2 ½ cups of water for every 1 cup of brown rice. Consider cooking your rice in a light broth instead of water if you want to give it a boost of flavor. Use vegetarian broth if you want to keep the rice vegetarian or even vegan.
Brown rice can get seriously mushy if you end up using the wrong water-to-rice ratio. Too much water can make brown rice mushy, especially if you cook it for too long. If your rice has become tender, and there is excess water left in the pot, drain it instead of waiting for it to absorb. The perfect water-to-rice ratio for brown rice that you make on the stovetop is 2 and ½ cups of water to 1 cup of brown rice.
How to Prepare Brown Rice Before Cooking
People ask me a lot whether you need to soak or rinse rice before cooking it. Traditionally, in most Asian cultures, it’s looked down on not to rinse your grains — rinsing your rice before cooking cleanses it of dirt and dust, which generally is not something you want to be ingesting, and it makes the rice less starchy, which means it cooks more evenly.
But do you need to rinse rice before cooking it every time? My answer is no, especially when I’m in a rush. It’s often advised, but I’ve more often than not skipped this. While rinsing or soaking may help keep the grains more separate and distinct, it’s not going to ruin your pot of rice if you skip it. See if your particular brown rice package has specific instructions on this.
- Brown rice – Short-grain or long-grain, it all works as long as it’s brown rice!
- Water or broth – Up to you if you want to use water or broth to simmer rice. Using broth will add flavor to your brown rice. Cooking brown rice with chicken broth results in rich, complex rice; I also love using Better than Bouillon, especially when I’m cooking for vegetarian and vegan crowds.
- Salt – An essential addition to ensure that there’s actually some taste to your rice.
- Butter – Optional! It’ll make your rice taste better, without a doubt, but it’ll also add some calories.
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How to Cook Brown Rice in a Rice Cooker
While you absolutely can cook brown rice in a rice cooker, I would actually still recommend cooking it on the stove. It’s harder to get truly perfect, fluffy rice with a rice cooker because you can’t open the lid while it’s doing its thing. Plus, the rice at the bottom risks getting singed.
If you do cook brown rice in a rice cooker, make sure that you get the water-to-rice ratio right. This number varies from rice cooker to rice cooker, so read your rice cooker’s manual for the most accurate ratio.
How to Cook Brown Rice on the Stovetop
- Rinse the rice.
- Bring to a simmer: Combine the rice, water, salt, and butter (if using) in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium-high heat.
- Lower heat and simmer: Reduce the heat so that the rice stays at a low simmer, and cover the pot. Simmer, without lifting the lid of the pot, for 45 minutes.
- Check on rice and let it sit: Lift the lid and see if the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. If so, remove the pan from the heat, leave the lid on, and let it sit for 10 minutes. If not, and it seems like the rice isn’t quite tender, but the water is gone, add a few tablespoons more water or broth and let it cook for another minute or so. If there is just a tiny bit of liquid left, just leave it while you let the rice rest for 10 minutes — and it should absorb.
- Fluff and serve: Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.
How to Store Brown Rice
If a bag is unopened, it will have a “Best Used By” date on it. Once it’s opened, you should transfer it to an air-tight container and use it within about 4 months.
The same applies if you bought your rice in bulk. Because of the natural oils brown rice contains, it can go rancid more quickly than white rice. Either way, store the rice in a cool, dark place.
How to Freeze Cooked Brown Rice
Place it in freezer-proof zipper top bags. Pack them into whichever sizes you most likely will want to defrost in the coming months. Press the bag to squeeze out all of the air, then seal it. Label the bag with the date and also write Brown Rice on it. Really! You might think it’s barley or something when you encounter it in its frozen state months later, and you shouldn’t have to guess! It will keep in the freezer for at least 4 months, up to 6.
Brown Rice Nutrition
As for the nutritional difference, with brown rice, more of the grain remains intact. In the process of removing the outer layer and cereal germ of white rice, some vitamins and minerals are lost — when you see enriched white rice, that means they were added back in.
Brown rice, however, has more fiber (this is the biggest nutritional advantage brown rice provides over white rice), magnesium, folate, and some other minerals. The higher level of fiber keeps you fuller longer. Some studies have shown a lot of health benefits associated with the consumption of brown rice and other whole grains.
Both white and brown rice have similar amounts of calories and carbs per cup, with brown rice being slightly higher at 44 grams of carbs per cup, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. A cup of brown rice has 216 calories and 1.8 grams of fat.
Nope. It just takes longer, so you need to plan for that. But you can also make it in bigger batches and store it for another time.
While brown rice has the outer hull removed, white rice also has the outer layer and the cereal germ removed in addition to the hull. Brown rice has more fiber than white rice.
Brown rice usually takes about 45 minutes to become cooked and tender on the stove once the water (or broth) comes to a simmer. It then needs at least 10 minutes to stand before serving.
No, you can’t stir your brown rice while it’s cooking. If you need to lift the lid of the pot to check on the rice, do it quickly. You don’t want to let that good steam escape, which can affect the cooking time and end texture of the rice. It’s much better to fluff up your perfect brown rice after it’s done cooking!
What to Serve With Brown Rice
You can really serve anything with brown rice that you would serve with white rice! Once you’ve made your pot of perfect brown rice, you can serve it as-is, alongside anything from Mediterranean Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Vegetables to Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa to Thai Salmon.
Brown Rice Recipes
- Herby Brown Rice
- Vegetable and Brown Rice Salad with Honey Lemon Dressing
- Grilled Pork Loin with Brown Rice Salad
More Basic Grain Recipes
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How to Cook Perfect Brown Rice on the Stove
- 1 cup brown rice
- 2 ½ cups water or broth
- Kosher salt (to taste)
- 1 tablespoon butter (optional)
- Rinse the rice in a mesh strainer — if you aren’t in the mood, skip it.
- Combine the rice, water, salt, and butter (if using) in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium-high heat.
- Reduce the heat so that the rice stays at a low simmer, and cover the pot. Simmer without lifting the lid of the pot for 45 minutes. Lift the lid and see if the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. If so, remove the pan from the heat, leave the lid on, and let it sit for 10 minutes. If not, and it seems like the rice isn’t quite tender, but the water is gone, add a few tablespoons more water or broth and let it cook for another minute or so. If there is just a tiny bit of liquid left, just leave it while you let the rice rest for 10 minutes — and it should absorb.
- Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.