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What to Know About the Different Types of Rice

How to tell the difference between the many varieties of rice.

Rice is a staple ingredient in an array of recipes. It is commonly served as an accompaniment to dishes in Asian and Middle Eastern Cuisine. Curries, Burritos, Sushi, Soups, and Salads are just some of the dishes that use rice as a core ingredient.  

So what is rice? Rice is the name given to an edible seed that comes from the grass species; Oryza Sativa. It has been used for cooking purposes for many years. This complex carbohydrate is an excellent source of energy. 

If you have visited the rice aisle in the supermarket, you will know that there are a few varieties available that vary in texture, size, and shape. In our guide below, we have covered everything that you need to know about the different types of rice. Continue reading to discover more. 

Understanding The Different Rice Grains

Rice is a grain that comes in three lengths. This includes short-grained rice, medium-grained rice, and long-grained rice. Notably, each type boasts unique characteristics and the grain essentially indicates differences in how the rice is prepared and what texture it has when it is cooked. 

Short grain rice tends to be quite starchy. When this rice is cooked, it has a rather sticky texture. Moreover, short-grain rice is thick and round. Typically it is used in risottos, sushi as well as a few sweet dishes. 

Medium grain rice is both shorter and wider than long-grain rice. This is a moist type of rice that is not as starchy as short-grained rice. It is quite tender and still has a tendency to stick together as it cooks. Again, it is typically used in risotto recipes but it is also a tasty addition to paella. 

As implied by its name, long-grain rice is the longest variety available. In fact, its length is approximately three to five times bigger than its width. Basmati rice is one of the most popular types of long-grain rice. In regards to texture, long-grain rice is drier than short and medium-grain rice, but it is fluffier. Long grain rice is one of the best choices for pilafs and side dishes. 

What are the different kinds of rice?

Now that we have discussed rice grains, let’s take a look at some of the different types of rice. 

Arborio Rice

Named after the town of Arborio, this is an Italian Short Grain rice that is popular throughout the United States. It is considered to be the go-to variety of rice for risottos. It is rich in starch which it releases as it cooks. Arborio rice is quite chewy and when it is cooked it has a sticky and slightly firm texture. Moreover, this type of rice is also creamier than other varieties. 


Basmati Rice

This is a long-grain rice that is native to India. It is an aromatic rice that is quite nutty with a rather firm texture. Basmati rice contains a lot of nutrients and it is also a great source of protein. Unlike many other types of rice, when cooked the grains do not clump together, instead they remain separate.

Furthermore, Basmati rice can be white or brown, the most noticeable difference is that white basmati rice goes through more processing to remove the germ, hull, and bran. It is typically used in biryani, pilaf dishes, curries, and many other popular Indian dishes.


Bomba Rice 

Bomba rice is a short-grain variety that is spherical in shape. It is often used by Spaniards in paella dishes. As this rice has absorbent properties it requires quite a lot of water to cook in. It has a firm consistency when it is cooked. Just like basmati rice, bomba rice doesn’t stick together as it cooks. 



Black Rice

This variety of rice is also referred to as forbidden rice or purple rice. Usually, it is sold as a whole grain, and although it is black when it is raw, when it is cooked or soaked, the color of the rice changes into a more purple shade. In regards to taste, it is quite nutty and earthy. Black rice is often used to create rice pudding, noodles, and porridge.


Brown Rice

Brown rice is another type of whole grain rice. Although its outer hull has been removed, it still contains the bran and the germ. When cooked, the grains of brown rice will develop a chewy texture. This type of rice is fluffy and has a nutty flavor.

Often, this variety of rice is sought after as a healthy alternative because it has a lot of nutritional value. Not only is it a good source of dietary fiber, but it is also rich in magnesium, fiber, and iron. For these reasons, it is often chosen as a substitute for white rice. You can make many dishes using brown rice from rice pudding to pilaf and rice soup. 


Jasmine Rice

This is the name given to a long-grained type of fragrant rice. Although this type of rice goes through a lot of processing, just like most other types of white rice, it still has a pleasant nutty taste.

This is a moist variety of rice that has quite sticky grains when cooked and it tends to absorb a lot of flavor from the other ingredients that it is cooked with. Jasmine rice is used in a lot of Thai dishes like stir fry and Nasi Goreng. Moreover, it is a great choice for curries and it can also be served as a side dish. 



Parboiled Rice

This is a variety of rice that has been partially boiled and soaked on the husk. There are three steps involved in the process of parboiling the rice. First, it is soaked, and then it is steamed. After this, it is dried out and packaged. As the rice cooks, its texture changes and it becomes firmer. Parboiled rice has a neutral but slightly nutty taste and it has quite a lot of nutritional value.

It doesn’t contain as many calories or carbohydrates as white rice and it is a great source of calcium, iron, and potassium. Moreover, parboiled rice contains protein and vitamin B. Parboiled rice is considered to be one of the most convenient types because it does not take as long to cook. Typically, this variety of rice is used to make idlis or dosas.


Red Rice 

Red rice, also referred to as Bhutanese or Himalayan rice either has a partially or fully covered red husk. A compound called Anthocyanin is responsible for dying the rice. Red rice is a great source of fiber and it is rich in magnesium.

It has a chewy texture and just like many other types of rice, it has a nutty flavor. Due to the versatility of this rice, it can be used in several dishes.


Sushi Rice

Sushi rice is a short-grained variety of white Japanese rice. Before it is cooked, it is seasoned with salt, rice vinegar, and sugar. It is then left to cool and used to make sushi. Some would suggest that sushi rice has an umami flavor.

When compared to other types of rice, the texture of sushi rice is noticeably stickier. Although this type of rice is usually used in sushi it can be used in a variety of other dishes too. 



Wild Rice

Did you know that wild rice isn’t actually a type of rice despite its name? Although it may look and work the same when used in recipes, wild rice is the term used to describe the seed of a strain of grass that is typically grown in North America.

Wild rice has a chewy texture and a taste that is very similar to that of rice although it has a hint of smokiness. Furthermore, wild rice also has a lot of nutritional value. It is an excellent source of protein and also contains several essential nutrients and antioxidants. There are many recipes that call for the use of wild rice. 


Does it matter what kind of rice you use?

You will find that the majority of recipes call for the use of particular-sized rice. This is because when the rice is cooked its texture changes and this can affect the outcome of the dish that you are creating.

There will be some dishes that taste better when made with firm rice and others that taste great when made with soft or sticky rice. There are a few varieties of rice that can be used interchangeably. A great thing about rice, in general, is that it is versatile and can be used in a wide variety of dishes. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many types of rice available, a few of which we have listed in our guide above. In total, there are believed to be over 40,000 different types of rice.

Although they may differ in terms of appearance and size, the majority have a very similar nutty taste, however, it will be more intense in some dishes. There are several health benefits associated with the different types of rice. 

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Written by Ryan F.

Ryan is a Philadelphia local who enjoys checking out Philly's restaurant scene every chance he can. He grew up in South Jersey and now lives in Philadelphia's Point Breeze neighborhood. Ryan also enjoys traveling and checking out local eateries in every city he visits.