What are the Different Types of Rice?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Numerous types of rice are cultivated all over the world, from aromatic rice varieties like wehani rice to plain medium grain white rice. Experimenting with different types of rice might yield some surprising and fun new flavors, and you may want investigate the rice aisle in your local market more thoroughly if you think rice is always bland and dull. In fact, many rice varieties are quite exotic, like black rice, which cooks to a distinctive dark purple to black color.

Nigiri sushi assortment with sushi rice.
Nigiri sushi assortment with sushi rice.

All types of rice break down into two basic categories: whole grain rice and white rice. Whole grain rice has been minimally processed, so that it retains its nutrient rich husk. Because whole grain rice is not husked, it takes longer to cook, but it also tends to be more flavorful, aromatic, and colorful. Whole grain rice also has special storage considerations, as it can go rancid if it is kept at room temperature. White rice, on the other hand, has been processed so that the husk or bran is removed, and in some cases it may be polished to take the germ off as well. White rice requires less cooking, and it has a more mild flavor, but it also has less nutritional value, if this was a concern.

A rice plant.
A rice plant.

Rice is also defined by the length of its grain. Short to medium grained rice like Arborio is often used in dishes like risotto, where a dense rice which holds its shape well can be very useful. Sushi, on the other hand, calls for a medium grained rice, while other cooks may make long grain rice like basmati to accompany Indian and Chinese cuisine. Different types of rice may also have different levels of starch, causing the rice to be sticky, as is the case with many Asian varieties, or more loose. Others may be enriched with additions of vitamins and minerals to promote nutritional health.

Cooked jasmine rice in a bowl with chopsticks.
Cooked jasmine rice in a bowl with chopsticks.

Brown rice is a well known variety of whole grain rice. Cooks can also find wehani rice, which is a more reddish color, as well as black rice, with a black to purple husk. Aromatic rice is usually whole grain, with many regions producing unique aromatic specialties which may be difficult to obtain in other parts of the world. Aromatic rice has a rich, nutty flavor and a range of aromas, depending on the specific varietal. The scent can enhance the flavor of foods served alongside aromatic rice.

A field of rice.
A field of rice.

Rice should generally be washed before cooking, to remove pieces of plant material and residual material which may impact the flavor of the rice. Soaking can also cut down on the cooking time, although some recipes may call specifically for rice which is not soaked; in these instances, you should follow the directions of the recipe. Be aware that whole grain types of rice keeps best when stored under refrigeration and used within six months, while white rice can be stored at room temperature for up to a year, and sometimes longer.

Uncooked rice.
Uncooked rice.
Red rice.
Red rice.
Black rice.
Black rice.
Different types of rice.
Different types of rice.
Converted rice has the texture and flavor of white rice but the nutritional benefits of the brown variety.
Converted rice has the texture and flavor of white rice but the nutritional benefits of the brown variety.
Sticky rice is used in sushi rolls.
Sticky rice is used in sushi rolls.
Arborio is a short to medium grained rice used to make risotto.
Arborio is a short to medium grained rice used to make risotto.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon969798

Some rices are not that good.

anon50166

love rice and hummus!

pixiedust

There's also "red rice." I just learned about it recently. Never knew it existed!

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