Last Updated on May 5, 2021 by Henry Matthew
Rice is one of the most commonly consumed foods globally, and for a good reason: It’s versatile, substantial, easy to prepare, and delicious, making it a perfect staple in every kitchen. Whether it’s incorporated into the main dish, served as a side, or transformed into a snack or dessert, rice can do it all while providing comfort and satiety.
Short-Grain vs Medium-Grain vs Long-Grain Rice
First, though, a word about grain length. Rice grains come in three sizes: short-, medium-, and long-grain. Each type has distinct characteristics and works best in a specific dish. Like arborio rice, bomba rice, and sushi rice, short-grain rice is similar in length and width and takes on a sticky texture when cooked. Medium-grain rice is about twice as long as it is complete and becomes moist and tender when cooked. Like jasmine rice and basmati rice, long-grain rice is anywhere from three to four times as long as it is complete and takes on a drier, fluffy texture when cooked.
1. Arborio Rice
Arborio rice, a short-grain Italian white rice, is best known for being risotto’s go-to grain. It’s rich in amylopectin starch, so when it’s cooked, arborio rice is chewy, firm, and creamy all at once, making it the perfect vehicle for more decadent rice dishes like pudding and risotto. As a cultivar of japonica rice, it’s closely related to glutinous rice (also known as sticky rice).
2. Basmati Rice
This aromatic long-grain rice is quintessential to Indian, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian cuisine. Basmati rice is native to India, where more than 70% of the world’s basmati supply is produced. The fragrant rice’s global demand is high, so several countries, such as the United States, grow their basmati varieties and hybrids. Basmati rice works best in dishes like pilaf or biryani or as an accessory to curries and stews.
3. Black Rice
Also known as purple rice or forbidden rice, black rice is named for its raw appearance. It turns dark purple when cooked, thanks to its high anthocyanin content, and is a good source of antioxidants, iron, and vitamin E. Black rice has a nuttier flavor than other varieties and a soft texture, making it ideal for dishes such as porridge, pudding, and baked goods.
4. Bomba Rice
This nearly spherical short-grain rice, also known as Valencia rice, is cultivated in Spain and the preferred variety for paella. Bomba rice is highly absorbent and requires more water to cook, and tends not to stick thanks to its high amylose (a type of starch) content.
5. Brown Rice
Also known as whole-grain rice, brown rice is a lot like white rice but hasn’t had as much of the grain removed—the only part removed from brown rice is the outer hull, which is inedible. On the other hand, white rice has the outer hull, germ, and bran removed and is polished once the milling process is complete. Thus, brown rice has a denser texture, nuttier flavor, and higher nutritional value, including much more fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, and iron. It’s super versatile and makes a healthier substitute wherever white rice is used, but it can also pair with most dishes.
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6. Glutinous Rice
Glutinous rice, also known as sticky rice or sweet rice, is prevalent in various Southeastern and Eastern Asian cuisines. When it’s cooked, glutinous rice becomes humid as it’s low in amylose. Glutinous rice is primarily used in breakfast, snacks, sweets, or ground into sweet rice flour such as mochiko.
7. Jasmine Rice
Jasmine rice is a long-grain rice that’s known for its mild, sweet flavor. Primarily grown in Southeast Asia, jasmine rice is a staple in Thai and Cambodian cuisine. Jasmine rice, predominantly white jasmine rice, takes on a slightly sticky texture when cooked and is usually served steamed and as a companion to other dishes.
8. Red Rice
Also known as Himalayan or Bhutanese rice, red rice gets its name from its red husk and is mostly grown and consumed in Central Asia. Like brown rice, red rice is a good source of nutrients, including fiber, magnesium, iron, and B vitamins. Thanks to its coloration, red rice is also high in antioxidants. Like brown rice, red rice adapts well to various dishes, especially those that rely on texture.
9. Sushi Rice
Sushi rice is a short-grain white Japanese rice cooked and combined with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt and then incorporated into sushi. It’s known for its stickiness but doesn’t possess the same qualities as glutinous rice.
10. Wild Rice
Wild rice isn’t precisely rice—instead, it’s a term for the grain produced by a specific type of grass native to North America and China. Wild rice is more difficult to cultivate and harvest than proper rice and has a more rigid texture. Still, it’s a good source of protein, B vitamins, and lysine, an amino acid used in proteins’ biosynthesis.