Bring on the Brown Rice

brownrice.jpgToday, Sara Cabot of Little Lettice offers a primer on brown rice:

“Brown rice is healthier than white rice so it’s good to start your kids early on it. Brown rice is brown because the grain is wrapped with a layer of bran that is stripped away when rendering white rice. So, white rice is just starch, while brown rice is the starch plus fiber from the bran. Brown rice tastes nuttier than white rice, and also takes longer to cook.

Compared to white rice, brown rice is higher in nutrients such as iron and magnesium. But most importantly, brown rice has three times the fiber of white rice.

What about fortified white rice?

Fortified white rice has nutrients added that otherwise are lost in the refining process, and often in larger amounts than usual. But brown rice still is a better option due to the high fiber content that is so essential to our diets.

What different kinds of brown rice are there?

As with white rice, there are different kinds of brown rice. Short grain rice is starchy (like Arborio rice) and is well suited for risottos and rice puddings, or if you want a sticky rice to accompany Asian dishes. Medium grain and long grain rice are relatively low in starch so the grains separate well and are good for accompanying stir fry. Basmati brown rice is even longer than long grain rice and is very low in starch content so rice grains separate very nicely; it’s used in south Asian dishes such as curries.

How to cook brown rice

Brown rice takes much longer to cook than white rice so you may want to soak it overnight in water. When you are ready to cook it, simply drain and add to boiling water or broth.

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Boiled Brown Rice

If you remember to soak the brown rice in advance, use a ratio of 1 cup of brown rice to 1½ cups of water. Bring water to boil and add drained soaked rice. Bring back to boil (uncovered) and simmer on low for 20-40 minutes (this large range in time is due to the variable age of the rice, water content, and stove heat variation). Turn off heat and leave in pot for about 10 minutes.

If you are going to cook unsoaked brown rice, use a ratio of 1 cup of rice to 2¼ cups of water.

Pilaf Method

First sauté chopped onion in olive oil in pan then add rice and water as above. Add parsley or cilantro for extra flavor.

Amanda’s Baby Brown Rice

Moms always ask me what brand of baby rice they should start their infant on, and I recommend making it at home if possible. My acquaintance Amanda Donovan recently shared this great recipe (thanks, Amanda!):

1. Use a small coffee grinder (to be used exclusively for grinding up rice) to grind up ¼ cup of rice (takes anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes). If you grind extra servings, store in Ziploc bags in the freezer.

2. In a saucepan, bring 1¼ cups of water to boil with ¼ cup rice power, whisking continually. Simmer for 10 minutes, whisking periodically to minimize lumps. Store in a glass container in the fridge.

3. When ready to serve, heat up with a little bit of water, as the rice can get a bit rubbery in the fridge. Serve with veggie or fruit puree to taste.

Brown Rice Pudding

This warming winter pudding is a great way to use up leftover brown rice. Serve with fresh fruit sauce.


  • 2½ cups cooked short or long grain brown rice
  • 4 cups milk
  • pinch salt
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup raisins (optional)
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • cinnamon

    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine rice with milk and salt in a saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer, stirring until mixture thickens. Add syrup, vanilla, and raisins

    2. Butter oven dish. Put rice in dish and drizzle cream over the top. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake until cream is bubbly and browned (about 30 minutes). Once done, allow to cool to warm.”

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    Editor's Note: We have a Korean pressure cooker at home, which makes preparing brown rice ridiculously easy -- as in, add water and rice, close hatch, press start button, and it makes perfect brown rice every time. Also, when we are dining out at Asian restaurants, we always ask whether they have brown rice. For some reason, the brown rice option tends not to be on the menu, but Asian restaurants almost always have it.