How To Cook Brown Rice

All you need to know about how to cook brown rice. Learn how to select various rices in the store, soaking tips, cooking techniques, and flavoring ideas.

If you're like most people, you grew up eating white rice that takes just a minute to cook. It's what many people picture when they think of rice.

These same people (I used to be one of them!) likely have no idea just how empty the calories are in white rice. That's because it's a simple carbohydrate (just like sugar!) -- the worst kind of carb you can eat.

The first time I tried brown rice, I thought it tasted too healthy, preferring instead the sweetness of the white. But after a while, I began to develop a taste for the brown and haven't looked back.

Let's get started...

You Asked...

"What is the recipe for Jeff's Brown Rice Medley?"

Sassy Sez: The amount of grains you use is completely dependent upon your personal tastes.

For instance, when Jeff mixes the combo he uses far more wild rice than I do. When I mix it up, I use far more brown rice.

I think a nice combination is 1 part brown rice with 1 part each barley, lentils, and wild rice. So if you're starting with 2 cups of the grain/bean combo, you would use 1 cup brown rice with the final 1 cup split between the barley, lentils, and wild rice (about 1/3 cup each).

Again, mix it to your liking. You can do no wrong.    ;)

How To Select Brown Rice

Brown rice recipes are simple and fun to create. So let's discover how to select the best rice for the job so you begin on the right foot.

I recommend you always choose organic brown rice. The health benefits are staggering (you can learn more about this below). And organics tend to contain more nutrients and less pesticides (and other poisons like arsenic!), and will help your recipes just taste better!

Brown rice can be found in most grocery stores -- it's a VERY available grain. Most natural foods stores (and even some mainstream grocers nowadays) carry bulk brown rice, meaning in their bulk bins. Jeff and I purchase all of our grains either from bins like this, or we special order from our natural foods co-op (save money!). Buy a little more than you need, storing the rest in the fridge or freezer. This way it will stay as fresh as possible and you'll have some on hand. Plus, there's no packaging to toss into a landfill so you're helping to save the planet. Yay for you!    ;)

There are some different varieties of rice available, including short grain, medium grain, and long grain. So which rice do you use? Well, it depends on your vision for the recipe you'd like to create...

Short grain brown rice tends to be more starchy (since it's smaller, which is the general rule). So cooking it will produce a stickier outcome. Perfect when making soups or other dishes in which the starch would act as a thickener.

Medium and long grains cook up less sticky due to their lower starch content. Perfect for dishes such as stir fries where you don't want your rice sticking together.

Brown Basmati Rice comes in both brown and white. And of course, the white is nearly devoid of any nutrients. So you're on the right track if you're looking for the brown variety.

Brown basmati is a longer grain than even long-grain brown, and is the preferred rice used in Indian dishes. It has a very low starch content, and therefore cooks up beautifully, with grains which remain nicely separated. You may have to search in Indian and Middle Eastern markets if you're unable to find it in your favorite natural foods store.

Nutrition-wise, the brown rices are very similar.

You Asked...

"I want to make a brown rice dish ahead of time for a Potluck Dinner. Can I reheat the rice dish in the oven?"

Sassy Sez: Yes, you surely can. If it were me, I would let sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes so it isn't super cold, then cover tightly with foil before reheating so it doesn't dry out. You might also use a higher oven temperature so it heats faster (for instance, if the original bake time was 375F, I would go with 400F or 425F).

How To Clean and Prep Your Brown Rice

There are 3 main layers to rice; the husk, the bran, and the very center which is known as the starch.

Many times the husk and bran have been removed so all you're left with is the starch -- think "white rice". This is why the white variety is NOT known for its nutritional content -- it's all high glutenous starch which digests very quickly and can cause a spike in your blood sugar.

Brown rice has the husk removed, but not the bran layer. This bran layer is what gives the rice its FIBER and adds to its fantastic nutritious profile. However...that intact fibrous layer requires a longer cooking time in order to become tender.

So before cooking, you're going to soak your rice first. It's an extra step, yes, but it's worth it when you scarf down your tender and delicious cooked masterpiece. Soaking your rice before cooking makes it more digestible and also releases important enzymes that allow it to be more nutritionally available.

By the way, the following soaking and cooking techniques can be used for most hearty grains.

Step 1: Measure out 2 cups brown rice.

Step 2: Pour into any large enough container, preferably with a lid.

Step 3: Add double the amount of water (you don't really have to measure if you don't want to -- just eyeball it) so there's enough room for a little expansion.

Step 4: Let soak 4 - 8 hours, even up to 24. Rice will soak up some of the water. You do not have to refrigerate it as it soaks.

Step 5: Drain in a colander.

Step 6: Rinse under running water. Drain.

Your rice is now ready to be cooked as desired. Please refer to cooking suggestions below.

If for some reason you can't cook it after it's done soaking (maybe you were called to a last-minute dinner out), then drain and rinse your soaked rice and put it in the fridge, covered, until the next day.

(By the way, rice can be rinsed before soaking -- or not! It's a matter of debate amongst connoisseurs. Personal preference rules here. It certainly couldn't hurt since one never knows the exact conditions -- dirty, clean, pests!? -- your rice has hailed from.)

How To Cook Brown Rice

Here are the cooking techniques we use and recommend.

Click the one you'd like to learn more about for complete cooking instructions.

A silver pot with a lid
An electric pressure cooker
An electric steamer
A stovetop pressure cooker

You Asked...

"For steaming brown rice, you recommend adding the same volume of water as the dry brown rice (1 to 1). What are the ratios if you increase the amount of rice? For example, for 1 1/2 cups of rice, would the water simply move up to 1 1/2 cups of water? And 3 cups of rice means 3 cups of water?"
--Carlo, Genova (Genoa), Italy

Sassy Sez: You are correct about the increase to 1 1/2 cups of rice. But generally speaking, when you steam whole grains if you increase the amount of grains, there DOES come a point where you have to use a little less water. That point is usually the 2 cup mark.

So if you use 2 1/2 cups of brown rice, instead of doubling the water to 5 cups, you would use 4 3/4 or 4 1/2 cups water. If you go to 3 cups of brown rice, instead of using 6 cups of water you would use 5 1/2 or 5 1/4 cups water.

So you see, as the grains go up in increments, you use slightly less water each time. And there is also some trial and error depending on if you are at sea level or in the mountains, etc.

Mostly, you just experiment to find what works for you. But this should be a good starting point.    :)

Brown Rice Vegan Flavor Matches

Create your very own brown rice recipes with some of your favorite ingredients from this list of foods that match perfectly.

(What are Flavor Matches?)

  • Apples
  • Bean sprouts
  • Beans, especially black
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Cabbage
  • Capers
  • Celery
  • Chestnuts
  • Cinnamon
  • Coconut milk
  • Coconut nectar
  • Cranberries
  • Curry
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Green onions
  • Lentils
  • Maple syrup, pure and organic
  • Marinara sauce
  • Milk, non-dairy (I like plain almond milk)
  • Mushrooms
  • Nutmeg
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Nuts, especially cashews, peanuts, and pecans
  • Onion
  • Oregano
  • Peanuts
  • Peas
  • Pepper, black
  • Peppers, especially hot
  • Pineapple
  • Raisins
  • Sea salt
  • Sea vegetables
  • Seeds, especially sesame
  • Soy, organic
  • Tamari soy sauce, organic
  • Tomatoes
  • Vegetables, any and all
  • Veggie broth
  • Wild rice

"I made the best brown rice and pinto bean dish ever the other night! By taking your advice on soaking the rice overnight first, it was the fluffiest brown rice I ever had and the first time I really truly enjoyed brown rice!"
-- Jae Z., Los Angeles, CA

Try One Of These Vegan Brown Rice Recipes...

Sausage and Rice Hash
Easy Greens & Beans
Irish Stew
Vegetable Brown Rice
Peanut Butter Coconut Rice
Tempeh Burrito w/Creamy Almond Sauce
Broccoli and Rice
Brown Rice Tempeh Casserole
Coconut Cashew Rice
Easy Beans & Greens
Edamame Fried Rice
Crack Soup
Tempeh Taco Bowls
Hearty Vegetable Soup
Mexican Pizzettes
Rice and Beans Rollups
Seitan and Rice
Italian Rice and Black Bean Burritos
Tortilla Bowls

Helpful Hints

  • If you've ever stored your brown rice in the cupboard for any length of time, you understand the importance of refrigerating it (can you say BUGS?!?! EWWWW!!!!). I promise you, this can only happen to you ONCE in your life because after that you will store your grains correctly.    ;)

Store your brown rice (and other whole grains) in the freezer or fridge to keep it fresh until needed. This also preserves the oil-rich germ inherent in whole grains. (Not as important if you plan on using within a month or so.) The main point is to not plan on storing unsealed grains in a pantry. Use a freezer, vacuum sealing, or both for long-term.

Happy Cooking!

If You Like Brown Rice Try...

Photo of buckwheat/kasha
Photo of quinoa
Photo of barley

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