When we hear of rice, we automatically think Asian cuisine. However, this humble grain has now become a staple in pantries all over the world. It’s so versatile that it can be used for snacks, noodles, main dishes, and even desserts. Hundreds of new varieties have been developed so that rice can be cultivated in different terrain and climatic conditions. With so many varieties to choose from, it can be quite confusing to decide which one to use.
The Anatomy of a Rice Grain
To better understand how varieties of rice differ, we need to know the different parts of a grain. Let’s peel a grain of rice layer by layer.
Every rice grain is enclosed in a hull or husk. This is the tough brown outer covering that is removed before rice is cooked and eaten. Rice husk is inedible but can be used as fertilizer, insulation material, or fuel.
Beneath the hull is a colored layer called the bran. It’s usually tan in color but may also be reddish or black depending on the rice variety. Bran is very nutritious as it contains a lot of the rice’s vitamins and nutrients.
This nutrient-dense kernel is found just beneath the bran, usually at one end of the endosperm. The germ contains most of the oil and gives rice its color. It’s also packed with B vitamins, minerals, and protein.
When rice undergoes further processing to remove the bran and the germ, you’d be left with just the endosperm, or what we call the white rice. This is the part we’re most familiar with.
Varieties of Rice
Rice grains differ in length and shape, texture, aroma, and flavor. In terms of length, rice can be long-grain, medium-grain, or short-grain. Long-grain rice is light and fluffy when cooked while short-grain rice sticks together when cooked. The texture of rice depends on its starch content, making it soft and fluffy, chewy, or sticky. Some varieties of rice are known for their fragrant aroma, such as jasmine and wild pecan. If we were to name all the varieties of rice, we’d have a long list of over 40,000 different types.
Let’s get to know ten of the most common varieties in the market today and see which one you should get for that rice dish you’re raring to cook.
1. Milled or polished rice
Milled rice or polished rice is basically white rice, the most common rice cooked and eaten. It’s named so because it is polished to a white finish to remove the bran and germ through milling. It is often enriched with thiamin, niacin, and iron to replace nutrients lost during processing. Its texture when cooked depends on the length of the grain.
Nutritional value (100g, cooked, unenriched, long-grain white rice): calories – 130kcal; protein – 2.69g; fat – 0.28g; carbohydrates – 28.2g; fiber – 0.4g; sugar – 0.05 g; calcium – 10mg; iron – 0.2mg
2. Sticky rice
The name speaks for itself. It’s called sticky rice because of its glutinous consistency when cooked. This variety has short, plump grains that have high starch content. Because of its sticky texture and sweet flavor, it’s commonly used in traditional Asian desserts and sweets.
Nutritional value (100g, cooked, white sticky rice): calories – 96kcal; protein – 2.01g; fat – 0.19g; carbohydrates – 20.97g; fiber – 1g; sugar – 0.05g; calcium – 2mg; iron – 0.14mg
3. Brown rice
Brown rice is 100% whole grain food with its bran and germ left intact. While it takes longer to cook, it retains more vitamins and nutrients. It’s a good source of magnesium and zinc and is rich in fiber, making it a healthier choice than white rice. Light and fluffy when cooked, brown rice has a chewy texture and slightly nutty flavor that adds depth to pilaf and casseroles.
Nutritional value (100g, cooked, brown rice): calories – 122kcal; protein – 2.73g; fat – 0.96g; carbohydrates – 25.45g; fiber – 1.6 g; sugar – 0.24g; calcium – 3mg; iron – 0.56 mg
4. Black rice
Also called forbidden rice, black rice is whole grain food that’s quite similar to brown rice. It has very high nutritional value and is preferred by health enthusiasts. When cooked, it becomes slightly sticky and has a mild nutty flavor.
Nutritional value (100g, cooked, Scotti black rice): calories – 210.9kcal; protein – 4g; fat – 5g; carbohydrates – 34g; fiber – 6g; sugar – 0.4g
5. Red rice
Its deep-colored, honey-red bran gives red rice its unique color and provides a good deal of nutrients. It has increased in popularity the past few years and is considered among the most nutritious varieties of rice. It has high fiber content, is low in sugar, and has anthocyanins. Red rice has a savory nutty flavor and is slightly chewy when cooked.
Nutritional value (100g, cooked, organic red rice): calories – 121kcal; protein – 2g; fat – 0.8g; carbohydrates – 26g; fiber – 0.93g; sugar – 0g
6. Wild rice
Technically, wild rice isn’t exactly a variety of rice. It’s the seed of an aquatic grass called Zizania, but it resembles rice in texture, shape, and taste. It’s considered 100% whole grain food and is a good source of carbohydrates and protein. It has a nutty flavor and chewy texture that goes well with stir-fried dishes and casseroles.
Nutritional value (100g, cooked, wild rice): calories – 101kcal; protein – 3.99g; fat – 0.34g; carbohydrates – 21.34g; fiber – 1.8g; sugar – 0.73g; calcium – 3mg; iron – 0.6mg
Arborio is a short-grain variety of rice originally cultivated in Arborio, Italy. Arborio has high starch content, which gives it a firm, chewy, and creamy texture when cooked. Its exceptional ability to absorb flavors makes it perfect for risotto. It’s also great for rice puddings and paellas.
Nutritional value (100g, Arborio rice): calories – 111kcal; protein – 6.67g; fat – 1.11g; carbohydrates – 73.33g; fiber – 6.7g; sugar – 0g
8. Jasmine rice
First cultivated in Thailand, this fragrant white rice is very popular in Asian cuisine. Jasmine rice has a slightly sticky but soft texture that soaks up spices and flavors well. It adds a subtle Jasmine flavor and aroma to rice dishes.
Nutritional value (100g, cooked, organic Thai Jasmine rice): calories – 148kcal; protein – 2.82g; carbohydrates – 32.39g; fiber – 0.7g; potassium – 42mg
9. Basmati rice
Like Jasmine rice, Basmati is known for its special aroma. It was first cultivated in India and is widely used in curries, pilaf, and saffron rice. Basmati is of the long-grain variety and is available in brown or white.
Nutritional value (100g, Basmati rice): calories – 148kcal; protein – 3.52g; carbohydrates – 32.39g; fiber – 0.7g; calcium – 14mg; potassium – 42mg
The California Rose or Calrose is a medium-grain rice variety developed in California. Depending on how it is milled, Calrose can be white or brown. When cooked, it has a slightly sticky texture and a subtle sweet taste.
Nutritional value (100g, Calrose rice): calories – 180kcal; protein – 3g; carbohydrates – 39g; iron – 0.358mg
Calorie Content of Common Rice Varieties
For those who are watching their calorie intake, here’s a comparison of the calorie content of these rice varieties. Values are based on 100g servings of cooked rice.
For a more comprehensive comparison of these and other rice varieties, use our interactive comparison tool.