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Brown vs. White Rice

What are the pluses of cooking with either and are they interchangable?

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  1. Brown rice takes a lot longer to cook, and results for novices can vary a lot. Unlike white rice, you should not flavor it with salt until the cooking is almost done. You can substitute it for white rice for many things, but not all things (risotto made with brown long grain rice is not the same as made with the proper white long grain rice; ditto rice puddings), and the pure look and taste of white rice is a signature of authentic cooking in certain cuisines. Brown rice has some more fiber, but not a lot more, than white rice; but if fiber and glycemic index are issues for you, you can do a lot better than brown rice.

    I myself prefer bulgur to brown rice. It's whole-grain wheat that has been cracked and steamed. So it's already partially cooked and thus takes no longer to cook than white rice, and is much less fussy than brown rice. It also has more fiber than brown rice per unit of volume. And I think it is better tasting.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Karl S

      Brown Rice is not all that nutritionally superior to White Rice... but I think that the typical American diet can't afford to lose the 1 or 2 grams of fiber advantage of Brown Rice. Also, its a good source of B Vitamins... specially for any vegetarians and people that don't consume vitamins or fortified foods.

      From a culinary perspective, I think it has a superior nutty flavor that is better in most dishes... personally I have switched to making Arroz con Leche with Brown instead of White.

      However... I do agree that Brown doesn't make a good subsitute for some preparations.... for example Pilaf style rice dishes... specially the Mexican Red or Green rices... they don't look so pretty when you use Brown rice. On the other hand... I did make very successful Mole Poblano Rice & Cheesy-Roasted Poblano Rice that were substantially enhanced by the Brown rice.

      Overall, Rice is just not a great grain... specially in the context of the typical American diet that is so deficient in fruits, vegetables & legumes. Bulgur, Forbidden Rice & other grains are nutritionally superior... and while none of these are as versatile as White Rice... as a group they are.

      1. re: Eat_Nopal

        Oy...try telling the billion Chinese people that rice is not a great grain. ;-)

        Just kidding. I'm not knocking your post. I just can't imagine not having rice in my diet. We ate rice every single day when I was growing up. But, it was a good Chinese diet, so there were always LOTS of veggies.

        1. re: TorontoJo

          That is the difference... if you are having lots of veggies & tofu AND you are living a farmer or even a bicycle riding urban lifestyle you NEED simple starches to keep up with the caloric requirements.

          But, I think that the new Upper Middle Classes in China will start feeling the effects of industrialization in less than a decade... then white rice will not seem such a good idea anymore.

          Same is true of Mexican Cuisine. Corn is a bit more nutritionally dense than Rice but when you eat Corn Tortillas in the quantities that tradition Mexican lifestyle required (6 to 10 per meal)... and you live in a modern lifestyle... then it becomes a problem. People in Mexico are having to make similar decisions to switch to less calorically dense foods.... and as a result its now common to see people use lettuce leaves instead of tortillas; increase the consumption of Nopales & even Sea Weed is starting to become somewhat of a staple in the cosmopolitan cities.

          1. re: TorontoJo

            I have to agree - brown rice will never have the same emotional connotations for my family that white rice does.

      2. I know you're supposed to cook brown rice longer but I make both kinds in a my rice cooker and both come out just fine.

        1. Brown rices have different flavors (often more flavor) and textures than their white counterparts. They can be delicious if you don't try to force them into recipes where they won't work, such as paella or risotto.

          1. I no longer cook white rice, white pasta or white potatoes.

            I've tried many different brown rices, and my favourite is brown jasmine rice; next in line is brown basmati. And I do season with salt prior to cooking with no ill effects - they cook up in about 50 minutes.

            Just yesterday, I was thrilled to discover an Italian supermarket north of Toronto that sells BROWN ARBORIO rice! So, there is an alternative to white rice for risotto and paella. I haven't tried it yet, but here's some info:

            It's organic and made in Bologna, Italy, by a company called "Natura e" www.naturae.it. It comes in a 1 kg (2.2 lb) box, and cost me only $3.39 Canadian. The front of the box is marked "Tradizione Riso Baldo - Sottovuoto - Integrale - ideale per risotti." Fibre content is 3.19g per 100g.

            Re the difference in fibre between brown and white rice - as a diabetic I don't just look at the fibre content, I check out the glycemic index to see how the product is metabolized with regard to blood sugar levels. In the case of rice, it does make a difference if a diabetic eats brown or white rice.

            2 Replies
            1. re: olivergail

              I live just north of Toronto and would love to know which Italian supermarket carries brown arborio. Also where do you buy your brown jasmine?

              Cheers!

              1. re: mrsleny

                It's hard to imagine that brown arborio would work like white in making risotto, since the intact bran layer in brown rice slows the absorbtion of water. Do they have an adjusted recipe on the package?

                I've bought brown jasmine in better supermarket bulk sections.

            2. As far as Japonica (medium/short grain cal-rose type rice eaten by Japanese) there is a compromise rice called Haiga, where the grain is not completely polished off as it normally is for white rice. It is milled like white rice, but the germ is left in tact. It looks kind of like a "dirty" white rice, but it cooks and tastes very much like white rice.

              We're pretty much 100% haiga rice eaters now. Like the previous poster, I am diabetic so I eat less rice than I used to, but the haiga does have somewhat more fiber and vitamins. Here is the Tamaki page on Haiga:

              http://www.tamakimai.com/products.html

              I use it for sushi as well as nigiri, chahan, and of course, the everyday bowl (which is now only about twice a week)...