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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?


              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:


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

              1. My husband, the rice cooker in our family, cooks brown rice exactly the same way he does white rice, and the first time he did so, I was amazed with the outcome. We use brown basmati rice - he adds the quantity of water prescribed by the packaging to the rice in a sauce pan, boils the water until you see small holes appear on the surface of the rice, then covers, turns the heat down to low, and cooks for about 20 minutes. Instead of mushy brown rice, you end up with lovely brown rice the texture of white basmati rice. He sells rice for a living, and concurs with the opinion that there is not a great deal more nutritional value to brown over rice - slightly more fibre, but also more fat.

                1 Reply
                1. re: MMRuth

                  More fat, often more flavor, and usually a different texture.

                2. Hi mrsleny. I bought the brown arborio at San Antonio Fish Market in Woodbridge, in the Langstaff and Weston Rd. area.
                  Address and tel: 130 Creditview Road (905) 850-4088.

                  I've bought the brown jasmine at Whole Foods and other natural foods stores. If I remember correctly, I think Highland Farms carries it, as well. It's made by Lundberg Family Farms (www.lundberg.com) and they have organic and conventional versions.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: olivergail

                    I've also bought the Lundberg Family Farms rices at Loblaws and Dominion.

                    1. re: TorontoJo

                      My Loblaws carries the brand, but not the jasmine variety.

                    2. re: olivergail

                      Thanks olivergail!

                      I keep meaning to go San Antonio Fish Market but haven't got around to it yet. Now there's some incentive. I'll have to look more carefully at the rices at Loblaws and Dominion.

                      Thanks again!

                    3. I believe, without documentation, that brown rice (like many whole grains) will not keep as long as the refined product. It may go rancid if stored improperly (exposed to air and warm temperatures).
                      We buy a small quantity at a time and keep it in the freezer.

                      We usually buy organic brown basmati, in the bulk section at Berkeley Bowl. The store adds a small amount of wild rice; the reason is so that the checker can tell that it is the organic variety, and not the regular variety. The wild rice cooks in the same amount of time as the brown rice, about 45 minutes.

                      1. Brown rice does go rancid faster due to its higher fat content.
                        For cooking it, I recommend presoaking it for about 2 hrs, which makes the rice come out more tender.

                        I choose to eat brown vs. white rice base on how well it goes with the meal rather than the slight extra vitamins. For example, almost all traditional Chinese stir fries just goes with white rice better, not to mention that high quality white rice has such a delicate aroma that just can't be emulated.
                        Chilies and heartier stews I think goes pretty well with brown rice.
                        I think brown and white rice have distinct taste and isn't always exchangeable. Personally I almost always prefer white rice (so satisfying!), but a few times a year I'll eat the other one just to switch it up.

                        1. I hate that you can't pick up brown rice easily with chopsticks. You have to hold the bowl up to your mouth/face chinese style. I am a huge fan of white rice because its stickier and I can pick up a large amount at once and it's easier to pick up with other objects like kimchi or seaweed.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: bitsubeats

                            You can buy short-grain brown rice, which tends to be a bit stickier.

                          2. Just for the record, I made a batch of arroz con pollo last week with brown Jasmine rice from Trader Joe's, and it was really good. Wish I'd tried it long ago. Since the standard method for doing this calls for results (the liquid becomes absorbed) rather than for cooking for a specified time, I didn't have any problem with simply following a white-rice recipe.

                            That's one of my favorite dishes anyway...how nice that it works so well with my increasing dietary restrictions.

                            1. Find the Cooks Illustrated issue that discusses how to cook different grains, brown rice, white rice, etc. Cook up a batch of each, and then decide which you like better. The white rice has more starch; the brown rice is, at least according to weight watchers, not digested as quickly in much the same way whole wheat isn't digested as quickly as regular white bread; I wouldn't say brown rice or whole wheat bread is more healthy: it just has more fiber and gets digested not as quickly. On a diet I've been moving toward eating all kinds of whole wheat and brown rice type of grains, and find it helps because it's not as refined.