Rice can beclassified according to size: long-grain, medium-grain, and short-grain.
Long-grain rice accounts for about 75 percent of the domestic crop. The slender grains are four to five times longer than they are wide. If properly cooked, they will be fluffy and dry, with separate grains.
Medium-grain rice is about twice as long as it is wide and cooks up moister and more tender than long-grain. It is popular in some Asian and Latin American cultures, and is the type of rice most commonly processed to make cold cereals.
Short-grain rice may be almost oval or round in shape. Of the three types of rice, it has the highest percentage of amylopectin, the starch that makes rice sticky, so the grains clump together when cooked. Easy to eat with chopsticks, it is ideal for dishes like sushi.
Types of rice you can buy in most markets
Brown rice: This rice has had only its husk removed during milling, thus it is naturally high in B vitamins and minerals. Because brown rice has its germ, it also has some vitamin E. Brown rice has a richer flavor and a chewier texture than white rice, and takes longer to cook, though quick-cooking and instant forms are available.
White rice (milled rice): The most popular form of rice, white rice has been completely milled to remove the husk, bran, and most of the germ. There are several types of white rice:
- Enriched white rice is milled rice that has had thiamin, niacin, folate, and iron added after milling to replace some of the nutrients lost when the bran layer is removed.
- Parboiled rice (converted rice) has been soaked and steamed under pressure before milling, which forces some of the nutrients into the remaining portion of the grain so that they are not totally lost in the processing. Enriched parboiled rice is similar to regular white rice in terms of nutrition. The term “parboiled” is slightly misleading as the rice is not precooked and is actually somewhat harder than regular rice. As a consequence, it takes a little longer to cook than regular white rice, but the grains will be very fluffy and separate after they have been cooked.
- Instant white rice is a quick-cooking rice that takes about 5 minutes to prepare. It has been milled and polished, fully cooked, and then dehydrated. It is usually enriched and only slightly less nutritious than regular enriched white rice, but it lacks the satisfying texture of regular rice.
- Arborio rice: This starchy white rice, with an almost round grain, is grown mainly in the Po Valley of Italy. Traditionally used for cooking the Italian dish risotto, Arborio rice also works well for paella and rice pudding. Arborio absorbs up to five times its weight in liquid as it cooks, which results in grains of a creamy consistency.
- Aromatic rice: This is an umbrella term for rice that has a toasty, nutty fragrance and a flavor reminiscent of popcorn or roasted nuts. They are primarily long-grain varieties.
- Basmati rice: Perhaps the most famous aromatic rice, basmati is grown in India and Pakistan. It has a nutlike fragrance while cooking and a delicate, almost buttery flavor. Unlike other types of rice, the grains elongate much more than they plump as they cook. Lower in starch than other long-grain types, basmati grains turn out fluffy and separate. Although it is most commonly used in Indian cooking, basmati can also be substituted for regular rice in any favorite recipe. Both brown and white basmati rice are available.
- Bhutanese red rice: This is a short-grain rice that is a staple in the small Himalyan kingdom of Bhutan. It has a nutty flavor and is slightly chewy.
- Black Forbidden rice: This black short-grain rice turns indigo when cooked. Use it as a substitute for regular rice in paella or for an intriguing risotto.
- Black Japonica rice: This fragrant rice is a blend of a Japanese short-grain black rice and a mahogany-colored medium-grain rice. It is slightly spicy and sweet.
- Bomba rice: From Spain, bomba is considered one of the two premier rice varieties for paella. This short-grain rice can absorb up to one-third more liquid than other rice varieties while still retaining its integrity.
- Della rice: This aromatic long-grain rice, popular in the South, is similar in flavor to basmati rice.
- Glutinous rice (sweet rice, sticky rice): Popular in Japan and other Asian countries, this very starchy rice is sticky and resilient, and turns translucent when cooked. Glutinous rice comes both short- and long-grain. It can be white, brown, or black.
- Himalayan red rice: Similar to long-grain brown rice, it has red rather than brown bran.
- Jasmine rice: This long-grain rice has a soft texture and is similar in flavor to basmati rice. It is available in both white and brown forms.
- Kalijira rice (baby basmati): These miniature rice grains are similar in flavor to basmati rice and hail from Bangladesh. Because of its tiny grains, this rice cooks relatively quickly.
- Sollana rice: Like bomba rice, this short-grain Spanish rice can absorb lots of liquid while still retaining its shape. It is generally used to make paella.
- Sticky rice: The same as glutinous rice, this is a transluscent, starchy rice popular in Japan and other Asian countries.
- Thai black sticky rice (Thai purple rice): This long-grain, black glutinous rice turns a deep purple when cooked.
Certain aromatic rices that have been developed in this country are sold only under a trade name, including:
- Christmas rice: Red, with a slightly nutty, almost roasted flavor, this short-grain rice is not sticky when cooked and remains slightly crunchy.
- Jasmati: This is an American version of jasmine rice.
- Kasmati: This is similar to basmati.
- Texmati: This basmati-type rice was developed to withstand the hot Texas climate. It comes as a brown rice, as well as light brown and white.
- Wehani: Developed in California, this rice has an unusual rust-colored bran that makes it turn mahogany when cooked.
- Wild pecan (popcorn rice):This tan rice, so-called because not all of the bran is removed, is a basmati hybrid, with a pecan-like flavor and a firm texture.
Other rice products
Cream of rice: This is very finely ground rice. Although store-bought versions are convenient, you can make your own cream of rice (or cream of brown rice) by grinding rice in a food processor.
Pinipig: In the Philippines, glutinous rice grains are rolled (like oats) and used to make desserts and drinks.
Puffed rice: This is an Indian ingredient similar to American crisped rice cereal, but it is not a brand-name cereal.
Rice flour: Both white and brown rice are used to make rice flour. White rice flour is very fine-textured. Brown rice flour contains the bran, giving it a coarser texture. Brown rice flour provides more fiber than white.
Rice milk: Rice milk is an alternative for those who don’t want to drink cow’s milk. Rice milk is made from water and brown rice and has few nutrients, but manufacturers add oils, salt, flavorings, and usually vitamins and minerals, such as calcium. Rice milk is sometimes also fortified with the cultures found in yogurt. Thus, depending on the additives in the brand you buy, rice milk may have a similar nutritional profile to cow’s milk, though rice milk usually has less protein. Check the label to see if it has vitamin D and calcium comparable to cow’s milk—about 300 milligrams of calcium and 100 IU of vitamin D per cup. Rice milk should not be given to infants, since it lacks essential nutrients. If your infant is allergic to breast milk or formula, get professional advice.