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Choosing the Right Kind of Rice

There are so many varieties of rice available. How are they different from one another, and how do I choose which to buy?
—Jimmy Kirch, Englewood, Colo.

Photography by: Bryan Gardner

The nuances in flavor among these whole-grain varieties can add dimension to your dishes. Here’s when to use which rice and why.


Mild-tasting white rice is the most common variety; it’s great as a supporting player when you want other flavors to shine. It pairs well with most dishes.


This short, wide-grain rice, best known in risotto, has a high starch content. As it cooks, the starch is released and lends a creaminess to the dish.


An aromatic long-grain rice with a sweet flavor, jasmine rice is similar to basmati and commonly served in Thai cuisine. It is very light and fluffy, almost dry, when cooked.


Brown rice features a nutty flavor and chewy texture. It takes longer to cook than many types, and its outer layer, or bran, keeps it from absorbing sauce the way white rice can. Use it in pilafs, rice cakes, and stir-fries.


Sushi rice (also known as glutinous or pearl rice) is starchy and sticky. It’s used in sushi (naturally) and some Japanese desserts.


Sometimes called purple or forbidden rice, black rice cooks much like brown rice, and its antioxidant levels are on par with those of blueberries. Try this sweet and nutty type in Asian dishes and stir-fries.


This Indian long-grain rice is delicious on its own or with curries and other spicy dishes. When cooked properly, it should be very light.

Tip: Cook rice in a medium-size pot (to ensure the water covers the rice) with a thick bottom (this helps prevent scorching).