When I was learning how to cook, the question “Do you wash brown rice?” arose after an unhappy incident. The first time I made brown rice, it came out undercooked and tasted a bit weird. I called my mom and asked her, what am I doing wrong?
Turns out I was doing everything wrong from beginning to end, starting with not washing the rice. If you’re wondering whether you should wash brown rice, you should, and here’s why.
After learning these insights, I always wash any rice. Washing brown rice can improve its texture, and taste, and protect you from harmful contaminants. Yes, you heard right—rinsing brown rice is an important step for your health. And, of course, your taste buds will thank you.
Why Should You Wash Brown Rice?
First, washing rice removes any starchy residue created by the friction between the dry grains.
This residual starch gelatinizes while cooking, making the cooked rice grains stick together—no bueno.
But starch isn’t the only residual element in hiding. Washing brown rice also removes any dust, bran particles, and dirt that may have contaminated it. These contaminants can appear during processing, storage, packaging, or transportation.
In addition, washing, and especially soaking brown rice, decreases the amount of arsenic present. Chronic exposure to arsenic can cause health problems.
The outer layer of rice grains accumulates arsenic, and white rice is made by removing that outer layer. Since brown rice still has that outer layer, brown rice contains 80% more arsenic than white rice. Learn more about how brown rice becomes white here.
Last but not least, rinsing rice will remove some of the pesticides or herbicides that may cling to the grains. Of course, if you buy organic brown rice, you don’t have to worry about this issue.
Check out this article if you want to read hear my mom’s insights on why brown rice is not cooking (and how to make perfectly fluffy brown rice). We also have a guide on how to fix undercooked brown rice.
How To Wash Brown Rice Properly
When it comes to washing rice, there’s no right or wrong way. Simply rinse the rice until the water runs clear.
My favorite method of washing rice is to place rice in a pot, cover it with water, swish it around, and use the lid to drain it. I repeat this process until the water runs clear.
I also came across an interesting technique that involves rigorously mixing the rinsed and drained rice with your hand. This method makes the grains rub against each other and release any excess starch.
Another popular method is to use a fine mesh strainer. Place the rice in the strainer and run it under cold water, mixing it with your hands, until you see the water run clear.
I prefer the first method because you don’t have to get another dish dirty, but if you like cleaning extra dishes, go for it!
Is it OK to not wash rice?
If you buy high-quality organic rice from a trusted source, you don’t need to wash it, at least not for health reasons.
In Japan, you can even buy a special type of rice called musen-mai, or no-wash rice. It’s processed to ensure no contamination from dust or bran residue. Learn more about the history and culture of rice in Japan here.
For non-organic white or brown rice, it’s best to wash.
Does washing brown rice remove nutrients?
Yes, to some extent. Washing rice can rinse away some protein and water-soluble vitamins and minerals.
On the bright side, production and packaging standards are increasing, so that we won’t encounter as many contaminants. Maybe one day, we won’t have to wash our brown rice at all (unless we want to remove the sticky starch).
How many times should you wash brown rice?
Wash your rice until the water runs clear. For brown rice, 2-3 washes times are usually enough. White rice can take 4-5 rinses.
As an additional health measure, remember that soaking brown rice for 30 minutes prior to cooking will significantly reduce its arsenic content.