Whether you should eat brown or white rice has long been a topic of debate among food enthusiasts. The two kinds can easily fit into a balanced diet, but some may argue brown rice isn’t suitable for many traditional meals (more on that in a bit).
So, how does brown rice taste different from white rice? Let’s investigate the flavors behind these two famous grains.
In a nutshell, yes, brown rice tastes different than white rice. It all boils down to the production process (find out how brown rice becomes white here). White rice is simply a more processed version of brown rice, but you may wonder what gives it its unique flavor and texture.
Why Does Brown Rice Taste Different Than White Rice?
Brown rice is raw paddy rice with only the outermost layer (the inedible husk) removed. This process leaves the grain with the bran and germ layer intact, where most nutrients live.
Bran is the grain’s outer shell, containing a lot of fiber, phytochemicals, and trace minerals. The germ under the bran layer contains high levels of antioxidants, B vitamins, and vitamin E. Under these first two layers, you’ll find the starchy white endosperm—hence, when we remove the top 2 layers, the remaining product is called “white rice.”
Besides nutrients, the bran and germ layer also give brown rice its color, taste, and texture. Brown rice has an earthy, nutty flavor and is chewier than white rice because of the extra layers protecting the endosperm.
In short, the process that turns brown rice into white rice is mainly responsible for the difference in flavor between the two kinds of rice.
Why Do People Prefer White Rice Over Brown?
White rice has a milder flavor and softer texture that many favor over brown rice’s more robust flavor and chewier texture. In fact, in one study, participants ranked rice texture and hardness as the most important sensory attribute, with aroma at a close second.
Rice is a staple food in many countries around the world. White rice reigns supreme because of its taste, texture, versatility, price, and lifespan. Also, white rice is easier to digest because it’s a simple carb without any fiber. Alternatively, brown rice will spike your blood sugar less than white rice.
When it comes to cooking, white rice is like a blank canvas that can soak up the flavors of any main dish, while brown rice is more of a champion flavor. Its chewy texture can also overpower a meal. Many traditional rice dishes call for milder white rice, like paella, biryani, sushi, nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice), arancini, bibimbap, risot, etc.
Plus, brown rice has a shorter shelf life, meaning it’s less convenient to store, transport, and distribute—and these factors also mean brown rice is more expensive. Check out this article to find out why brown rice is more expensive.
What Dishes Is Brown Rice Good For?
In theory, you can substitute brown rice in any of the traditional white rice dishes mentioned above, but why not give this nutty grain its own spotlight?
Earthy brown rice shines in dishes complimenting its generous flavor and chewy texture. It pairs well with vegetable-based stir-fries, grain salads like brown rice tabbouleh, and Buddha bowls. It’s also a tasty accompaniment to hot dishes like spicy curries, bean stews, chili con carne, or hearty soups.
Brown rice is a delicious side dish for grilled salmon, roasted chicken, or any other protein. Pair it with a light sauce like salsa verde or marinara and a fresh salad, and you’ve got a wholesome dinner for the family.
Are you looking for ways to spice up plain brown rice? Check out this video for some more delicious ideas.
How to Cook Perfectly Fluffy Brown Rice?
Because of its extra layers, brown rice takes longer to cook and requires more liquid. Typically, you’ll need a 1:2 ¼ to 1:2 ½ rice to water ratio as opposed to the standard 1:2 ratio used for white rice and 45 minutes as opposed to the 15-20 minutes white rice typically takes.
Check out our article on brown rice not cooking to find out what may have gone wrong, how to fix it, and how to make perfectly fluffy brown rice every time.