Both parboiled rice and brown rice are healthy carbs that fit into a well-balanced diet, but what makes them different? In this parboiled rice vs brown rice overview, we compare the nutritional benefits and production processes to determine who wins the battle for the healthiest rice.
Read until the end to find out which dishes each type of rice works best with.
Because of its unique production process, parboiled rice retains many nutrients found in whole-grain brown rice. It has more vitamin B6 and about the same amount of vitamin B3 as brown rice, but it’s still lower in other micronutrients. Let’s explore how parboiled rice is made and how it stacks up to brown rice.
What is Parboiled Rice?
To learn all about brown rice’s production process, check out our article on how brown rice becomes white. You’ll notice that this process doesn’t mention parboiling, so where does this step come in?
The milling process for traditional brown rice removes the inedible husk but leaves the bran and germ layers intact.
In contrast, parboiled rice is partially pre-cooked before the milling process removes the inedible husk. Once you remove the husk, you’re left with parboiled brown rice with the bran and germ intact.
Bran is the grain’s outer shell that contains a lot of fiber, phytochemicals, and trace minerals. The germ under the bran layer contains high levels of antioxidants, B vitamins, and vitamin E.
Brown parboiled rice is then polished to make white parboiled rice, also known as parboiled rice.
Here are the main steps of parboiling:
1. Soaking: Freshly harvested paddy rice, which is raw, unhusked rice, is soaked in warm water to increase its moisture content.
2. Steaming: The rice is steam-cooked until the starch turns into a gel. This process also helps kill bacteria and other microbes.
3. Drying: For easier milling, the rice’s moisture content is gradually reduced during drying.
Why is Parboiled Rice Yellow?
The starchy endosperm, or “the heart of the rice kernel,” undergoes a browning reaction during parboiling. The pigments from the husk and bran move into the endosperm, which gives the kernels a light yellow or gold hue.
Parboiled rice still isn’t as dark as brown rice or as light as white rice but is usually a yellowish color somewhere in between.
It’s not only pigments that seep into the starchy endosperm during parboiling—the rice kernel hearts also absorb many of the nutrients found in the bran and germ layer.
Here’s a nutritional comparison of 5.5 ounces of uncooked brown rice vs. the same amount of uncooked parboiled rice:
|Brown rice||Parboiled rice|
|Total fat||1.5 grams||0.5 grams|
|Total carbs||40 grams||41 grams|
|Protein||4 grams||5 grams|
|Fiber||2.5 grams||1 gram|
|Magnesium||14% of the RDI||3% of the RDI|
|Zinc||10% of the RDI||5% of the RDI|
|Thiamine (vitamin B1)||23% of the RDI||10% of the RDI|
|Folate (vitamin B9)||3.5% of the RDI||1% of the RDI|
|Niacin (vitamin B3)||25% of the RDI||23% of the RDI|
|Vitamin B6||11% of the RDI||14% of the RDI|
|Iron||5% of the RDI||2% of the RDI|
|Vitamin E||1.8% of the RDI||0% of the RDI|
Both brown rice and parboiled rice are more nutritious than white rice, but brown rice still has more fiber, magnesium, zinc, and thiamine, amongst other micronutrients, than parboiled rice.
But wait, let’s not disregard parboiled rice as a favorable option just yet.
Benefits of Parboiled Rice
We know that parboiled rice is more nutritious than white rice, but that’s not where its benefits end.
Shelf-life and cooking qualities
Parboiling rice inactivates the enzymes that break down fat in rice, giving it a similar shelf-life to white rice—it can last for years. On the other hand, brown rice spoils more quickly because the oil in the bran can go rancid.
Parboiled rice is less sticky, producing fluffy, separate grains when cooked. This aspect is great if you need to keep the rice warm for a while before serving or if you plan to reheat or freeze your leftover rice.
Also, parboiled rice takes less time to cook than brown rice—about 25 minutes instead of 45-50 minutes. Find out how to save undercooked brown rice here.
Check out this video for a quick guide on how to cook parboiled rice on the stovetop.
Formation of prebiotics
The starch that turns into a gel when cooking parboiled rice retrogrades once cooled. This process changes the starch’s molecular structure, creating what is known as resistant starch.
Resistant starch resists digestion in the small intestine, where regular starch turns into sugar—instead, it reaches your large intestine.
There, beneficial bacteria called probiotics ferment with it, which encourages their growth.
This process means that resistant starch is prebiotic. Why are prebiotics important for gut health?
Prebiotics ferment with probiotic bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate, which nourish your large intestine’s cells, ensuring it runs flawlessly.
Effect on blood sugar
There’s another advantage to the resistant starch and slightly higher protein content—parboiled rice may raise blood sugar less than brown or white rice.
In one study, people with type 2 diabetes who ate parboiled rice on an empty stomach had a 30% lower rise in blood sugar than when eating regular white rice.
So, if you have diabetes, you may want to test your body’s reaction to various types of rice. To compare, just ensure you eat the same amount of rice in the same way (for example, after an overnight fast).
Texture and Flavor of Brown Rice Vs Parboiled Rice
Parboiled rice has a softer texture and milder flavor, while brown rice is chewy and has a nutty flavor. Both of these rice varieties are firmer than white rice.
Parboiled rice is less prone to clumping and doesn’t get sticky like brown rice. It’s great for cooking dishes like pilaf, biryani, or stir-fried rice, where you want loose grains.
Brown rice is suitable as a side dish with grilled fish, roasted chicken, or a bean stew. It also makes an excellent addition to salads or hearty soups where you want a little extra nuttiness. I even use short-grain brown rice to make more wholesome sushi rolls.
Parboiled or Brown Rice, Which One Should I Choose?
Can’t decide between parboiled rice and brown rice? Consider your dietary requirements, taste and texture preferences, and convenience.
Regarding nutrients, parboiled rice is an elevated version of white rice, but some of you may not like its firmer texture. Plus, you’ll have trouble eating it with chopsticks since it doesn’t clump.
Brown rice is still the most wholesome option since it’s a whole grain, but the long cooking time, stronger flavor, and chewier texture may make it less versatile.
If you’re in doubt, consult a medical professional to see whether parboiled or brown rice fits better into your diet. Which type of rice do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below!