It’s used in sushi and burritos, and often accompanies curry and stew; it is the essence of pilaf, and sometimes appears in pudding. Heck, it can even be enjoyed all by its lonesome (preferably with a pat of butter). Yep, we’re talking about rice—the dietary staple that pretty much every culture around the globe makes use of in one way or another. In fact, this beloved grain is grown on every continent except for Antarctica and ranks near the top of the most consumed foods in the world. As such, it should come as no surprise that this crop is as diverse as the folks who eat it—and that, friends, is precisely the reason why we compiled a guide to the many different types of rice (and how each one is best enjoyed).
The 11 Types of Rice You Should Have in Your Pantry (Plus What to Make with Them)
1. Basmati Rice
Basmati rice—typically grown in India, Pakistan and the Himalayas—is a distinctly aromatic type of white rice with long, slender grains and a nutty, floral flavor. Unlike some other types of white rice, the long grains of basmati stay separate from one another when properly cooked, resulting in a particularly light and fluffy dish. You will often encounter basmati rice in pilaf dishes or served as an accompaniment to curry.
2. Arborio Rice
This type of rice hails from Italy and has one main culinary use—namely, as the primary starchy ingredient in risotto dishes. Yes, risotto—that decadent rice dish we all know and love—just won’t turn out quite right unless you use arborio rice. This kind of rice boasts a higher starch content than most others, but can still withstand the extended cooking time risotto requires without turning to mush. The end result is a rice dish with a pleasantly toothsome but oh-so creamy texture.
3. Jasmine Rice
Jasmine rice, a kind of white grain rice grown in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia, has a lot in common with basmati rice. For starters, they both fall into the long-grain category; both types are also very aromatic and boast a similar nutty flavor. For this reason, jasmine rice can be used interchangeably with basmati rice for pilafs and curries, as well as fried rice dishes. That said, the grains of jasmine rice aren’t quite as long and it’s starchier by nature, so you can expect a stickier texture if you decide to swap it in for basmati.
4. Sticky Rice
No surprises here: The defining characteristic of sticky rice is that it’s, well, sticky. Yes, this starchy white rice, commonly used in Asian cuisine, tends to clump together when cooked. It also has a mild sweetness to it, which is why it often makes an appearance in both savory dishes and rice-based desserts. Fun fact: Sticky rice will also work in a pinch for risotto if you don’t have arborio rice on hand.
5. Brown Rice
This type of whole grain rice is all the rage among the health-conscious these days—namely because of its impressive nutritional profile. Unlike the more refined white rice, brown rice contains both the bran and germ, making it a better source of fiber, as well as nutrients like magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Although its flavor is a bit richer and nuttier, brown rice is actually quite versatile and can be used as a healthy alternative to white rice in nearly any scenario.
6. Carolina Rice
We’ve already covered jasmine and basmati rice, two distinct types of long grain white rice that originate in Asia; you can think of Carolina rice as their distant cousin, born and raised stateside. This type of white rice fits the long grain criteria (i.e., grains that are at least four times as long as they are wide) and is therefore similar to the aforementioned types in terms of its fluffy and not-so-starchy texture. However, Carolina rice is distinct in that, lacking the aromatic qualities of basmati and jasmine rice, it has a more neutral flavor profile. Nevertheless, it’s a go-to type of rice for pilafs and any other dish that benefits from grains that stay separate.
7. Wild Rice
Don’t be fooled by the name, friends—wild rice is actually not rice at all, but rather a grain that comes from semi-aquatic grass. That said, the misnomer is a mere technicality, given that wild rice cooks and tastes just like regular rice, and can be used for all the same purposes. What really sets wild rice apart is its nutritional profile: This relatively low-calorie “rice” contains just as much fiber as brown rice, but four times as much protein and an impressive amount of vitamins and minerals to boot. (It’s also a rich source of antioxidants.) In terms of how best to use it, wild rice will add dimension to any dish thanks to its chewy texture and grassy, smoky flavor. It can also be mixed in with other types of rice like jasmine or basmati (like in the image above).
8. Black Rice
Black rice owes its dark color to anthocyanins—the same antioxidant rich and health-boosting compounds found in blackberries, blueberries and other “purple foods.” Although black rice is fairly versatile, it’s no shrinking violet: This type of rice has a rich earthy flavor that should be taken into account when considering it for a dish.
9. Sushi Rice
This short-grain, glutinous rice has a lot in common with sticky rice and, in fact, that’s essentially what it is until it gets tweaked a little bit. Sushi rice simply refers to a short grained, usually Japanese, rice that has been mixed with a (cooled) combination of vinegar, sugar, salt and sometimes kelp. In other words, this is just a starchy type of rice that has been lightly seasoned for use in sushi (or sushi rice bowls, if you prefer a deconstructed version). Bonus: You can easily make your own at home.
10. Bomba Rice
Short grained and pearl-like in appearance, bomba rice is a specialty rice grown in the eastern parts of Spain—within the limits of Calasparra if you’ve got the real deal—and paella is its calling. This strain of rice is unique in that it can absorb water (and flavor) like none other without getting mushy. An authentic paella is always made with bomba rice, but arborio rice, which has similar properties, can be used as a substitute…just don’t tell a Spaniard we said so.
11. Calrose Rice
Commonly grown in California, calrose rice is a medium grain rice with a notably mild flavor. Due to its grain length and relatively high starch content, calrose rice becomes somewhat soft and sticky when cooked. As such, it can be used in much the same way as Asian varieties of sticky rice, which means it works well in sushi, stir frys and rice bowls, or even as a simple side dish.
How to Cook Rice
Alas, there’s no single method that works for all types of rice. That said, most types of rice benefit from a cold water rinse prior to cooking, as this helps remove excess starch, as well as any pesticides that might be present. As for how much water to use, a good rule of thumb is to follow a ratio of 1.5 cups of water for every cup of uncooked rice—just keep in mind this varies depending on the kind of rice you’re using, so your best best is simply to refer to the package instructions whenever possible for best results. Cooking times run the gamut as well, but in general you can expect that whole grain (i.e., brown and black) rice will take longer than the refined, white varieties.