A Beginner’s Guide to Preparing All Kinds of Rice

Learning how to make rice seems like a basic cooking skill, but it's harder than you might think! We take a look at the popular varieties of rice and break down how to prepare and cook each of them.

Different kinds of cereals: oats, millet, rice, buckwheat, wheat, speltShutterstock/Maria Uspenskaya

It may seem like learning how to make rice is going back to the basics, but it’s a surprisingly hard skill to master! Sushi chefs train for years to make the perfect rice. Since there are so many varieties (and each variety has specific rules about whether to wash or not), we decided to break it down! Here are the three basic types of rice and the most popular rice varieties in each category.

Long-Grain

These grains are about four times as long as they are wide. They cook up fluffy and the individual grains stay separated, especially if you wash the rice before cooking.

White Rice

Your basic long grain white rice can be used in almost any recipe – no matter the cuisine. It’s similar to brown rice but the entire bran and husk has been removed. In the end, it’s a super fluffy with separate, individual grains.

How to Prepare: For best results, rinse the rice but you don’t need to wash it vigorously – you’re just looking to remove the dusty outer starch layer.

The Ratio: 1-part rice to 1 1/4-parts water.

Our Favorite Recipes: Lemon Rice Pilaf

Basmati Rice

A fragrant rice is grown in India and Pakistan. After it’s harvested, it’s aged for a year, giving it an incredible aroma and a full-bodied flavor.

How to Prepare: Wash basmati rice multiple times, swirling it with your hands until the water gets cloudy. Continue draining and washing until the water runs clear. For extra soft rice, soak the rinsed rice in clean water for 30 minutes before cooking.

The Ratio: 2-parts rice to 3-parts water

Our Favorite Recipes: Cool Beans Salad

Jasmine Rice

Just like the flower it’s named after, this sweet smelling rice has a buttery flavor. Unlike other long grain rices, jasmine grains will stick together (even if you wash it). It’s also notorious for sticking to the bottom of the pot, so let the pot sit for 5 to 10 minutes before stirring for the fluffiest, softest grains.

How to Prepare: No preparation required – just cook it up!

The Ratio: 1-part rice to 1 1/2-parts water.

Our Favorite Recipes: Tilapia with Jasmine Rice

Medium-Grain

These grains are twice as long as they are wide, and the rice granules tend to stick together a bit. They result in chewy but tender, moist rice.

Brown Rice

You can find brown rice in both short-, medium-, and long grain varieties, but we prefer the latter two because they’re easier to cook. Since the bran layer is retained on brown rice, swapping this rice for any recipe that calls for white rice will add extra nutrition into your life.

How to Prepare: Instead of cooking it like rice, cook it like pasta! Boil it for 25 to 30 minutes in salted water before straining it. Return it to the hot pot, cover it with a lid, and let it steam for 10 minutes before serving it.

The Ratio: If you’re using our boil method, just cover it with water! Otherwise, try 1 cup rice to 2 cups water.

Our Favorite Recipes: Brown Rice Salad with Grilled Chicken

Chinese Black Rice (aka forbidden rice)

This gorgeous rice is not only stunning when it cooks up, but it has a chewy texture and a nutty flavor. It’s also full of nutrients, too: that vibrant color is actually high levels of the same antioxidant found in blueberries.

How to Prepare: Some people say to rinse this rice, but that actually strips it of its nutritious outer layer so we advise to skip that step.

The Ratio: 2-parts rice to 3 1/2-parts water.

Our Favorite Recipes: Any one of these 26 healthy meals in a bowl

Short-Grain

Very short, plump grains that stick together and clump when cooked.

Arborio

This rice is prized for its ability to absorb liquid slowly, creating a creamy consistency and a chewy texture. It’s most commonly prepared for risotto, but it can also be use in paella or prepared like any table rice.

How to Prepare: For the best risotto, toast the grains in the oil before adding the water one ladle at a time.

The Ratio: 1-part rice to 2-parts water.

Our Favorite Recipes: Hearty Shrimp Risotto or Chicken Paella

Sushi rice

A highly starchy rice that’s super sticky – just the thing you’ll need when making sushi! In addition to using it in the traditional way, you can also eat it as table rice (this kind is actually my favorite for sticky rice bowls). For true sushi rice, mix in some rice vinegar, sugar, and salt after it’s cooked. (Here’s how to make sushi rice, step by step.)

How to Prepare: You’ll want to wash the rice 3 to 5 times to remove its excess starch before cooking it. (Check out our full guide to how to make sticky rice.)

The Ratio: Equal parts rice and water.

Our Favorite Recipes: California Sushi Rolls

Wild Rice

This “rice” isn’t actually a grain at all – it’s a grass seed! It has a super toasted, nutty flavor that is craveably good. It rivals quinoa for protein content and has an incredible texture. It takes a long time to cook – 45 minutes to an hour – because it’s slow to absorb water. Because of that, you’ll need to add extra water.

How to Prepare: No rinsing necessary.

The Ratio: 1-part rice to 4-parts water.

Our Favorite Recipes: Cranberry Wild Rice Pilaf

Try more rice recipes!
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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.