More than 40,000 different varieties of rice are grown around the world, yet many Americans stick to standard white rice like, well, white rice. This most-readily available variety has its advantages, but there are several types of rice that offer different flavors and textures particularly well suited to different dishes.
Our rice guide includes descriptions of six varieties you may not have tried, with details on how to cook them.
This short-grained, high-starch Italian rice is named after the country's lovely town of Arborio. No risotto would be as creamy and rich without it, but preparation requires constantly stirring together a consume with the starchy rice. You can also cool arborio for salads and ride pudding. While some prefer Italian-grown arborio, Texas now sells a variety that's equally tasty and good in risotto. Cooking time is 20 to 30 minutes. Try this classic risotto recipe.
Basmati gained popularity in the 1980s and has steadily grown to become a supermarket staple. It's aromatic with a very specific flavor similar to roasted nuts or popcorn (without the butter). Easy to cook, basmati grains stay separate throughout heating and come out of the pot fluffy and dry. As a result, it's hard to mess up when cooking. This Basmati Rice Pilaf recipe makes for a good introduction.
3. Brown Rice
Brown rice is considered healthier than some white-rice varieties, perhaps because it grew out of the natural-foods movement of the 1970s. Compared to traditional, short-grain white rice, however, brown rice is healthier simply because the minerals and fiber haven't been stripped out before packaging. Cooking time is 40 to 45 minutes on the stove top or roughly 15 minutes in a rice cooker. I'm a mushroom fan so I can't resist recommending this recipe for Morels with Brown Rice.
As with basmati, this sweet, delicate grain has an enticing cooking aroma and nutty flavor similar to popcorn or roasted nuts. Cooked jasmine is slightly a moist and tender variety that clings together. Cooking time is 15 to 18 minutes. This Jasmine Rice Salad recipe can be served with fish or chicken on top.
5. Red Cargo Rice
Red Cargo is a non-glutinous rice, which means it doesn't stick together when properly cooked, much as with brown rice. It's a long-grain variety that carries a red/purplish cast. The husks are removed during proceessing, but no nutrients are stripped, making this a healthy variety. The flavor is a combination of nutty and sweet with a chewy texture. You'll need to soak it for up to 30 minutes before cooking to reduce the toughness. Try this Pacific Rim Rice recipe from the Food Network.
6. Wild Rice
It may be called wild rice, but it's not really a rice. It's actually a type of grass and boy is it delicious. Because of the higher cost (necessitated by the difficulty of producing it), wild rice is often mixed with other rices both in packaging and at home. The variety requires a much longer cooking time, roughly 45 to 60 minutes. Don't remove from the stove when the husks have split open. Because of its chewy texture, wild rice makes for a great stuffing. Try this Wild Rice Stuffing recipe next time you cook a turkey or chicken.
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