If you've never tried black rice, you're in for a delicious surprise. Cooking it can be a bit tricky though, so we're sharing a foolproof guide on How to Cook Black Rice.
Do you know about black rice? I first heard about it several years ago and was super intrigued. Discovering that it's also called forbidden rice, increased my curiosity. I picked up a bag the next time I shopped and gave it a try, following the directions on the package. That first attempt wasn't too successful - it turned out sticky, gummy and clumpy. I tossed it and went back to my old standbys, jasmine and basmati rice.
A few months ago, I decided to revisit black rice and experimented with several different ways to cook it. I came up with a simple technique that results in delicious, non-sticky black rice. I've been using it in lots of recipes since and I want to share of few of them here on the blog (like the delicious Butternut Squash Black Rice Salad below - coming soon!), I thought I'd do a little tutorial on how to cook black rice to save you from the mistakes I made.
What is black rice?
Black rice is, (unlike wild rice) a true rice and a member of the Oryza sativa rice species. There are more than 20 varieties of black rice. The two that are most common here in the United States are black japonica (a blend of short grain black rice and medium grain mahogany rice) and traditional Chinese black rice (sometimes called black pearl rice). Here's what they look like before they're cooked:
Black rice is also called purple rice, forbidden rice and Emperor's rice. It was historically grown only in China and parts of India, but there are now rice growers in the southern U.S who have taken up growing this evermore popular rice variety.
The dark color of black rice comes from a high level of the antioxidant, anthocyanin which is also responsible for the deep color of eggplant, blueberries, Concord grapes, and blood oranges. Actually the bran hull (outermost layer) of black rice contains one of the highest levels of anthocyanins found in any food. This is huge when it comes to health benefits, but we'll get to that shortly.
What does Black rice taste like?
Black rice has a delicious, nutty, roasted flavor that's in some ways similar to brown rice. I love how its delicious yet mild taste makes it a wonderful palette for combining with all sorts of other ingredients.
Why is black rice called forbidden rice?
I found the answer to this question incredibly interesting. The story goes that in Ancient China, black rice was reserved for royalty and the very wealthy because it was believed to be the healthiest of all varieties of rice and would ensure the longevity and health of the emperors. It was cultivated under strict surveillance and the common people were forbidden to grow or consume it - hence the names, forbidden rice and Emperor's rice. Aren't you glad you live in the 21st Century?
Is black rice healthier than white rice?
Yes! Black rice is actually the healthiest of all types of rice. Black rice is sold as a whole grain, meaning that the outermost layer of bran is intact. Whole grains are unrefined, meaning they're not stripped of their high nutrient content and beneficial properties in the milling process. Therefore, black rice retains its antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
As mentioned earlier, black rice has a super high level of anthocyanin, an antioxidant that can help prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. It's also purported to help improve brain function and reduce inflammation. Other nutritional benefits of black rice are that it has a high level of protein, iron and fiber.
Where can I buy black rice?
You can purchase black rice in most larger grocery stores. We live in a small Western North Carolina mountain town and our local grocer carries black rice. If I make a trip into Asheville, our nearest larger city, I can find black rice at most of the groceries there as well as at Whole Foods, both in their bulk bins and in packages on the shelf. You can also find it online.
There are a number of cooking methods for black rice:
- The traditional method (aka absorption method) - the rice is combined with a specific amount of liquid (water, broth, etc.) and cooked for a specific amount of time.
- The pilaf method - the rice is sauteed in butter or oil with aromatics like onion, garlic, shallots, etc. and then combine with a specific amount of liquid (water, broth, etc.) and cooked for a specific amount of time.
- The pasta method - the rice is started in a larger amount of liquid (water, broth, etc.) and cooked until tender, then drained.
After lots of trials, I found that the pasta method works best as it's the most consistently reliable method for cooking black rice. The flavor is great and the individual rice grains remain separate. Both the traditional method and the pilaf method can have inconsistent results, depending on the age of the rice and the exact amount of time it's cooked.
In other words, with the traditional and pilaf cooking methods, sometimes the rice turned out perfect, sometimes crunchy and undone and sometimes sticky and gooey. The recipe I'm sharing below uses the pasta method.
So be sure to pick up a package or two of black rice next time you're grocery shopping. We'll be sharing this wonderful Butternut Squash Black Rice Salad tomorrow! You definitely want this one in your arsenal! It's fresh, healthy and super delish!
Café Tips on How to Cook Black Rice
- Although you can use either japonica or traditional black rice (they're both delicious), I really like the traditional (also sometimes called pearl black rice) as it makes a prettier presentation. All the little grains stay intact and remain a nice deep color.
- You can use plain water for this recipe or add one chicken or one vegetable bouillon cube. Don't be tempted to use all broth as it gets very concentrated by the end of the cooking time and even low sodium broth will make the rice too salty.
- Cooked black rice keeps very well so it's great to make ahead. I like to make a double batch and use it all week long for sides and salads. Just drizzle it with a tiny bit of olive oil after it cools then stir with a fork to coat the individual grains before storing it in the refrigerator.
- Don't skip the rinsing and swishing step in the recipe. It helps to eliminate the excess starch which can make the rice gummy.
- 12 cups of water may sound like a lot but most of it will be evaporated during the cooking period.
- Next time you're thinking of serving rice as a side, think about how pretty it might be with black rice. For example, this Coconut Curry Chicken or this Asian Maple Glazed Salmon would be gorgeous served with black rice!
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear other’s results and ideas for variations.
Next time you're thinking of serving rice as a side, think about how pretty it might be with black rice. Do you know about black rice? It's delicious, fun and beautiful and can be substituted for jasmine, basmati or long-grain rice. It makes a dramatic statement, but it's easy to prepare if you know just a few simple tips and tricks!
- 1 cup uncooked black rice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt skip the salt if using bouillon
- 1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube optional
Place the rice in a medium-size bowl and cover with water. Let the rice soak for 5 minutes then, place one hand in the water and swish the rice vigorously for 15 seconds. Pour the rice into a fine-mesh strainer and rinse for 20 seconds.
Drain the rice well, then transfer it to a medium-large saucepan. Add 12 cups (2.8L) of water and the salt (or add a chicken or veggie bouillon cube if desired instead of the salt) and bring to a boil.
Once the mixture is boiling, continue cooking (uncovered) at a medium boil for 35-45 minutes. Start checking it at around 35 minutes by removing a small amount of rice with a slotted spoon. Cool for a minute then taste. The rice should be tender, but still a bit chewy.
Drain the rice well and set aside. (If making rice in advance, drain well then drizzle lightly with olive oil and stir with a fork to coat. Taste and season as needed with kosher salt and a little black pepper. Allow to cool slightly, then refrigerate in an airtight storage container.)
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