As a staple ingredient, you are sure to have come across different types of rice while in the grains section of your go-to supermarket. From classic paella to your quick and easy fried rice, it is an essential ingredient to most of our favorite rice recipes. One type of this beloved grain is black rice, also known as purple rice or forbidden rice. Distinct for its vibrant color and mysterious alias, this grain has a lot more to offer than just aesthetics.
If you’re intrigued and want to change things up in your diet, continue reading to learn all about black rice – its health benefits and how it’s used in cooking!
What Is Black Rice?
A type of cultivated rice (Oryza sativa), black rice first appeared in ancient China centuries ago when it was highly prized by royalty for its powerful medicinal properties. The wealthy kept it exclusively for their own, prohibiting the public to grow and consume it. Thus, it earned the name “forbidden rice” or “emperor’s rice”.
Today, this precious grain can be easily found in supermarkets alongside other cereals. But how does it differ from others? One feature that makes it stand out is, of course, its color. It’s also different in terms of production, texture, and taste.
Chinese black rice is nutty, but can also taste fruity and floral when cooked. It certainly feels luxurious and rightfully so. As it can be a bit trickier to grow and yields less, it can be a bit expensive. However, the amount of nutrients and health benefits you get certainly makes it worth every bite!
Black Rice vs White and Brown Rice
White rice is the staple for most households. It’s cheap and easy to cook, but also is the least nutritious. As it’s processed, it’s stripped of its nutrients during the refining process. This is, however, essential to extend its shelf life. Most of the beneficial parts of rice are present in its outer layers. The milling process lessens the fiber content of the starch thus increasing its glycemic index. The glycemic index measures how fast a specific food raises blood sugar levels. In other words, eating a lot of white rice, with a higher GI, might put you at a higher risk of developing diabetes.
Brown rice is a lot similar to the darker variety as a whole grain. Whole grains are better for your health and give you more fiber and nutrients because they are less processed. Black rice, however, is hearty and more filling compared to the other choices with its fiber content. Not only will it leave you satisfied longer, but it is also rich in nutrients making it the heartier, healthier choice.
Black Rice Health Benefits
Considered to have the highest amount of antioxidants, black rice is also a good source of protein, fiber, and iron compared to white rice. The rich color of black rice comes from the compound anthocyanin which is great in reducing the risk of diabetes and even some forms of cancer. Packed with antioxidants, it is pleasing to the eyes (quite literally) as forbidden rice also has lutein and zeaxanthin. These are organic pigments known for improving eye health. And as a whole grain, it is rich in fiber which is a big hug to your gut!
Varieties of Black Rice
This darker bran can also be categorized under long-grain rice, medium-grain rice, and short-grain rice. Usually, short-grain rice is a lot stickier than medium-grain or long-grain types.
- Chinese black rice (forbidden rice) is firmer and cooks a lot quicker than brown rice. It is often used in porridge or congee.
- Black Japonica rice is a blend of medium-grained red rice and black short-grained rice that is both earthy and nutty in taste. It is mostly used in casseroles and rice salads.
- Black sticky rice is often cooked by steaming. This long-grain glutinous rice is mostly used in Thai desserts and sometimes even mixed with white sticky rice and other grains to make multi-colored rice or japgokbap, a Korean rice dish.
How to Cook Black Rice in 5 Ways
Cooking this rice may vary depending on which type of grain you’re using. The black glutinous kind is often steamed and is best for desserts. You may also be wondering if you need to soak the rice. Well, soaking is not really necessary but doing so would definitely make the rice cook quicker! Generally, black rice is prepared similar to how you would cook brown rice. Below are more methods you can try to see which works best for you.
Stovetop (Absorption Method)
All you need for this is a 2 to 1 ratio of black rice and water. To put it simply, you will need 2 cups of water (or your preferred stock) for every cup of rice you want to cook. In a saucepan with a nice fitting lid, put a cup of black rice and 2 cups of water or stock (you can also season it with salt at this stage). Bring it to a boil on medium-high heat, then turn the heat down to low, and let simmer for about 30 to 35 minutes. Let it rest for about 10 minutes with the lid on before fluffing with a fork.
If you have a multi-cooker, it would certainly make cooking fibrous rice easier and quicker. The ratio for cooking in an Instant Pot is equal parts of rice to liquid and ¼ teaspoon of salt if desired. If you’re cooking glutinous forbidden rice, set it on high for 20 minutes and release the pressure for 10 minutes. But if you’re cooking Chinese black rice, set the time for 18 minutes on high and also release pressure. Fluff it with a ladle or fork after.
This is another easy and fool-proof way of preparing black rice as most rice cookers have a brown rice setting. Just use the cup that comes with the device to measure 1 cup of rice and 1 ¾ cup of your chosen liquid. Choose the brown rice setting (50 to 60 minutes) and you’re done! Remember to let it settle before opening the cooker to make it fluffier.
This way of cooking black rice is usually done to add flavor to the dish using stock along with vegetables and aromatics. The ratio is 1 cup of rice to 2 ½ cups of stock. It usually starts by sautéing any vegetables like onions or shallots and aromatics, then followed by the rice and stock. Bring it to a boil and let it gently simmer on medium-low heat for 20 to 30 minutes or until the broth is absorbed.
This last method is less popular because you lose some of the nutrients in the liquid after you drain it. However, it is can be the easiest if you have a lot of experience with cooking pasta. No need for measurements. In a medium saucepan, bring a good amount of water to a boil, add your grains and ½ teaspoon of salt. Stirring occasionally, let it simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until the rice is soft but not mushy. Drain the water with a strainer and serve!
Black Rice Recipes to Try
Now that the cooking methods are covered, there are also many dishes you can make with this starch as a healthier alternative to other grains. Here are recipes you can try to switch things up in the kitchen and in your diet:
- Black Rice Bowl with Tofu and Veggies – This black rice bowl recipe, topped with tofu and pickled vegetables, is perfect if you want to fill your tummy with oozing goodness. Enjoy it with the garlicky, ginger-miso dressing, drizzled or on the side!
- Vegan Sushi Rolls – Get the ball (or, in this case, sushi) rolling and make this mouthwatering but healthier alternative to your normal sushi meal. You can even customize and add whatever ingredient you fancy!
- Black Rice Pudding – A classic comfort food in Southeast Asia, this can be eaten for breakfast or as a dessert. Hearty and filling, give yourself a sweeter treat!
How to Store Black Rice
Uncooked black rice, if properly kept in airtight bags or containers, will last for up to six months or a year in your freezer. Keep in a cool dark place and in zip-top bags to keep moisture out and prevent mold.
Cooked black rice stored in airtight containers will last for three to five days in the refrigerator, and if portioned and frozen can last up to six months. Remember to let the cooked rice cool completely to room temperature before storing it in the refrigerator or freezer.
Where to Buy Black Rice
You can easily find forbidden rice at your local Asian supermarkets, health food stores, and even online! Just determine beforehand what recipe you’ll use it for so you could buy the right type of rice.