If You Love Brown Rice, Give Stunning Black Rice a Try

updated Apr 20, 2021
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black rice grains on a table
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Brett Regot

This story is part of our Rice-o-pedia, a cook’s guide to a dozen of the most commonly used types of rice. Click here for the full guide.

If you like drama on your plate, black rice is a must-try. When cooked, the inky grains turn a deep purple-black hue and have a chewy texture and nutty, slightly sweet flavor. Here’s what you need to know about cooking and eating black rice.

What Is Black Rice?

This medium-grain rice hails from China, where, in ancient times, it was reserved for the emperor — hence its other names, forbidden or emperor’s rice. You’ll find it at specialty stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Sprouts, or at many large supermarkets. Its hearty texture is particularly great in salads, grain bowls, warm side dishes, and even rice pudding. Compared to other medium-grain rices, black rice has a higher price tag, but isn’t as expensive as wild rice. It can be combined with other rices to keep costs down too.

Aside from being beautiful and delicious, black rice is also incredibly nutritious. Like all rice, it’s a gluten-free option everyone can enjoy. But black rice is also a whole grain, meaning that it retains all three parts of the original kernel: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Of all rice varieties, it contains the highest amounts of protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Anthocyanins, the pigments that give black rice its stunning color, have powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties that may help prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and vision loss.

Are Black Rice and Wild Rice the Same?

No, black rice is a whole grain rice that’s similar to brown rice, while wild rice is technically the seed of a semi-aquatic grass. They require different cooking techniques and taste quite different.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Brett Regot

How Should You Cook Black Rice?

Stovetop? Oven? A countertop appliance? No matter what you cook your black rice in, we have the best method.

How To Cook Black Rice on the Stovetop

You don’t need to rinse black rice before cooking it; doing so might wash away some of its nutrients. In a large, heavy saucepan, combine 1 cup black rice, 1/4 tsp kosher salt, and 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 cups water (less for chewier grains; more for a slightly softer texture). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the rice is chewy-tender and almost all of the liquid is absorbed, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes before fluffing and serving.

How To Cook Black Rice in the Instant Pot

Combine 1 cup black rice, 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, and 1/4 tsp kosher salt in the pot. Lock the lid in place and set to cook under High pressure for 15 minutes. Allow the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes, then carefully quick release any remaining pressure. Fluff with a fork before serving.

How To Cook Black Rice in the Rice Cooker

First, always check your manual to see if it offers specific instructions for black rice. Measure the rice with the cup that came with your rice cooker. Since most rice cookers instruct you to rinse the rice before cooking, go ahead and rinse your black rice in a fine-mesh strainer for this method. Add the rinsed rice to the pot, then add salt to taste and water to the level indicated for brown rice (rice cookers should have markings inside the pot). If you don’t have a rice cooker cup or markings inside the pot, try a ratio of 1 cup rice to 1 3/4 cups water. Set to cook using the brown rice mode. Let the rice stand in the closed cooker for 10 to 30 minutes after cooking, then fluff and serve. 

How To Cook Black Rice in the Oven

Preheat the oven to 375°F with the rack in middle of oven. Pour 1 1/2 cups black rice into an 8×8–inch baking dish, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil or melted butter, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Stir until rice is evenly coated. Bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan or tea kettle. Pour the boiling water over the rice, stir once, and spread the rice in an even layer. Cover the dish tightly with foil, and bake for 1 hour. Uncover and fluff with a fork; cover with a clean dish towel (to absorb the excess steam, which can make the rice gummy) and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

How To Cook Black Rice in the Slow Cooker

This is ideal when you have a large amount of rice you’d like to cook. Start by bringing 6 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Place 3 cups black rice and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker; pour boiling water over the rice. Place a sheet of parchment paper directly on the rice and water so that the paper is touching the water. Cover and cook until the water is completely absorbed and the rice is tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours on the HIGH setting. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Credit: markoflex/Shutterstock

How Should You Store Black Rice?

Keep uncooked, unopened black rice in a cool, dark place in an airtight container or zip-top bag to keep out moisture. Once the package is opened, place the remaining rice in a freezer bag, and stash it in the freezer. As with other whole grains, the freezer keeps the oils in black rice’s whole grain from going rancid quickly.

How Long Does Black Rice Last? 

  • Uncooked black rice will keep in your pantry for up to 6 months or in your freezer for up to a year. 
  • Store cooked black rice in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.
  • Or portion it out and freeze it in a freezer bag or a freezer-safe container for up to 6 months.

Our Favorite Black Rice Recipes

Black rice’s chewy-hearty texture, dramatic color, and nutty sweetness make it a natural for lots of different recipes. Here are some of our favorite ways to use it.