Everything You Need to Know About Brown Rice

updated Apr 20, 2021
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brown 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.

Brown rice is one of the most readily available grains on supermarket shelves, and chances are high you’ve got some stashed in your pantry. While brown rice is often marketed as a better-for-you option, its nutty flavor and chewy bite are the reasons why we love it. From its touted health benefits to how to store it, here’s everything you need to know about brown rice.

What Is Brown Rice?

Like other whole grains, brown rice retains its namesake color because it contains all parts of the seed — the bran, germ, and endosperm. (White rice, on the other hand, has been milled to remove the bran and germ, then polished.) There are long-, medium-, and short-grain variations of brown rice, although long-grain is the type you’ll typically see at the supermarket, along with brown basmati and brown jasmine rice.

Brown rice has a slightly earthy, nutty flavor, and a chewy texture. Because brown rice is less processed, it takes longer to cook than white rice, so it’s a good idea to make a big batch, then freeze some for later.

Credit: Faith Durand

Is Brown Rice Really Better for You?

Brown rice has twice the fiber as white rice, three times the vitamin B3, four times the B1, and 10 times the B6. One cup of cooked brown rice contains more than 80 percent of your daily requirement of manganese, a mineral that’s critical to brain and nerve function and is involved in regulating metabolism and blood sugar. Brown rice also has a lower glycemic index than white rice, meaning you won’t experience such a quick spike in blood sugar after eating it. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

How Should You Cook Brown Rice?

Stovetop? Oven? A countertop appliance? No matter how you cook your brown rice, we have the best method.

How To Cook Brown Rice on the Stovetop

There are several different ways to cook brown rice on the stovetop, but our favorite is the pasta method. It eliminates the guesswork about how much water will be the correct amount for such a long-cooking grain and works for all types of brown rice. Here’s how to do it.

Bring several quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Measure out your rice, rinse it in a fine-mesh strainer, then add it to the boiling water. Cook uncovered until the grains are tender, but still al dente, 30 to 35 minutes. Drain the rice and add it back to the empty pot. Cover and let stand for about 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork and season.

How To Cook Brown Rice in the Instant Pot

We tested a few Instant Pot methods for brown rice, and this one produced perfect results for long-grain brown rice: Place 1 cup (unrinsed) long-grain brown rice and 1 cup cold water 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 5 minutes, then carefully quick release any remaining pressure. Fluff with a fork before serving.

How To Cook Brown Rice in a Rice Cooker

First, always check your manual to see if it offers specific instructions for brown rice. Use this method for medium- or long-grain brown rice. Measure the rice with the cup that came with your rice cooker, then rinse it in a fine-mesh strainer. Pour the rinsed, drained 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 Brown Rice in the Oven

You can use this method for medium- or long-grain brown rice. Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in middle of oven. Pour 1 1/2 cups brown 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 the 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 into 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 steam) and let stand 5 minutes before serving. That steam absorption will insure you have fluffy, individual grains and not clumpy or sticky rice.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

How To Cook Brown Rice in a Slow Cooker

This technique works well if you want to cook a large amount of brown rice. Bring 5 cups water to a boil in a saucepan or electric kettle. Rinse 4 cups long-grain brown rice in a fine-mesh strainer, then stir together the drained rice and 2 teaspoons kosher salt in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Carefully pour in the boiling water. Top with a sheet of parchment paper so 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: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Brett Regot

How Should You Store Brown Rice?

Because brown rice still has its bran and germ attached, it contains oils that can go rancid relatively quickly. Store the rice in an airtight container (such as a glass jar or plastic container with a tight lid) to prevent exposing the oils to oxygen that can start to deteriorate or spoil the grains. An even better option is to store the rice (in its airtight container) in the freezer, which is not susceptible to changes in temperature and light like the pantry tends to be.

How Long Does Brown Rice Last? 

  • If your pantry is cool and dark, you can store uncooked brown rice there for up to 6 months, or in your freezer for up to 2 years. 
  • Cooked brown rice will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.
  • Or portion it out and freeze it in a freezer bag or freezer-safe container for up to 6 months.

Our Favorite Brown Rice Recipes 

Brown rice is just as versatile as white rice, lending its mild nuttiness to salads, grain bowls, soups, casseroles, and more.