Brown rice isn’t always on my radar screen, mainly because I only like short grain brown rice. I know, fussy, fussy. But the run-of-the-mill long grain version, widely available in grocery stores, just isn’t that compelling. Short grain brown rice is harder to find, but worth the effort. My main source is a certain pricey grocery chain, that sells a variety of grains and beans in bulk.
Brown is the more natural unmilled form of rice. The nutrient-rich bran and germ layer of the seed is intact; this layer is removed when rice is milled to make white rice. As a result brown rice has more of certain key nutrients, particularly fiber and some minerals. Here’s a comparison of some nutrients:
|1 cup cooked rice||calories||protein||fiber||zinc||magnesium|
|brown||218||4.5 gr||3.5 gr||1.2 mg||86 mg|
|white||240||4.4 gr||0.6 gr||0.8 mg||24 mg|
Like other grains, brown rice is a source of iron, B vitamins and other minerals. Enriched white rice may be fortified with iron and certain B vitamins, but not with fiber or other minerals like zinc.
My 3 reasons to include brown rice:
- Flavor: it has a unique rich flavor, distinct from plain white rice.
- Fiber content: see the chart above. It clearly has more fiber than milled white rice.
- Texture: brown rice has a nice chewy texture, which can add depth to a recipe. It holds up well in dishes that have a lot of liquid, like soups, where white rice might just get mushy.
Drawbacks? For various reasons, some people don’t care for brown rice. It takes longer to cook, probably twice as long, which makes it less convenient. The flavor might not pair well with certain rice recipes. And it might be hard to find.
Using Brown Rice
If you’ve tried long grain brown rice and didn’t care for it, try short grain (if you can find it). It makes great fried rice, or as a simple accompaniment to stir fry or other Asian/Indian/Thai/Korean dishes. Goes great with soy sauce and a splash of sesame oil. Great in soups or grain bowls. And, it fits with plant-based, vegan, vegetarian, Mediterranean and other healthy whole food diets.
I scored a bag of my preferred short grain recently, and decided to do something completely different: use it to make risotto. Normally risotto is made with Arborio or Carnaroli rice, not brown. I wasn’t sure how this would work, since brown rice takes much longer to cook. My solution was to pre-cook it my Instant Pot, then finish the semi-cooked rice in a more traditional risotto preparation. I though it came out just fine. Chewier than traditional risotto, but that added to the appeal.
Brown Rice Risotto
Definitely pre-cook the brown rice, whether in a pressure cooker or on the stove top. I used frozen chopped spinach to finish this dish, but frozen peas work really well also.
- 1 cup short grain brown rice
- 1+ cups water
- 3 TB olive oil, canola oil, or a combination
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 or more cups chicken or vegetable stock or water, plus more water as necessary
- 1-2 cups frozen chopped spinach or 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- salt to taste
- 2 tsp dried basil, or 2 TB minced fresh basil
- Step 1 Pre-cook the rice: put rice in instant pot with 1 cup water. Seal and cook on high pressure for 12-14 minutes. After pressure subsides, open the pot and fluff the rice with a fork, let cool. OR simmer the rice with 1-1/2 cups water in a sauce pan over low/moderate heat until the water is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes. Again, fluff with a fork.
- Step 2 Heat the oil in a sauce pan. Add the onion and cook over low/moderate heat until the onion is translucent.
- Step 3 Add the pre-cooked rice and stir into the onion.
- Step 4 Add the broth in half-cup amounts, stirring after each addition. Add liquid and stir until the rice is cooked to your preferences. It should be slightly chewy and have a creamy texture.
- Step 5 Turn down heat to low. Add frozen vegetables and herbs. Cover and let the vegetables cook.
- Step 6 Add the grated cheese and taste for salt. Add salt if necessary.
- Step 7 Serve with more cheese as a garnish.