The most effective way to cook black rice to tender, chewy perfection happens to be the easiest. Precise measurements don’t even matter!
Whether you know it as black rice, forbidden rice, japonica rice, or purple rice–or whether this variety is completely new to you–this dark-hued grain can be used just like the more commonly seen white and brown varieties while adding wholesome appeal and interest to mealtime.
What is black rice?
Black rice includes a range of rice varieties for which the signature characteristic is a purplish black color. The unique hue is a result of a high concentration of anthocyanin, which is the same antioxidant responsible for the color of blueberries, eggplant, açaí berries, and concord grapes.
Black rice is almost always sold as a whole grain, with the outermost layer of bran intact. Technically speaking, this makes black rice a type of brown, or unrefined, rice. And though the uncooked grains look black, the rice takes on a somewhat lighter indigo or purple hue once cooked. This is because the dark exterior bran layer mixes with the white endosperm on the inside.
What does black rice taste like?
Like brown rice, black rice is chewier and denser than white rice. Also like brown rice, the taste is often described as earthy and nutty, and it is. But I think the flavor of black rice is more complex, with a touch of underlying fruitiness that balances what some people detect as bitterness in brown rice. I’d best describe it as brown rice with a hint of black bean flavor and the faintest berry undertone.
Is black rice better for you that white or brown rice?
When compared to white and brown rice, black rice has the highest level of antioxidants and contains more protein and fiber. It’s also a good source of iron. Black rice’s dark pigmentation, which is actually a very dark purple, comes from anthocyanins, which as mentioned, are the same compounds that give blueberries their color and health benefits. Similarly, I’ve read many claims touting black rice as good for eye health, heart health, cancer prevention, etc., but I think of it more as a fun way to add variety and interest to mealtime.
How do I use black rice?
You can use black rice anywhere you’d use white or brown rice—as a simple side dish, for a stir fry, and even in a rice pudding.
- Use black rice as a base for your favorite stir fries, curries, and Tex Mex meals.
- Use it as a base for your favorite bowl meals. A simple but satisfying combination is black rice topped with cooked chicken, shrimp, or beans of choice, chopped tomatoes, corn, avocado, and this easy Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette or this creamy, flavor-popping Peruvian Green Sauce. Or use salsa and a sprinkle of sharp cheddar…or guacamole instead of avocado.
- For another quick meal, add tomatoes, cucumbers, and chickpeas and then stir in small batch ranch dressing. Chopped baby spinach or greens of choice offers another welcome addition.
- Try black rice in a rice salad with ingredients like avocado, mango, almonds, red onion, and a lime vinaigrette. For a festive winter salad, use pomegranate seeds instead of mango…and perhaps add some crumbled feta.
- For a satisfying meatless meal, add black rice to this Mediterranean Cauliflower Salad. Or use the recipe’s speedy tahini-harissa dressing for the base of a bowl with your favorite veggies and proteins like chicken, shrimp, salmon, or beans. (A family favorite here along with the aforementioned Peruvian Green Sauce!)
- Make rice pudding or a breakfast porridge with black rice.
- Serve as a simple side dish with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.