How to Cook Brown Rice (2 Ways!)

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Learn how to cook brown rice using two simple stovetop methods; absorption and boiling. The tough outer bran of these grains requires an extended cook time, however, the nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture make it worthwhile.

How to cook brown rice on the stovetop

Techniques for perfect rice every time!

Brown rice is available in many varieties like basmati, jasmine, short, medium, and long grain. In fact, it’s commonly offered at restaurants as a healthier carb option. With its tough bran shell, brown rice may seem intimidating at first to prepare, but it’s really quite simple! Once you get the technique down, you’ll have a nutrient-packed side dish to accompany any protein or vegetable.

The preparation is very similar to cooking white rice, but the time is slightly extended. In this article, I demonstrate two easy stovetop recipes. First, the absorption method gently simmers the grains but uses more water to account for the longer cook time. Second, the boiling method is similar to cooking pasta which works well for this robust type of rice. Give them both a try and see which method you like best!

Water from a faucet rinsing rice grains in a mesh strainer

Nutritional benefits of brown rice

Since your local market offers a plethora of different types of rice, it can be an overwhelming task to decide. But, if you’re looking for a healthy option then brown rice should be your go-to selection.

These grains have an outer shell of fiber-rich bran which contains proteins and minerals, fatty germ, and aleurone layers that are rich in oil and enzymes. These benefits are stripped away from conventional white rice, where only the starchy endosperm remains.

Every ¼ cup of dried brown rice (about ½ to ¾ cup cooked), there is approximately 150 calories, 3 grams of protein, 1.5 grams fat, 32 grams carbohydrates, and 2 grams fiber, 4.2 mg calcium, and 105 mg potassium [source].

What’s the ratio of water-to-brown rice?

  • Medium and long grain – about 2 ½ cups of water for 1 cup of rice.
  • Short grain – about 2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice.

Check the manufacturer’s directions for any modifications to the ratio. When cooking on the stovetop, more water evaporates as it turns into steam and exits the pot. That’s also why compared to white rice you need to add a bit more water upfront to account for the longer cook time and moisture loss.

#1) The Absorption Method

Add rice and water, boil, then stir

 

two side by side photos showing rice in a pot

Start by bringing the rice, water, and salt together to a boil in a medium saucepan. This kickstarts the softening process of the tough outer bran. Stir a few times to evenly distribute and to prevent any rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot. This method takes about 35 to 45 minutes to cook depending on the variety and how you like the finished texture.

Cover and simmer

Glass lid on a saucepan with steam on it

Once boiling, place the lid on the pot and turn the heat down to a low gentle simmer. The long cook time needs a delicate heat source, so dial the knob down further if needed. It’s best not to lift the lid as you’ll lose precious steam. You want to keep the environment consistent to properly cook the grains. If you must check, just crack the lid to peak and make it quick!

Let it sit, then fluff

Side by side photos showing rice in a pot before and after being fluffed with a fork

Once the rice is tender and absorbs nearly all of the water, turn the heat off and let it sit covered for 10 minutes. This last step allows the grains to fully absorb any residual water. Pour out any liquid if there’s still too much. After sitting, use a fork to gently fluff and separate the grains. This also releases any trapped steam and abruptly stops the cooking process.

#2) Boiling Method

Boil water, then add the rice

Two side by side photos showing rice grains being added to a pot of boiling water

Just like cooking pasta, the process involves adding the rice to a boiling pot of water. The rice should be able to move freely inside due to the larger volume of water required. The high liquid temperature will soften the outer layer of the bran, then soften the starchy center. This method is a little bit quicker, about 30 minutes.

Drain, add back to the pot, then sit

Brown rice be drained and then added back to the pot

Drain the rice to remove excess water that didn’t get absorbed. Then add the rice back to the pot and cover. Let it sit to finish the steaming process, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Absorption method vs. boiling method

The boiling method is quicker and the grains tend to be softer and more expanded. This is most likely due to the turbulent movement of the water and higher temperature in the pot. Another advantage is that there’s no chance of burnt bits at the bottom. The boiling method works best for long grain brown rice as short grains could become too mushy.

Storing, freezing, and reheating

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days. If freezing, use a resealable plastic bag and compress to a 1-inch thickness. That way you can easily reheat individual portions as needed. Reheat rice in the microwave, covered, until steaming, 1 to 3 minutes.

Tasty ways to use brown rice

It’s generally easy to substitute brown rice for white rice. Substitute it in stir-fries like fried rice or pineapple fried rice. Looking for an entree? Try long grain rice for a healthier Mexican chicken or jambalaya. You can even use short grain brown rice to make sushi rolls or add it to a poke bowl.

Top down shot of a bowl of brown rice

Why does brown rice take so long to cook?

The tough outer bran creates a protective shell around the starchy inside endosperm. The shell absorbs hot water at a slower rate which requires a longer cooking time compared to milled white rice.

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How to Cook Brown Rice (2 Ways!)

Learn how to cook brown rice using two simple stovetop methods; absorption and boiling. The tough outer bran of these grains requires extra cook time.
Pin Print Review
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time40 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Side
Cuisine Asian

Ingredients

Absorption Method

  • 1 cup brown rice, short, medium or long grain
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, optional

Boiling Method

  • 1 cup brown rice, short, medium or long grain
  • 5 cups water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, optional

Instructions 

Absorption Method

  • Add rice to a fine-meshed strainer. Rinse and wash under cool runing water until the water runs clear, about 1 minute. Shake and lightly press with hands to drain excess liquid.
  • In a medium pot add the rice, water, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Once the water comes to a boil then stir a few times.
  • Cover and reduce to a simmer over low heat. The water should be slightly bubbling and you may see steam exiting the sides of the lid. Cook until the rice absorbs the water, about 35 to 45 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and keep the rice covered for 10 minutes.
  • Fluff the rice with a fork and serve hot.

Boiling Method

  • Add rice to a fine-meshed strainer. Rinse and wash under cool running water until the water runs clear, about 1 minute. Shake and lightly press with hands to drain excess liquid.
  • Bring the water and salt to a boil in a large pot.
  • Add the rice, cook uncovered, stirring occasionally over medium heat until the rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain a steady boil but does not cause the water to overflow.
  • Drain the cooked rice in a strainer or colander.
  • Return the rice to the pot, cover and allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Fluff the rice with a fork and serve hot.

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: 3 to 3 ½ cups
  • Serving Size: ½ cup
  • Check the manufacturer's package for instructions on the amount of water to add and cook time. Specific types of rice may differ from the recipe above.

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Nutrition Facts
How to Cook Brown Rice (2 Ways!)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 172 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Sodium 155mg6%
Potassium 127mg4%
Carbohydrates 36g12%
Fiber 2g8%
Protein 4g8%
Calcium 20mg2%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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7 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Christine says

    Thanks for all the tips! Is there a particular brand of brown rice you use? I use a brown jasmine rice but it doesn’t turn out fluffy or soft…do you have any suggestions? Thanks.

    • Rita says

      I cook all rice the way my Mom always did. Rinse 3 times before cooking using a ratio of about three to 4 times water taste test a grain for doneness. Brown rice requires more water and longer cooking, about 40 min. White rice takes abt. 10min. Then I rinse excess starch in a strainer for both types. I leave the rice in strainer and put over the pot that I cooked it in with about 2 inches of water. I bring to a boil and then reduce heat and let it steam. (no lid) When ready to serve, fluff with a fork. Grains are perfectly separated! Works for me regardless of a few extra steps!

  2. Esther says

    I now love brown rice! Never heard of boiling method and when I read it made it soft I had to try it. I also soaked the rice first. I read that somewhere else.
    The rice is perfect. I like it also because boiling let me not worry if it is under or over cooking and is very freeing! I used jasmine brown rice.
    First time posting and everything on Jessica’s site comes out delicious.
    She simplifies all the recipes but nothing is lost. I’ve been cooking for 40 years and her recipes make perfect sense. It’s my go to site out of all the choices online.

  3. Melanie says

    I’m a little over 2 months in with a whole food, plant based diet. I love rice and was happy I could still eat it but my first batch of brown rice was AWFUL. I was really sad, thinking I would have to give up rice too.
    Then I tried your boiling method. I now LOVE brown rice.
    I had read comments on other sites where people talked about loving brown rice and I couldn’t imagine how they could say that. Now I’ve joined the club!
    Thanks SO much, Jessica!

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