Have You Tried Black Rice?

Pile of black rice with a spoon on a wooden table
Photo: Thinkstock/Karisssa

I have a confession to make. Although I know that brown rice is more nutritious than refined white rice, I actually prefer the softer texture and milder flavor of white rice, especially white basmati rice. Because I don’t eat rice all that often or in large quantities, I often choose white rice instead of the whole-grain brown stuff.

But my discovery of black rice — sometimes called Forbidden Rice — has changed everything. Like brown rice, black rice is a whole grain, with all of the fiber-rich bran and nutritious germ intact.  In fact, black rice has even more fiber and protein than brown rice!

But where black rice really shines is in its antioxidant content. The deep pigmentation of black rice, which is actually a very dark purple, comes from anthocyanins, the same compounds that give blueberries their color — and health benefits.

Anthocyanins help protect your heart and brain, lower your cholesterol and may even guard against cancer and dementia. In fact, anthocyanins may be responsible for many of the health benefits attributed to diets high in fruits and vegetables.

Black rice is by far the richest source of anthocyanins of any grain. Take that, brown rice.

What Does It Taste Like?

Like brown rice, black rice is chewier and denser than white rice. But it really doesn’t taste like either white or brown rice. It’s plumper, almost juicy. And its flavor is more robust and complex. If you can imagine it, it’s almost like a cross between brown rice, black beans and huckleberries. (Black beans and berries are both good sources of anthocyanins, come to think of it.)

How to Cook with Black Rice

The recipe that first made me fall in love with black rice was a salad made with cooked black rice, roasted butternut squash, pomegranate seeds, toasted pecans and slivered scallions with a maple-lemon dressing. But you don’t have to work that hard every time you want to enjoy black rice. You can toss cooked black rice with whatever you’ve got on hand: raw or roasted veggies, leftover cooked chicken or tofu, dried or fresh fruit, chopped nuts or herbs. Drizzle with a bit of oil and vinegar, if you like. Serve it as a side dish, main course or pack it for your lunch.

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Monica Reinagel
Monica Reinagel MS, LDN, is a writer, speaker, culinary nutritionist and creator of the Nutrition Diva podcast. She blogs at NutritionOverEasy.com. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.