Side Dish Staples: Different Varieties of Rice + How to Use Them

Did you know that there are over 40,000 varieties of rice? Well, we don’t have enough time or space to talk about them all here, so let’s break them down into three basic categories. Three is a much more more managable number, don’t you think? Plus, those basic categories are enough for us to answer the age-old question…which rice is the right choice for my recipe? What’s the right match for risotto, sushi or just aside a roast chicken?

Perfectly pair your rice with this essential guide different rice varieties!

Rice Varieties


White rice:

This long-grain variety is the most popular rice in America. If properly cooked the grains stay separate, it’s fairly dry yet perfectly fluffy.


To cook long grain rice first you rinse the rise to remove any starch. This will help keep the grains distinct from one another in the end. For every cup of rice use 1 1/2- 1 3/4 cup water. Add a pinch of salt, cover, then bring the whole pot to a boil. Turn the rice down to a simmer and cook until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is cooked through, about 15 – 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and fluff up the rice with a fork. If you aren’t planning to serve the rice right away, transfer it to a plate and spread it out so it cools quickly rather than continue to cook and get mushy.

Serve with:

Roast chicken, in salads, with beans, as a side dish tossed with butter and fresh herbs

Brown rice:

Long-grain brown rice makes a great substitute for white rice. Brown rice is a whole grain which means that the outer bran and germ layer are still in tact. Because of this it gives a bit more nutrition and a nice, nutty, chewy texture.


Cook in the same way as the white rice above however, brown rice requires quite a bit more water; 2 1/2 cups of water to 1 cup of brown rice. It also takes 40 – 50 minutes to cook.

Serve with:

Wherever you would use white long-grain rice.


Jasmine rice comes from Thailand and has a long slender shape. The aroma is almost floral and is perfect for serving alongside curries. The texture is soft and slightly sticky.


To cook the rice you use quite a bit less water so you are actually steaming the rice rather than submerging it completely. Start by rinsing the rice to remove the starch. Place the rice in a pot and cover with water 3/4 inch over the rice (1 1/2 cups rice, use 1 3/4 cups water). Bring the rice to a boil, uncovered then reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover then cook until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

Fluff with a fork before serving.

Serve with:

Thai food, curries, fried rice


Basmati rice is most typically found in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. The flavor is softy nutty.


Traditionally this rice is soaked but you can skip that step with great results. Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pot add 2 cups basmati rice and cook over medium heat, while stirring, for two minutes. Stir in 3 1/3 cups water with a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat so the water is simmering, cover and cook until the rice is tender. About 20 minutes.

Serve with: 

Indian food such as curry.


Sushi Rice:

Japanese style sushi-rice is indeed used for sushi as it has a soft, sticky texture while the grains still remain distinct. But it’s also used as a side dish alongside meat and/or vegetables. Making perfect rice for sushi is a skill that takes years to perfect. Check out this great tutorial from Japanese Master Chef, Masaharu Morimoto.


The key is to rinse the rice very, very well. Rinsing away the starch helps to have separate rice kernels in the end.

Once cooked the rice is tossed with vinegar and fluffed continually as it cools.

Serve with:

Use it to make sushi, but it can also be served alongside other Japanese dishes.


This is the rice chosen for the sacred Spanish dish, Paella. Bomba rice can absorb twice as much liquid as long-grain rice without getting sticky like short-grain rice.


Check out this recipe for Arroz con Pollo, in which Bomba rice is used.

Bomba rice
Serve with:

Spanish food; Paella, Arroz con Pollo.



Arborio is the risotto rice. Sure it can be used for more but this is where it is most classically used. It has a high amount of amylopectin, which is a sticky starch that gives risotto that creamy texture when liquid is added slowly and it is stirred continuously. 

Learn how to make basic risotto or try this Wild Mushroom and Leek Risotto.

Short-grain brown rice:

This is a great choice when you need a short-grain rice but want a boost of nutrition. It’s chewier and nuttier than the white varitety but also contains a high amount of starch. This means you will still get a luscious creaminess.


Bring to a boil 1 cup brown rice with 2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 50 minutes. Do not lift the lid until the 50 minutes is up. Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork.

Serve with:

Serve anywhere you would use short-grain white rice. It’s great for a nutrient rich sushi rice substitute.

Rice Varieties

Specialty rice:

I know I said three categories but there’s really so many more. This is where wild rice, Chinese black rice and Wehani rice which is a whole grain rice, would fit. And that’s really just scratching the surface. There are so many more to play around with.

Still want more rice?

Check out this great recipe and primer for a basic risotto. 

Or how about something more exotic? Like Mango Sticky Rice.

Have leftover rice and you don’t know what to do with it? How about freezing it for later? Check out this great tutorial on freezing rice and other grains. 
Arroz con Pollo! Sounds festive, right? It is AND super quick and easy.

Rice Varieties

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