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Pantry 101: What’s the difference between long-grain and short-grain rice?

Demystify one of the world’s most common grains — while adding a little variety to the pantry.

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long-grain versus short-grain rice

Super-versatile rice is a pantry—and meal-time—staple. You can’t make risotto, jambalaya or rice pudding without it, but do you know always know which type of rice you should be using for each recipe? White or brown, short-grain or long, each type adds a different flavour, texture or nutritional element to your cooking, so it’s important to have an idea of what’s what when you’re in the dry goods aisle. Here’s the long and short of it:

Long-grain rice
About three times longer than it is wide, these grain varieties hold their shape well after cooking, with the softened grains remaining relatively separate. Depending on the variety, they can be milled to remove the entire germ and bran layers (white rice), or less processed to maintain a higher nutrient value (brown rice).

Varieties

  • White: Refined during the milling process to remove outer germ and bran, this is your standard rice.
    Try it: Tangy fried rice.
  • Jasmine: Largely produced in Thailand, this long-grain rice has a naturally occurring floral aroma. Slightly stickier in texture when cooked than regular white rice, it is perfect for stir-fries, as well as pairing with many Thai and Chinese dishes.
    Try it: Pork adobo with jasmine rice.
  • Basmati: This long grain variety is another aromatic rice, often aged to further develop its distinct flavour (it has a nutty rather than floral scent). Largely produced in India and Pakistan, the name originates from the Sanskrit word vasmati, for “fragrant”.
    Try it: Artichoke and shrimp pilaf.
  • Brown: This whole-grain variety is found in both long and short lengths, and is milled to remove only the outer hull, leaving the germ and brown bran layers.
    Cooking tip: Brown rice typically takes two to three times longer to cook than white rice.
    Try it: Ginger-shrimp brow rice bowl.
  • Parboiled: Partially boiled in the husk, this rice is processed so it will cook more quickly while remaining firmer and less sticky. Generally felt to be less flavourful, with different texture.
  • Instant/Quick rice: Cooked and dehydrated before purchase. While it decreases cook time significantly, like parboiled rice, many feel it loses flavour and firmness as a result of extra processing.

Related: Is the Instant Pot worth the hype? We tested it 8 different ways


Short-grain rice
As the name implies, these grains are shorter, with a slightly rounded kernel. When cooked, they often have a sticky (rather than fluffy and separate) texture. They’re the preferred choice for risottos, sushi rice and rice puddings.

Varieties

  • Arborio rice: These short, round grains are Italian in origin. When cooked, they become creamy and soft, making them an ideal choice for savoury risottos and sweet puddings.
    Try it: Classic risotto with shrimp and sweet peas.
  • Sushi or ‘sticky’ rice: A more glutinous rice, the sticky nature of these grains (when cooked) allows for manipulation and shaping — making it ideal for homemade sushi rolls or wraps.
    Cooking tip: To preserve shape, this rice is best when steamed, rather than boiled.
    Try it: Sushi pizza.
  • Black grain rice: A short to medium-grain rice with a black outer bran layer. High in fibre and antioxidants, it has a similar flavour to brown rice and turns to dark purple when cooked.
    Try it: Black rice pudding.

Originally published March 2016, updated April 2017. 

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