What Is Jasmine Rice?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

A tahdig rice dish with added cherries

Stephen Howard / Wikimedia Commons / CC ASA 2.0

Do you love rice but get bored using the same white or brown varieties in every dish? If so, it's time you discovered the beauty of jasmine rice. 

Jasmine rice is a long-grain variety of Oryza sativa, commonly known as Asian rice, that grows mostly in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. It's widely consumed throughout Asia, India, and the Middle East, where rice is a main staple of the diet and plays a central role in almost every meal. It is also exported throughout the world and represents an important economic commodity for the countries that produce it. Jasmine rice has a unique aroma, flavor, and texture that distinguishes it from every other type of rice.

Fast Facts

·     Shelf life: Very long, but best consumed young

·     Also known as: Fragrant rice

·     Varieties: White, brown, and black

·     Origin: Primarily Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam

·     Aroma: Floral and buttered popcorn

Jasmine Rice vs. Basmati Rice

Jasmine rice is sometimes called "fragrant rice," and the fresher it is, the more aromatic it will be. It gets the name "jasmine," however, not from its fragrance but from its color, which resembles the color of a jasmine flower. You may notice that it is very similar to basmati, another long-grain variety that is the most widely used rice in India and Pakistan. But jasmine rice does not have as strong a flavor or as firm a texture as basmati, and basmati does not have as pronounced an aroma or as fine a grain as jasmine. Jasmine rice is the one to use when you want rice with a sweet and nutty flavor, a distinctive aroma, and delicate consistency.

Varieties

The vast majority of jasmine rice is the polished white version, with the hull and all of the bran removed. However, as with most types of rice, there is also a brown version of jasmine that is hulled but still has the bran, and there is even a rare black jasmine. All three have the same basic characteristics of pronounced aroma and nutty flavor. The brown jasmine, however, has more vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants due to the bran. Some people maintain that black jasmine rice is nicknamed forbidden rice because it was reserved exclusively for the nobility and upper classes, and forbidden to everyone else. Black jasmine rice has significantly higher amounts of protein, iron, and fiber than both the brown and white versions, and it is also much higher in anthocyanins.

Jasmine Rice Uses

The type of jasmine rice you use and what you are using if for—side dish or in a soup or stir-fry—will determine how best to use the rice. Brown jasmine rice should be presoaked in warm water for a longer period of time in order to soften the bran. Black jasmine, on the other hand, is best steamed or, if boiling, rinsed rather than soaked in order to retain more of its distinctive color. Brown and black versions will require longer cooking time, and both pair best with richer, earthier foods because they have more body and less delicacy than the white version.

How to Cook With Jasmine Rice

Cooking jasmine rice is just as easy as cooking any other variety. Ideally, jasmine rice should be steamed rather than boiled to retain its fluffy texture, but it can successfully be boiled as well. If you do boil it, use slightly more water than rice—the standard ratio is 1.5 parts water to 1 part rice. Bring the rice and water to a boil together, then lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook gently until all the water is absorbed. Jasmine rice can also be prepared in a rice cooker.

Whichever method you use, jasmine rice should be rinsed or even presoaked before cooking. Soaking the rice beforehand will significantly decrease the cooking time.

Jasmine rice is a great base for stir-fries or as a side dish for grilled, fried, or slow-cooked food like roasts and stews. If you are using it for fried rice, you might find it a bit soggy if freshly cooked, so for this type of preparation, cook the rice a day or so before and refrigerate until needed. If you plan to use jasmine rice in soups, leave it a bit dryer by using less water when cooking it.

What Does It Taste Like?

Jasmine rice has a sweet and nutty flavor and a distinctive aroma of buttered popcorn and fragrant flowers. It does not stick together the way many other glutinous "sticky" varieties do, and has a light, fluffy, delicate texture. It pairs beautifully with the spices used in many Asian and Middle Eastern dishes, and is the rice most commonly used in Persian (Iranian) cuisine.

Jasmine Rice Substitute

If jasmine rice is not available, basmati is the closet substitute, but almost any other long-grain rice will do. However, the flavor, aroma, and texture will be different.

Jasmine Rice Recipes

Whether you are using it in a stir-fry, as a side, or in a soup, jasmine rice will lend its special qualities to whatever you prepare. Just remember to rinse or soak it first and, if it is going to be further cooked in a stir-fry or soup, use a bit less water when cooking so the rice is slightly undercooked.

Where to Buy Jasmine Rice

Jasmine rice can be found at most supermarkets, Middle Eastern and Asian grocers, or through online vendors. Most any outlet that sells rice should carry jasmine rice as well. If you are looking for the more unusual brown jasmine rice or the even rarer black version, you will have to look in specialty food shops or online specialty vendors.

Note: Many purveyors sell rice in large bags and some even sell it in bulk. Larger quantities usually mean lower cost by weight, and rice can theoretically be stored forever. However, one of the unique features of jasmine rice is its aroma, and this fades over time, especially if you are frequently opening and closing the container, exposing the rice to air. Therefore, the fresher the rice is, the more aromatic it will be. Some aroma fanatics even seek out "vintage" jasmine rice, where the best vintage in this case is the one from the most recent harvest. If, on the other hand, you are a bargain fanatic and come across a too-good-to-pass-up deal on a larger quantity, divide the contents into individual quart-sized airtight containers and keep them closed until needed.

Storage

The best way to store jasmine rice is to put it in a plastic bag, place the sealed bag in an airtight container, and keep it in a cool, dry place. Stored in this way, the rice can last indefinitely; however, the sooner you use it, the more aromatic it will be.

Nutrition and Benefits

Rice is a primary staple food for more than half of the world's population. It is mainly carbohydrate (10% daily value), in the form of starch, with a moderate amount of protein (5% DV) and low fat (0% DV). These basic values are pretty much the same for both white and brown rice, regardless of the type. Remember that most every type of rice—jasmine included—has two subtypes, depending on how it is processed: a brown version with the hull and bran intact and a white version, where the hull is removed and the grain polished to remove the bran. Brown jasmine rice has a significantly higher amount of antioxidants (which have been linked to lower risks of heart disease and diabetes), important vitamins and minerals (such as niacin, thiamin, manganese, and magnesium), and fiber than the polished white version has. Note that some of the beneficial compounds that are removed with the bran and hull can be added back to the polished white rice, which is indicated by the term "enriched" on the package. Black jasmine rice is even higher in antioxidants and minerals than brown jasmine rice.