What Is Basmati Rice?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Basmati rice with lemon zest and chives
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Basmati rice (baz-mah-tee) is a type of white rice commonly grown in the Himalayas, India, and Pakistan, with India producing about two-thirds of the world's supply. It is a long-grain rice that is characterized by a light nutty flavor and floral aroma and it's popular in rice pilaf and as a side dish for curry.

Fast Facts

  • Varieties: brown, white
  • Origin: India, Pakistan
  • Common Uses: pilaf, side dish for curries
  • Storage: airtight container in a cool, dry place

Basmati Rice vs. Jasmine Rice

Rice is generally is classified by size into three groups—long-grain, medium-grain, and short-grain. Basmati shares the long grain group with jasmine rice and American long grain. Jasmine rice is most commonly grown and eaten in Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. While it is similarly fragrant to basmati rice, it is much stickier in texture. Basmati rice tends to have fluffy, clean grains, lacking the starch of jasmine rice.

Varieties

Basmati rice is typically available in white and brown varieties. White basmati rice is more common, but brown basmati rice can be found at many health food stores. Brown rice is higher in fiber and has a nuttier, more intense flavor with a stiffer texture. It also has a longer cooking time than white rice.

How to Cook With Basmati Rice

Home cooks have different tricks for cooking perfect rice, but a few steps tend to be included every time. Rinse basmati rice until the water runs mostly clear, letting it drain well. A standard ratio of rice to liquid is one to one and one-half. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover tightly, and simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Some recipes call for the rice to be soaked first, making it more tender, but it is not required.

Basmati rice is very popular served with various Indian curries, as the fluffy grains happily sop up sauces. It is also popular for making rice pilaf, a side dish of grains cooked in a flavored stock and aromatics with other ingredients tossed in like nuts. Pilafs probably originated in India but quickly spread and are now common in many parts of the world.

What Does It Taste Like?

Compared to many other rice varieties, basmati rice is nutty, floral, and a little spicy. It is still mild when compared to other, more flavorful ingredients, but has a fragrant aroma. When cooked properly, the tender grains remain individual and lack stickiness. The rice pairs well with mild and flavorful curries and dishes, complimenting but not overshadowing.

Basmati Rice Recipes

Basmati rice makes a delicious side dish for flavorful dishes or can be spruced up a bit with spices and aromatics. It's perfect for pilafs or making tahdig, a crispy Persian rice dish.

Where to Buy Basmati Rice

Basmati rice can be found with the other dry grains in your supermarket. It is frequently sold in bags of various sizes, from small, one-pound bags up to 20-pound bags. It can also be found in bulk bins, priced per ounce. Basmati rice is more expensive than American long-grain white rice, with the price varying depending on the quality.

For the best quality, look for basmati rice sold in cloth packaging (not plastic) labeled extra-long grain. High quality imported rice can often be found in international and specialty markets, or ordered online. Aged basmati rice tends to result in a better texture and flavor, and is off-white or golden in color rather than stark white. Avoid rice with a gray hue. The grains should be slightly tapered on the ends and never flat.

Storage

Basmati rice can be left in its original packaging if it is tightly sealed and stored in a cool, dark place. It should be used within a few months. For longer storage (up to a year), store in an airtight glass or plastic container. Brown basmati rice should always be stored in an airtight container and will last a few months in the pantry. Stash it in the freezer for a longer shelf life.

For best results, spread any leftover cooked rice onto a baking sheet into a single layer to cool. Add to an airtight container and use within a few days.

Nutrition and Benefits

One cup of basmati rice contains about 200 calories and is almost completely fat-free. It provides about 15 percent of the recommended daily intake of carbohydrates and 4.3 grams of protein. Brown basmati rice is higher in dietary fiber, contributing over 15 percent of the recommended daily intake.