Now, You're Cooking with Brown Rice!

brown rice
Alice Henneman
, MS, RDN, UNL Extension in Lancaster County

With almost 2 grams of healthy fiber and just over 100 calories per half cup … have you tried the nutty flavor of brown rice?

What's more, whole grains — such as brown rice — may help reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, and may even contribute to maintaining a healthy weight.

Brown rice takes longer to cook than regular white rice (about 45 minutes vs. 15 or 20 minutes). However, it's easy to cook a larger batch and enjoy more than one meal for your effort.

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Rice Recipes:

Storing Brown Rice

Cooked brown rice can be stored, covered tightly, in a shallow container in the refrigerator for 4 days. It will maintain good quality in the freezer for 6 months but will remain safe in the freezer as long as the temperature remains at 0 degrees F or lower.  After cooked rice has cooled in the refrigerator, transfer it to plastic freezer bags in quantities needed for future meals. Label with the date and quantity.

Because of the oil in its bran layer, uncooked brown rice has a shorter shelf life than white rice and maintains its quality for about six months. For longer storage, refrigerate or freeze uncooked brown rice.

IMPORTANT! Refrigerate extra cooked rice in shallow containers as it cools faster in the refrigerator. It's OK to refrigerate foods while they're still warm. Perishable cooked foods, such as rice, shouldn't be left at room temperature longer than TWO hours TOTAL time.

For thicker foods — such as rice, soups, hot puddings, etc. — limit depth of food to 2 inches. Loosely cover the rice. This allows heat to escape and protects from accidental contamination from other foods during cooling. Cover tightly when cooled. Plan to use within 4 days.

Preparing Brown Rice

Brown rice may be used instead of white rice in many recipes. It tastes especially good in salads, stuffing, stews and vegetarian dishes. Brown rice is available in three sizes:

  • Long-grain rice: produces light, dry grains that separate easily.
  • Short-grain rice: yields fat, almost round grains with a higher starch content than the other two varieties; the grains stick together when cooked.
  • Medium-grain rice: has a size and characteristics between the other two rice varieties.

Follow package directions for preparing brown rice. Brown rice may be cooked  top of range, in a regular or microwave oven or with a rice cooker.

Tips on Selecting a Rice Cooker

If cooking rice seems like too much fuss and an uncertain outcome, consider trying a rice cooker.rice cooker

A rice cooker features an inner pan that rests above a heating element. Specific ratios of water and rice are added to the cooker. Rice cookers determine when the rice is done by sensing the temperature of the inner pan.

Helpful features include:

  • Glass lid to view cooking process
  • Hole in lid so steam escapes
  • Nonstick pan

Pointers to successfully use a rice cooker include:

  • Read the directions that come with your rice cooker to learn how much rice and liquid to use for different types of rice. Check how long rice may be left in the cooker on the "keep warm" setting.
  • Be aware when the rice cooker directions refer to "cups" of rice, they usually refer to the cup or scoop that comes with the cooker. This may be smaller than a typical 8-ounce cup.

Tips for Making "perfect rice" (USA Rice Federation)

  • Keep the lid on the pot while cooking rice to prevent loss of steam.
  • Use the correct size of cookware — rice will triple in volume.
  • Avoid stirring rice while it is cooking. This releases starch and makes the rice sticky. Another tip, if more separate grains are desired: Sauté rice in a small amount of butter or margarine before adding the liquid.
  • Test for doneness at the end of the cooking time. Cook 2 to 4 minutes longer if the rice isn't tender or the liquid isn't absorbed. If the rice is crunchy, it may be necessary to add more liquid before cooking longer.
  • At the end of cooking, fluff the rice with a fork. This allows the steam to escape and helps separate the grains.

Reheating Rice for Another Meal

Reheated rice tastes comparable to when it was first prepared. The USA Rice Federation gives these recommendations for reheating rice. Also, cooked rice may be tossed directly into soups.

Add 2 tablespoons of liquid per cup of rice:

  • For Top of Range. Cover and heat about 5 minutes until heated throughout. Use low heat for best results. The amount of time may vary slightly depending on how much you're reheating. Fluff with fork.
  • For Microwave. Cover and cook on HIGH about 1 minute per cup. Cook frozen rice 2 minutes on HIGH for each cup. Fluff with fork.

Rice Recipes

MEXICAN SKILLET RICE (featured recipe)

Mexican Rice Skillet(6 servings)

  • 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 16-ounce can pinto beans, drained
  • 2 4-ounce cans diced green chiles
  • 1 medium fresh tomato, seeded and chopped (optional)
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)
  1. In large skillet over medium-high heat, cook meat until brown, stirring to crumble; drain. Return meat to skillet.
  2. Add onion, chili powder, cumin and salt; cook until onion is tender.
  3. Stir in rice, beans and chiles; thoroughly heat.
  4. Top with tomato and garnish with cilantro if desired. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts per serving: Calories, 313; Total Fat, 9g; Cholesterol, 29 mg; Sodium, 340 mg; Total Carbohydrate, 43 g; Dietary Fiber, 6 g; Protein,17 g

SOURCE: Recipe courtesy of the USA Rice Federation. For more information about rice, visit


  1. If desired, lower the sodium further by cutting back or omitting the salt, especially if your beans are canned with salt.
  2. When I tried freezing some of this recipe for later use, I was quite pleased with the results. As I was reheating it in the microwave at work, several people commented on how good it smelled!

Links to Additional Brown Rice Recipes


STIR-IN'S: The USA Rice Federation offers several suggestions for quick "stir-in's" to use rice for everything from entrees to side dishes, salads and desserts. Here are some of their suggestions using common kitchen ingredients.

  1. Dried cranberries, chopped pecans, sliced green onions, and Parmesan cheese
  2. Thawed frozen peas and chopped smoked ham
  3. Chopped roasted chicken, toasted sliced almonds, sliced green onions, and orange marmalade
  4. Scrambled eggs, chopped Canadian bacon, and chopped chives
  5. Orange segments, toasted sliced almonds, and sliced green onions
  6. Granola, vanilla yogurt, and golden raisins
  7. Butter, lemon zest, and fresh lemon juice
  8. Minced garlic and mushrooms sautéed in butter
  9. Diced tomatoes, sliced green onions, and shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
  10. Vanilla ice cream and a dash of cinnamon
  11. Scrambled eggs, crumbled sausage, cream cheese cubes, and sliced green onions
  12. Yogurt and fresh fruit
  13. Zucchini and carrot "matchsticks" sautéed in butter, and Parmesan cheese
  14. Sliced apples sautéed in butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, chopped nuts, and vanilla yogurt
  15. Thawed frozen corn, mild green chiles, and sour cream