Have you been enticed by the appearance of black rice in some of your favorite dishes or on grocery store shelves? If so, you’re definitely not alone. The mysterious, antioxidant-rich grain, also known as the “forbidden rice,” packs a heavy nutritional punch, is rich in anthocyanins (the antioxidant known for giving blueberries a deep-blue hue), and, like brown rice, is a whole grain.
According to genetic research, black rice, like all other cultivated rice (Oryza sativa), comes from a single crop in China about 10,000 years ago. However, more recent research indicates the 21 varieties of black rice may have roots in Japan.
Either way, it is fairly tricky to grow, with yields typically only about 10% the size of other varieties. This made it exclusive and expensive. Oral history suggests it was only available to rich dignitaries for centuries. Now, of course, it’s available everywhere.
There are multiple varieties of black rice. Some types are sticky and glutinous, while others are not.
A few examples include:
- Black sticky rice: long grain, glutinous, and often used in Thai deserts or mixed in with white sticky rice.
- Chinese black rice: firm, not sticky and often eaten as porridge or congee.
- Indonesian black rice
- Philippine batinlaw rice
- Thai jasmine black rice
Black Rice Nutrition Facts
¼ cup, steamed
|Iron||0.7 mg (4% DV)|
Although black rice has more protein and fiber than red, brown, or white rice, what really sets it apart are the anthocyanins. Research has uncovered that a specific gene went “haywire,” ultimately prompting the grain to produce very high levels of anthocyanins.
The anthocyanins are considered to be naturally occurring—however, only through a genetic mutation that was kept alive by farmers crossbreeding this “mutant” crop. It is this unique characteristic that provides healthy black rice benefits.
Potential Health Benefits of Black Rice
Another name for black rice is “emperor’s rice.” In China, it was believed to have healing and health-promoting capabilities, and was reserved for the emperor to promote longevity. The rice’s history of healing has lasted centuries, largely due to its high levels of anthocyanins.
It’s important to note that black rice isn’t necessarily “healthier” than brown rice. Brown rice has more vitamin E, and there is slight variation in a number of nutrients.
If you’re not already eating black rice, don’t feel like you have to make a wholesale swap—working it in every once in a while as a grain option is fine. Also, if you’re eating berries and other antioxidant-rich foods, you’re likely getting the benefits of anthocyanins.
1. Promotes Heart Health
Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants associated with lower inflammation and a reduced risk of heart attacks or cardiovascular disease. Black rice may be a better source of anthocyanins than heart-healthy blueberries, and can be useful for those interested in maintaining heart health. Black rice is also a good source of fiber, which can help promote healthy arteries, lower blood pressure, and reduced cholesterol.
2. May Benefit Brain Health
What’s good for the heart is almost always good for the brain. Anthocyanin antioxidants can fight against free radicals and inflammation, which can help reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Skin and Eye Health
Black rice is a decent source of vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant that plays a role in skin and eye health. There is also evidence suggesting it contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that are vital for eye health and preventing age-related macular degeneration.
4. Helps Control Blood Sugar
Black rice, like other whole-grain rice, has a low-glycemic index, meaning it does not cause high spikes in blood sugar. This can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, manage blood sugar levels, and provide an extended supply of energy.
How to Cook Black Rice
Cooking black rice is pretty similar to brown rice, and can be done in a few ways. No matter what, you’ll need a water-to-rice ratio of 2:1. To boil, add the rice once the water is boiling, before simmering and covering until the rice is tender and the water has been absorbed.
The biggest difference, really, is that it will take about 10 minutes longer to cook than other rice varieties, bringing cook time somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes.
Cooking methods also depend on which type you’re using. Black sticky rice, for example, should be steamed. Non-glutinous forms, on the other hand, can be prepared in the same manner as brown rice.
Black Rice Recipes
1. Almond-Coconut Black Rice Porridge
1 cup water
3/4 cup black rice, soaked overnight
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup coconut milk (additional for serving)
Coarse sea salt, pinch
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1 banana, sliced (for serving)
- Place pre-soaked, drained, and rinsed black rice in a medium-sized pot. Add water, almond milk, coconut milk, and salt. Bring rice mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer (covered) for an hour, stirring every 10 minutes. For a thinner consistency, add more water or almond milk towards the end of cooking.
- As the porridge is cooking, place a frying pan over medium heat and add coconut flakes. Toast lightly, stirring constantly for about three or four minutes, or until golden brown and fragrant.
- Transfer black rice porridge to bowls, top with sliced banana and toasted coconut, and drizzle with coconut milk.
2. Baked Cauliflower Forbidden Rice
3 cups black rice, cooked
1 large, free-range egg
1 cup breadcrumbs (panko)
1 small head of cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized florets
2 tbsp cornstarch
6 tbsp orange juice (juice of 11/2 oranges)
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp ketchup
1/4 tsp ginger, minced
1/2 tsp hot sauce (sriracha)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 green onions, sliced
1 tsp sesame seeds
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Whisk the egg in a small mixing bowl. Then in a separate bowl, add breadcrumbs. Submerge each bite-sized cauliflower floret in the egg mixture, then into the breadcrumbs, coating well.
- Place cauliflower on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining florets.
- Bake until cauliflower is golden brown and crunchy (15 to 20 minutes).
- As the cauliflower cooks, whisk together cornstarch and one tablespoon of water in a small bowl; set aside. In a small pot, mix together orange juice, honey, rice vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, ginger, sriracha, and garlic. Bring sauce to a low boil, stirring constantly. Stir in cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil again. Continue stirring until sauce has thickened (one to two minutes).
- Warm up cooked rice if necessary, top with cauliflower, and drizzle with sauce. Sprinkle with green onion slices and sesame seeds.
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