What is Black Rice?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Black rice is a heirloom variety of glutinous rice cultivated in Asia. It is typically sold as an unmilled rice, meaning the the fiber-rich black husks of the rice are not removed. The unusual color makes it very popular for desserts, and the high nutritional value is an added benefit. This rice is often served with fresh fruit such as mangoes and lychees, especially when drizzled with a fruit or rice syrup.

Black rice is also known as forbidden rice.
Black rice is also known as forbidden rice.

Soaking and cooking reveals the true color of this rice, which is actually a rich purple to burgundy, though the grains do appear to be black when they are uncooked. The natural color of the rice will dye foods added to it, such as coconut milk. It can also be eaten with entree courses, although this is less common. This grain is often used to make Chinese desserts, though it is also popular in many other Asian nations, all of which have their own special names for the product.

Different types of rice, including black rice.
Different types of rice, including black rice.

Several things distinguish black rice from other cultivars. It tends not to be very glutinous, although it will sometimes be treated so that it is less sticky. It also has a very rich, slightly sweet, strongly nutty flavor. The rice is naturally high in iron, which causes the dense purple color, and it is also high in fiber, since the bran is left on the rice. It is also rich in a variety of other valuable vitamins and minerals.

Like other unmilled rice, black rice takes longer to cook than traditional husked rice. It should also ideally be stored under refrigeration and used within three months, to prevent spoilage. Rinsing and soaking the rice before cooking will help to bring the cooking time down. As a general rule, black rice should be cooked with two cups of water to every one cup of rice, and it will need to cook for 20 to 30 minutes after soaking, or 60 minutes if cooked unsoaked. When black rice is used in desserts, it is sometimes cooked with a mixture of coconut milk, sugar, and water to form a sweet, sticky, pudding-like rice.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Black rice is pronounced 'hey mi' in mandarin, or 'hey zi mi' as in purple rice. When black rice is cooked, it turns purple -- a royal color reserved only for the Chinese emperor, and hence forbidden to the general public, although the word 'forbidden' is never literally used. It is now labeled as "forbidden rice" just for marketing hype.


Costco now carries black rice.


You can get black rice at any chinatown food store in big sacks relatively inexpensively. You can also get boxed black rice at specialty food stores, but these tend to be very expensive.


I found black rice in our local Fresh Market food store. I like the crunchy texture and somewhat nutty flavor black rice gives to brown rice when cooked together.


This article provided a different side of black rice. Most information concerning this food discusses its supposed health value, although in my research I am seeing that a lot of this nutritional value is unbiased. This is because the antioxidants are destroyed by enzymes and acids in the stomach.

Based on this, I think black rice needs to be touted as a unique food source that has many benefits, but not so many as we'd like to think. Thanks for the post.


I have only found black rice in Korean groceries. It's very tasty and healthy.


I first had Black rice in Vienna. It was amazingly delicious. Am in the U.S. trying to find out where to purchase it.


Cantonese pronunciation is haak mai.


What are the Cantonese and Mandarin names (with pronuniation please) for forbidden rice?

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