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What is Brown Rice?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Brown rice is rice that has not been hulled, leaving the outer layer of bran on the grain when it is sent to market. The name is a reference to the characteristic brown color of the bran, distinguishing it from white rice, which has been hulled to reveal the white endosperm. Any rice cultivar can be left unhulled, and the rice can be used much like white rice would be in cooking. Some people actively seek out brown rice, because they prefer the higher nutritional value and nutty texture.

Rice is a crucial cereal grass in the genus Oryza. It is heavily cultivated around the world for its nutrition, and it is particularly associated with Asian cuisine. Rice is grown in large water logged paddies, and the grain is cut whole for threshing. During the threshing process, the outer inedible husk of rice is removed to access the nutritious grain inside.

There are three parts to a grain of rice, starting with the outer layer, known as the bran. The bran is high in fiber, and often has a high concentration of nutrients as well. Inside the bran, the germ and the endosperm make up the body of the grain. The germ is a small nubbin on the grain that is often packed with nutrition, since it feeds the grain as it develops. The endosperm makes up the bulk of the volume of the grain.

When the bran layers are left on rice after threshing, the result is brown rice, which is considered a “whole grain” as a result, since it contains all of the edible parts of the rice. Brans actually come in an assortment of colors, ranging from the almost black bran of black rice to reddish brans like those found on wehani rice. Brown rice can come in long and short-grained varieties, and it has a wide range of flavors, depending on the cultivar. As a general rule, it is nuttier than white rice, thanks to the rich bran.

Leaving the bran on does have some negative impacts. The rice takes longer to cook than white rice, since water must penetrate the bran, which is designed to protect the grain inside. Soaking brown rice for several hours can reduce the cooking time greatly. It is also more prone to going rancid, since it is high in natural fats and oils. As a result, it should be kept under refrigeration until used, and it should ideally be used within six months of purchase.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

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

Discussion Comments
By serenesurface — On Nov 13, 2012

@MikeMason-- Brown rice isn't as healthy as people think. It is definitely healthier than white rice because it has more fiber. But overall, both white rice and brown rice have high glycemic index rates. What this means is that they both increase blood sugar rather quickly.

I'm a diabetic and I'm not allowed to eat rice at all-- brown rice or white rice. Pasta and bread is much better than rice.

By donasmrs — On Nov 12, 2012

Throughout most of history, have people been eating brown rice and not the white rice that is common today?

How long has brown rice been around vs white rice?

By stoneMason — On Nov 11, 2012

I don't like brown rice, it doesn't taste very good and the texture is a lot harder.

I eat regular white rice everyday, I love it. I wanted to switch to whole grain brown rice since it's healthier and I don't want to gain weight. But I just can't get myself to eat it. Brown rice tastes so different from white rice and it takes forever to cook. I don't enjoy the flavor of brown rice at all.

By feasting — On Aug 31, 2012

I like to eat brown rice and kidney beans. I boil the rice first, and I add a can of kidney beans during the last five minutes, since they are basically already cooked.

I season the water in the pot with beef bouillon. This gives the rice and beans a hint of meaty flavor without the actual beef.

By OeKc05 — On Aug 30, 2012

@shell4life – I used to feel that way, too, but after my neighbor showed me how to make brown rice taste good, I learned to love it. If you just boil it in water without adding anything extra, it won't have a lot of nice flavor.

It takes about thirty-five to forty-five minutes to cook brown rice. This is one reason why a lot of people prefer white rice, since some varieties can be cooked in just five minutes. However, if you are willing to wait for the brown rice to boil, you will get a much more nutritious meal from it.

My neighbor told me to add lemon juice and various herbs to the pot during the last ten minutes of boiling. He used herbs de Provence, but you can use just about any that you choose.

He also told me to sautee the rice in a skillet with a little bit of oil and some chopped onions after it had finished boiling and I had drained it. The onions really pump up the flavor of the rice.

By shell4life — On Aug 29, 2012

Brown rice offers more nutrition than white rice, but that doesn't make it taste any better. I don't like the flavor of brown rice at all.

To me, it tastes a little like cardboard. There is something that just doesn't seem edible about it, and I can't quite place what that is.

By cloudel — On Aug 28, 2012

Wow, I didn't know that brown rice would go rancid so quickly! I have some that has been in my cupboard for over a year, so I guess I should get rid of that! I will make it a point to only buy brown rice right before I am about to use it.

By watson42 — On Jan 22, 2011

@anon113791, you seem a little confused on your terms. Brown rice and wild rice are generally seen as different varieties. However, wild rice might grow more easily in your area than brown rice, as it is usually easier to cultivate. I imagine most plant nurseries might have ideas, or if there is a college nearby they are likely to have a biology department with at least one resident botanist to answer your question as well.

By anon113791 — On Sep 26, 2010

Where could I find brown wild rice organic seed to cover a water logged clay area of about 100 square m. in between two dams. It would be for visual effect and to attract birdlife.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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