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What is Forbidden Rice?

By Bronwyn Harris
Updated May 16, 2024
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Many people think of rice as being white, or sometimes brown. Rice is actually available in a stunning palette of shades, from white to brown to red, to a deep purple-black color. Forbidden rice is one type of black rice, which turns to a deep purple when it is cooked. Its rich color makes an impressive addition to any dish, and turns the water it is cooked in a dark purple.

The black color of uncooked forbidden rice is due to its outer coating of black bran. This also gives the rice a rich nutty flavor when it is cooked, and adds to its nutrition, as the bran provides important dietary fiber. Also known as Chinese black rice, this food is especially popular with vegans and vegetarians, but is beginning to gain popularity with a larger demographic.

Forbidden rice provides other nutrients, including the amino acids common to most rice varietals. It contains phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, which provide antioxidants and other health benefits. In addition, this rice provides many minerals important for human health, including iron.

This black rice is a type of heirloom rice, meaning that it is open-pollinated, was grown at earlier times in history, and not grown on a large scale in modern agriculture. Forbidden rice can be found at many health food stores or organic food stores. It can also sometimes be found in Asian markets.

Forbidden rice may have gotten its name because only emperors in ancient China were allowed to eat it, due to its rarity and high nutritional value. Another possibility for the origin of its name is the possibility that the Greeks banned the rice when they conquered the Middle East. They may have done this believing that the rice somehow helped their enemies in battle. The alternate name of emperor's rice seems to back up the first theory, but the name may have followed the theory.

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.

Discussion Comments

By anon993513 — On Nov 20, 2015

We use black rice as a pudding type thing, like rice pudding. It's soaked overnight then boiled till cooked with some palm sugar or "gula melaka" to taste, and in the last few minutes, coconut milk is added to make it creamy. During boiling, we tie a knot of pandan (screwpine) leaf in which gives the dessert a fragrance.

By anon336710 — On May 31, 2013

You can buy black or "forbidden" rice at Wal-Mart online as well as amazon if you are not near an asian market. The price isn't expensive.

By anon254334 — On Mar 12, 2012

I just discovered black rice just a few months ago and now I'm cooking it every day. I mix it with white rice and they are delicious. My son thinks it's awesome. I bought it in the chinese store in Edmonton.

By anon238554 — On Jan 04, 2012

But you forgot to mention about the unique aroma of this black forbidden rice.

By anon123990 — On Nov 04, 2010

You can find any kind of rice in China town.

If you're not used to eating rice, but like to have its nutrition then you can add flavor them this way. After steaming the rice, put some cheese on it and stir it. then the rice becomes tasty.

Black rice is normally steamed in water and the add some oil to make it less sticky. (olive oil would be best). Mix coconut milk with sugar and it put on the black rice and serve the way you serve pancakes.

By anon87608 — On May 31, 2010

Just used it as a part of a dish. Fantastic really. I tried making it a few days ago but failed due to the fact I had never boiled rice before and it seems to take longer then the box advised(20-25 minutes).

Today I boiled it for nearly 35 minutes and it seemed a lot better. I personally used shrimp and blue cheese sauce(a bit of onion; garlic; soy sauce and carrots) which I topped off the rice with.

Got to say I've never tested rice like this before and it was a welcome change. It seems to be easy to find in large supermarkets in Europe. It almost has the taste of cooked wheat and tastes unlike other rice I've cooked at all.

By anon78909 — On Apr 20, 2010

I had a lot of white rice with black rice grains when I was working in Korea. I just bought some at the whole foods and made it with sticky rice in my rice cooker. I used "sushi" rice with 10 percent "black" rice. It tints the surrounding rice a purple color.

It also adds a slightly nutty taste to the chewy white rice. I got mine at whole foods. Yep, it was rare because it's in a fancy little bottle and it was expensive! Can't wait to try it with steamed brown rice.

By anon67413 — On Feb 24, 2010

tried it in Manila, philippines and now in Davao. Great taste. Never saw it in U.S.A

By anon67296 — On Feb 24, 2010

I'm an American, retired, and living in the Philippines in Southeast Asia. Naturally, everyone eats tons of the white rice here.

My wife and I found black rice at the Marquee mall in Angeles City here. Wow! It sure is good! Cost here is P45.00 per kilo or about $1.00us for 2.2 pounds. Now I love rice and even my Filipina wife and daughter are hooked on it too.

By anon67166 — On Feb 23, 2010

I hear Lundberg Family Farms sells a similar product. the best part? It is organic.

By anon59300 — On Jan 07, 2010

I found Forbidden Rice at "NatureTyme" in Syacause New York. An incredible health foods / vitamin shop.

By anon59167 — On Jan 06, 2010

We buy our whole grain brown rice online, but I don't think they carry this - I'll ask.

By anon51615 — On Nov 07, 2009

I found forbidden rice on closeout sale in my market, bought it and were we ever shocked. This rice is incredible. It feels like you are eating real food. What a delicious nutty flavor.

By anon45818 — On Sep 20, 2009

to anon40315, where did you find the rice blend?

By anon40315 — On Aug 07, 2009

While purchasing brown rice, I came across a rice blend of brown, whole oats, red and forbidden rice stating all ingredients were natural - so I tried and loved the product - was shocked that the finished cooked product was black. Later researched it and am 'hooked'. Q

By MSeif — On Jan 02, 2008

I think it's difficult for me to eat that kind of rice especially when I see its black color before cooking it.

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