What is Red Rice?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A number of different rices are referred to as “red rice.” In most cases, people mean an unhulled or partially hulled rice which has a red husk, rather than the much more common brown. Like other unhulled rices, red rice has a nutty flavor, and a high nutritional value, thanks to the fact that the germ of the rice is left intact. Some specialty stores carry red rice, often labeled as “Bhutanese red rice” or “cargo rice,” and it can also be purchased through companies which specialize in rice.

Red rice.
Red rice.

However, “red rice” can also refer to a wild variety of rice which has a very low grain yield, leading many rice farmers in its native Asia to regard it as a weed. This type of red rice can become a real nuisance next to rice plantations, because it can cross-breed, producing inferior rice plants, and it can take over. Several attempts have been made to genetically modify this rice varietal to make it more useful.

Different types of rice, including red cargo rice.
Different types of rice, including red cargo rice.

The term “red rice” is also sometimes used to refer to red yeast rice, a specialized product made in China and Japan. To make red yeast rice, manufacturers hull and polish rice grains and then cultivate a mold which creates a crusty red coating. This rice can be eaten like regular rice, but it is also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat a variety of conditions. Studies on red yeast rice also seem to suggest that it may help fight harmful cholesterol.

Assuming one is not referring to a weed or to red yeast rice, red rice comes in a variety of forms. Some cultivars are short grained and very sticky, while others are long-grained. Red rice is grown in Europe, Southeast Asia, and the American South, and some companies have developed their own cultivars by cross-breeding several varieties.

When red rice is cooked, the natural red color in the bran, or hull of the rice, leaches out and dyes the rest of the dish red to pink. Red rice is high in fiber, because of the bran, and the flavor is much stronger than that of hulled rice, tasting more nutty and full. Red rice can be served with a variety of foods in addition to being eaten on its own, and it can be incorporated into risotto and other mixed rice dishes as well.

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


I get red rice that's grown in France, from Sainsburys in UK. I'm sure other supermarkets sell it also. It's superior in every way to any kind of white.


@anon68766: You can buy Sri Lankan red rice at most Asian stores in the UK. We go to Tooting and buy ours there.


Filipino Seafood Store in Suisun City, CA has the red rice.


Two types of red rice are available online from Vitacost.


They have started selling Red Rice in Tesco Surrey Quays, SE London. Very reasonably priced too.


Where can you buy it in Australia?


On questions of health: I just watched a mini-video online that explains a scientific study on the nutritional value of brown, black and red rice. Red rice had significantly more antioxidants than the other two types. Black rice had more than brown.


how true is it that the red rice is lower in sugar than the white rice?


I have been using (bhutanese) red rice here in Australia for years and find it the best rice ever - it's in all asian supermarkets and stores, is cheap and extremely good for you (so my doc says) - sushi restaurants are now using it and I can't recommend it enough.


Asian markets have it but I also just found it here last night in Walmart! (canada)


red rice is very good for the people who have diabetes. i eat it regularly at supper. it's very cheap here in pakistan. --karachi m.


Correction to my previous post. It should have read "by" USDA. Because red rice contains Lovastatin (a prescription drug used to lower "bad" cholesterol).


We bought some Red Rice in the Camargue (southern France) in October 2010. It was taken away and destroyed by US Customs upon our return. They told us it was considered harmful to US Agriculture.


For those of you in the west coast, you can find red cargo rice at Ranch 99 Supermarket. I made some for my family tonight and they loved it. It's softer than brown rice.


Nutritionally is red rice better than brown rice?

Do they polish the red rice like they do the brown rice?


Me and my kids have been eating red rice for more than six years. It's a bit more pricey than even the high-end rice varieties but it is more delicious, nutritious and filling. Quite heavy on the tummy so you don't have to eat a lot to feel full. I like the glutinous texture too. I mix it up with a little white rice so it doesn't come out as too sticky. Enjoy! -claire c.d.


Red rice is a weed in Louisiana and other parts of the southern US where rice is grown commercially. It interferes with yields of desirable rice varieties.


For those in the US, there's some red rice at the 99 cent store in Las Vegas. It looks good too, packaged nicely. Healthy Gourmet brand. Marc


Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton, Manchester sells it and it's delicious!


In Seattle, WA, red rice is available in several Asian markets. I will ask some of my friends in London if it's available there. Not sure what part of the UK you're referring to so likely my information will be of little help. I am sorry.


I am just back from Sri Lanka where I was served red rice and was told it was good for diabetes. I brought some back with me and have cooked with it. I like it. But I don't know where I can buy it in the UK.


Mmmm. What a great, and healthier alternative to white rice! I wonder which is better for you: red rice or brown rice?

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