Cooking rice and other types of grains

Rice and other types of grains are used world wide, in many different dishes.

Knowing how to cook them can increase the range of meals you can prepare, so let's start with rice itself.

Types of Rice

Rice, can be categorized as either short, medium or long grain. Normally, short grain is used for puddings and long grain for savory meals. Medium grain rice can be used for either, but is commonly used for dishes such as paella or risotto.

So let's cover the varieties in a little more detail before we learn how to cook rice.

Did you know that rice can actually come in lots of different colours? In addition to white and brown rice you can also find red, black, purple and even blue!

Left to right - long grain rice, Arborio and brown rice

Long grain white rice

This has had the husk and bran removed and it has been polished. The grains remain separate and fluffy, if cooked correctly. There are a number of varieties that are generally known as long grain, including...

  • Patna Rice - from India, a mild, neutral flavour for general purposes
  • Basmati - Himalayan rice, aromatic, often served with curries
  • Carolina - an American long grain rice, rather bland
  • Jasmine - A Thai version of Basmati, aromatic, slightly sticky
  • Easy Cook or Minute Rice - precooked, inexpensive but bland

Leftover long grain rice can be used in fried rice.

Long grain brown rice

As with brown or wholewheat flour, brown rice contains the whole grain (apart from the very tough husk) and the bran gives it a nutty flavour. It is the most nutritious of all the rice types.

It does take longer to cook than white rice, in fact roughly twice as long! And even when cooked correctly it may still seem a little chewy. When cooking rice of this type you need to be aware that it will absorb a lot more water than other varieties.

Medium Grain rice

  • Spanish or Valencia - used in paella
  • Arborio rice - medium to short grain rice, absorbs lots of liquid

Arborio rice is used in creamy risotto recipes.

Short or round grain rice

This is normally used for milky rice puddings as it is a sticky grain. It is also used for the Turkish recipe Dolmas, which uses a rice stuffing for vine leaves and can be used in risottos, if Arborio rice is unavailable.

Glutinous (or Sushi rice), despite its name does not contain gluten. It is used in Asia for Sushi and desserts. The grains stick together when cooked.

Wild Rice

This isn't actually a type of rice, but the grain from a grass that grows wild in parts of North America. Like rice, it grows in water, but is difficult to harvest and therefore it tends to be more expensive and less easily obtainable.

Wild rice takes roughly twice as long to cook as cultivated rice.

Other types of grains

Now we have covered the different varieties of rice, let's cover some other types of grains or seeds.


Although used extensively in Africa and Asia, millet is becoming more popular in the Western world. It is a small, yellow, grain that can be used as an accompaniment to a meal, or in similar ways to long grain rice. Learn how to cook millet and then try some tasty recipes.


Quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain, but as it is used in a similar manner it deserves it place in this section of the site.

I actually pronounced this as quin - noah until I discovered it should be called keen - wah. Originally grown in South America it is gradually becoming more widely known.

It can be used in savoury and sweet dishes and is very nutritious. I included some quinoa recipes on my gluten free site.

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