Brown basmati rice is every bit as fragrant and flavorful as white, with the added health benefits of the germ. The germ is rich in fiber, protein, and even a little bit of healthy fat, which makes brown basmati rice a healthier alternative to traditional white basmati rice. It’s a great idea to add some of this healthy grain to your diet. However, there are a few differences to be aware of when cooking brown basmati versus white basmati rice.
What is Brown Basmati Rice?
Brown basmati rice is rice that has had the outer hull removed, but the germ left intact. The germ is actually the reproductive organ of the grain. It is the part of the seed that would like to develop into a new plant.
It’s important to know that the germ makes it more difficult for water to reach the starch, which affects the way it is cooked. For this reason, brown basmati rice takes much longer to cook on the stove and is, therefore, much easier to cook in an Instant Pot.
How Common is Brown Basmati Rice?
Until recently, brown basmati rice was more of a niche rice. Its popularity has been growing as people have become more health conscious.
My mom talks about eating a lot of brown rice when she was a kid. She had to dehusk her own rice. Her family grew it on their farm, and it was just normal to dehusk their own rice. What she ate must have been a version of brown rice, but it was lighter in color.
When I was growing up, all we had around with “polished rice,” which is what came from the store. It is very long-grained, very white basmati rice. It was only about a decade ago that I started incorporating brown rice into my diet. Although less shelf space is reserved for brown rice, brown basmati rice is pretty easy to find at the Indian stores and some of the grocery stores that I shop at.
To make brown basmati rice, you only need two ingredients: rice and water. That said, I always add a few other ingredients:
- Ghee – I always add cook my rice with a little fat. It helps the grains come out fluffier and with a good separation. I will use oil if that is what is available, but I prefer ghee for this. It imparts a subtle nutty flavor that compliments the rice.
- Cardamom pods – I like to cook my rice with a couple of cardamom pods. It enhances the aroma. Cardamom is my go-to, but you can use whatever herbs and spices you like: black pepper, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick are all good choices
Serving Brown Rice
Brown basmati rice is great everyday rice. I will use it interchangeably with plain white rice. But I would not serve it for special occasions. You may choose to do so, but I feel that brown rice does not have the same luxuriousness as polished rice.
Basmati rice is very important in India, and on special occasions, the expectation is the rice should be extra long and extra fluffy and just look extra special. Brown basmati rice doesn’t have that aesthetic appeal.
Cooking with Brown Rice
With care, brown rice can be substituted for white rice in any recipe. The only problem is that it has to cook for about four times as long as white rice. If you want to use brown rice in a vegetable pulao, for example, you will need to be sure that your vegetables can handle that long cooking time. More likely than not, you will want to hold back your vegetables and add them in toward the end of the cooking process.
What Can Go Wrong?
- Make sure to cook your rice long enough. Some people try to cook brown rice the same way as white rice, which is not nearly long enough, and your rice will be undercooked.
- Make sure the rice is fully submerged under the water, or you will get uncooked grains at the top.
- Rinse your rice thoroughly. Brown rice doesn’t have as much starch as white rice does, but it has random husks and debris and creates the same cloudiness in the water.
Storing the Rice
Brown basmati rice freezes great. White basmati rice doesn’t freeze so well because the long, fluffy grains will crack. You can still freeze it, but it won’t look so great afterward. Brown rice, on the other hand, because of the germ, does not have that issue.
To freeze, put it in a freezer bag and freeze. Reheat in the microwave or stovetop with a couple of tablespoons of water.
Instant Pot Brown Basmati Rice
- 1 cup brown basmati rice
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tbsp ghee or oil; optional
- 2 green cardamom pods optional
- ½ tsp salt or to taste
- Rinse rice well, at least three times. Drain.
- Add all of the ingredients to the Instant Pot. Make sure the rice is fully submerged in the water.
- Cook on high pressure for 20 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of natural pressure release.