Brown Rice

Brown rice, from left to right: Frozen brown rice, Instant Brown Rice, Brown rice from scratch

Perhaps due to my husband’s Chinese heritage, we consume very large quantities of rice in our household. Rice is probably the side dish that I make most often in one form or another. We eat it with stir-fry, with Mexican food, in risotto, paella and many other dishes. Last year, I decided to make the switch from white rice to brown rice (for most dishes) as it is more nutritious and provides a lot more fiber. I actually really enjoy the nutty flavor and firm texture of brown rice but it has one major drawback in that it takes forever to prepare. With white rice, you can put a pot of rice on to cook when you start making a meal, and it is usually done at the same time as the main dish. Brown rice takes about twice as long to cook as most stir-fries, or most other week night meals at our house, so I’ve tried out a few alternatives lately. I’ve mostly been using “instant” brown rice (not exactly instant, since it takes 10 minutes to cook) as a quicker alternative to regular brown but I decided to try frozen brown rice this week since it takes only 3-5 minutes to heat up in the microwave. Worth a try, right? We recently tried out all three varieties of brown rice side by side to see if there were noticeable difference in the flavor or quality.

All three of the brown rice varieties (frozen, instant, and dried) looked very similar once cooked but there were subtle differences in texture. The frozen and regular dried rice were pretty close to tasting the same, although the frozen rice was a little softer and looked paler. The instant rice was the most different and it was definitely chewier than the other two (you can see how different the instant rice grains look in the picture below). Now, as I mentioned above, I like the firmer texture of brown rice, but the instant brown rice really was too chewy even for me and also had less of the nutty flavor that I enjoy.

As for ease of preparation, the frozen rice wins hands down. Not only can frozen brown rice be cooked in only 5 minutes in the microwave, but there is no need to get a separate pan or bowl dirty as it can be steamed right in the freezer bag! Instant rice came in second with only about 15 minutes of preparation time while regular brown rice was a distant third since it takes at least 45 minutes to prepare.

However, regular, dried brown rice easily won in the cost category. A cup of prepared regular brown rice costs only about 45 Cents while the frozen rice was the most expensive at about $1.35 per cup.

Regular unprepared brown rice on the left, Instant brown rice on the right

Bottom Line: Brown rice is a much healthier, whole-grain alternative to regular white rice but it can be time consuming to prepare. If you’re in a time crunch, frozen brown rice is a good option since it tastes almost identical to regular brown rice, but keep in mind that it costs 3 times as much. Instant brown rice is both more expensive and worse tasting than regular rice making it the least appealing option.