Jul 022014


Which type of Rice is the Best Buy?

There are so many new types of rice on the supermarket shelf that it’s difficult to know which type is the best buy. Since rice is a staple (possibly the staple) in a frugal gluten-free kitchen this is of special importance to me.

Rice: Best Buy for Beginners.

If you’re new to the rice aisle then it can be intimidating. The first thing to do is ignore 98% of the choices you find there. Especially ignore the small boxes and bags of multi-colored flavored rice that will beckon to you like sirens luring wayward sailors to crash on the rocks of impulse spending. Instead, look on the lower shelf for large bags of plain rice. Zero in on the storebrand or better yet a generic or value brand. Read the package label. It should say “Long Grain Rice.” This is what you want. Five pound bags or larger are almost always the most economical. Place the bag in your cart and bring it home. Phew! You made it with your budget in tact. Give yourself a pat on the back; you deserve it. By the way, you get extra credit points if you locate the unit price and compare it among your choices.

Which is better? Brown Rice or White Rice?

Brown rice is far more nutritious and has more fiber. If you’re trying to add more whole grains to your diet then brown rice is definitely the way to go. It takes longer to cook than white rice, about 45 minutes instead of 20 minutes. This requires a little forethought, but if are getting used to eating on a budget then you know that forethought is one of the key tools in that endeavor. I remember feeling very exotic and cosmopolitan the first time I prepared brown rice, like now that I was an adult I was no longer limited by my plebian childhood penchant for white rice. By cooking brown rice I felt that I finally arrived in the adult world. The flavor of brown rice is very similar to white rice but the texture is a little chewier. My children actually prefer the texture. Brown rice can be used in almost any recipe that calls for long grain white rice, simply increase the cooking time as necessary.

The only drawback to brown rice, besides it’s longer cooking time, is that it doesn’t keep as well as white rice. Since it’s more nutritious, sneaky bugs like moths are far more attracted to it that white rice. As a whole grain, brown rice contains a small amount of fat. This fat can go rancid over time, making the rice smell and taste bad. If you plan to keep it for longer than a year, stash your brown rice in the freezer.

Why is White Rice Enriched?

White rice is made from brown rice. The outer husk and bran are polished off of the kernel and then the remaining grain is called white rice. Removing the bran makes white rice easier to store and makes it cook faster, so it requires less fuel. These two qualities are especially important in primitive situations and third world countries where storage is difficult and fuel is limited. However, most of the nutrition is removed along with the bran. White rice is enriched to add back in some of the vitamins and minerals that are stripped away when it is polished. The enrichment does not add back in everything that was stripped away. If you buy white rice you should only buy the enriched variety. I have never seen any that wasn’t enriched for sale in the US. However, you should check to make sure.

The enrichment added to white rice is water soluble. If you rinse it before cooking it then you will wash away the added vitamins and minerals. White rice should not be washed unless absolutely necessary, such as needing to wash away bugs. Better to wash the rice than go hungry in that case. Even better though is to store the rice appropriately in the first place, so the bugs can’t get to it.

What About Converted Rice?

Converted rice, also known as parboiled rice, is the great compromise between white rice and brown rice. It has much of the nutrition of brown rice, yet it cooks almost as quickly as white rice. Converted rice cooks in 25 minutes, as compared to 20 minutes for white rice and 45 minutes for brown rice.

Converted rice is manufactured by putting brown rice through a steam process that squeezes all of the nutrition from brown rice down into the white rice kernel. When the bran is shaved off the rice loses it’s extra fiber, but it doesn’t loose much of the extra nutrition found in brown rice.

My favorite type of rice is converted rice. When we hit hard times I use white rice without a second thought. When I have my preference though, I use converted rice and brown rice for most things. I determine which to use based on how much time I have to prepare a meal. When I need something fast I use converted rice. When I have  time I use brown rice. Brown rice and converted rice both have a very low glycemic index, which is good for my PCOS and Fred’s diabetes.

How do I store it?
Both brown rice and white rice may be stored on the pantry shelf. After opening the bag seal it with a twist-tie or transfer the rice to a zipper bag or a large jar or plastic storage container. If you are prone to bugs then double bag the rice or make sure the container it’s in is kept well sealed. White rice will keep for many years this way. Brown rice will keep about a year.

Brown rice still has the germ and bran intact. This makes it more nutritious but it also makes it more prone to spoilage. Fatty acids in the rice germ can go rancid over time, especially if the rice is stored in a warm or humid location. Brown rice will keep for about a year on the pantry shelf. Any longer than that and it can develop a musty or rancid odor and should not be eaten. For longest keeping store brown rice in your freezer. I have a 4-gallon tub in my chest freezer that I use to stash all of my bags of whole grains. Frozen brown rice can be cooked directly from the freezer without warming it to room temperature first. The cooking time will increase to about an hour. Brown rice stored in the freezer will keep for several years with little deterioration. I speak from experience. So if WIC is heaping pounds of brown rice on your head, then stash them in the freezer until you decide what to do with them. Then you can cook it at your leisure.

But what about instant rice for folks who are hard pressed for time?

Instant white rice cooks in 5 minutes. Long grain white rice cooks in 20 minutes. In my experience, that extra 15 minutes of time isn’t worth the extra cost. For both types of rice, the water and rice must be measured and the water brought to a boil. This time remains the same. The pot must be washed after the rice is cooked. This time remains the same. The only real time savings is while the rice is cooking.

Instant rice costs about twice as much as plain white rice. When you eat rice almost every day, as we do, this difference in cost really adds up. If you need really fast rice, then make some before you need it and then reheat it in the microwave or in the top of a steamer on the stove. It can be prepared earlier in the day, or the day before. Reheating it takes about 5 minutes. As expensive as instant rice is, the perceived time savings involved, in my opinion, simply aren’t worth the cost of the convenience. The only exception I make is when camping or emergency storage meals. In that case the fuel savings off sets the extra cost.

Seasoned Rice Mixes

Plain rice should not be underestimated. It tastes good, costs very little and is invariably popular. Sometimes however, you want to try something new, something different. Seasoned rice mixes seem like they might be a reasonable alternative. They sit there on the supermarket shelf telling tales of gastronomic ecstasy. Beautiful pictures on the front of the package appear wholesome and delicious. Those pictures are usually false promises. They look beautiful, but they are just as much work as preparing your own rice and seasoning it yourself.

Most of the packaged mixes  are made with regular white rice, so they take 20 to 25 minutes to cook. There is no time savings involved. The only thing they have going for them is that the  manufacturer has figured out a way to season the rice that tastes new and different from plain rice. Seasoned rice mixes usually cost at least 4-times as much as an equivalent amount of plain rice. I’m pretty sure that the seasonings they add to the rice don’t cost them more than a dime or two. So they get a great deal of profit, simply from having a good recipe for seasoned rice.

Another drawback is that many of the packaged mixes have gluten or dairy products added to them. Not all of them do, but more than you’d suspect at first glance. Most packaged rice mixes are pretty high is sodium too. I try to keep sodium down to a moderate level in my family’s diet. A single serving of some seasoned rice mixes uses up half of the sodium we should be eating in an entire day. Seeing as my kids tend to eat 2 to 3 servings at a time, they can overdo the sodium in a single meal.

Does that mean you have to forgo seasoned rice and live the rest of your life with plain old boring white rice? Absolutely not. On this website you’ll find a nice selection of seasoned rice recipes to keep your cash in your pocket and give your rice some variety. You’ll know exactly what ingredients are going into your rice, and you can make sure that you don’t add any gluten or casein with your seasonings.

Other Rice Products

There is an intimidating number of other products in the rice aisle. From convenience pouches of rice that cost over $2 for a single cup of cooked rice, to instant rice in plastic cups to which you only need add boiling water to make them edible. When the manufacturer measures the rice for you and gives you a handy disposable cup to eat the rice from, the cost of a single serving of instant rice triples, making it nearly 6 times as much as a serving of plain white rice. Sometimes I wonder who in the world is buying this stuff. Maybe they just never take the time to evaluate how much the built in convenience is actually costing them. There are also different varieties of rice–basmati, texmati, jasmine, black rice, red rice, short grain, sushi rice. It’s pretty overwhelming when you really take a good, hard look at it all. I make it a practice to avoid all of these extras. When I compare $2 for a cup of prepared packaged rice to 10¢ for a cup of home cooked white rice, my best choice is pretty clear.

Rice By The Numbers

Below you’ll find a comparison of the costs of different types of rice. The chart makes it clear that if cost is your most important issue, then long grain white rice, in 5 or 10 pound bags is your best buy. At less than 10¢ per full cup of cooked rice, it is one of the best bargains whether you’re gluten free or not. You can see in the chart that an equal amount of cooked instant rice costs over 18¢. If your family eats rice every day, using long grain rice instead of instant rice will save you over $175 a year.

When nutrition value is factored into the equation, brown rice is the best choice. I was surprised when I created this chart that the 5lb bags of brown rice at my store are more per serving than the 2lb bags. This proves that it pays to shop by unit price. At 12¢ per 1-cup serving, brown rice costs about 2¢ more per serving than white rice. Converted rice costs a fraction less per serving than brown rice.

Instant brown rice was the real shocker for me. It’s something that I’ve sometimes used for homemade convenience meals. The cheapest store-brand cost 28¢ per serving, or almost 3-times as much as white rice. Instant brown rice cooks in 10 minutes, while white rice cooks in only 20. I’m not sure I’m willing to pay nearly tripe the price for that 10 minutes time savings. It will definitely be something I avoid in the future.

Best Buys in the Realm of Rice


Cost per package

Cost per pound

Cost per 1-cup serving

Long Grain White Rice 10 lbs




Long Grain White Rice 5 lbs




Instant Rice 28 oz




Long Grain Brown Rice 5 lbs




Long Grain Brown Rice 2 lbs




Instant Brown Rice 14 oz




Converted Rice 5 lbs




Converted Rice 2 lbs




Prices obtained at Walmart in Southern VA, Summer 2014.


“…rice is the best, the most nutritive and unquestionably the most widespread staple in the world.” Escoffier

  6 Responses to “Which type of Rice is the Best Buy?”

  1. I recently found out that brown rice has a lot of arsenic in it, thanks to a combination of herbicide residues in the soil and the way rice grows. White rice doesn’t have that, so apparently it’s only present on/in the bran. A couple of ways I’ve seen touted to reduce the arsenic is to A) rinse the rice before cooking, which may help to remove some of the arsenic and B) cook the brown rice the same way we cook pasta– ie with a large amount of water. You then drain the water (and hopefully most of the arsenic). You can then dry the rice a bit by spreading it on a cookie tray or other shallow pan and stick it in the oven for a few minutes.

    • Interesting Muriel. I expect organic brown rice would have less arsenic to it since there wouldn’t be any pesticides. A hundred years ago cooking brown rice in a large amount of water, and then drying it out in the oven was the standard method, at least in America. My old Fannie Farmer cookbook recommends this as the best method.

      A bit of trivia, years ago homemakers would save and dry the inner kernel in peach pits and grate it on a nutmeg grater to produce almond flavoring for baked goods. Turns out, that almond flavor was from the arsenic found in peach pit kernels. It’s no longer a recommended practice, with good reason. I’ll stick to my bottle of almond flavoring I think. 😉

      • I remember reading about the peach pit thing also– it was a recipe for making almond liqueur I think. (I think the poison in question there is cyanide, however). Granted, it’s only a tiny bit, and it won’t kill you right away, but the same can be said for nicotine, eh?

        You may be right about organic vs regular brown rice, but I think I would rather take the extra step just in case. The herbicides that were used are pretty ubiquitous to our environment after all the years they were used.

        • Whichever one (poison) it is that smells of bitter almonds, that’s the one in peach pits. I don’t buy organics very often. I think they do taste better, but unless I grow them myself, I usually can’t afford them. White rice is cheap, tastes good and that’s good enough for me. I’m easy that way.

  2. I would be so grateful for any information you might have regarding Jasmine rice, or any of the other varieties that are so popular nowadays. My oldest daughter is convinced that Basmati rice is easier on her, (GI-wise), and I don’t know enough about it to advise her. She was recently diagnosed with PCOS, after we put our heads together, discussing her efforts to lose weight, her hair loss, lack of menses, etc. She is on metformin (works at Walmart, so gets an excellent price on her meds!), and is hoping to be able to conceive, after her wedding in May 2016. Thank you so much for anything you might be able to teach me! You are my favorite blogger, and have been for many years! 🙂

  3. Hi Dawnjerrene, I have PCOS too. Your daughter should look at the glycemic index of a variety of rices and choose the one with the lowest. You can do that at http://glycemicindex.com. Brown rice is usually considered to have the lowest GI of all types of rice. Basmati rice is also relatively low on the glycemic index, but brown rice is lower. Jasmine rice, the white kind, is pretty high. Brown Jasmine rice is available at Asian markets. It’s lower than white Jasmine, but still higher than basmati and regular long grain brown rice. The glycemic index is essentially a rating of how fast and how high a food will make your blood sugar rise. Many people find that eliminating wheat and even all gluten, is an effective way to reduce many of the symptoms of PCOS. In my case, going gluten free has been very effective. Metformin at Walmart is $10 for 90 days worth. An absolute bargain! Good luck with it.

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