How to Make Brown Rice Taste Better

Holly Riddle

By Holly Riddle

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Rice makes a suitable side dish for many a meal. Not only is it easy to cook and versatile enough to really go with most anything, but brown rice in particular is filled with healthy vitamins and nutrients. Compared to white rice, brown rice contains more fiber, niacin, Vitamin B1 and B6, phosphorous, magnesium, and manganese (1).

Cooked brown rice in a bowl on a cutting board with wooden utensils.

That said, for all of brown rice’s benefits, it does come with one big downside. Cooked and served plain, it’s about as tasty as a piece of cardboard — bland, bland, bland. Luckily, there are several ways you can easily make brown rice taste better.

Soak it overnight

Soaking brown rice overnight will give it a softer texture and allow it to absorb flavors better. Research also shows that soaking lowers phytic acid, which, in turn, increases nutrient absorption (2). Soak a cup of dry brown rice in 3 cups of water overnight. Drain and cook according to our recipe at the bottom of this page, but use 1 3/4 cups of water instead of 2 since the rice will have already absorbed some water.

A woman's hand pouring water into a pot of uncooked brown rice with a jar of brown rice in the background.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Cook it in something other than water

While basic rice-cooking simply requires combining water and rice and letting it cook, if you’re only cooking your rice in water, you’re missing out on an easy way to add a lot of flavor to your dish. Start by cooking your rice in the broth of your choice (like this homemade vegetable stock) and, while you’re at it, consider adding some extra spices, seasonings, herbs, or even just butter to the mix.

Pair it with big, bold flavors

Since brown rice’s initial, base flavor is rather bland and boring, it can stand up to bigger, bolder flavors. Take advantage of this fact and opt for strongly flavored add-ins and mix-ins that you can simply stir into your rice after it’s finished cooking. Think chile paste, a generous helping of garlic powder, balsamic vinegar, or soy sauce.

Lemon Dill Chicken on a white plate with sprigs of fresh dill and Dijon yogurt sauce.

Add a protein

Adding protein to your brown rice can both add flavor and make for a more filling dish. After the rice is cooked, stir in your cooked protein of choice. Go with something that has a lot of flavor, like smoked sausage, Italian sausage, or the lemony dill chicken shown above.

Add some cheese

Cheese makes everything taste better. You can make a cheesy sauce to go along with your brown rice, similarly to how you might make a sauce for macaroni and cheese (throw in some broccoli for a quick and easy take on a broccoli, rice, and cheddar casserole). If that’s still a little too much work, simply sprinkle on some parmesan or feta.

Winter Vegetable Minestrone soup.

Toss in some soup

Have some leftover soup in the fridge or a can of soup in the pantry? Add it to your rice or, conversely, add your rice to the soup. Only use a little soup if you just want to flavor your brown rice or, add a lot if you’re fine with basically creating a new version of the soup, with the addition of the rice. Brown rice would work great in kabocha squash soup and this winter vegetable minestrone soup.

Add a sauce

On a similar note, look through your pantry and fridge for any sauces you might have on hand. Tomato sauce, marinara sauce, hot sauce, mole sauce, pesto, salsa — take your pick and level up your brown rice with limited effort.

Cooked brown rice in a bowl on a cutting board with wooden utensils.
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Simple Brown Rice

Brown rice contains more nutrition compared to white rice, but sometimes it's a bit lacking in flavor. Be sure to try one of the method above for seasoning your brown rice, but regardless of how you season it, it's important to cook it right. Follow our simple recipe to learn how.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time55 minutes
Total Time1 hour
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword: brown rice salad
Servings: 4
Calories: 181kcal


  • 1 cup brown rice uncooked
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp olive oil


  • In a fine mesh strainer, rinse the rice well to wash away excess starches.
  • Combine the rice, water, and olive oil in a medium sized pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Keep an eye on the pot to make sure it doesn't boil over.
  • Remove from heat, but keep the lid on. Let sit for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.


Calories: 181kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 0.4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 8mg | Potassium: 127mg | Fiber: 2g | Calcium: 19mg | Iron: 1mg