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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Simple Brown Rice
- 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.