What is the difference between Basmati and Jasmine Rice?

More than 120,000 varieties of rice are grown worldwide, each with its own unique texture, flavor and size. Two of the most popular in the US (for those branching out from standard long-grain bags) are basmati rice and jasmine rice. But don’t make the mistake of mixing the two when cooking. Although jasmine rice and basmati rice share some similarities, they are distinctly different.

How are Basmati and Jasmine rice similar?

First, according to the USA Rice website, both are classified as long-grain rice, which means the grains “have long, slender grains, three to four times longer than they are wide.” When cooked, long grain rice is softer and lighter than short grain or neutral rice. Short grain and neutral rice are ideal for dishes such as risotto, paella or sushi as they become lumpy and sticky once cooked. On the other hand, long-grain rice has well-separated grains, making it suitable for use in soups, stir-fries, and pilaf.

Basmati and jasmine are both considered fragrant long-grain rice, but the similarities end here.

Difference Between Basmati and Jasmine Rice

If you’ve ever smelled jasmine rice cooking in a pot, you’ll understand how the rice got its name. Jasmine rice has a “delicious aroma similar to that of a sweet flower,” emails Belinda Tumbers, CEO of Global Rice at SunRice, one of the world’s largest rice food companies based in Australia. This distinctive floral aroma is due to the high content of 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline, a compound naturally present in rice. “[Jasmine] is softer and fluffier than basmati rice and slightly sticky when cooked, making it perfect for a variety of stir-fry, stir-fry and curry recipes,” she says.

In contrast, basmati rice “is a rice variety known for its popcorn-like flavor and long, thin grain. It is commonly grown in India and Pakistan,” she says. (“Basmati” comes from a Hindi word meaning “fragrant.”) “Basmati rice expands to two to three times its original length when cooked, giving it a light, fluffy texture ideal for absorbing the rice’s flavor. It’s drier rice and the grains remain separate after cooking,” says Tumbers.

The difference between the two types of rice is due to the molecules that make up the rice. According to Cook’s Illustrated, basmati is high in amylose, a long, straight starch molecule, so it does not gelatinize when cooked. Jasmine rice has much less amylose and more amylopectin, the starch molecule that makes rice sticky.

Buying and Cooking Basmati Rice

Basmati rice originated in the Himalayan foothills of northern India, although it is now grown in many parts of the world, including the United States. In fact, up to 70% of the world’s supply of basmati rice is grown in India. There are 34 varieties of basmati rice grown only here. Given its location of origin, it’s no surprise that basmati is a staple in Indian and Mediterranean cuisine, but USA Rice points out that it can be used in any recipe that calls for long-grain rice.

As with most products, you can buy a variety of basmati rice. The highest quality version comes in cloth, not plastic packaging. Also, the “extra long” type is considered superior. The grain should also be slightly golden, not gray or white. Even really good basmati rice is sometimes aged for several years.

Basmati rice can be used in any recipe that calls for long-grain rice, but it is an important component in Indian dishes such as curries, stews and biryani. Rice is also easy to cook. You’ll want to follow the directions on the rice package, but here’s some general information.

  • Add water to pot (Tumbers recommends 1.5 cups water for every rice cup).
  • Add 1 tsp. salt in water.
  • Boil water and add rice. (“Many people soak the rice for 30 minutes or so before cooking to make it softer and fluffy,” says Tumbers. But this isn’t a requirement.)
  • Cover and reduce heat to low.
  • Boil the rice for about 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and let the rice sit for 5 minutes to bring out the rice’s trademark fluffy texture.

Tip: According to Indian food expert Sukhi Singh, the rice should only be stirred once at the beginning of cooking. Stir too much and they will stick together.

Buying and cooking jasmine rice

Jasmine rice is a much newer dish than basmati, developed in the 1950s. Officially it is called Thai Hom Mali rice. Native to Southeast Asia, it’s no surprise that jasmine rice is a staple in Thai cuisine and other Asian dishes, especially stir-fries.

Like basmati, jasmine can be submerged in place of any long-grain rice. Jasmine rice is so delicious and versatile that it has become the fastest-growing type of rice in the United States in terms of popularity. Most of the authentic jasmine rice is grown in Thailand, but it is also produced in Thailand.

Jasmine is not rice that requires ripening. “Unlike basmati rice, which is dry rice, jasmine is a fresher, more aromatic rice, so ideally you want to have jasmine rice from a recent crop,” explains Tumbers. “This is because the longer the jasmine rice is stored in rice, the more likely it is to lose its flavor.”

Like basmati, jasmine rice is easy to cook. There are cooking instructions on the rice package, but here are some general instructions.

  • Add water to pot (Tumbers recommends 1.25 cups water for every rice cup).
  • Add 1 tsp. salt in water.
  • Boil water and add rice. (“Jasmine rice should be washed before cooking to release excess starch and preserve flavor,” says Tumbers.)
  • Cover and simmer on low heat for about 10 to 12 minutes. Do not stir or lift lid.
  • Remove the rice from the heat and let it sit for another 10 minutes to complete the dish. Then flutter with a fork.

Info about Rice color:

Did you know that white rice and brown rice are actually the same food? The only difference is the way the rice is processed. For white rice, the husk and hull are removed to soften the rice. Brown rice, however, is nutritionally denser and contains more protein and fiber.

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