Cooking Brown Rice [+ quick rice cooking guide]

CRYSTAL H.  |   |   Updated
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You want to enjoy the health benefits of brown rice, right? Cooking it can be tricky. Brown rice is less processed with a bran layer so it’s healthier than white rice, but also a bit ‘chewy’ if not cooked properly. The following has four ways of easily cooking brown rice to get perfect tender results for the palette.

Lundberg Family Farms - Brown Short Grain Rice, Subtle Nutty Aroma, Clings When Cooked, 100% Whole Grain, High in Fiber, Vitamins & Minerals, Pantry Staple, Gluten-Free, Non-GMO, Vegan (32 oz, 6-Pack)

It can be hard to get your family to enjoy brown rice if it doesn’t please the palate. For softer rice, the tip is to add more water when cooking, or you could lengthen the time.

The bran layer (remember it is the healthy part) of the brown rice means it needs more water than what you’d use for cooking white rice and it takes longer to cook.

Why is this important? Brown rice retains the bran and germ and these have nutritional benefits (vitamins and minerals such as thiamin, niacin, and magnesium).1 Knowing how to cook brown rice means your family is more likely to enjoy it and so gain its nutritional benefits.

Here’s a quick reference guide with measurements you can download and keep. It has the measurements for water and quantities of white, brown, and wild rice for cooking tender soft rice. Note: It’s a guide only, as cooking results will vary with the type and brand of rice and the appliance.

For a how to with a rice cooker, see my article on using rice cookers to cook brown rice.

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For those who prefer a pot and a lid or a dish, rather than a multi-functional rice cooker, the following is for you…

4 Ways to cook brown rice

You can easily cook brown rice four ways: absorption, microwave, baking, and gentle boil.

Choose the method that suits you the best. For me, it’s the absorption.

  • Make sure to wash and drain the rice before cooking. This will not only remove any debris collected in packaging, but also gets rid of the excess starch that can affect the texture of the cooked product.

How to cook brown rice by absorption method

In the absorption method you cook the rice until it absorbs all the water in the pot. The benefit of doing this is that you retain the nutrients in the cooked product (they are not lost in the excess water that is drained away). Another advantage is that you use less water.

Some recipes say to bring the water to boil before adding the rice. I find it easier to put the rice in with the water (plus optional seasoning and butter) — it works just as well.

Here are the steps for brown rice absorption method:

  1. Add the desired quantity of rice and the matching amount of water. Bring the contents to the boil.
  1. Then cover the pot with the lid, lower the heat and let simmer until all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender.
  1. Turn off the heat and let rice stand covered for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork or whisk.

As a guide: For every 1 cup of uncooked medium grain brown rice*, use 2 ⅓ cups of water, and simmer for 25 minutes, then stand covered for 5 minutes before serving.

How to cook brown rice by gentle boil method

In this method the rice is boiled in a lot more water than used in the absorption cooking of rice and the excess water is drained off after the rice is cooked. Here are the steps for brown rice gentle boil method:

  1. Bring water to boil in a large pot
  2. Add the desired quantity of brown rice
  3. Cook uncovered at a gentle boil (reduce from a raging boil to avoid overflowing the pot)
  4. Once cooked, drain the water off the rice
  5. Return the rice to the pot, cover with lid, and let stand for 5-10 minutes
  6. Fluff with fork and season as desired

As a guide: For every cup of uncooked medium grain brown rice, use 6 cups of water*, and gently boil for 25 minutes.

*It doesn’t have to be exact. You can add 8 cups if you want. Make sure you have a pot large enough to hold a much greater measure of water than rice.

I first came across this recipe on Cookie and Kate and as they say, you don’t have to measure the water as long as you’re using a large enough pot. Simply add more water during the cooking if too much evaporates and bring it back to the boil. Your rice will still turn out perfect!

How to cook brown rice in microwave

It’s quick and easy to cook rice in the microwave. To make it even super easier, you can buy packets of microwavable brown rice.

Seeds of Change Microwavable Rice, Whole Grain Brown Basmati Rice, 8.5 Ounce (6Pack)
Available at Amazon


To cook brown rice in a microwave, add your brown rice and water to a microwave safe container and then microwave for a given time. As a guide: Add 1½ cups of brown rice and 3½ cups of water and cook for 25 minutes on full power (850 watt microwave).

  • Use a loose fitting lid or one with vent holes so the steam can escape.
  • You need a large enough container to cater for the water and rice expanding.

An alternative method: Cook uncovered for 10 minutes at full power. Then, cover the rice and cook on half power for 20 minutes.

Microwave makes and models vary in power and some can have a special setting for cooking rice.

At the end of the day, to cook brown rice in a microwave, I recommend you follow the instructions for your make and model of microwave.

How to cook brown rice by baking

In this method you add the brown rice to a baking dish with the required amount of water and place it in a moderate to moderately hot oven for 1 hour for perfectly cooked brown rice!

Use a good sized pyrex or ceramic baking dish.

  1. Preheat oven to 375 °F (190 °C)
  1. Add 1½ cups brown rice to baking dish
  1. Pour over 3½ cups water and stir and cover with lid or aluminum foil
  1. Bake in oven for 1 hour

As a guide: For every 1 cup of brown rice use 2⅓ cups of water and cook in oven in middle shelf at 375°F for 1 hour.

You can also cook rice in an air fryer.

Yummy Ways to enjoy brown rice

Lundberg Family Farms - California Brown Basmati Rice, 100% Whole Grain, High Fiber, Pantry Staple, Great for Cooking, Non-Sticky, Gluten-Free, Non-GMO, Vegan, Kosher (32 oz), 2 Pound

  • With steamed vegetables
  • With salad
  • As a dessert
  • As a side with curry or casserole
  • As an ingredient in a frittata or quiche
  • Mushroom Risotto, which I do in the microwave

Bottom line

At the end of the day, the amounts and cooking time will vary between brands and type of brown rice. It’s worth following the directions on the back of the packet or for your microwave if you plan using it to see whether the results suit your palette. One of the tips or tricks is to add more water or cook a little longer if you want it softer. Make sure to stand the rice covered for a few minutes after cooking, as well, as this can help.

What you should aim for is rice that is tender but still separate rather than clumped or gluggy.


  1. Briguglio M, Dell’Osso B, Panzica G, et al. 2018. Dietary Neurotransmitters: A Narrative Review on Current Knowledge. Nutrients. 10(5):591. doi:10.3390/nu10050591

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