Basmati rice: How to cook and store the popular grain
- Basmati rice is known for its fluffy texture, floral aroma, and unique nutty taste.
- You can make basmati rice on the stovetop, in an Instant Pot, or in a rice cooker.
- Regardless of the cooking method, rinsing and soaking the rice first will yield the best results.
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Basmati rice isn't just one of the most popular varieties of rice across the world - it's also the longest grain rice in existence. And its unique qualities don't stop there: basmati rice is also known for its light and airy texture, floral aroma, and nutty flavour. According to Institute of Culinary Education chef Palak Patel, authentic basmati rice also has a distinctive sheen to it and is tapered towards the end.
Today, basmati rice is typically grown in India (especially the foothills of the Himalayan mountains), Nepal, and Pakistan. It's believed to have been developed by farmers in India and Pakistan at least 250 years ago. Fittingly, the name seems to be derived from the Sanskrit words for "possessing" and "fragrance."
One thing that sets basmati rice apart from other long-grain rice is that it's typically aged for nine to 18 months in order to reduce the moisture content and intensify the flavour, aroma, and other cooking characteristics.
You'll know a quality basmati rice by its colour, says Patel, since the ageing process also changes its hue to a very light brown colour.
Basmati rice is most common in Indian cuisine, but it works just as well in pilafs and salads as it does with curries and braised meat dishes. Here's how to cook this fluffy, fragrant rice for the best results.
Quick basmati rice to water ratios
- Stovetop: 1 cup rice to 1.25 cups water
- Instant Pot: 1 cup rice to 1.25 cups water
- Rice cooker: 1 cup rice to 1.5 cups water
Tips to spruce up your rice
For extra fluffy and flavourful basmati rice, heed the following advice from Patel.
- Soaking your rice in cold water for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking it can reduce the cooking time because the grains expand and absorb some of the water. If you soak it, be sure to decrease the ratio to 1 cup of water for every cup of rice.
- To make a pilaf, replace some or all of the water with chicken or vegetable stock.
- Bay leaves, cardamom pods, star anise, curry leaves, turmeric, cinnamon sticks, and cumin all make excellent flavour enhancers for basmati rice. Sauté them in oil before adding the rice and water to the saucepan and bringing it all to a boil.
- Sautéd carrots and peas, as well as toasted cashews, can add both colour and texture when stirred into the rice.
- If you'd like to use herbs, such as chopped basil, flat-leaf parsley, or oregano, stir them in once the rice is done cooking.
- For even more flavour, cook some onion, garlic, and ginger in a pot coated with oil. Toss in your uncooked rice and coat it in the mixture. Then, pour in the water/broth, bring the rice to a boil, and simmer until the rice is tender.
How to store and reheat basmati rice
Patel doesn't recommend freezing basmati rice, as it can compromise the texture. However, it can be refrigerated for up to one week stored in an airtight container.
While Patel says microwaving is the best way to revive basmati rice, you can also steam it on the stove, though this method will take longer. No matter which route you choose, Patel advises adding a few tablespoons of water to the rice before reheating it to ensure it doesn't dry out. Gently break up any clumps of rice with a fork first.
If you decide to use the microwave, cover the dish with a damp paper towel, and cook it on high for one to two minutes, depending on how much rice you're heating up.
To reheat the rice on the stovetop, heat it in a covered saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally.
Basmati rice is particularly fitting for Indian dishes like biryani and tikka masala, but it's also versatile enough to serve with a range of meat, seafood, poultry, and vegetables, and makes a flavourful base for pilafs.
The most important step of cooking basmati rice is to rinse it beforehand, as this helps to get rid of any excess starch on the surface that might cause the rice to stick together. Soaking the rice is optional, but will shorten the cooking time and may help the rice absorb seasonings and sauces better.
When it comes to leftover basmati rice, your best bet is to store it in the refrigerator and reheat it in the microwave.
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