Basmati Rice vs Brown Rice: What is the Difference? (Plus Nutrition)

Believe it or not, rice is one of the most popular and common grains found worldwide! In this post, we’ll dive into two popular types of rice, basmati rice vs brown rice. We’ll compare the taste, health benefits, and nutritional value of each.

Many cultures use rice as the base ingredient for their meals. Rice is considered a staple food for more than half the world’s population due to its vast nutritional profile and low cost. Rice is low in calories and fat, rich in complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Types of Rice

There are many varieties of rice; many are native to different parts of the world. Rice is often categorized by long-grain, medium-grain, and short-grain rice. Long grain tends to cook up fluffy, light, and grains separate easily from one another. Medium grain rice tends to cook up moist and tender. Short-grain rice is often referred to as sticky rice as it clumps together. It can also be referred to as glutinous rice, not because of gluten; rice is naturally gluten-free, but because the rice has that sticky texture and is glue-like.

Whole Grain Rice vs Refined Rice

Whole grains are grains that are still intact, whole. Brown rice and brown basmati rice are both whole grain rice. A few other popular varieties of whole-grain rice include brown jasmine rice, red rice, and black rice. Wild rice is often considered whole-grain rice but is technically a grass.

Refined grains and refined rice, such as white rice, white jasmine rice, white basmati rice, and white sticky rice, have been processed to remove the husk, bran layer, and most of the germ, so it is no longer a “whole grain.” This process of refining grains results in loss of vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional values. To counteract the loss of nutrition, white rice is typically artificially fortified with nutrients, much like breakfast cereals that are also artificially fortified.

Basmati Rice

Basmati rice is popular aromatic rice most commonly used in Indian dishes. Basmati is available as both brown basmati rice and white basmati rice. Known for its nutlike fragrance and buttery-like flavor, basmati rice is commonly used in Indian dishes but is also easily substituted for white rice or brown rice. One of the unique characteristics is basmati rice elongates more than it plumps when cooked; low in starch, it turns out nice and fluffy!

The white version of basmati rice tends to be more commonly found and can be what people initially think of basmati rice. The white version is refined by removing the husk, bran layer, and the germ, leaving just the white starchy portion behind. Removing the bran also removes much of the dietary fiber, nutrients, and essential fatty acids. White basmati rice has a slightly floral, less nutty taste and softer chew than brown basmati rice.

The brown version of basmati rice is found at many health food stores. Brown basmati rice still has the nutty flavor of brown rice and has the unique aromatic quality of traditional white basmati rice. It will have a more nutty flavor and firmer texture than the refined white version. Brown basmati rice overall is considered healthier because it comes in a more natural state than the white version and retains the dietary fiber, nutrients, and essential fatty acids that are lost in the white version.

Brown Rice

Brown rice is standard whole grain rice, filled with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which is lost by its more refined counterpart- white rice. It is going to have more fiber, a nuttier flavor, and a more chewy texture than white rice. Brown rice can come in short grain, medium grain or long grain as well as different Brown Rice varieties of brown rice. Typically brown rice also takes longer to cook than white rice.

Nutritional Comparison Between Basmati Rice vs Brown Rice

*exact nutritional profile may vary due to the brand and specific variety of rice. Comparison based on 1/4 cup (45g) of dry basmati or brown rice

White Basmati Rice Brown Basmati RiceBrown Rice
Calories160160170
Total Fat
Sat. Fat
Trans Fat
0.5 g
0 g
0 g
1.5 g
0 g
0 g
1.5 g
0 g
0 g
Cholesterol0 mg0 mg0 mg
Sodium0 mg0 mg0 mg
Total Carb.
Fiber
Sugars
Added Sugars
36 g
0 g
0 g
0 g
33 g
2 g
1 g
0 g
34 g
2 g
0 g
0 g
Protein3 g4 g3 g
Vitamin D0 % DV0 % DV0 % DV
Iron0 % DV1 mg, 6 % DV1 mg, 6 % DV
Calcium13 mg, 2 % DV0 %4 mg, 0 % DV
Potassium52 mg, 2 % DV113 mg, 2 % DV113 mg, 2 % DV

Overall, basmati has 10 fewer calories and similar protein content, with brown basmati having a slightly greater protein advantage. Many other factors nutritionally may influence your choice, though we’ll dive into those below.

Glycemic Index for Basmati Rice vs Brown Rice

In terms of glycemic index, the glycemic index or GI is a measurement of carbohydrates in foods regarding how they affect blood sugar levels. Foods with a low glycemic index value (less than 55) are digested slower, absorbed, and metabolized, causing a slower rise in blood sugar levels.

Consuming lower GI carbohydrates is one of the secrets to overall better long-term health, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It is also helpful in maintaining weight loss.

Basmati rice has a GI index of about 50-58, with brown basmati having a lower GI ranking than white basmati. Brown rice has a GI index of about 68. Whole grain basmati is the best choice for those in search of a low GI index rice.

Key Differences Between Basmati Rice vs Brown Rice

The main difference between basmati rice vs brown rice is the aromatic, slightly floral smell of basmati rice. Basmati rice is going to elongate as it cooks. Both brown rice and brown basmati rice will be a bit firmer, with a nuttier flavor, more fiber, nutrients, and essential fatty acids that are lost with the white basmati rice.

Which is the Healthier Option?

White basmati, brown basmati, and basmati are good choices for those looking to make healthy food choices. Each rice type comes with its own unique benefits from taste too, nutrition to glycemic index rating. The differences overall are fairly minimal and come down to personal preference based on your unique dietary needs.

Does Soaking Rice Make it More Nutritious?

That’s what researching is telling us! Many cultures have traditionally soaked rice for centuries, knowing what research is now also telling us. Research has found that soaking whole grain rice in warm water allows it to germinate slightly, substantially increasing certain nutrients, fiber, and phytochemicals.

Soaking rice helps remove the phytic acid found in whole grain rice. Phytic acid has been found to impair the body from properly digesting certain vitamins and minerals such as iron, minerals, and zinc from the rice. Soaking also softens the outer bran layer allowing the rice to cook easier and taste a bit sweeter.

Soaking whole grain rice like brown basmati and brown rice for 6-12 hours or overnight can also help remove that phytic acid and reduce any arsenic or other toxins by as much as 80% and provide other nutritional benefits.

Due to white basmati being refined and unable to germinate, it is only necessary to soak for 15-30 minutes to enhance texture and flavor.

It sounds like it’s time to start soaking some rice! Which rice will you choose white basmati, brown basmati, or brown rice?

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