Rice is a staple food in large parts of the world, especially in Asia. You’ll often find rice served as a side dish for stews and grilled meat. Besides, there are also some amazing one-pot rice dishes too.
Cooking rice is one of the key skills to master if you’d like to master anything from Indian to Middle Eastern cooking.
In this guide, I’ll tell you all you need to know to prepare rice the right way. Read on to find out how to soak, wash and cook rice along with some recipe suggestions to get you started.
What is Rice?
Rice is a starchy cereal from the grass family. Cultural records show that the cultivation of rice probably began in China, India, and Southeast Asia as a parallel process, and spread to the rest of the world over millennia.
Rice is rich in nutrients and a great source of carbs. Today, it’s known and eaten in large parts of the world. What’s interesting is that regions where rice is locally grown tend to eat significantly more rice than regions where it’s not grown. For example, in regions in Asia that grow rice, people eat rice at least 1-2 times a day. Other regions that don’t locally grow rice tend to eat more wheat based products as their main source of carbs, such as bread.
There are various types of rice, each of which serves a different purpose. To make rice as a side dish, Basmati rice and Jasmine rice are two popular choices. Short grain rice is great for desserts, such as rice pudding.
What Good Rice Should be Like
Fluffy, aromatic and rich in flavors – that’s how rice should be. However, if you’re not used to cooking rice, it might seem intimidating or tedious. Trust me when I say it’s not! If you’re new to the art of turning rice grains into a delicious dish, this guide on how to prepare rice is just what you need.
Note that rice can be cooked in a saucepan on the stovetop, in a pressure cooker (or instant pot) or in a rice cooker. I’m going to show you the classic and oldest method of preparing rice: cooking it in a saucepan on the stovetop.
How to Cook Rice on the Stove
Ready to make rice? Yallah, let’s get started!
Step 1: Wash rice
Washing your rice is important no matter which variety of packaged rice you use. A good rinse removes all the dirt and impurities and some of the surface starch. This prevents your rice from getting gummy.
The common method to wash rice is to place your rice in a large bowl. Fill up with water and stir with your fingers. Drain the water. Hold the bowl with your hand to ensure the rice doesn’t fall into the sink. The water will be whitish at first, which is due to the starch. Repeat the process three times, until the water is clear.
Finding it difficult to drain the rice by hand? You can rinse it directly under running water using a fine-mesh sieve.
Step 2: Soak rice
Now that the rice is washed, it’s time to give it a good soak. If you’re short on time, you can skip this step. It’s not as important as washing the rice (which is something you should never skip). However, I do recommend you make this a habit. Soaking the rice will give your rice a better texture. Soaking is particularly beneficial when you’re using fragrant or medium-grain rice like Basmati.
To soak the rice, add the rice to a bowl and fill up with hot water (make sure it fully covers the grains). Soak it for 20-30 minutes. Drain the water before moving on to the next step.
Step 3: Cook rice
Add the soaked rice to the saucepan. Add hot water and a pinch of salt. Turn the heat on high and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to low and cover the saucepan with a lid. Let simmer until all the water is absorbed (about 10-12 minutes). Turn off the stove and let rest for 5-10 minutes (with the lid on). Open the lid and fluff up the rice with a fork. Serve.
Carry on reading to learn more on water to rice ratio and cooking times.
Rice to Water Ratio
The rice to water ratio depends on three things:
- Type of rice: Different types of rice require different amounts of water.
- Cooking method: The rice water ratio depends on whether you’re cooking your rice in a rice cooker, on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker (or Instant Pot).
- Soaking: Soaked rice cooks faster and needs less water than rice that wasn’t soaked prior to cooking.
For Basmati and Jasmine rice, you need 1 to 1.5 cups of water for 1 cup of rice if you soak it in hot water for about 30 minutes. If you don’t soak your rice, you’ll need 1.5 to 2 times the amount of water. The exact amount depends on the brand.
In metric measurements, this translates to 350-470 ml of water for 200 g rice (unsoaked) or 235-350 ml of water for soaked rice. Although I generally use metric measurements myself, it’s much easier to measure in cups when it comes to rice. When making rice, it doesn’t actually matter how large your cup is (US customary or any other cup you have in your cupboard): just put about 1.5 times the amount of water of what you used for the rice.
By the way, when using brown or wild rice, you’ll need a little more water than for white rice, usually a bit more than 2 cups for every cup of rice.
Here is a table with approximate rice to water ratio and average cooking times.
|Type of rice
|Amount of rice
|Amount of water for cooking
|Cooking time (stovetop)
|Long-grain rice (Basmati, jasmine) when soaked prior to cooking
|1 cup (200 g)
|1 – 1.5 cups (235 – 350 ml)
|Long-grain rice (Basmati, jasmine) unsoaked
|1 cup (200 g)
|1.5 – 2 cups (350 – 470 ml)
|1 cup (200 g)
|2 – 2.5 cups (470-590 ml)
Flavored Rice (Rice Pilaf)
In the Middle East most notably, there are some more creative ways to make flavored rice. All you need are a few seasonings to level up your rice cooking skills. Here’s some inspiration:
- Lebanese rice: White rice with vermicelli noodles and butter, often called butter rice. It’s probably the most common side dish in countries like Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
- Yellow rice: Turmeric spiced rice is a popular side dish in large parts of the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia and gulf states. It’s also eaten in other countries, for example in some parts of India.
- Rice with raisins and nuts: An absolute delight that has countless variations. It makes the perfect side dish to many meat dishes.
- Hashweh rice: Popular as a side dish on special occasions, hashweh also makes a great comfort meal for busy weekdays. Hashweh is flavored rice with ground beef, carrots, peas and a few warm seasonings.
What to Serve with Rice?
The method explained above is for plain white rice which makes a great side dish to many international main dishes. Would you like to put your rice cooking skills into practice right away? Below are some Middle Eastern dishes that go well with white rice as a side dish:
- Lubia (green bean stew)
- Fasolia (white bean stew)
- Bamya (okra stew)
- Dawood Basha (meatball and potato stew)
Any Questions or Feedback?
If you liked this recipe, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. In case you’ve any questions or feedback, please leave me a comment (down the page). I’m happy to help you make delicious Middle Eastern food at home.
How to Cook Rice
- 200 g (1 cup) Basmati rice
- 350 ml (1.5 cups) water for cooking, extra for washing and soaking
- 1/2 tsp salt optional
- Place the rice in a large bowl to wash it. Fill up with water and stir well. Drain the water (the water will be whitish due to the starch of the rice). Repeat the process three times, until the water is clear.
- Add plenty of (warm) water to the bowl with the rice. Set aside for 20-30 minutes to soak the rice (improves its texture). Drain the water after soaking.
- Add the soaked rice (well drained!) to a large non-stick saucepan. Add hot water and a pinch of salt (optional). For 1 cup of rice, you’ll need about 1.5 cups of water (rule of thumb). Bring to a boil on high heat. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan with a lid and let simmer for 10-12 minutes until all the water is absorbed and the rice fluffy and soft. Turn off the stove. Let sit for another 5 minutes (lid on). Fluff up and serve.
Nutrition information is only a rough estimate and may vary depending on factors such as the cooking method, exact weight, type, and brand of ingredients used.