Purple rice is an heirloom variety of rice, indigenous to Asia. When raw, it is actually black in colour, and is sometimes also referred to as black rice, but when cooked it turns a deep purple, the colour of eggplant or kidney beans. In Korea it is cooked alongside white rice grains for a paler lilac hue.
There are two different types of purple rice, a long-grained jasmine rice, and a sticky, or glutinous rice. It is slightly chewy, with a pleasant, nutty flavour, and is usually eaten as an unprocessed, wholegrain rice. Popular varieties include:
Black sticky rice, a long-grain glutinous rice popular in Thai desserts.
Black Japonica rice, a mix of two different rices, often grown together in the same field, and usually made up of around 25 percent black short-grain japonica rice and 75 percent mahogany rice. Black Japonica mix has a strong, almost mushroom-like flavour, and is popular in rice salads.
Chinese black rice is non-sticky, with a slightly sweeter flavour, and is popularly eaten as a type of porridge known as juk.
Find out how to tell your bomba from your basmati with our guide to the different types of rice.
History and origins
Purple rice is thought to be the result of a mutated gene, and its cultivation dates back at least 2500 BC. In Imperial China it was known as ‘forbidden rice’, or ‘Emperor’s rice’, and according to legend it was forbidden to everyone but the aristocracy, or in some versions, just the Emperor himself. Purple rice is relatively difficult to grow, and it seems that its rarity, combined with its striking appearance, afforded it a particularly high status.
In terms of nutrition, purple rice is fairly similar to other wholegrain rices, and because there are several different varieties of purple rice, exact values can vary. As a rough estimate, however, 100g of dry purple rice will contain the following:
Of which fibre: 2.2g
Purple rice is mainly made up of carbohydrate, so if you’re cutting down on carbs, you may wish to enjoy it in small amounts only. It does have several benefits, however, with around 7% of your recommended daily intake for fibre, and 13% for iron. It is also higher in protein than both brown and fortified white rice, which contain roughly 7.1g and 6.7 respectively.
There are several potential health benefits associated with eating purple rice, one of which is related to its unusual colour. In fact, purple rice is purple thanks to a pigment called anthocyanin, which also happens to be a powerful antioxidant. These beneficial plant compounds help to prevent cell damage caused by harmful substances called oxidants, which can lead to various chronic illnesses, including heart disease and cancer.
Purple rice is also a good source of protein, which helps build and repair tissues, and of fibre, for a healthy digestive system. It is also high in iron, which is important for creating red blood cells, and helping to transport blood around the body.
As with any rice, purple rice should be stored in an airtight container, or securely-sealed packaging. It should be kept in a cool, dry place away from moisture and pests. It will keep for 3 to 6 months, but will be at its best over the next few weeks. Once you have opened a packet of rice, store whatever you haven’t used in the fridge. Leftover cooked rice should be discarded, as reheated rice has been known to cause food poisoning.
How to cook purple rice
Cooking purple rice is similar to cooking other types of rice. Simply follow the steps below:
- Wash the rice by placing it in a bowl and covering it with cold water. Swirl the rice around with your hand a few times, then drain. Repeat this step 3 or 4 times, until the water runs clear.
- Place the rice in a large pan and add 2 cups of liquid for every 1 cup of rice. Your liquid can be water with a little oil, stock, or coconut water.
- Bring the liquid to a gentle boil, then cover and reduce the heat.
- Simmer for around 20 minutes, until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid
- Remove from the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes, leaving the lid on the pot.
Now you know how to cook purple rice, why not try out your skills on one of these delicious recipes?
Korean purple rice
Korean purple rice is known as heukmi bap (흑미밥), and is made using purple rice mixed with short or medium grain white rice. The result is a pretty, lilac-coloured rice that tastes great served with a few of your favourite banchan side dishes. We love this easy Korean purple rice recipe from My Korean Kitchen, which shows you not 1 but 3 ways to cook Korean purple rice
Purple rice with ginger and coconut
For another simple, flavourful way to cook purple rice, try this purple rice with ginger and coconut from One Green Planet. This tasty dish proves that just a few simple ingredients can make all the difference to your cooking.
If you love cooking with rice in general, don’t miss our guide to some of the tastiest Asian rice recipes.