Types and varieties of rice

It can be long and thin grain, glutinous, brown, Thai or Basmati … There are over 2,000 varieties of rice in the world, although those that are grown are much fewer.

Most varieties of rice come from two wild species, one Asian (Ouryza sativa), which first appeared in the mountains of the Himalayas, and one African (Ouryza glaberrima), originating in the Niger Delta.

Given the size of a grain rice can be divided into several types: long, medium and short or round grain. The first is greater than 6 mm, light, very dry, and remains fluffy after cooling, so it is normal to use it as an ingredient in salads. In this group are the aromatics; Basmati from India and Pakistan and Thai rice with its characteristic aroma of jasmine, Ferranini from Italy and American Bond, among others.

Those that are medium grain measure between 5 and 6 mm and appear shorter and more rounded than long grain rice. Their flavour is milder and has a softer texture. Short or round grain rice gets its name because it is almost as wide as it is long (about 4-5 mm long and 2.5 mm thick).

Among medium grain rice, Arborio is worth highlighting while the Spanish Júcar, Baía or Bomba rice are the in short grain group. Another variety of short grain is glutinous rice, which contains a high percentage of starch and whose grains and stick together after cooking. It is used frequently to prepare risotto.


As for varieties, the main ones are: white rice, a long grain, from which the husk and bran are removed. Its quality is recognized all over the world. When cooked, the grains tend to remain separate. Another variety is brown rice, which retains most of the bran covering the grain, which gives it a particular shade of brown. It has higher fibre content than the other varieties, and on eating, is slightly chewy. Similar to brown rice is steamed or parboiled rice, as it has the same nutritional value and a similar golden colour, turning white when cooked. Before selling it undergoes a special process that stops it breaking up or sticking and, although it takes longer to cook, is a very nutritious product and the grains are always fluffy.

Furthermore there is red rice of Asian origin and so called because the grains have a red bran layer. Usually grown in infertile soils and mountain areas and most of it is ground into white flour for cooking. Finally, there is black rice, also Asian, rich in B vitamins and trace elements. This variety is grown in China, Indonesia and Thailand and is characterized by its thin layer of black bran that covers a white grain.