My family has always preferred rice over mashed potatoes or pasta. If given a choice, rice and gravy or buttered rice wins every time. But, the problem has always been and continues to be, how to make rice less sticky.
The single most important thing to do to prevent rice from being sticky is to rinse multiple times until the rinse water is clear before cooking. Additional steps to non-sticky rice include adding rice to boiling water, adding a bit of olive oil, and cooking it uncovered.
But, this is not the only thing you can do to make rice less sticky. There are several things that can help to make that next pot of rice you cook less sticky, and we will discuss them all in this article.
1. Rinsing the Rice Thoroughly Before Cooking
This is the number one best method of preventing rice from being sticky.
Rice is a very starchy food. As a matter of fact, uncooked rice is made up of 63.6% starch, according to Healthline.com, so if we rinse off the excess starch which appears as white powder in a bag of rice, it has a better chance of cooking up light and fluffy and not heavy, moist, and starchy.
The best way to rinse rice is:
- Pour the rice into a bowl and cover it with water.
- Swirl the rice around in the water with your hand or a spoon.
- When the water turns white and cloudy, pour the water off by using a strainer.
- Repeat these steps at least 2 to 3 times until the water no longer turns white and cloudy.
- Then, let the rice sit in the bowl covered with water for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Repeat the rinse process (steps 2 through 4 above).
- After rinsing, follow package or recipe directions to cook the rice.
2. Start the Rice Cooking by Pouring It Into Boiling Water
One of the best ways to make sure your basic long grain white rice is neither gummy and starchy nor overcooked is to start the rice by pouring it into a pot of boiling water instead of starting it in cold water.
Just measure the water into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Once the water is at a full rolling boil, just pour the rice that has been rinsed well into the boiling water and stir to combine. Give the water time to come back to a full rolling boil, cover, and reduce the heat to the lowest setting on the burner, and cook for 20 minutes without opening the lid.
The trick to this method is to add the rice as soon as the water starts boiling. If it boils long enough to allow part of the water to boil away, it could result in the rice either burning or not cooking completely done, and who wants to eat scorched or crunchy rice?
3. Use the Uncovered Method of Cooking Rice
When cooking rice by using the uncovered method, you don’t pre-measure the water. Instead, just boil the rice in a pot of water and then drain it all through a colander or strainer. Finally, rinse the rice with hot tap water. I have been cooking rice this way for years and the rice is always light and fluffy.
Here are the directions for cooking rice using the uncovered method:
- Rinse the rice using the method mentioned in section 1 above.
- Add enough water to a 3-quart saucepan so that it is three-quarters full.
- Bring the water to a full rolling boil on the stovetop over high heat.
- Add 1&½ cups of rinsed white rice to the boiling water and stir well.
- Allow the contents of the saucepan to come back to a full rolling boil.
- Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle boil, stirring occasionally.
- Cook for 20 minutes.
- Place a colander or strainer into the sink.
- Pour the contents of the saucepan into the colander or strainer and rinse the rice with hot tap water.
- Place the colander or strainer on top of the saucepan and set it aside to drain completely.
- Salt can be added either during the cooking process or after it is done.
- Fluff the rice with a fork immediately before serving.
Makes 4-6 servings.
4. Use Precise Measurements
Another issue that can affect the way rice turns out is whether the ingredients, rice and water, have been measured correctly and whether they are in the right proportions. If there is not enough water added for the amount of rice being cooked, it can be dry or even scorch on the bottom before it gets done. But, if there is too much water added, the rice can turn out gummy instead of light and fluffy.
I was taught that when cooking white rice, the perfect ratio of rice to water is 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice. So, it is quite surprising to me when I read that some people use equal parts rice and water, or 1&¼ cups of water to 1 cup of rice.
However, after cooking rice a certain way for about 60 years, I have found there are many different kinds of rice and they are all cooked a little differently. For example, basmati rice should be cooked with 1.5 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice, while jasmine rice only requires 1.25 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice.
So, I still say that it is important to measure rice and water exactly. Just be sure to follow package directions when cooking rice to determine just what those measurements should be.
Follow Package Directions
Some types of rice require different cooking times than the age-old, 20-minute recipe. And, some types of rice require a different ratio of rice to water. So, be sure that you check the package directions for the correct rice to water ratio and for the correct length of time that the rice should be cooked.
Some Types of Rice Require a Different Rice to Water Ratio
Even though this was discussed briefly in section 6, it is so important that I wanted to mention it again. In addition to making sure you measure the ingredients precisely, check your package directions to find the exact rice to water ratio that is recommended by the manufacturer. As I mentioned earlier, basmati rice calls for 1.5 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice, and jasmine rice cooks best when using 1.25 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice.
So, just do a quick check of the package directions before cooking the rice that you bought. I’m guilty of not doing that and just assumed that the ratio is the same for all rice, so the first time I cooked basmati rice, it didn’t turn out right at all. So don’t make my mistake, just a quick check of the package directions is all it takes.
5. Don’t Lift the Lid or Stir While it’s Cooking
It is also very important to refrain from lifting the lid to the rice pot when it is cooking by the covered method. Lifting the lid during the cooking process can affect the length of cooking time, the amount of evaporation of the liquid which can result in rice that is too dry, and the amount of absorption of liquid by the rice, which can result in rice that is gummy.
For perfect rice using the covered method, follow these directions:
- Measure 1 cup of white rice and rinse well using the method described in section 1 above.
- Measure 2 cups of water into a 3-quart saucepan.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the water and stir.
- Place the saucepan on a stovetop burner over high heat.
- When the water comes to a full rolling boil, add the rinsed rice, stir well, place the lid on the saucepan, and reduce heat to a low setting.
- Cook for 20 minutes without lifting the lid during the entire 20-minute cooking period.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat source and let it stand for 5 minutes before removing the lid.
- Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.
Makes 4 servings
6. Saute the Rice Before Cooking
Another step that can help prevent sticky rice is to saute the rice in a small amount of olive oil until it begins to lightly brown, before adding the liquid.
This is called the pilaf method of cooking rice and works better when using long grain rice. Here are the steps to cooking rice by using the pilaf method:
- Start by heating your saucepan and adding just a tablespoon or two of oil. I prefer olive oil, but you can use any kind.
- At this point, you can add some onion or garlic and saute as the rice is browning, but this is optional.
- Add 1 cup of rinsed and drained long grain rice and saute just until it begins to turn a light brown.
- Add 2 cups of water or broth and bring it to a full rolling boil.
- Stir well, cover the saucepan, lower the heat to its lowest setting, and cook for 20 minutes.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat source, remove the lid immediately, and fluff with a fork. For this method of cooking rice, don’t let it sit for 5 minutes uncovered after cooking.
Makes 4 servings.
This method produces a very flavorful and aromatic rice that makes an excellent side dish on its own. If you prefer, you can even add more vegetables such as carrots and celery when you add the onion and garlic.
I have even seen recipes posted that cook this dish in the oven rather than the stovetop, but I have never tried it and cannot comment one way or the other. I do know that it tastes really good made by the directions listed above.
7. Be Aware That Some Types and Brands of Rice Are Naturally More Starchy.
There are differences in the types of starch that are found in rice that result in some rice cooking lighter and fluffier than others no matter what you do or how you cook it. That is because there are two types of starch in rice, amylose and amylopectin, and they are present in different amounts in different types of rice.
Long grain white rice, for example, is higher in amylose and lower in amylopectin and so naturally cooks fluffier and lighter.
Short grain rice and medium grain rice are higher in amylopectin and lower in amylose and cook creamier and more sticky than long grain rice.
Here is a list of the types of rice we are most familiar with and whether they naturally cook fluffier or creamier:
- Basmati Rice cooks light and fluffy because it is high in amylose and low in amylopectin.
- Brown Rice cooks light and fluffy because it is high in amylose, low in amylopectin, and has a hard outer layer.
- Jasmine Rice is high in amylopectin, low in amylose, and is creamier when cooked.
- Long Grain White Rice is high in amylose, low in amylopectin, and cooks lighter and fluffier.
- Medium Grain White Rice is high in amylopectin, low in amylose, and becomes creamy and sticky when cooked.
- Short Grain White Rice, like Medium Grain Rice, is high in amylopectin, low in amylose, and is creamier and sticky when cooked.
- Wild Rice is not rice at all but is the seed from a type of native grass that grows in North America. So, it usually cooks light and fluffy unless it is overcooked.
How to Fix Sticky Rice:
In my opinion, there is no real fix for rice that has turned out sticky and gummy. But, there are a few things you can do to salvage it and make it at least edible.
- The first thing I would try is rinsing. Just leave the rice in the colander or strainer that you have strained it through and rinse it with hot tap water. Then, drain it and stir it well to try to separate the grains.
- If that doesn’t do the trick, try spreading it on a baking sheet and baking it in a 350℉ oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
- The only other suggestion I have is to cook another pot of rice and save the sticky rice to use in another dish such as rice pudding or put it into the refrigerator at least overnight and use it to make fried rice.
Cooking Rice in a Rice Cooker
If you are using a rice cooker instead of the traditional method of cooking rice, here is a chart giving the rice to water ratios for the different types of rice.
|Type of Rice||Ratio Water to Rice||Amount/Rice||Amount/Water|
|White Rice||2:1||1 cup||2 cups|
|Basmati||1.5:1||1 cup||1.5 cups|
|Jasmine||1.25:1||1 cup||1.25 cups|
|Brown||2.25:1||1 cup||2.25 cups|
For more information on cooking rice in a rice cooker, see my article entitled How Much Rice and Water to Put in a Rice Cooker By Rice Type.
For many years I was only familiar with white rice and brown rice. I wasn’t aware of all the different kinds that we have available today, and although I made what I considered to be perfect rice for many years, when I started using different kinds of rice and tried cooking them by my “old fashioned” recipe and they didn’t turn out right, it became obvious that I needed to make some changes in my way of cooking.
So, when I buy any kind of rice now, I check the package directions to be sure that I am using the correct rice to water ratio and the correct cooking time so that I can be relatively certain I’m doing all I can to make sure the rice turns out perfectly.
If you are interested in more information on cooking the different kinds of rice, you could check out my article on Do You Cover Rice When Cooking?
Thanks for stoppin’ by!
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.