The Washington Post

Black rice, “The forbidden rice”

Hi Levita, I hope you are well.
I have been hearing a lot in the media recently about the health benefits of eating black rice. I don’t recall ever seeing this in the grocery store, and am not sure if I would even like it. Can you recommend any easy recipes that would incorporate this ingredient?

I am well, and thank you for this inquiry, Andrew. Because I have never seen black rice, let alone bought or tasted it, your question prompted me to do a little culinary investigation. A CNN Health article by Carina Storrs entitled “Is Black Rice the New Brown?” outlines some history, health benefits and culinary uses of black rice. According to Storrs, legend has it that black rice was so delicious, nutritious and rare that back in the day it was reserved for the pleasure and consumption of emperors and royalty in places like China. Perhaps the health benefits of black rice offer a partial explanation as to why it was so revered. 

Like other red, blue and black fruits, vegetables and grains that are high in anthocyanins (which is in the color of these foods and is the source of the antioxidants) “whole” black rice–that which still has its bran intact–is full of health benefits. 

It is high in iron, fiber and antioxidants, particularly Vitamin E, and lower in sugar than its fruit counterparts, and therefore considered an even better preventative measure against (or alleviator of) chronic inflammation, allergies, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, certain cancers, and even aging according to articles listed at, a non-profit dedicated solely to disseminating knowledge about this super food. 

As far as culinary uses, I’m inclined to try it as a plain side dish as I would plain brown or white rice.  Storrs’s article cites the texture as chewy and the flavor as nutty with floral undertones. In various parts of Asia, black rice is also made into a breakfast porridge and lots of tasty desserts.  The Purple Rice Pudding with Rose Water Dates from is one that I am eager to try. I like the ingredients list for it, including the two I’ve never experimented with, the black rice and the rose water. 

My mouth began to salivate, too, when I read over the recipes for more savory dishes like Black Rice with Scallions and Sweet Potato, also from Epicurious and a five-star rated Black Rice Risotto recipe from 

Although it’s history traces back to various parts of Asia, and it has been referred to as “the forbidden rice” because, according to legend, regular people could be killed if caught with black rice without the approval of the proper authorities, those of us who are not emperors or of a royal family can possibly find it at Whole Foods, My Organic Market (MOM’s), area food coops, and local Asian markets. not only educates its readers by citing the latest studies about black rice, but it also lists places to buy it. 

In addition to the rice pudding above, I’m going to try the recipe below, which was complete with two places from which to order the rice, Kalustyan’s, 800-352-3451 and Indian Harvest, 800-294-2433.  There are lots of other on-line places to purchase black rice and find recipes.  Find a dish that appeals to you, prepare it, and let me know how it turns out.

 Black Rice with Scallions and Sweet Potatoes (from

Gourmet | January 2004

Yield: Makes 4 servings
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes


3/4 cup Chinese black rice
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 bunch scallions, chopped (3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 large sweet potato (12 to 14 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
Garnish: chopped scallion greens


Rinse rice in a sieve under cold water. Bring rice, water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart heavy saucepan, then reduce heat to low and cook rice, covered, until tender and most of water is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Let rice stand, covered, off heat 10 minutes.

While rice cooks, heat oil in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and sauté scallions, ginger, and sweet potato, stirring, until coated well, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to moderate and add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste, then cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until potato is just tender, about 12 minutes. Add rice and toss gently to combine.

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