How to Cook Brown Rice

Rice is one of my favorite side dishes — it’s so versatile and can be paired with almost anything! And while I often opt for white rice, I also like to switch things up and make brown rice when the mood strikes. Brown rice boasts a more complex flavor that its white rice counterpart. It’s nutty, earthy, and warm. It’s also less processed than white rice, which is always a plus.

brown rice in a black and white bowl

I serve brown rice with dishes like sweet chili glazed salmon, baked sesame chicken, and broccoli beef stir fry. It instantly makes a meal heartier and adds another layer of flavor to whatever you pair it with!

You may already know how to make white rice. Well, now it’s time to learn how to cook brown rice! This helpful guide will also teach you:

  • The different types of brown rice
  • Several methods for cooking brown rice
  • Serving suggestions and recipes that you can try at home

If you’re ready to learn how to cook brown rice, read on!

dry rice in a bowl

How to Cook Brown Rice

Because brown rice is less processed, it requires a longer cooking time as well as more water. The key to cooking perfect rice is really in how much water you use. Use too much, and you’ll end up with a gluey and sticky mess. Use too little, and you’ll get hard and undercooked results. 

Unlike white rice, you want to avoid the “absorption” method when you cook brown rice. This refers to using a very precise amount of water. The rice absorbs the water, and there is no need to drain. While this technique is perfect for other varieties of rice, you’ll want to avoid it for brown rice.

I came across this method of cooking brown rice unexpectedly when I made the mistake of thinking my brown rice was barley one time. Who knew that boiling instead of steaming would give me the best brown rice results?

After it was boiling I realized my mishap and let it boil like I do barley. I tasted it to see if it was cooked and decided to drain it and pop it back in the pan, covered for a few, to see the result. Silly, yet the outcome was an even cook, no wet, mushy rice on the bottom of the pan and the fluffiest brown rice throughout. This is how I like to cook brown rice!

You may also be wondering how long to cook brown rice. This depends on what type of brown rice you use as well as the cooking method. I outline the specific cooking times below. In the meantime, let’s talk about the different varieties of brown rice.

liquid in a pan

Different Types of Brown Rice

There are several different types of brown rice — in fact, any rice that has not had its hull (the outer layer) removed is technically brown rice. But, today I want to keep things simple and talk about the 4 main types of brown rice:

  • Short grain: Living up to its name, short grain brown rice boasts small and short grains. When cooked, it becomes very sticky. This is the type of brown rice that you’ll see in sushi.
  • Medium grain: Longer than short grain but shorter than long grain, medium grain brown rice also cooks up sticky. It’s not as sticky as short grain, yet is stickier than long grain. This is the most common type of brown rice.
  • Long grain: The longest variety of brown rice, long grain is fluffy and only slightly sticky when cooked. It’s a great choice for salads and soups.
  • Basmati: Also considered to be long-grain rice, brown basmati rice is fragrant and boasts a firm (not sticky) texture when cooked. Read how to cook basmati in an Instant Pot in my post here.
overhead shot of cooked rice in sieve

How to Cook Brown Rice on the Stove

The first cooking method I want to share is how to cook brown rice on the stove! It’s straightforward and is my go-to. It’s the best method for medium and long-grain brown rice, as well as basmati.

Step 1: Place 8 cups of water into a saucepan over high heat and bring it to a boil.

Step 2: Pour in 1 cup of dry brown rice and boil until just cooked. Medium and long-grain rice will take about 30 minutes, and basmati will take between 12-14 minutes.

Step 3: Drain the rice — remove as much water as you can. Pour the drained rice back into the saucepan and let it rest for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

How to Cook Brown Rice in an Instant Pot 

Use your Instant Pot (or another type of pressure cooker) if you have long-grain brown rice on hand. Opt to use your stovetop and rice cooker for other varieties.

Step 1: Place 1 cup of dry brown rice and 1 ½ cups of water in your Instant Pot. You can also add ¼ teaspoon of salt if desired.

Step 2: Lock the lid and turn the knob to Seal. Pressure cook on High for 15 minutes. Then, perform a natural pressure release for 10 minutes.

Step 3: Turn the knob to Vent to release any additional steam. Fluff with a fork before serving.

pan of steaming rice with a lid

How to Cook Brown Rice in the Microwave

You can cook any type of brown rice in the microwave. Keep in mind that short-grain brown rice may require a slightly longer cook time (3-4 minutes). This is a great method if you’re short on time.

Step 1: Place 1 cup of dry brown rice and 3 cups of water in a large microwave-safe dish.

Step 2: Microwave uncovered on High for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to Medium, cover the dish with a vented lid, and microwave for an additional 20 minutes.

Step 3: Remove the dish from the microwave and fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

How to Cook Brown Rice in a Rice Cooker

Last but not least, you can also cook brown rice in a rice cooker! It’s a wonderful set-it-and-forget-it cooking method. Just make sure to adjust the rice-to-water ratio, depending on the grain you use. Short-grain rice will require more water than long grain.

Step 1: Place 1 cup of dry short-grain brown rice and 2 cups of water (use 1 ¼ cups of water for long-grain) into your rice cooker and stir.

Step 2: Press Start to begin cooking. Let it work its magic — it should take about 45 minutes to cook.

Step 3: Allow the rice to rest in the rice cooker for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

brown rice in pan

Ways to Use Brown Rice — Serving Suggestions

Now that you know how to cook brown rice, it’s time to start thinking about what to use it for! There are so many possibilities:

  • In stir-fries & fried rice: Brown rice is a wonderful base for all of your favorite stir-fry and fried rice dishes. Make it with vegetables, seafood, meat, poultry, or even your favorite plant-based options. 
  • In salads & soups: Replace the noodles in your salads and soups and use brown rice instead! It will instantly make whatever you pair it with heartier and more filling.
  • In burritos & wraps: You can also bulk up sandwiches like wraps and burritos with brown rice!
  • Wherever you use white rice: Switch things up and use brown rice instead of white rice! 

5 Great Brown Rice Recipes

Pair your perfectly cooked brown rice with any of the recipes below!

black and white bowl with cooked brown rice


What is the Water-to-Rice Ratio for Brown Rice?

It depends on what cooking method you go for, but as a general rule: brown rice requires more water than white rice:

  • Stovetop: 8 cups of water for every 1 cup of dry brown rice
  • Instant Pot (pressure cooker): 1 ½ cups of water for every 1 cup of brown rice
  • Microwave: 3 cups of water for every 1 cup of dry brown rice
  • Rice cooker: 1 ¼ – 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of brown rice

How Long Does it Take to Cook Brown Rice?

It depends on how you cook it. Generally, just as brown rice requires more water for cooking as compared to white rice, it also takes longer to make. Pressure cooking will take around 25 minutes, while it will take between 30-45 minutes to cook on the stovetop, microwave, and Instant Pot. 

Do You Need to Wash Brown Rice?

This seems to be the great debate when it comes to cooking rice: to rinse, or not to rinse? I find that rinsing is unnecessary, but other chefs swear by this method. I encourage you to try both techniques to see if you can tell the difference between rinsed and unrinsed rice. If you do rinse, lessen the amount of water you cook it with by 2-3 tablespoons (what was probably absorbed) to avoid mushy rice. At the end of the day, it’s all about preference.


I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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  1. I find that I can cook brown rice in about 15 to 20 minutes if I add the water to the rice in whichever pot you will be cooking it in about 3 to 4 hours before you plan to cook it. The rice soaks up a good amount of the water and cooks in about the same amount of time as white rice. Of course you do need to plan ahead.