The Power Of Purple: How To Cook And Enjoy Nutritious Purple Rice 

 Last Update October 1, 2023

By Jenny Zhang

Purple rice - also called "forbidden rice" and "black rice" - looks almost unreal. The cooked rice is a shiny, jewel-toned purple! Purple rice has a long and interesting history, and it's one of the most nutritious kinds of rice in existence. Below, we'll tell you all about this ancient rice, its nutty taste, and how to add it to your healthy diet!

What Is Purple Rice?

Purple rice has enjoyed recent attention, but it's far from being a new food. Purple rice is an heirloom rice variety with roots in ancient Asia - as ancient as the year 2500 B.C.! It's only one of over 40,000 cultivated rice varieties, but its deep color and unique nicknames (such as "black rice" and "forbidden rice") give it a mysterious, intriguing quality. Legend says that purple rice was reserved exclusively for the aristocracy and emperors of ancient China, so in this way, it was forbidden for almost all people. Black rice was also difficult to grow, so it was a rare commodity.

There are two types of purple rice, each with a slightly different texture and flavor. This difference lies in their endosperm. Black rice that does not contain gluten in its endosperm is similar to long-grain jasmine rice and does not become sticky when cooked, so it is suitable for people following a gluten-free diet. However, black glutinous rice is the most popular type of purple rice. Also known as short-grain sticky rice, it has gluten in its endosperm that breaks down into sugar when cooked.

Why Is Purple Rice... Purple?

The dark color of black rice is due to a flavonoid called anthocyanin. This anthocyanin pigment is also found in blueberries and eggplants and is a powerful antioxidant. The rice is black when it's raw, but as it cooks, it turns a deep, iridescent purple.

How Does Purple Rice Taste?

Both black glutinous rice and non-glutinous rice have an earthy, nutty flavor. Texture-wise, it is somewhat chewy, like other whole grains. The taste and texture of purple rice can vary depending on the variety and how it is prepared, but it generally has a pleasant and unique flavor that sets it apart from other types of rice.

Health Benefits Of Purple Rice

Purple rice may look fascinating, but its real value is in its nutritional benefits.


Rice is a rich source of dietary fiber, and purple rice is no exception. Sticky purple rice, in particular, however, has an intact outer bran layer. This means that it is remarkably high in fiber and is digested slowly. This regulates the digestive system, helps with weight loss, lowers cholesterol, and lowers blood pressure.


Black rice, aka "forbidden rice," is a good source of plant protein, and protein is vital for building muscle, repairing muscle, cell growth, and bone strength.


The same compound that gives black rice its unique color also gives it valuable anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. Blueberries are considered an antioxidant superfood, but the outermost layer of purple rice contains even higher concentration of anthocyanin of any food! This antioxidant has been shown to reduce diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and even cancer! In fact, you can even get purple rice extract as a supplement.


Purple rice has a notably high amount of iron, and this mineral is responsible for making red blood cells and transmitting nerve impulses.

Black Rice Vs. Purple Rice

Purple rice is frequently called "black rice" because when uncooked, the rice looks inky black. The purple color appears when the rice has been cooked. Different varieties of purple rice do this to a greater or lesser degree, with some purple rices still looking nearly black when cooked. Typically, these purple rice varieties are referred to as "black rice," while other varieties that show more color change are classified as "purple rice." However, they're all variations of purple rice.

Purple Rice Vs. Korean Purple Rice

While both rice is called purple rice, there is a difference between the two, and the main difference is their origin and cultural significance. Purple rice is commonly consumed in Southeast Asia and is a type of rice that is naturally purple due to its anthocyanin content. 

Korean purple rice is a blend of glutinous black rice and medium-grain white rice mixed with black beans, grains, and sometimes other ingredients. The black rice is what gives the purple hue when it's cooked. Korean rice is traditionally eaten in Korea and is known for its nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture. 

raw black rice

How To Cook Purple Rice

You can cook black rice just as you would cook brown rice! Since purple rice is whole-grain rice, these cooking methods will give you a slightly chewy texture. This is normal and intended. If you'd like softer rice, add an additional 1/4 cup of liquid and cook the rice for an additional 10 minutes. If this type of rice is too chewy for you, you can combine white and black rice to cook. And to fluff up your rice, add a drizzle of olive oil and stir before serving. 

Stovetop Absorption Method

  1. Rinse the rice. Rinse "forbidden rice" three to four times in cool water, changing the water each time. This helps to remove any excess starches that can cause your rice to clump.
  2. Fill your pot. For every 1 cup of rice, you need 2 cups of liquid. Most of the time, this will be water. However, you can also use coconut water, chicken stock, or vegetable broth. A spoonful of butter and 1/2 teaspoon of salt can be added for flavor.
  3. Cook rice. Bring the rice and liquid to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the rice cook until all the water is absorbed - about 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat. Remove the pot from the heat entirely, and let it stand covered for 5 minutes. Then use a rice paddle to give it a good "fluffing."

Rice Cooker Method

  1. Rinse the rice. Every rice recipe starts with well-rinsed rice so that you avoid starchy clumps.
  2. Fill your rice cooker. Use a 1:2 ratio of black rice to liquid. You can use water, broth, stock, or coconut water as your liquid. Feel free to add small amounts of butter and salt for flavor.
  3. Choose your setting. Black rice should be cooked using the brown rice setting on your rice cooker. This will bring it to the appropriate temperature and cook it for the correct time.
  4. Let the rice sit. Once your rice has finished cooking, leave it in the rice cooker for an additional 10 minutes before removing the lid. Drizzle the rice with olive oil and then stir with a rice paddle to fluff and enjoy!

How To Use Purple Rice

You can eat purple rice just like other types of rice, and it can be used to replace any recipes that call for rice. 

Whether it is a fresh batch of rice or leftover rice, there are many ways you can enjoy them. Here are some healthy recipe ideas you can try:

  • Buddha bowls: Use purple rice as a base for your favorite buddha bowl recipe. Top it with roasted vegetables, a protein of your choice, and a flavorful sauce.
  • Rice pudding: Cook purple rice with milk and sugar to make a creamy, purple-hued rice pudding. Add a touch of cinnamon or cardamom for extra flavor.
  • Sushi: Use purple rice as a colorful alternative to white rice in sushi rolls. Top with your favorite sushi fillings, and enjoy!
  • Salad: Toss cooked purple rice with fresh vegetables, herbs, and a light vinaigrette for a healthy and colorful salad.
  • Breakfast bowl: Use leftover purple rice as a base for a healthy breakfast bowl. Top it with Greek yogurt, fresh berries, and a drizzle of honey for a sweet and satisfying start to your day.
  • Stuffed peppers: Use leftover purple rice as a filling for stuffed peppers. Mix the rice with chopped veggies, ground meat or tofu, and spices, then stuff the mixture into bell peppers and bake until tender.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Purple Rice Good For Diabetics?

Purple rice is rich in carbohydrates, like all kinds of rice. However, it is a whole grain. The bran and germ of purple rice are where most of the nutrients and fiber are found, and as a whole grain, the bran and germ are left intact. This means that purple rice is digested slowly and doesn't trigger blood sugar spikes.

Is Purple Rice Healthier Than White Rice?

Yes! Purple rice is much more nutrient-dense than white rice, and it has more fiber, protein, and iron than white rice. It has a low glycemic index, like other brown rice and other whole-grain rice. And they may also have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties, which white rice certainly cannot have!

Does Purple Rice Have Arsenic?

Purple rice, like brown rice, may contain trace amounts of arsenic. Arsenic is a toxin found in some soils, and plants grown in those soils might absorb it. To reduce arsenic concerns, rinse black rice multiple times prior to cooking.

Where Can I Buy Purple Rice?

Black rice is unlikely to be found in most grocery stores. However, many health food stores and Asian grocery stores will stock purple rice. It is also available to purchase online.

Do you need to soak purple rice before cooking?

Just like cooking brown, black, and white rice, it can be beneficial to soak purple rice for at least one hour or overnight before cooking. Letting the rice soak for hours can help soften the grain and reduce cooking time. If you are unsure whether your purple rice needs to be soaked or not, check the instructions on the package or consult a recipe for guidance.

Jenny passionately advocates a holistic and natural approach to health and well-being. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and years of working in food sciences, specializing in organic & natural products. She is committed to helping others embrace a balanced, natural lifestyle that fosters well-being. Jenny believes that a harmonious balance between nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness is the key to unlocking the full potential of one’s well-being.