Purple Rice Guide: Nutrition, Benefits, And More 

 Last Update February 7, 2024

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, making it 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. Also known as short-grain sticky rice, it has gluten in its endosperm that breaks down into sugar when cooked.

Why Is It 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 is a nutritional powerhouse, rich in dietary fiber, which plays a crucial role in digestive health. A 100-gram serving of uncooked purple rice provides approximately 2.2 grams of dietary fiber.

Fiber aids in promoting regular bowel movements, preventing constipation, and supporting a healthy gut microbiome. Additionally, the high fiber content in purple rice contributes to a feeling of fullness, aiding in weight management and appetite control. Moreover, fiber has been linked to lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease.


Purple rice is not just visually appealing but also a nutritious grain, offering a good source of plant-based protein. A 100-gram serving of dry, medium-grain purple rice contains approximately 8.9 grams of protein, which is more than white and brown rice.

Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues, supporting muscle growth, and maintaining overall body function. The protein in purple rice can be especially beneficial for vegetarians and vegans looking for alternative protein sources. Additionally, this protein contributes to satiety, helping to keep you full and satisfied, which can be advantageous for weight management.


Purple rice is a nutritional gem, rich in powerful antioxidants like anthocyanins, which give it its distinctive color. These antioxidants are known for combating oxidative stress in the body, reducing inflammation, and aiding in preventing chronic diseases, including heart disease and certain cancers. The high antioxidant level in purple rice also supports healthy aging and boosts overall wellness.


Purple rice is an excellent source of iron, a vital mineral essential for the production of hemoglobin and the transport of oxygen throughout the body. A 100-gram serving of dry purple rice provides 2.4 milligrams of iron.

Adequate iron intake is crucial for maintaining energy levels, supporting immune function, and preventing anemia. The iron in purple rice is particularly beneficial for vegetarians, vegans, and individuals with higher iron requirements, such as pregnant women and athletes.

raw black rice

How does purple rice compare to other types of rice?

White Rice

Mild, soft, and versatile, white rice is a staple in many cuisines, particularly in Asian, Latin American, and Caribbean dishes. It's commonly used in sushi, paella, and pilaf. Its neutral flavor pairs well with various ingredients, from vegetables to meats.

Nutritionally, it is a refined grain with most of its fiber, vitamins, and minerals removed, leading to quick blood sugar spikes. It lacks a rich, nutty flavor and dense nutritional profile, including antioxidants, compared to purple ones.

Brown Rice

With a nuttier, chewier profile, brown rice is popular in health-conscious and vegetarian diets. It's used in a variety of dishes, including stir-fries, salads, and as a side dish.

Brown rice has a chewier texture and a nuttier flavor than white rice but less intense than purple ones. As a whole grain, it is higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals than white rice, similar to purple rice. However, it doesn't contain as many antioxidants as purple ones, which offers both a robust flavor and significant health benefits.

Red Rice

Red rice's nutty flavor and firm texture are featured in Asian and Himalayan cuisines. It's often used in traditional dishes like Bhutanese red rice. It pairs well with strong flavors like spicy or rich, savory dishes.

Red rice, with its reddish hue, is similar to purple rice but less pronounced. It offers antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, contributing to heart health and blood sugar management, though its antioxidant levels are lower than in purple ones.

Wild Rice

With an earthy, grassy flavor, wild rice is a traditional ingredient in North American and Native American cuisines. It's often found in soups, salads, and pilafs. It pairs well with gamey meats, mushrooms, and autumnal flavors.

Wild rice has an earthy, nutty flavor and a chewy texture. It's high in protein, fiber, and antioxidants, similar to purple rice. The nutritional benefits of wild rice, including heart health and digestive support, are comparable to purple ones, though the taste profiles differ significantly.

Jasmine and Basmati Rice

These aromatic varieties are staples in Thai and Indian cuisines, respectively. Jasmine rice is often found in Thai curries, fried rice and fragrant dishes, while Basmati is central to Indian biryanis and pilafs. Jasmine rice, from Thailand, is soft and slightly sticky with a fragrant aroma, while Basmati rice is known for its long, slender grains and fluffy texture.

Both have a delicate, aromatic flavor, contrasting with purple rice's bold, earthy taste. Nutritionally, these aromatic kinds of rice are lower in fiber and protein compared to whole grains like purple ones.

Sticky Rice

A key component in Asian cuisines, especially in desserts like Thai mango sticky rice and Japanese mochi. Sticky rice's subtly sweet flavor, and unique texture makes it less versatile but distinctive.

Also known as glutinous rice, sticky rice has a unique, glue-like texture and a subtly sweet flavor. It's less nutritious compared to whole grains like purple rice, offering minimal fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. The taste and texture of sticky rice are quite different from the robust and chewy nature of purple rice.

How To Cook Purple Rice

Stovetop Absorption Method

  1. Rinse the 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. 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. 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 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. 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. This type of 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. 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!

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. However, portion control is essential, as all rice varieties are carbohydrate-rich.

Does Purple Rice Have Arsenic?

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

Is Purple Rice Gluten Free?

Yes, purple rice is naturally gluten-free.

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.