When it’s cooked well, rice is a fluffy, tasty grain to add to lots of dishes. But this good grain can go bad if not prepared properly. If you’ve ever had mushy, (unintentionally) sticky, or crunchy rice, you’ll understand.

Ready to put those sad dishes in the past? Here’s your foolproof guide to cooking rice so you’ll get the perfect bowl every time.

white rice shaped into triangles on blue plateShare on Pinterest
Nataša Mandi?/Stocks United

Wondering how to make rice with the best consistency? It’s all about getting the technique down. Once you’ve learned the classic method, it’ll be easier to get it right. Here are the basics to keep in mind when cooking rice.

Choose your rice

Brown and white rice are some of the most common types you’ll see at the store. What’s the difference? On average, white rice takes about 18 minutes to cook, but brown rice could take up to an hour.

But don’t decide based on cooking time alone. Brown rice is a whole grain, so it’s generally considered more nutritious than white rice. It also contains flavonoids. Why is that so great? Research suggests that eating foods high in flavonoids may lower your risk of developing heart disease and other chronic conditions.

Remember to rinse it

Rinsing your rice before cooking it is super important, so don’t skip this step! Rinsing helps get rid of surface starch that can make your rice too gummy. To rinse your rice, put it in a fine-mesh strainer under cold running water and stop once the water starts running clear.

Respect the ratio

For most types of rice, the perfect rice-to-water ratio is 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water, but this may vary. If you’re not sure about the right quantities to use, check the rice packaging for instructions.

Add salt and butter (optional)

After figuring out how much rice you wanna make, you can add some salt or butter to make it even more flavorful and creamy. For a more heart-healthy option, you can swap the butter for a small amount of olive oil (or another oil of your choice).

Fresh herbs like thyme, parsley, or cilantro can also elevate your rice to a more sophisticated dish.

Let it simmer

After boiling the water, adding the rice, and seasoning it, let the mixture simmer with the saucepan covered. Ideally, the top of the water will be bubbling up a bit on medium to low heat, but not so much so that it bubbles out of the pot.

A rice cooker takes the guesswork out of when your rice is ready. It’s designed to automatically stop cooking when the rice is good to go.

How to do it:

  1. Rinse your rice under cold water to remove surface starch from the grains.
  2. Place 1 cup of rice in your rice cooker bowl.
  3. Add 1–2 cups of water. (Check the package of your rice to find the sweet spot.)
  4. Put on the lid and switch the cooker to “cook” or “boil” mode.
  5. Let it cook until the cooker switches automatically to “warm” mode.
  6. Open the lid and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.

FYI: The rice-to-water ratio may vary from one brand to another. Check the package for specific instructions on how much to use in your rice cooker.

Don’t have a rice cooker? No worries. You can cook rice easily on your stove! (You just won’t get the benefit of the rice cooker’s automatic stop.)

How to do it:

  1. Start by rinsing the rice under cool running water.
  2. Put a saucepan over medium heat and add 1–2 cups of water (depending on the package instructions).
  3. Let the water boil, and once it starts bubbling up, add 1 cup of rice.
  4. Add a bit of butter (or oil of your choice) and a large pinch of salt for flavor.
  5. Reduce the heat and let the rice and water come to a simmer.
  6. Cover it and let it cook for about 18 minutes.
  7. Once the rich has fully absorbed the water, remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

If you don’t have a rice cooker and don’t have much time, the microwave is the way to go.

How to do it:

  1. Rinse your rice under running water and drain it.
  2. Place 1 cup of rice and 2 cups of water in a microwave-safe bowl.
  3. Microwave it uncovered at full power for about 10 minutes.
  4. Cover the bowl with a microwave-safe lid
  5. Microwave covered for another 5-10 minutes at half power.
  6. Remove the bowl from the microwave and let it sit for a few minutes.
  7. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Now that you know how to make rice, it’s time to take it to the next level! Here are four ideas to turn your bland rice bowl into a full, tasty meal or side dish:

  • Add color. Cardamom is perfect to add some Indian-inspired flavor and color to your rice. Plus, research suggests that cardamom may have anti-inflammatory effects. Two cardamom pods are usually enough for 1 cup of rice.
  • Throw in some veggies. You can add onions and celery to your rice to make a Turkish-style rice pilaf or just use mixed veggies like peas and carrots.
  • Make it creamy. For rice with a creamier texture and a slightly sweet taste, replace half the water with coconut milk. It’s delish, and a 2021 animal study suggests that consuming coconut milk instead of cow’s milk may help reduce a certain kind of body fat.
  • Fry it. Don’t know what to do with leftover rice? Fry it! Start with oil or butter, add some eggs to mix with the rice, finish with beans or veggies — et voilà, lunch is ready!