Cooking White Rice. Is Soaking Really Necessary?
While this process removes much of the nutrition, it also renders the rice much more digestible for some people. Some experts go so far as to suggest that white rice is healthier than brown, especially when it comes to maintaining dental and intestinal health.
With primarily just the starch remaining, phytates, lectins and other anti-nutrients present in the hulls are also largely removed.
Hence the very solid reasoning for not soaking it.
Soaking is Not Just for Phytic Acid
I would generally agree with the assessment that within the context of normal, moderate consumption, soaking white rice is not necessary.
But we no longer live in “normal” times when it comes to crop cultivation. Let me explain …
In my early days of traditional cooking, I rarely if ever soaked white rice because our family ate it infrequently. It was mostly starch anyway, right?
However, in recent years, I have taken great care to rinse and soak my white rice before cooking. My reasons have nothing to do with eliminating anti-nutrients.
Nowadays, I soak milled white rice to eliminate toxins most specifically arsenic.
You may already know that arsenic contamination in rice crops is a worldwide problem. This is true even in organically tended rice paddies. This article on arsenic contamination in rice crops outlines the serious situation in detail.
Rice loves arsensic. If there is any present in the soil or water where it is cultivated (arsenic is highly water soluble), rice crops take it in at a rate ten times higher than other plants! The fact that rice grows in flooded paddies makes the potential exposure to this heavy metal even worse.
The good news is that soaking milled rice in six parts water to one part rice, discarding the soaking liquid, rinsing the rice thoroughly, and then cooking in fresh water significantly reduces arsenic levels by up to 80%. More research is needed, however, to identify how easily different rice varieties give up their arsenic. (1)
Cooking White Rice After Soaking
If you’ve now realized that soaked white rice is the way to go given the global problem of arsenic contamination, the next question is – how to do it?
Warning: if you try to soak white rice first and cook it according to the package directions, it will turn out mushy. I tell you this from experience!
With that, let me share with you my personal recipe for soaking and then cooking up a perfect pot of white rice every time! Tip: this method also works well is you use store bought or homemade bone broth to cook it instead of filtered water.
The rule of thumb is to reduce the cooking liquid by 1/6 if the white rice has been soaked. For example, if the package instructions say to use 3 cups of water to cook 2 cups of rice, then reduce the water to 2.5 cups. This roughly compensates for the amount of water taken in by the rice as it soaks.
Soaking and Cooking White Rice Recipe
How to soak and cook white rice so that it turns out light and fluffy every time. Recipe uses some bone broth to enhance nutritional profile and flavor considerably.
Rinse white rice and place in a large pot. Add 12 cups of filtered water.
Stir until the rice is completely wet and settles to the bottom of the pot. Cover and leave on the counter for 4-6 hours or overnight.
Drain rice thoroughly in large strainer. Rinse one more time.
Rinse soaking pot with clean filtered water and put soaked rice back in.
Add 1.5 cups fresh filtered water , 1 cup of bone broth, and butter. Stir.
Bring uncovered pot to a boil. Stir once or twice, reduce heat to medium/low and cover.
Cook for 13 minutes. Crack lid and see if all the water has been absorbed. If not, replace cover and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until remaining water is absorbed.
Remove from heat, leaving the lid on. Let sit on the counter for 10 minutes to steam.
Remove lid and fluff with a fork. Serve.
Refrigerate leftovers once the rice is fully cooled to room temperature.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah earned a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.