Rice was first cultivated in China and then spread out to surrounding areas like India, the Meditteranean, Northern Africa, and Europe. From there, it was brought to the New World until it had reached every corner of the globe and had been adopted into every kind of cuisine. Part of the appeal of rice is that it can be grown just about anywhere. Today rice is the second most produced crop in the world behind maize and is the single most important crop for human consumption.
Even though there are only a few kinds of rice that have achieved a high degree of popularity in the world and show up on restaurant menus from New York to New Delhi, there are actually over 40,000 different species available, so consider that next time you can’t decide between basmati or jasmine.
Since rice is grown and enjoyed on every continent except Antarctica (though the people who work there probably bring their own to enjoy) it should come as no surprise that there are hundreds upon hundreds of different rice dishes out there. How many do you think you’ve tried in your life? How many would you like to try? Take the quiz and see how well you know your rice!
Jambalaya typically comes in two distinct varieties - one made with tomatoes and one without. Beyond that, it can include meats like chicken, sausage or crawfish as well as vegetables like celery, peppers, and onions. Historically, jambalaya is actually a New World take on paella with some Caribbean spices and would often include proteins farmed in and around the swamps of New Orleans like shrimp, oyster, and even alligator.
Fried rice comes in an almost endless variety of flavors with things like chicken, beef, and shrimp being some of the most popular in North America. In many Asian countries, fried rice can be found as a street food with vendors cooking it up in a wok the way a vendor might make a hot dog for you on the streets of New York.
Coconut rice can be found in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and other countries. The recipe often calls for the rice to be soaked in the coconut milk itself before cooking, and sometimes will include coconut flakes mixed into the rice.
Rice pudding is actually served all over the world as a dessert. Some of the most common recipes for it involved cooking the rice with milk, sugar, and spices like cinnamon. You can also toss in some raisins, too. In the Middle East and Asia, you can find it made with ingredients like rose water or pistachios.
Biryani is extremely popular in Indian cuisines and comes in many varieties depending on the meat or other ingredients used. It can be made with chicken, beef, goat or fish and can also use well over a dozen different spices that range from garlic to nutmeg to mint.
Rice and beans is a simple staple mostly because of the nutrients it’s able to provide in a pretty easy and affordable way. It’s 100% vegetarian, offers a good deal of protein and also stores well since both ingredients can be dried and used whenever you like.
Paella is an iconic Spanish dish famous in the Valencia region. The word “paella” actually referred to the pan that the rice and other ingredients were cooked in but it became so associated with this particular dish that people simply started calling it paella because if you said it, everyone probably knew what you were cooking in that pan.
Risotto is rice cooked in a broth, and unlike most rice recipes, you don’t want to rinse the rice ahead of cooking since that starchiness is what helps give it the creamy texture. You usually cook it with some butter and onion first and then add a stock later along with something like Parmesan cheese.
There are plenty of different variations of this recipe but the basic idea is that you’re turning a tomato into a cooking vessel by scooping out the insides and packing it with rice and usually ground beef and spices. This makes it turn out a lot like a little tomato-wrapped meatball.
Jollof Rice is very popular in many West African countries. It’s so popular, in fact, that there is a Jollof Festival in places like New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles. Chefs compete to see who makes the best Jollof and of course, you can buy Jollof merchandise like T-shirts.
Steamed rice is the most basic rice dish out there and can be made so long as you have access to rice, heat, and water. Many dishes will incorporate rice in the cooking, but steamed rice has proven to be a pretty versatile side dish for a lot of more flavorful foods because it makes such a great base on which to put sauces, meats, and vegetables.
Arroz con pollo is famously part of Spanish and Latin American cuisine. In the simplest terms, it’s just rice with chicken but of course, most recipes call for some extensive uses of spices. For instance, most Puerto Rican preparations involve using beer and sofrito, which is an aromatic sauce made of garlic, onion, tomato, and peppers.
Mansaf is a dish that can be found throughout the Middle East and is made with lamb, rice and a sauce made from yogurt. In Jordan, mansaf is served at festivals and celebrations and also has some historical significance as a peace-keeper. When there was a dispute between families or tribes, one way to settle differences was to bring everyone together and prepare a large meal with mansaf as a token of respect for one another.
Loco Moco became famous on the island of Hawaii and is traditionally made of white rice topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and gravy. As the story goes, it was created at the Lincoln Grill restaurant for some teens who didn’t want a sandwich but still wanted something fast and tasty. As for the name? They just liked the sound of it.
Pilaf can be found all through India, Europe, the Caribbean, Asia an Africa and there are as many different ways to make it as there are people making it. The most important feature is that it’s cooked in some kind of seasoned liquid which will flavor the rice.
Yellow rice is made from any variety of white rice that is spiced while it cooks with something like saffron, turmeric or annatto to give it that vibrant yellow color. Usually, it’s also made with onion, but from there, anything can be added. There’s even a sweet version made with raisins and cinnamon.
Sushi has been made for thousands of years, and the name actually means “sour-tasting” because the rice used in it was prepared with vinegar and was meant as a preservation technique. These days sushi is often associated with fish, but since the word is referring specifically to the rice, it doesn’t need to contain any seafood at all to still be considered sushi.
The word sapin means layered, and this dish is usually served with three layers that are all flavored differently. The layers can include flavors derived from ingredients found in the Philippines like jackfruit and purple yams.
Kiribath is a very classical Sri Lankan dish and traditionally that can be enjoyed at special celebrations and events. Once cooked, it can be pressed flat and allowed to set and then cut into pieces almost like a cake.
Rice Krispies were introduced by Kellogg’s all the way back in 1927. Even though each piece is shaped like a grain of rice, the cereal is actually made by turning the rice into a paste with sugar and then forming it into little grain shapes which are then cooked and toasted to give them their distinct crunch and appearance.
Rice cakes are made from puffed rice and have become quite a popular snack in North America as an alternative to things like potato chips. Companies like Quaker make many different varieties that come in flavors like Caramel Corn, Apple Cinnamon, and Chocolate Crunch.
Rice milk has become a popular milk alternative alongside things like almond and soy milk. The process of making rice milk involves blending and straining the grains, but if you wanted to make it at home, you could do so by simply blending one cup cooked rice with four cups of water and then straining it using a tight weave cloth until all the liquid has come out.
Gumbo is a thickened stew that is often made with seafood and a thickening agent like okra. When you cook okra, it tends to get slimy, but in a dish like that, that’s actually helpful for binding all the ingredients together. Once it’s all cooked down, you serve it over rice.
Maqluba is a popular Palestinian dish that works in much the same fashion as a traditional Upside Down Cake only this time it’s rice on top of meat and vegetables when you cook it, then under them when you serve it.
Kutsinta, or cuchinta, is made from glutinous rice flour, brown sugar and lye water, which is an ingredient you don’t see too often. The color traditionally comes from something like annatto but is often just added with food coloring as well.
Bap is the most basic form of this dish, and many variations can change the name based on composition. Something just called bap probably only refers to white rice cooked in a pot. Adding ingredients will change the name slightly so that while bap is just white rice, bori-bap is barley rice, and patbap is red bean rice.
Despite the name, the pasta in Rice-A-Roni isn’t macaroni but vermicelli, though the inspiration for the dish was made with macaroni. Born in the 1950s, the wife of one of the owners of the Golden Grain Macaroni Company in San Francisco made the original dish with rice and macaroni. That evolved into the Rice-A-Roni the company became famous for.
Tomato and rice soup is a classic pairing of flavors and can be found all over the world. No one claims to be the inventor of tomato rice soup and it’s likely been made for generations, in part because it’s an easy and filling way to transform leftover rice into something new.
Arancini are fried rice balls, often made from leftover risotto. They’re typically stuffed with a filling like seasoned beef and tomato. Even though they look a lot like food you might find on a modern bar menu, they date back hundreds of years.
Bibimbap is becoming increasingly popular for the diverse amount of ingredients that can be included in the dish and is basically the Korean version of something like a burrito bowl. You’re supposed to mix all the ingredients together once it’s served to enjoy the flavored of everything at the same time.
Congee is a simple rice porridge that is made by cooking rice in a large quantity of water. It’s such a popular dish that many modern rice cookers will have a congee setting so you can add your ingredients and let the cooker do its thing.
Dirty rice may not have the best name of any rice dish but it can be quite tasty. The reason they call it dirty is that it’s prepared with small pieces of meat, vegetables, and seasonings that give it a “dirty” appearance.
Étouffée is very popular in Cajun and Creole cuisine and is essentially a seafood- or meat-filled sauce served over rice. The name “Étouffée” comes from the cooking method called smothering, which involves cooking the protein in a liquid in a covered pan on low heat to braise the meat.
Horchata was originally made from ground tiger nuts, but when it found its way to the New World, rice was used instead of the nuts. Today it’s popular throughout Mexico and is sometimes called by the longer name Horchata de Arroz.
Onigiri is a rice ball that is usually wrapped in seaweed. They can be shaped into cylinders or triangles and are often stuffed with fillings as well. They’re so popular in Japan that many stores have shelves of them so they can be purchased and eaten on the go.
Minute Rice is a kind of instant rice that was designed to save time when it came to cooking rice. A regular rice preparation can take 20 minutes or more. Minute Rice is blanched, rinsed and steamed ahead of time, then dehydrated so that it returns to a dry state. When it's ready to be cooked again, the whole process is much faster and can be done in about 90 seconds, depending on the brand.
Rice bread is any bread that is made from rice flour instead of traditional wheat flour. Rice flour is fairly easy to produce and is made simply by grinding the grains or white or brown rice down into a fine powder.
Shrimp Creole is made with shrimp cooked in tomato, celery, onion, pepper, and creole spices, then served over rice. Shrimp has been a major part of the cuisine in Louisiana since the very first settlements when people would simply pull them out of lakes and rivers with hand-drawn nets.
Spanish rice is actually a Mexican dish and often involves sauteeing the rice until it’s golden brown before adding the tomato sauce. The Mexican version of this dish is usually called red rice, because of the color added by the tomato.
Pho is a massively popular Vietnamese soup that is basically a broth with meat and rice noodles. It’s served as street food in Vietnam and to make it correctly, you should make the stock by simmering beef marrow bones over low heat for many hours.