What’s the Difference Between Instant Rice and Regular Rice?

Having food poisoning one time caused me to revert to my white-starch-eating childhood ways. I had regular old Uncle Ben’s instant rice for the first time in…..I don’t even remember the last time. And lemme tell you….Plain old instant rice…. *shakes her head*

I swear, I made this stuff today and the ONLY good thing about it was that it was fast. Because it had been so long since I’ve had anything but brown or wild rice, I had no basis for comparison back when I used to eat it. But just a few bites in and I was convinced – instant white rice is completely worthless.

(My recipe for super easy, super awesome wild rice below!)

So I wondered, what is different in the processing that allows it to cook so fast and yet taste so terrible? Was this just another case of “Americanized” food created to be fast and easy without regard to quality? Well, in a word, yes.

What is the Real Difference

The difference between instant rice and regular rice is that regular rice only undergoes the “milling” processes that all rice goes through in order to be edible. This just takes it from the seed on the original plant down to the edible insides. The amount of milling decides how much nutrition will be left over, as you probably know.

So for example, brown rice is milled one less step than white rice, which preserves some of its nutritional value.

But instant rice, on the other hand, has been processed like this: milled from a seed on the plant down to white rice, then fully cooked and then dehydrated.

Rice milling process

A: Rice with chaff B: Brown rice C: Rice with germ D: White rice with bran residue E: Musenmai (Japanese: 無洗米), “Polished and ready to boil rice”, literally, non-wash rice (via Wikipedia)

This process removes virtually all nutrition that the rice could have contained along with most of the flavor and almost all of the texture. What you’re left with is a mushy, shell of a rice grain that has practically no redeeming qualities.

Milled, instant rice is even more expensive than natural rice – in effect, you’re getting charged for them to cook it for you beforehand, and in the process remove any positive qualities that it once contained. Except that sometimes they “enrich” the rice with nutrients like they do to white bread. Basically saying, “Okay, we’ve removed all the texture and taste but then we’ve spray-painted it with nutrients so it’s perfect to eat now.”

brown rice

Brown Rice

Maybe you can hear the sarcasm in my words, but I just couldn’t believe what it tasted like after not having had it for so many years. I mean, it was literally worthless. I threw out the leftovers along with what remained uncooked in the box. The only thing that makes me feel better about its invention is that it was first used for the military where this sort of quick preparation makes practical sense.

Please, my dear Reader, do yourself a huge favor and invest a few extra minutes to plan ahead and prepare nutritious real rice for yourself and your family the next time you cook. It is every bit as easy as instant rice and 50 times better.

And on top of that, it lasts at least a week in the fridge, and is super easy to re-heat. Sides for days!!

Here is my favorite wild rice recipe:

Easy Wild Rice
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
You can substitute any type of rice in this recipe, brown, jasmine, etc. You can also substitute beef, vegetable, or regular bouillon cubes, for the chicken broth base. I prefer the brand "Better Than Bouillon".
Recipe type: Side
  • Wild Rice, according to package directions
  • Water, according to package directions
  • 1 tablespoon chicken broth base
  1. In a large sauce pan with a lid, add water and bring to a boil. Add rice and 1 tablespoon chicken broth base, and stir to dissolve. Cover and reduce heat to low, simmering just until rice has soaked up all the liquid, or about 45 minutes. Fluff with a fork when finished.

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  1. I made my first ever precooked rice and also threw it out. I felt guilty at first but after reading your post I realized that I was not alone!

  2. You are so not alone, Kim — worthless!! :D

  3. I just bought my first bag of rice that isn’t instant. I don’t know why I waited so long. The difference between the two is just amazing. I’m not going back now! Will have to try it with the chicken bouillon because that sounds delish!

  4. having grown up on instant rice, it tastes fine to me. every time I attempt rice that’s not instant it turns out crunchy. possibly because I tend to open the lid to due so it won’t stick to the bottom. maybe my heat hasn’t been low enough..

  5. I promise, once you do the regular stuff for a while, you’ll absolutely notice the difference! Be brave when making it and leave the lid closed. Just buy some wild rice from the store and follow the directions perfectly. It will come out amazing and you won’t look back! Also, you can replace the water with low-sodium veggie broth and it will be even better!

  6. I just bought my first box of instant brown rice, after reading this, I may take it back to the store for a refund. I love regular brown rice and jasmine rice. I am becoming a more cook-from-scratch person all the time with some of the stuff I read that they put in food – especially 80% of the antibiotics we get come from our food and meat.

  7. Dehydrating something does not reduce its nutrient content. Just wanted to point that out. You are entitled to your opinion that minute rice doesn’t taste good (and I agree), but to state it’s “worthless” is just plain incorrect.

  8. whoah this blog is excellent i love studying your articles.

    Keep up the great work! You understand, many people are looking around for this information, you could help them greatly.

  9. Somebody mentioned “precooked” assuming it is the same as “instant.” Is it? I use Success “boil-in-bag whole grain brown rice,” and I think it is delicious. Is this considered “instant?” You boil it in the bag for 8-10 minutes. Just curious.

  10. Hey I just had to say… I’ve only recently begun eating better and by better I mean eating foods the way they are naturally intended to be eaten. But, and this guy loves sarcasm, I could do without the attitude shown the food my single full-time working mother placed before me. This wholly-than-thou smugness so many people tried to influence my eating habits with is probably why I resisted for so long. If you want to share a “better way” then the science and taste will and do speak for themselves and are all that is needed.

  11. Instant rice is good for camping/backpacking/emergency meals especially when fuel is limited.

  12. I suck at cooking rice any type of rice so bad that I bought a ricecooker to get some edible results….

  13. Haha, it just takes practice Martin! Rice cooker working well so far?

    (Btw, I’ve been using my stainless steel pots and pans more, and I love them!)

  14. I got an excellent stainless steel rice cooker on sale. It does so much more than just cook rice. It holds it warm for hours so you can cook it ahead of time. It is a steamer for meat and veggies, cooks all kinds of rice, including not real rice, e.g. wild rice with the push of a button.
    I would recommend a rice cooker to anyone who eats a lot of rice and wants to never worry about cold, hard, mushy, or any other rice failures.

  15. I make a dish called Chicken Bog, which you will find almost exclusively along the NC/SC coast. It’s basically stewed chicken, rice, onion, and sausage, and it’s good stuff!! I usually make it with Zatarain’s New Orleans style rice, but this time I tried some instant rice in the cupboard…BIG MISTAKE!! Long grain rice soaks up the broth and other flavors in the dish, but not the instant. It simmered far longer than usual, but it still didn’t soak up the broth. The amount of chicken bog cooked also was reduced…..Lesson learned!!

  16. Anna this sounds really awesome. Can you tell us the name of the Rice Cooker that you love? Thanks for commenting!

  17. So interesting Murdock! I know I personally am not a fan of the instant, and I’m sorry to hear your dish didn’t come out as delicious as you expected! Lesson learned indeed, thank you for commenting! xo

  18. Instant rice, also known as minute rice, is rice that has been precooked and dehydrated so that it cooks more rapidly. Regular rice requires 10-15 minutes to cook while instant rice needs anywhere between five and 10 minutes.

    – Instant rice is more expensive than regular rice.

    – The “cracking” process can lead to a significant increase in broken grains in a package.

    – Rice naturally has minerals like phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. Instant rice has fewer of the calories,
    carbohydrates, and protein than regular rice. Companies make up for the loss of nutrients by adding their own
    nutrients such as the B-vitamins, as well as iron.

    – Due to its processing, it also loses some of the flavor, but companies compensate by adding herbs and exotic
    spices and aromas to make it more appetizing.

    – The quicker cooking method can result in the rice being less firm in texture than regular rice.

  19. Acording to “Cynthia Harriman of the nonprofit Whole Grains Council. “”A leading brown rice manufacturer had submitted both its regular and instant brown rice products as well as those of its competitors to an independent third-party laboratory. The lab found that there was no appreciable difference in the nutrient profiles of regular versus quick-cooking. Both are considered whole grains, and both are good sources or manganese, magnesium, selenium and fiber.”

    In addition, unlike instant vs. slow-cooked oatmeal, instant brown rice in some cases actually has an equivalent or even a lower glycemic index (raises blood sugar more slowly) than longer-cooking rice. Lower glycemic index diets have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in Americans. http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/expert.q.a/06/25/brown.rice.jampolis/index.html

  20. wow thanks bert for being the only factual correct person so far to comment on this blog. There is no nutritional downside of pre cooked / instant aka uncle ben’s rice!.

    taste is subjective.

  21. I would love to see this study, Bert, if you can find it. :) It would be helpful to a lot of readers here.

  22. yogendrakumar deokar

    what is difference between Instant food products & ready to eat/cook Product please explain in details with examples.

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