Easy Change #6: Switch to Soaked Brown Rice

Welcome back to my Easy Changes You Can Make Today series! It's been awhile, but I'm back with another small change you can make towards healthier eating! (Did you miss the other Easy Changes? Check them out here.)

If the title of this post just read "Switch to Brown Rice," things would be relatively simple. All you'd have to do is stop buying white rice and start buying brown rice. Allow a little more time for it to cook and you're good to go. That is, if you can get used to its delicious nutty flavor and hearty texture. (It makes ridiculously good rice pudding.)

Unfortunately things are more complicated than that. But not so complicated that we should just throw it all out the window and keep eating nutritionally empty white rice (although I don't think there's anything wrong with indulging in white rice once in awhile, in the context of a healthy diet). As you've heard me mention before, whole grains contain phytates, substances that block mineral absorption. Consuming too many unsoaked whole grains can lead to nutrient deficiencies, which can cause to tooth decay, bone loss and all sorts of other health problems (that's right, folks, a nutrient-dense diet contributes to the health of your teeth!). They also contain other hard-to-digest substances, according to Sally Fallon Morell, the author of Nourishing Traditions:

"Other antinutrients in whole grains include enzyme inhibitors which can inhibit digestion and put stress on the pancreas; irritating tannins; complex sugars which the body cannot break down; and gluten and related hard-to-digest proteins which may cause allergies, digestive disorders and even mental illness." (source)

But when properly treated through soaking, sprouting, or souring, they are highly nutritious. Sally Fallon Morell recommends soaking grains, including rice, in warm filtered water to which you've added some whey (the liquid that you can drain off of whole milk yogurt), lemon juice, or raw apple cider vinegar. After 7-24 hours, this acidic environment has supposedly neutralized many of the phytates and enzyme inhibitors present in the grain. But there's another problem...

Apparently this method is not very effective on rice. Rats.

Fortunately, some very smart people who care about this sort of thing have done some research and have come up with a much more effective way to soak brown rice. You don't need any special equipment, and it will only take one minute of your time about 24 hours before you want to eat rice. It's called "accelerated fermentation" which sounds complicated but really isn't. It just means you save some of the soaking water and reuse it every time, which after several times reduces the phytic acid by up to 96%. Sweet! So here's how you do it:

How to Soak and Cook Brown Rice 
  1. Combine in a saucepan:
    1 part brown rice (rinsed through a fine mesh strainer)
    2 parts filtered water
  2.  Heat gently on low heat to warm the mixture. Turn off when it feels warm to the touch. 
  3. About 24 hours later (give or take: it's more effective if you wait a full 24 hours but as few as 7 hours is beneficial), drain the rice in a colander over a liquid measuring cup. Take note of how much water comes out. 
  4. Pour about 1/4 c. of the water you drained off into a jar to place in the fridge. Label it so you remember what it is! Discard the rest of the water. 
  5. Put the rice back into the saucepan with fresh water in the amount you drained off. You can also cook the rice in chicken stock for added nutritional benefits (plus it tastes delicious!). Add optional salt to taste. (I usually add a few cubes of chicken stock to the water.)
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce to the lowest possible heat, cover, and cook until tender. (I find that it is usually tender after 35 minutes or so, instead of the usual 45 that brown rice takes to cook. We don't like mushy rice.) 
  7. The next time you want to cook brown rice, add the water you saved to your soaking water, and continue the process. Don't forget to save a little bit each time!

You can use this method with any rice recipe with a little creativity. If your recipe says to sauté veggies first and then add the rice to them, just cook your veggies in the same pan you used to soak the rice (while the soaked rice waits in a colander) and then add the rice back in at the appropriate time. If your recipe calls for other liquid in addition to stock or water, make sure the total amount of liquid equals the amount you drained off of your rice. (I broke that rule last night when making a rice pilaf, and my rice had way too much liquid. The problem was remedied by boiling it with the lid off for a few minutes.)

As with many real food techniques, this one isn't complicated, it just takes planning ahead. One more reason to start meal planning! :)

What do you think? Will you switch to soaked brown rice? If not, what's keeping you from taking the plunge?

This is part of Fight Back Friday.


  1. Thanks for reminding me about this technique, Joanna. I think I'm going to make a big batch of brown rice (I prefer the taste to white rice). I bet you could make a large batch and freeze some of it, then just add it to veggies/meat when you need it.

  2. yup, this will probably have to get added to our kitchen routines :)

    Thanks Jo!

  3. You're welcome Meg - yup it freezes just fine, that's a good idea!

  4. Analisa, that's great! Good luck and let me know if you have any problems with it. :)

  5. Sorry if this is a dumb question, but I'm new to this. If you don't make rice very frequently will the water you save develop mold or anything?

    1. Not a dumb question at all! I always just give it a sniff before using it. I've never seen mold or smelled anything funny, so I go ahead and use it, even if it's been a few months. I suppose you could freeze it if you're worried!

  6. How much water do you use when cooking soaked rice??

    1. Keni, if I remember to measure what I drain off, I replace the same amount. If I forget, I usually use 3/4 the amount called for. So if I'm cooking 2 c. of rice, usually you'd use 4 c. of water, but I use 3 c. of water. Hope that helps!

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