The main difference between jasmine and basmati rice is that cooked jasmine rice has a nuttier flavor while cooked basmati grains are slightly softer and fluffier.
Jasmine and basmati are both types of long grain and fragrant rice with nutty flavors. But, when they are cooked – even in the same way - jasmine rice stays moist and clumps, while basmati rice is fluffy and dry, with the individual grains remaining separated.
Often, you can use one in place of the other, such as for curries, desserts, or even some South American recipes, but because of the differences in texture, some recipes may not be quite as forgiving if you use one instead of the other.
In this post I take a detailed look at jasmine and basmati rice to find just exactly what makes both types different, as well as looking at how they are best prepared, and which dishes they are most commonly served with.
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What is Jasmine Rice?
Jasmine rice is sometimes known as ‘fragrant rice’ or ‘Thai fragrant rice’, although it gets its jasmine name from its color – which is like a jasmine flower – rather than its flavor.
Along with its distinctive buttered popcorn and exotic flower aroma which comes from the 2-Acetyl-1-pyrroline compound, jasmine has a sweet and nutty flavor that suits many Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian recipes.
Jasmine rice makes a great side dish with slow cooked, grilled vegetable or fried dishes, as well as in soups, or with some curries. It can also be used in stir fries, although it is best cooked the day before and refrigerated before stir frying as it can be a bit soggy otherwise.
Commonly grown in countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, jasmine rice is a long grain variety of Oryza sativa. There is also domestically grown hybrid jasmine rice (Jasmati) available in the US, but to experience the true aroma of jasmine, it is better to buy imported rice.
You can usually find a number of brands of white jasmine rice in grocery stores. White rice is rice which has had the fibrous bran and the germ removed, just leaving the white endosperm or grain. You can also find brown jasmine rice or even black jasmine rice. Once known as the forbidden rice, black jasmine rice was only available to nobles and the upper classes and this type of jasmine rice is even richer in nutrition than its brown counterpart. If you want brown or black jasmine rice, you may need to visit a specialty store.
Before cooking, jasmine rice needs rinsing until the water runs clear, or ideally pre-soaking to reduce cooking time as well as remove excess starch and dust. If excess starch is not removed before cooking, then the rice will clump even more than it does. Brown jasmine rice needs presoaking in warm water for longer than white to soften the brown bran, while black rice should just be rinsed instead of soaked as this will allow it to keep more of its color during cooking.
When white jasmine rice is cooked, it has translucent long grains and a slightly clingy texture. It will clump slightly as it contains less amylose, the starch molecule that keeps the grain tightly formed. It also contains more of the highly branched starch molecule amylopectin, which allows the grains to start to clump together as they lose some of their structure when cooking.
Jasmine rice is usually better steamed than boiled as this keeps it fluffy, but if you do need to boil it, use slightly more water than the standard 1.5 parts water to 1 part rice ratio and keep the pan on a low simmer. Jasmine rice can also be cooked in a rice cooker or Instant Pot.
Because brown and black jasmine rice are less delicately flavored than white jasmine rice, they are better combined with earthier and richer foods.
Like any rice, jasmine rice is shelf stable and will last for years when stored in a cool, dry and dark place, however, jasmine rice is best consumed when fresh as loses its aroma over time. As rice is often bought in a larger sack, repeated openings of the sack will also help it lose aroma. If you place the rice into a plastic sack or an airtight container when you bring it home, this will help it keep its fragrance for longer.
What is Basmati Rice?
Originally grown in the foot of the Himalayan mountains in India and Pakistan, basmati literally means ‘full of fragrance’ and it has a nutty aroma and flavor. Used in traditional dishes, basmati was introduced to the Middle East by traders, where it also became a staple rice.
Basmati is ideal for serving in biryani, with curries, roasted or braised meats and as side dishes with poultry and seafood dishes. Basmati rice is often seen as a yellow rice which is made by adding saffron or turmeric to the rice to give it a yellow hue.
Basmati rice is available as a white or brown rice, which still contains the bran and the nutritious germ. Brown basmati has a nuttier flavor than white basmati, as well as providing more fiber and essential fatty acids.
A range of imported basmati rice brands are usually available at the grocery store or online along with domestic basmati (such as Texmati), although these homegrown varieties often lack the aroma of imported basmati.
There is some debate as to whether basmati should be soaked for half an hour before cooking. Some say it should as this stops the grains from breaking up in the water and from it clumping too much from the starch on the surface of the grains. Others say that good quality basmati has already been aged for two years to dry it out and concentrate its aromas and flavors before selling, so if the rice is then soaked, this will remove the aromas and flavors.
Basmati rice is traditionally boiled, although it will steam or cook in a rice cooker or Instant Pot – a dash of oil or butter will help keep the grains separate. Unlike jasmine rice, grains of basmati will grow in size once cooked - in fact, basmati rice is the longest of the long grain rice - and the narrow grains stay dry and separated when cooked, giving a fluffy rice. This is because basmati contains more amylose starch, which keeps the grains in shape, even when cooked.
Cooking basmati through the pilaf method allows its nutty flavors to really come through as well as stopping rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. To do this, uncooked rice should be sautéed in oil with finely minced onions and other seasonings before hot broth or stock is added, the rice is covered and placed in the oven until all the liquid is absorbed. This method of cooking basmati is also how a biryani is made.
As another fragrant rice, basmati should be stored in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag once opened to help it keep its fragrance.
Can You Swap Out Jasmine for Basmati Rice?
If the recipe is forgiving, then yes, you can replace jasmine with basmati in equal quantities or vice versa. Just remember that jasmine rice has a different fragrance and will clump more than basmati.
Are There Any Nutritional Differences Between Jasmine and Basmati Rice?
All rice contains complex carbs which are a good source of energy for the body. In terms of glycemic index (GI), basmati rice has a lower (58) GI than jasmine (109), making basmati a better option for diabetics and those who want foods to break down slower to avoid blood sugar fluctuations after eating.
Brown rice is always more nutritious than white rice as it still contains the bran and germ which adds fiber, as well as antioxidants and minerals to the rice. Some white rice may be packaged as ‘enriched’, if so, some of the compounds removed from the bran and germ of the brown rice have been added back to the white rice after processing.
White basmati rice contains a small quantity of iron (around 2%) while jasmine does not contain any.
The Difference Between Jasmine and Basmati Rice – The Bottom Line
Just to summarize, the difference between jasmine and basmati rice is that jasmine rice has a stronger nutty flavor and clumps, while basmati is fluffy and dry once cooked.
Although they do have different finished textures, they can often be used in place of each other for general dishes such as curries, stir fries and soups, unless the recipe specifically needs a rice which can clump, or where the grains need to be separated.
I do hope that you have found this post on the differences between jasmine and basmati rice interesting, and I welcome any of your comments on jasmine and basmati rice below.
If you have yet to try out jasmine or basmati rice, why not give one of them a chance in your next stir fry? Not only will they add a delicious aroma, they will also give depth of flavor to the dish.