Jasmine and Basmati Rice: What’s the Difference?

With approximately 50,000 varieties to choose from, rice is a hugely versatile carbohydrate that makes a great base for a number of dishes.

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From white to brown, short or long-grain, there’s a type of rice to suit every meal.

Two of the tastiest types of rice are jasmine and basmati, but what is the difference between them? How do you know which one to reach for when you’re testing out new recipes and which goes best with what ingredients? A rice cooker, slow cooker or instant pot can make the perfect rice. You just need to decide what's the perfect rice for your rice recipe.

This article will walk you through all you need to know (and more!) about jasmine and basmati rice

The Difference Between Jasmine and Basmati Rice

Origins 

The majority of supermarkets now stock a seemingly endless supply of rice from different regions from all over the world, so much so that you could spend hours browsing through this aisle alone during your weekly food shop.

However, you can also buy imported rice which will allow you to truly experience the authentic aroma and flavors of each variety. 

Similar in lots of ways, jasmine and basmati rice both originate from Asia and are considered a staple starchy ingredient in their respective cuisines.

Jasmine rice comes from Thailand and is commonly used in Taiwanese dishes, as well as being grown in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam where it’s also popular.

Basmati rice is found in the Himalayas, and by comparison, is often used in traditional Indian and Pakistani dishes. 

Appearance 

To the untrained eye, there might not be a huge noticeable difference between jasmine and basmati rice.

They’re both a variety of long-grain rice, but you can tell them apart by closely studying the size of the grain both before and after cooking as there are subtle differences between them. 

It’s harder to tell them apart when they’re raw, so if you prefer to decant your rice into glassware or storage containers instead of leaving them in their original packaging, you’ll want to make sure you’ve labeled them clearly.

However, upon close inspection, you’ll notice that grains of jasmine rice have a more curved point at either end and they’re slightly more translucent compared to basmati rice, which is a slimmer grain with a sharper point. 

The distinction between jasmine and basmati rice definitely becomes more apparent when it’s been cooked which is when it’ll be easier to spot their differences.

Jasmine rice forms small clusters where the grains have clumped together slightly, whereas grains of basmati retain their slender shape and almost double in length after being cooked.

They’re also visibly drier than the moist, sticky grains of jasmine rice, and this contributes to their differences in texture, which brings us to our next point.

Texture 

Another area in which jasmine and basmati rice differ is their texture because of the amount of starch they each contain.

Starch is a key component that influences the texture of rice once it’s been cooked, but it also comes down to the difference in their molecular structure. 

Jasmine rice is much stickier when it’s cooked as it contains a large amount of amylopectin. This means that the grains don’t retain their structure quite as well which is why they form moist clumps, making them much easier to eat with chopsticks than basmati.

On the other hand, basmati has higher content levels of amylose in the starch and hence retains a more distinct structure. This results in the fluffiness that basmati rice is so well-known for. 

However, it’s also worth noting that either under or overcooking your rice will also affect the overall texture, which is why washing your rice before cooking it so important, but more on that later! 

Aroma and Flavor 

Jasmine and basmati rice are both more flavorful than plain long-grain white rice but without overpowering the dish you’re making.

This means they’re great for taking on the flavor of other ingredients, so adding herbs or spices during cooking will enhance the final taste. 

It should go without saying really, but eating rice before it’s passed its sell-by-date will mean it’s tastier regardless of what type of rice you’re using.

Storing grains in an airtight container is another way to make sure the rice doesn’t lose any of its underlying flavors, which are subtle enough that they can easily diminish over time. 

With that being said, if you were to do a blind taste test of these two types of rice, anyone with a distinguished set of taste buds would be able to correctly identify which one is which because of their unique flavors.

Jasmine rice may not be as floral as the name suggests, but it certainly has an aromatic taste that is different from basmati. It’s also slightly sweeter than other types of rice, and there are underlying notes of nuttiness in its flavor. 

Basmati rice has an even more fragrant aroma, which is easy to understand when you learn that the word ‘basmati’ is taken from the Hindi word for ‘fragrant’.

Some people liken its scent to that of freshly cooked popcorn, but with one whiff you’ll be able to tell for yourself that it has a distinctive smell that’s noticeably different from other kinds of rice. It has a nuttier taste, too, which beautifully lends itself to certain dishes. 

Nutritional Value 

Jasmine and basmati rice are both complex carbohydrates which have many health benefits, and you can choose between either white or brown.

White rice is more processed as the bran (outer layer), husk (hard protective shell), and germ (inner core) have been removed from the grain, whereas brown rice only has the husk removed.

As a result, brown rice has fewer calories than white rice, and it retains more of the nutrients and fiber. 

Calories

The calorie content will depend on numerous factors, such as the amount the recipe calls for and whether or not it’s white or brown rice.

If using a white variety, 1 cup of cooked jasmine rice has 238 calories compared to the 191 calories found in 1 cup of basmati rice. Jasmine rice also contains more carbohydrates with 45g, whereas basmati rice has just 39.85g. 

Iron Content 

You might be interested to know that white jasmine rice actually contains no iron as opposed to white basmati rice, which has around 2% iron.

The same can’t be said for brown jasmine rice, however, as this has approximately 2% iron, whereas brown basmati rice jumps up to 4% making it the clear winner in this race. 

Glycemic Index

For anyone who doesn’t know, the glycemic index (GI) is a system that rates different carbohydrates-containing foods, and it measures the time in which certain foods cause changes in your blood sugar (glucose) levels. 

Jasmine rice has a glycemic index (GI) of 109, which is practically double the amount of basmati rice which is 58.

If you have diabetes, foods with a lower GI are less likely to cause spikes in your blood sugar as they cause more of a gradual rise over a more spaced out period of time.

They also help to control your appetite as they make you feel fuller for longer. 

Fiber

As well as a lower glycemic index, which makes basmati rice the healthier option of the two, it has higher levels of fiber.

Maintaining a diet that’s high in fiber promotes better digestion and can help with digestive issues such as constipation. 

White basmati rice has 0.7g of fiber compared to jasmine rice which has 1g, but brown basmati rice comes out on top again with 2.9g of fiber with brown jasmine rice being a close second with 2g of fiber.

In terms of nutrition, it’s clear that the healthiest choice is brown basmati rice, which may be something to keep in mind next time you’re at the supermarket.

With that being said, each of these types of rice can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.  

Best Way Cooking Methods for Basmati and Jasmine Rice

Jasmine Rice

You might be surprised at how many people choose to skip the all-important step of washing your rice, but it’s the first thing you should do before cooking it! This is essential as it will remove any dust from the grains and get rid of the excess starch. 

Wash your rice thoroughly by running it under cold water and swishing it around in your pan, draining and refilling it with fresh water a couple of times until the water begins to run clear when you pour it out.

Using a mesh strainer that’s small enough holes that it doesn’t allow the grains to slip through, drain the rice and add it to the pot.

Fill with enough water to cover the rice, approximately 1 to 1.5 cups of water per 1 cup of rice. Season the rice with some salt and stir, then cover and leave to simmer for about 15 minutes over a low heat for the rice to absorb the water.

If it still feels slightly crunchy at this point or it’s too al dente for your tastes, add a couple of extra tablespoons of water and cover the pan for another few minutes.  

Basmati Rice

Just like with jasmine rice, grains of basmati should be thoroughly rinsed before cooking. It’s also recommended that you soak the grains in water for anywhere from half an hour up to two hours.

This additional step allows the grains to partially absorb some of the water you’re soaking it in, which helps the rice to cook evenly and all the way through. 

Once it’s finished soaking, drain the rice through a fine-mesh sieve. Fill the pot with water using 1.5 to 1.75 cups of water per 1 cup of rice and leave to boil over a medium-high heat.

Once it’s reached boiling, turn the heat down and cover the pot, leaving it to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the water is mostly absorbed.

Remove from the heat completely and allow the rice to sit for 5 minutes, then use a fork to fluff it up and it’s ready to be served! 

Adding a knob of butter or a dash of oil will keep the grains from clumping together to achieve a fluffy texture. You can also use the pilaf method which enhances the nutty flavor of basmati rice. This is traditionally used for cooking a biryani due to its flavorful results. 

What Goes Best With Basmati and Jasmine Rice 

Rice, in general, can be the foundation of all sorts of dishes, but the differences in their taste, texture, and aroma mean that the combination of certain ingredients brings out the best of each of them. 

Although it’s incredibly versatile, jasmine rice is best paired with equally fragrant foods such as crisp, lemony salmon, or sweet and sour chicken cooked with chunks of juicy pineapple.

It can be a delicious side dish for stir fries and grilled vegetables, and it’s also great in sweet dishes such as rice pudding or with coconut milk and mango due to it’s sweet, aromatic flavor. 

Basmati rice is a popular accompaniment to traditional Indian curries, including as a side dish or in a biryani, although again it’s amazingly versatile.

Seafood lovers could make a fresh coconut milk broth using shrimp and basmati rice, but it’s just as nice with chicken and other meat.

It can also be used as a substitute in a whole range of dishes from different cuisines, such as a Spanish paella, so there really is no end to the possibilities! 

We hope that after reading this you feel like you have a better understanding of the difference between jasmine and basmati rice, but at the end of the day, if you have either of these staples in your cupboard, you won’t be stuck for dinner no matter which one your recipe calls for. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better, basmati or jasmine rice?

Basmati and jasmine rice both look pretty similar, so you may be wondering what the difference is between these starches - both of which are popular in many countries across Asia.

Jasmine rice originates from Thailand and is also grown in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam - where it’s also considered a staple dish or accompaniment.

Basmati rice on the other hand hails from the Himalayas and is commonly served in traditional Indian and Pakistani dishes. 

Jasmine rice is characterized by its stickier texture due to its higher amylopectin content. This makes the grains stick together in moist clumps, which is perfect if you’re using chopsticks. 

Basmati has a ‘fluffier’ texture due to its higher level of amylose in the starch which allows it to retain its distinct structure. 

Both of these rice varieties are more flavorsome than regular white rice, with jasmine offering floral notes and a subtle sweetness, while basmati has a distinctive fragrant aroma - which makes sense given that ‘basmati’ is taken from the Hindi word for ‘fragrant’.

Jasmine and basmati rice are equal in terms of their flavor, though the stickiness of Jasmine rice makes it perfect for South-East Asian cuisine and use in sweet dishes.  

Basmati is fluffier and perhaps slightly more versatile, and both are well-suited to rich sauces such as curries. Basmati will provide a firmer and dryer base, and Jasmine a stickier and softer one.

Is Basmati rice healthier than jasmine rice?

Both Jasmine and Basmati rice are low in fat and will give you a small protein boost. However, basmati is a healthier choice for diabetics, as it has a lower glycemic index than jasmine rice (59 to jasmine’s 89).

Both of these varieties are usually sold ‘white’, ie. after the germ and bran have been removed, though it’s possible to find brown basmati and brown jasmine rice, which will add more nutritional value to your meal. 

Can I substitute jasmine rice for basmati?

You can certainly substitute jasmine rice for basmati. 

Both are aromatic varieties of long-grain rice and have floral notes and aromas. These two types of rice are definitely the most similar, though like we said previously, you might find that jasmine rice is particularly good in sweeter dishes, whereas the fluffy, drier characteristics of basmati make it more suited to salads and curries. 

If you have diabetes, you may wish to substitute jasmine rice with basmati, as the latter has a lower GI index. 

Foods with a lower GI are less likely to cause spikes in the blood sugar levels of diabetics, as these foods cause more of a gradual rise over a longer period of time.

Does basmati rice taste like jasmine rice?

Basmati and jasmine rice are pretty similar in flavor with a few differences.

The clue to how these varieties taste is in their names. 

Jasmine rice has a slightly floral aroma which can also be likened to sweet popcorn when cooking. Even though it’s called ‘jasmine’ rice - the floral notes aren’t overpowering. Overall, jasmine rice is slightly sweeter than basmati with a nutty flavor underpinning it. 

Basmati is also very fragrant, however, hence the translation of its name into ‘full of fragrance.’ It has a delicate flavor and is more aromatic than plain long-grain rice, with a subtle nuttiness to it like jasmine rice.  

Chances are, if you like basmati you’ll like jasmine rice, and vice versa. The differences lie more in the textures of each, rather than in the flavors. 

Cassie Marshall
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