The Ultimate Showdown - Basmati vs. Non-Basmati Rice

Difference between basmati and non basmati rice

Rice, a staple food for billions worldwide, comes in countless varieties, but today, we’re focusing on two main contenders: basmati and non-basmati rice. While both end up on our plates, they have distinct characteristics that can elevate your culinary experience.

What Are Basmati and Non-Basmati Rice?

Basmati Rice: Basmati rice is a premium long-grain rice known for its unique aroma, flavor, and elongated grain size. Harvested between October and November in regions like India Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and some regions of Pakistan Punjab, basmati rice remains long slender and the grains stay separate when cooked. This makes it a popular choice for dishes like biryanis, pulaos, pilafs, and a wide array of dishes from around the world.

From the aromatic biryanis of South Asia to the vibrant paellas of Spain, Basmati rice features prominently in global cuisine. Whether it’s the comforting Tahdig of Iran or the spicy jollof rice of West Africa, Basmati rice adds its distinctive fragrance and texture to each dish it graces.

In addition to biryanis, pulaos, and pilafs, Basmati rice is used in a multitude of culinary creations:

·       Jollof Rice: A West African favorite, where Basmati rice is cooked with a flavorful tomato-based sauce and served with chicken, fish, or vegetables.

·       Arroz con Pollo: A Latin American delight, where Basmati rice is simmered with chicken, vegetables, and aromatic spices like saffron and paprika.

·       Kedgeree: A British-Indian fusion dish, combining Basmati rice with smoked fish, hard-boiled eggs, and curry spices.

·       Plov: A Central Asian specialty, featuring Basmati rice cooked with meat, carrots, onions, and a blend of fragrant spices.

·       Rice Pudding: A beloved dessert in various cultures, made by simmering Basmati rice with milk, sugar, and spices until thick and creamy, often garnished with raisins, nuts, or fruit.

·       Kabsa: The national dish of Saudi Arabia, features a flavorful mix of long grain basmati rice and meat. It can be made with camel, lamb, chicken, or fish and is seasoned with aromatic spices. The meat and rice may be cooked together or separately, creating a rich and savory staple of Saudi cuisine.

From savory mains to sweet treats, Basmati rice’s versatility knows no bounds, offering a delightful culinary journey across continents and cultures. 

Known for its lovely aroma and premium texture, basmati rice is often used for special occasions and celebrations. Various types of basmati rice include 1121 Basmati Rice, known for its extra-long grains; Pusa Basmati Rice, appreciated for its high yield and aromatic quality; 1401 Basmati Rice, which is recognized for its distinct taste and texture; 1509 Basmati Rice, a newer variety that cooks quickly and has long grains; Traditional Basmati Rice, which offers the classic, original aroma and flavor; and Sugandha Basmati Rice, valued for its sweet fragrance and delicious taste.

According to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), 45 varieties of basmati rice have been notified under the Seeds Act, 1966. These include Basmati 217, Punjab Basmati 1 (Bauni Basmati), Basmati 386, Punjab Basmati 2, Punjab Basmati 3, Basmati 370, Haryana Basmati 1, Taraori Basmati (HBC 19), Type 3 (Dehraduni Basmati), Pant Basmati 1 (IET 21665), Pant Basmati 2 (IET 21953), Kasturi, Mahi Sugandha, Basmati CSR 30 (After amendment), Malviya Basmati Dhan 10-9 (IET 21669), Ranbir Basmati, Basmati 564, Pusa Basmati 1, Pusa Basmati 1121 (After amendment), Pusa Basmati 1509 (IET 21960), Pusa Basmati 6 (Pusa 1401), Pusa Basmati 1609, Pusa Basmati 1637, Pusa Basmati 1728, Vallabh Basmati 22, Vallabh Basmati 21 (IET 19493), Vallabh Basmati 23, Vallabh Basmati 24, Pusa Basmati 1718, Punjab Basmati 4, Punjab Basmati 5, Haryana Basmati 2, Pusa Basmati 1692, Jammu Basmati 118, Jammu Basmati 138, Jammu Basmati 129, Jammu Basmati 123, Pusa Basmati 1847, Pusa Basmati 1885, Pusa Basmati 1886, Pusa Basmati 1985, Pusa Basmati 1979, Pusa Basmati 1882, and Punjab Basmati 7. 

Non-Basmati Rice: In comparison to Basmati Non-basmati rice is a diverse category that includes various grain sizes and textures. Any rice other than basmati rice is named non-basmati rice. In the world, it has been reported that there are 10,000 varieties of rice, with the maximum number found in India. Non-basmati rice is more affordable than basmati rice. While there are exceptions, most non-basmati varieties are cheaper and do not exhibit a unique aroma while cooking. It is commonly used in everyday cooking for a variety of dishes, from traditional curries and lentils to simple rice bowls. It is a staple in many households due to its affordability and versatility.

Here are some popular varieties of non-basmati rice: PR11 Rice, known for its medium grain and high yield; PR14 Rice, which is appreciated for its versatility in various dishes; Sharbati Rice, a long-grain rice that is often considered a budget-friendly alternative to basmati rice; and IR64 Rice, which is popular for its short to medium grain size and is widely used in daily meals due to its economical price and reliable quality. Other popular varieties include Sona Masoori Rice, Jeera Samba Rice, 100% Broken Rice, Ponni Rice, IR8 Rice, Matta Rice, Idly/Kranti Rice, Sugandha Rice, Parmal Rice, and Swarna Rice.

Grain Length and Appearance

  • Basmati: Basmati rice grains are long and slender, typically measuring about 7.5 to 8.5 millimeters in length. The elongated grains remain separate after cooking and elongate dramatically during cooking – up to threefold, giving the rice a slender and light texture. Basmati rice is the epitome of long-grain rice, boasting a pearly white color and a characteristic fragrance.
  • Non-Basmati: This category is diverse. Non-basmati rice can be short, medium, or long-grain. The average grain length of raw non-basmati rice before cooking is 6 mm and shorter.

Aroma and Flavor

  • Basmati: Basmati rice possesses a distinct scent reminiscent of pandan leaves, attributed to the presence of the aromatic compound 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline. Naturally occurring in Basmati grains at approximately 0.09 ppm, this compound is about 12 times more abundant in Basmati compared to other rice varieties, contributing to its unique aroma and taste. This natural fragrance is also found in cheese, fruits, and various grains. Approved as a flavoring agent in the United States and Europe, it is commonly used in bakery items to enhance aroma.
  • Non-Basmati: Non-basmati rice is known for its diverse taste and aroma profiles, which can vary depending on the specific variety and growing conditions. Unlike basmati rice, it typically lacks the distinctive fragrance but offers a more neutral taste. Some varieties may have subtle hints of sweetness, while others might exhibit nutty or earthy undertones. The versatility of non-basmati rice allows it to be used in various culinary applications, from savory to sweet, making it a popular choice in many cuisines worldwide.

Cooking Characteristics

  • Basmati: Requires specific cooking techniques to achieve that long slender, separate texture. Cooking tends to reduce the amount of a pleasant-smelling molecule called 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline in rice. Soaking the rice for half an hour before cooking allows it to cook in 20% less time, while also helping to retain more of this aroma compound.
  • Non-Basmati: Non-basmati grains are generally shorter and may have broader shapes compared to basmati rice, contributing to differences in cooking behavior and final texture. During cooking, non-basmati rice often requires shorter cooking times but may exhibit lower elongation ratios and water uptake compared to basmati varieties. Moreover, non-basmati rice varieties usually have higher bulk density, indicating denser grains compared to basmati rice. 


Post-Cooking Length Enhancement

Basmati rice is known for its unique characteristic of elongating significantly after cooking, often tripling in length. In its raw state, Basmati rice grains typically measure around 7.5 to 8.50 mm. This notable elongation makes Basmati rice a preferred choice for various dishes, especially for special occasions. 

In contrast, non-Basmati varieties do not exhibit the same degree of post-cooking elongation. Instead, these varieties are often selected for dishes that require a smooth or sticky texture, and they generally have an average pre-cooked length of approximately 6.90 mm and less.

Nutritional Value

  • Basmati: Both basmati and non-basmati rice are good sources of carbohydrates. According to FDC FoodData Central USA, a 100-gram portion of basmati rice contains 148 kcal of energy, 3.52 grams of protein, 32.39 grams of carbohydrates, 0.7 grams of total dietary fiber, 0 grams of total lipid (fat), 0 grams of total sugars, 14 mg of calcium, and 42 mg of potassium. Basmati rice is generally lower in resistant starch, which can have digestive benefits.
  • Non-Basmati: The nutritional value can vary. For instance, according to FDC FoodData Central USA, a 100-gram portion of non-basmati rice contains 365 kcal of energy, 7.13 grams of protein, 80 grams of carbohydrates, 0.66 grams of total lipid, 0.12 grams of total sugars, 28 mg of calcium, 25 mg of magnesium, and 115 mg of potassium. Brown non-basmati rice, for example, offers more fiber than white rice.

Price and Availability

  • Basmati: Due to its unique characteristics and limited growing regions, basmati rice tends to be more expensive.
  • Non-Basmati: Widely available and affordable, making it a popular choice for everyday cooking.


Conclusion: Basmati vs. Non-Basmati Rice

Basmati and non-basmati rice differ significantly in grain size, aroma, flavor, and cooking characteristics. Basmati rice, with its distinct fragrance and elongated grains, is often reserved for special occasions, while non-basmati rice, with its variety of grain sizes and textures, is a versatile and affordable option for everyday meals. When choosing rice, consider the dish you are preparing and the desired outcome, as there is no single “best” rice—it all depends on your culinary needs. Basmati rice’s lower calorie content, lower glycemic index, and unique aroma make it an excellent choice for those seeking health benefits and special flavors, while non-basmati rice provides higher protein and mineral content, making it a nutritious and economical staple for everyday use. 


All information provided in this article is based on available sources and may be subject to change or revision. Subject to availability of data.