Answering “Is Rice a Vegetable” and Other Questions


It is quite interesting that we rarely feel curious about the things we consume regularly. They are such a frequent part of our life that they usually go unnoticed. One such thing is rice. It is a staple food and the reason for the existence of many unique dishes around the world.

Therefore, today, I want to assign some curiosity to this fantastic food. And one of the questions that comes to mind is: “is rice a vegetable?”. To cut things short, rice can neither be classified as a fruit or a vegetable, but rather a grain.

For a more detailed answer, stick with me as I cover different questions regarding this nutritious food source and help you understand it better!

Is Rice a Vegetable or Fruit?

Let’s start at the beginning. Is rice a vegetable or a fruit? Neither.

Rice is a type of grain that comes from the grass-like plant Oryza sativa. It is the tiny edible seed of the plant, much like wheat or other grains. When the flowers of the Oryza sativa plant are pollinated, they produce the seed, which we then harvest, process, and use as rice. Therefore, rice is the edible grain that grows as the fruit of the grass plant.

However, the confusion stems from the fact that rice is technically a “fruit” of the Oryza sativa plant. It grows as a result of reproduction, which botanically makes it a fruit. But to truly understand the answer to this question, we must dig deeper and understand the definition of vegetables and fruits.

Definition of Vegetable

A vegetable is defined as a plant grown for its edible parts. It can include stems, roots, tubers, flowers, and bulbs. According to this definition, rice may very well be a vegetable, since it is a plant we grow for its seed (edible part). However, things are rarely that simple.

If we were to classify things based on this definition, everything from lentils to legumes to cereals would be vegetables, but they’re not. The rice follows the same exception. Furthermore, the USDA classification of vegetables also excludes rice from vegetables.

According to USDA, vegetables are divided into five groups. They are:

  • Dark green vegetables
  • Beans and Peas
  • Starchy vegetables
  • Red and orange vegetables
  • Other vegetables

Like wheat or barley, rice doesn’t fit into these categories. In fact, it belongs to another category or food group commonly referred to as “grains. Let us now look at why rice can not be classified as a fruit either.

Definition of Fruit

Fruit is defined as the ripened ovary (fleshy or dry) of a flowering plant that contains seed(s). Moreover, people associate things like a juicy texture and sweet taste with fruits. It is one of the reasons why tomato, even though it is a fruit, is referred to as a vegetable.

Technically, rice does come from an ovary of a flower. Moreover, botanically it is classified as a caryopsis. Caryopsis is a fruit in which the fruit wall is thin and fused with the seed. In rice, the covering over the grain of rice is the fruit wall, while the seed is the rice grain we consume.

Based on this definition, other grains like wheat and barley should also be considered a fruit, but they are not. These foods somewhat fall into both “vegetables” and “fruits,” so to avoid confusion, we have classified them into a whole new category of grains.

Rice: Grain or Seed?

Now that we have figured out that rice doesn’t fall under the culinary classification of fruit or vegetable, we have another question to deal with. Is rice a grain or a seed?

Well, here’s the thing. Botanically, we have classifications like vegetables, fruits, and meats. However, “grains” is not a botanical classification. It is a title we came up with to bunch together different seed-based foods like wheat, barley, rice, and oats.

Rice Inflorescence

Therefore, even though rice is botanically a seed, it also falls under the food group “grains,” which is an essential part of a healthy diet.

How is Rice Grown?

Rice crops grow well in warm, aquatic, and tropical environments. Therefore, farmers plant these crops in rice paddies, which are fields flooded with water. China, India, and Indonesia are the top-three rice-producing countries worldwide.

Growing Rice

Once the crop is planted, it takes about 3-6 months for it to be fit for harvesting. At this time, the paddies are drained, and the rice crop is cut and dried. Once dried, this crop is threshed to separate the grain from the stalk.

After threshing, the rice grain is dried again to be sent for milling. Milling refers to removing the husk, bran layer, and germ to produce the famous white rice. Brown rice doesn’t go through milling.

Types of Rice

Things can get pretty confusing when trying to understand all the different types of rice, such as long grain, basmati, brown rice, wild rice, etc. But did you know that all different rice types fall under three major categories? Here’s what they are:

Rice Types

Long Grain

Long-grain rice is about five times the length of its width. Some of the most famous long-grain varieties are jasmine rice, basmati rice, mogra rice, wild rice, American long-grain rice, red rice, and Carolina gold. They are the most flavorful rice that go well with curries and stir-fry.

Medium Grain

Medium grain rice is about two times the length of its width. It has a chewy and starchier texture, and goes well in paella, risotto, and soups. Some popular medium-grain varieties are valencia, carnaroli, calrose, and black rice.

Short Grain

Small grain rice is as big as its width. It has a sticky texture and is best suited for side serving, puddings, or sushi. Some popular short-grain rice varieties are bomba, brown short-grain, and sushi rice.

Is Rice Vegan-Friendly?

Rice Vegan Friendly

Yes, if you’re a vegan, you can safely consume rice. It comes from a vegan source and is devoid of any animal products during its processing.

However, since it belongs to the same group as wheat, is rice safe to consume for people with celiac disease? It is. No matter the type of rice you’re consuming, you can rest assured that rice is gluten-free.

However, there’s a caveat. Purchasing unflavored or unspiced rice and cooking it at home is better, as some of these products may contain gluten.

The Healthier Alternative: Brown Rice or White Rice?

Rice, whether brown or white, is a staple source of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are essential for keeping our energy stores full and our bodies functioning correctly. Which type of rice is healthier depends on your health and fitness goals.

Brown Rice or White Rice

For example, if you’re trying to lose weight or cut down on simple carbs, it may be better to choose brown rice over white rice. Brown rice contains more fiber, and white rice is more refined. It means that white rice is higher on the glycemic index and does not provide extra fiber that might help with satiety and a lower intake of carbs.

There is also the notion that white rice promotes weight gain. However, that is only because we tend to consume more white rice in comparison to brown rice due to its lower fiber content. Furthermore, by consuming white rice in moderation, keeping your carb and calorie intake in check, and practicing healthy portion control, you can enjoy white rice without worrying about gaining weight. 

Cauliflower Rice: A New Kind of Rice?

You may have heard about or noticed cauliflower rice in the vegetable section in a grocery store. So the question is, is cauliflower rice a vegetable?

Cauliflower Rice

Riced vegetables or cauliflower rice are vegetables made to look like rice. Cauliflower is similar in texture to rice when cooked, so it is cut up into rice-sized pieces to be sold as vegetable rice. It is made for people who are limiting or restricting their carbohydrate intake.

Summing it Up

So, to sum it all up, rice is neither a true vegetable nor a fruit. Even though it has both botanical qualities, it is classified in a separate food group of “grains.” This group contains other similar foods like wheat, barley, and oats.

I hope this article will satiate your curiosity, much like rice does when you’re craving a filling and starchy meal.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Does rice contain arsenic?

Rice indeed absorbs more arsenic from its surroundings depending on the method of growing and rice variety. However, according to the FDA, if you cook rice in ample water, i.e., six cups of water per cup of rice, you can cut arsenic levels by 50%.
Moreover, white rice tends to have fewer amounts of arsenic than brown rice. For example, basmati rice has the lowest arsenic levels of all rice.

Does rice make you fat?

Rice is a rich source of carbohydrates. However, white rice lacks the fiber that brown rice has. If you’re watching weight, it is better to either switch to brown rice or consume white rice while keeping your caloric and carbohydrate intake in check. Rice doesn’t have an inherent quality that makes you fat.

Does rice have gluten?

Rice is a gluten-free source of carbohydrates. However, it may come into contact with other grains like wheat, rye, and barley during growth and processing. Therefore, if possible, always ensure that the rice you’re purchasing is certified gluten-free if you have celiac disease.

Does rice contain protein?

Rice is primarily a source of carbohydrates. Even though it contains protein, it is in a small amount. For example, 100 grams of cooked, long-grain white rice contain about 3 grams of protein and 28 grams of carbohydrates.

Does rice increase blood pressure?

If you suffer from blood pressure-related diseases, it is better to choose brown rice instead of white rice. Brown rice is rich in fiber and contains minerals like potassium and magnesium that help you control your blood pressure better.

Does rice expire?

If you keep your white rice dry and in airtight containers, they are good for up to 2 years. Brown rice has a shorter shelf life of up to 6 months. Some signs of white rice going bad are humidity, bugs, or mold. Brown rice may become discolored, smelly, or oil when they go bad.

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