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How to Cook Perfect Brown Rice with Pasta Method (2023)

Learn how to cook brown rice on the stove perfectly with the pasta method. No more mushy, overcooked, or crunchy half-cooked brown rice. Get soft, moist, yet distinct grains.

bowl of brown rice with vegetables

The brown rice cooking process I will teach you will change your life in the kitchen. It changed mine.

To be honest, I struggled with brown rice for a long time. My experience with brown rice may be like yours.

Following the directions on the rice package produced inconsistent results. I cooked the rice with a 2:1 water rice ratio (2 cups water and 1 cup brown rice). The result — mushy rice.

I test different water to rice ratios, reducing the water each time. When the rice was no longer soggy, it was dry and not fully cooked instead.

With such frustrating experiences, I didn’t think I could learn how to cook brown rice on the stove.

Little did I know that the rice grain’s size and the cooking pan’s quality affect the amount of water needed for the rice.

Then I learned the pasta method to cook rice, and everything changed.

Why You Will Love Cooking Rice with the “Pasta Method”

bowl of brown rice with lime slices
  • Perfect grains every single time. Follow the directions, and your brown rice will never be soggy, mushy, or bland.

    Instead, it will be moist with grains that hold their shape. The slightly chewy texture and nutty taste are the ideal base for your lunchtime grain bowl.
  • Easy. The pasta method is so simple, you don’t even need to measure the water or the rice. That is helpful when you don’t have much rice left in the package.

    Forget the complex math. How much water do you need for your 2/3 and 1 tablespoon of dry rice? Use the pasta method, and you will never need to work it out.
  • Great for making a large batch. The best brown rice comes from the pot you made earlier. Store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container for the week. Or freeze it for more extended storage.

    Make one batch and pull out however much rice you need for your recipe. Now that is a good idea that will save you time during the week.

What is the “Pasta Method” for Cooking Brown Rice

The pasta method for cooking rice involves cooking the rice in a large amount of boiling water, just as noodles are cooked.

To use the pasta method, boil water in a large pot. Then add the rice and cook. After cooking, drain the rice and return it to the pan. Let it sit covered and OFF HEAT for 5 to 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Contrast the pasta method to the absorption method. In the absorption method, only enough water that the rice can absorb is added.

In the pasta method, about four times more water is added to cook the rice. This is about 1½ to 2 quarts of water for every cup of rice.

The excess water is drained when the rice is tender.       

The absorption method has a longer cooking time than the pasta method. And a lot could go wrong.

Alternatives to Cooking Brown Rice on the Stove

A rice cooker and an electric pressure cooker have an excellent track record for producing fluffy brown rice. If you have a rice cooker or Instant Pot, use them for cooking the rice. It’s an easier, hands-free method.

Here’s why.

Rice Cooker

Most rice cookers make moist, tender, perfect rice with a 1½ cups water to 1 cup rice ratio.

Always follow your rice cooker’s specific instructions for how much water to add when using the “brown rice” setting.

A rice cooker is a great way to cook basic brown rice.

Instant Pot

An electric pressure cooker can also cook brown rice. It has a brown rice setting, which is handy. Use a 1½ to 1 water to rice ratio.

If you plan to use an electric pressure cooker, I recommend the Fagor pressure cooker. Read my Fagor pressure cooker review to find out why I prefer it over the Instant Pot.

You can also use the pressure cooker for cooking black beans, which you may like to eat with your brown rice.

However, many of you only have a pot and a burner, hence the pasta method.

Types of Brown Rice

One reason the absorption method is so inconsistent is because not all grains of rice are the same. They don’t look the same, aren’t the same size, and aren’t the same color.

With the absorption method, you should cook each type of rice differently because each variety is unique.

Using the absorption method, the water to rice ratios for short-grain and long-grain rice will be different. It is a lot to keep track of.

So, the solution for brown rice — boil it like you would pasta. Then you don’t have to measure water at all.

How to Cook Brown Rice Like Pasta

The only way to cook brown rice perfectly every time is to cook it like pasta. It is the easiest method with the highest chance of success.

You don’t have to measure either the water or the rice precisely — just like pasta.

infographic showing how to cook brown rice on the stove with the pasta method

STEP 1: Boil water in a deep pot over medium-high heat. Add enough water to boil the uncooked rice. The brown rice water ratio is closer to 4 to 1 (4 cups of water to 1 cup of brown rice).

boiling water

STEP 2: Add a pinch of salt (optional).

STEP 3: Rinse rice with cold water if you want, but it is unnecessary.

rinse brown rice before cooking with pasta method

STEP 4: Pour the brown rice into the boiling water. The rice will sink to the bottom of the pot. But there should be plenty of water to keep the rice covered by several inches.

pan of boiling water with brown rice

STEP 5: Replace the lid and lower heat. Simmer the rice, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes.

Check the grains at 25 minutes to see if they are soft enough. If they aren’t, keep cooking for another few minutes.

STEP 6: When the rice grains are ready, drain the rice in a fine mesh strainer just like you drain pasta.

I always shake the cooked rice in the colander a few times to get the excess water out.

cooked brown rice draining in colander

STEP 7: Return the rice to the large pot and give it a quick stir with a wooden spoon.

STEP 8: Replace the pan lid and let it sit OFF HEAT for about 5 minutes. This helps dry it out a little more and evenly cook.

steaming brown rice after cooking it with the pasta method

STEP 9: Finally, fluff it with a fork. You will have tender brown rice to serve in all sorts of ways.

If you use the rice in another recipe, like fried rice, let the rice cool to room temperature for best results.

The standard method of cooking rice by water absorption takes a longer time to cook than cooking by boiling. The water absorption method takes 45 minutes versus 25 minutes for the pasta method.

Do You Have to Soak Brown Rice Before Cooking?

I wasn’t sure if it was better to soak the rice before cooking, so I did an experiment.

Once I started cooking brown rice like pasta, I wasn’t going back to any other cooking method. But I wanted to see if there were any other tips to enhance the texture and appearance.

I used Trader Joe’s brown basmati rice for all the experiments, using the pasta cooking method.

Rice Soaking/Rinsing Experiment

The best texture of brown rice is soft, moist, and a tiny bit sticky. But the rice grains are separate with a distinct shape.

  • Presoaking Rice

Cooked rice was done in 25 minutes. The cooked rice grains were shorter and much stickier.

presoaked and no soak rice

My first impression was not favorable. When the rice cooled down, the texture was a little better. This was my least favorite method. I would only use this rice in a casserole or soup.

  • Rinsing Rice Before Cooking
bowl of cooked brown rice

Rinsed rice finished cooking in 25 minutes. The texture of the rice was slightly stickier than the rice cooked without rinsing. That was the only difference.

  • Cooking Rice Without Rinsing
bowl of cooked brown rice

This rice was soft, long, somewhat sticky, and the grains were separate. This rice had the best texture. It finished cooking in 25 minutes.

  • Rice Cooked in Rice Cooker and Electric Pressure Cooker – for comparison
two bowls of brown rice

Conclusion: I preferred the texture of non-rinsed brown rice.

Please note: When you use the boiling method, soaking brown rice does not reduce the cooking time.

How Much Brown Rice Per Person?

How much is a serving of brown rice? One serving of brown rice is ½ cup of cooked rice.

One serving of brown rice per person is sufficient for a stir fry. One-half cup is enough to serve as a side dish (paired with a burrito, for example).

One serving (or ½ cup of cooked brown rice) is also adequate in a grain bowl with other fillings added.

How Much Brown Rice Does 1 Cup Dry Make?

The following chart is an approximation of measurements.



¼ cup dry brown rice

1⅛ cups cooked rice

½ cup dry brown rice

2¼ cups cooked rice

¾ cup dry brown rice

3⅓ cups cooked rice

1 cup dry brown rice

4½ cups cooked rice

  • How much rice is 1 cup uncooked? One cup of dry brown rice makes approximately 4½ cups of cooked rice.
  • How much dry brown rice for 2 cups cooked? Approximately 7 tablespoons of brown rice will make 2 cups of cooked rice. This is ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons (or just under ½ cup).

Can You Freeze Brown Rice?

Brown rice freezes very well.

To freeze, allow the rice to cool completely. Then place it in a zip-top freezer bag or another freezer container and place it in the freezer.

freezer bag of cooked brown rice

Because it freezes so well, it makes sense to cook a large batch of brown rice and then freeze it in serving portions.

To thaw the rice, place it in the refrigerator for 2 to 6 hours, depending on the portion size.


What is the best method for cooking brown rice?

The pasta method is the best method for cooking brown rice. It is easier and quicker. Plus, there is less chance of failure.

How long does it take to cook brown rice?

It takes 25 to 30 minutes to cook brown rice by boiling it with a 4 to 1 water to rice ratio. Add 5 minutes of sitting after draining it to get a total of 30 to 35 minutes.

It takes 45 minutes to cook rice using the water absorption method (where the rice absorbs all the water as it cooks).

What is the ratio of water to rice?

To boil the rice like pasta, the water to rice ratio is approximately 4 to 1. Neither the water nor the rice needs to be measured precisely with this method. Treat it like you would cook pasta.

Be sure to cover the amount of rice you use with at least 4 inches of water.

You may have mixed and inconsistent results if you are cooking rice by absorption (rice absorbs all the water as it cooks).

But the general guideline is to cook long grain brown rice with a 1½ to 1 ratio of water to rice. (Example: 3 cups of water and 2 cups of dry brown rice)
Use a 2 to 1 ratio of water to rice to cook short grain brown rice. (Example: 2 cups of water and 1 cup of brown rice).
It is also essential to use a high-quality pan.
However, the best way to get perfect brown rice is to cook the brown rice like pasta. (Or use a rice cooker or an Instant Pot.

What can I add to brown rice for flavor?

Cook brown rice in chicken, beef, or vegetable stock.  

Additionally, add other ingredients for flavor.
• Sauté brown rice with olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
• Mix pesto with cooked brown rice. Homemade pesto is the best.
• Flavor with soy sauce and sautéed vegetables.
• Sauté with olive oil, cilantro, and lime juice.

How do I fix mushy brown rice?

Mushy brown rice can be hard to fix, but here are a few tips.
Try draining the rice in a colander. After excess water drips out, return it to the pan, cover with a lid, and set OFF HEAT to continue to cook and dry out in the warm pan.
If the rice is too mushy to be eaten on its own, add the mushy rice to a recipe. When mixed in a casserole or in brown rice pudding, the mushiness may not be so noticeable.

Why does brown rice take longer to cook?

Brown rice takes longer to cook because it is a whole grain with only the outer layer (the husk) removed. It still has the outer hull, bran, and germ layers.
White rice has the hull, bran, and germ layers removed. As a result, plain white rice cooks more quickly than brown rice.

raw rice and bowl of cooked brown rice

What to Serve with Brown Rice

  • Stir fries with brown rice are a healthy option for dinner.
  • Cilantro lime brown rice is an excellent side dish to serve with burritos.
  • A grain bowl with brown rice, black beans, and avocado is a popular brown rice recipe.

If you are interested in cooking other staples, see the posts on how to cook quinoa and how to cook black beans.

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Yield: 2 cups

Perfect Brown Rice (with the pasta method)

bowl of brown rice with vegetables

Learn how to cook brown rice on the stove perfectly every time. No more mushy, overcooked, or crunchy half-cooked brown rice.

Get soft, moist, yet distinct grains, perfect to eat alone or as an ingredient in a healthy recipe.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 5 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes


  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 4 cups water


  1. BOIL 4 cups of water in a large stock pot. Add enough water to boil the uncooked rice. The brown rice water ratio is closer to 4 to 1 (4 cups of water to 1 cup of brown rice).
  2. ADD a pinch of salt (optional). Rinse rice with cold water (also optional).
  3. POUR the brown rice into the boiling water.
  1. COVER with a lid and turn the heat to low. Keep the water at a low simmer.
  2. COOK COVERED for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the rice grains are soft and cooked through.
  3. DRAIN the water from the rice in a colander. Shake the colander to get all the excess water out.
  4. RETURN the rice to the warm pan. Cover with the lid and let it sit OFF HEAT for 5 minutes.
  5. FLUFF with a fork.
  6. SERVE with a dollop of homemade pesto or use it in any recipe.


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Nutrition Information



Serving Size

1/2 cup

Amount Per Serving Calories 55Total Fat 0gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 0mgSodium 10mgCarbohydrates 11gFiber 1gSugar 0gProtein 1g

Nutrition information is an estimate only and may vary based on individual ingredients added and cooking methods used.

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