Part of my gut-care routine includes eating brown rice that I soak before cooking.
Why Soak Rice?
Like fermentation, soaking is a way to transform grains into a more nutritious and easily digestible form.
Some people with food sensitivities choose to remove grains from their diet entirely, perhaps following a Paleo diet.
Since I already have a longer-than-I’d-like list of foods that I have to avoid, I try not to remove any that I easily tolerate.
Rice is one that for me is a belly-friendly food – but only if I soak it before cooking it.
Cultures that have eaten rice throughout their histories practice this preparation method too, having gained knowledge of what makes food healthier over centuries (or more) of experimentation.
Soaking rice really isn’t hard – but it does require a bit of forethought, and just a tad more work. It’s worth it though.
Starting Your Soak
Simply pour the amount of rice you’d like to cook into a glass or ceramic bowl, and cover with water. I cover mine so that I have about an inch of water over the surface of the rice. Then cover the bowl with a plate or dish towel, to keep bugs and dust out.
I soak my rice directly in the bowl of my rice cooker, which is made from terra cotta.
I don’t recommend soaking rice in pots that are aluminum or non-stick, as you should try to minimize your exposure to both aluminum and the chemicals that are used to coat non-stick cookware.
You can soak rice in a stainless steel pot, although there can be some damage done to stainless steel when water is left in it for long periods, so this is not the ideal container.
How Long to Soak Rice
Ideally, if you want to soak rice, you’ll do it for at least several hours.
Eventually soaking will transition into fermentation if you let it go long enough. The amount of time you can soak it before souring begins will depend on the conditions in your home, with warmer temperatures encouraging the grains of rice to ferment more quickly.
I like to soak my rice for 12-24 hours.
If I need to soak my rice for longer than 24 hours, I change out the water.
While rice is soaking, I place my bowl in a cupboard where it’s out of the way – particularly out of the way from my curious cats and counter-surfing dog, Leo.
If you choose to do the same, placing your bowl out of view, you may want to set an alarm on your cell phone to remind yourself about your awakening grains, at least until you get into a routine with the process.
Drain the Soaking Water
I always drain my soaking water before I cook my rice.
Since like other grains, brown rice has phytates in it which can interfere with the absorption of nutrients and minerals, soaking is one way to reduce these compound.
Phytates are water soluble and will leach out into the water during soaking – thus the motivation for discarding this water.
Here’s how I drain my soaked rice:
At my kitchen sink, I place a sieve into a bowl, and pour the rice into the sieve. Then I discard the soaking water, place the filled sieve back into the bowl, add some fresh water and swish the rice around. And repeat until the water seems clean.
Performing this step without the bowl is certainly doable, but it can be a bit awkward. With the bowl there, your risk of accidentally dumping your grains into the sink gets reduced to practically nil. (Yes, I’m speaking from experience!)
Cooking Soaked Rice
Since the rice has been rehydrated by the soaking process, you’ll notice that it will cook a bit faster than unsoaked rice.
If you soak your rice for a long time (for me this is 24 hours), you may notice a slight sour taste to it after it’s cooked.
Alternatives to Soaking Rice
Admittedly, soaking rice is not an option if you decide you want to have rice asap and you forgot to plan.
There is an alternative that will provide you with the same advantages – it’s possible to buy this grain sprouted.
Sprouted rice, also called GABA rice, has been taken through a sprouting process before you buy it. It looks like non-sprouted rice, but has improved nutritional content and is better digested – on par with soaked rice.
I like to keep sprouted rice on hand as well as non-sprouted for the moments when I decide what’s for dinner at the last minute.
The reason I don’t just use only the sprouted kind is that it’s a bit pricier. And honestly, I do enjoy the soaking process – I like seeing my grains of rice plump up, and smelling the delicious sour smell of the soaking water.
Plus, I’m ready for any chance to see the transformative processes of nature at work.
After soaking, proceed to cooking your rice as normal.
A note on taste – although I let my rice soak to the point where the water smells a bit like sourdough, which for me is about 24 hours, this taste doesn’t come through in the cooked rice. A longer soak may result in a more sour tasting rice.
If you have any questions about the process, please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.