Making fermented rice is a really easy way to “dip your toe” into the joy of fermenting foods.
It is simple and almost foolproof to make fermented rice tasty and healthy if you follow a couple of steps. The added bonus is that you will improve the nutrition of the rice and get probiotics at the same time when you take this extra step of fermentation before making rice.
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What is fermented rice?
Fermented rice is a type of rice that is made from exposing rice to water and yeast or certain bacteria over a period of time, allowing the carbohydrates to break down a bit and also to allow probiotics to develop in the rice.
The process of fermenting rice or other foods changes the taste too, usually giving the rice a more complex flavor, which can be tangy, boozy, or even a little bit carbonated.
Fermenting rice is an ancient technique for preserving rice and is used in many countries on a daily basis as a way to prepare rice. After the rice is fermented, you can make various sweet rice recipes, steamed rice, rice bread, flatbreads, cereals (porridges), or rice cakes with either fermented brown rice or fermented white rice.
The end result is much healthier than plain cooked rice and an added bonus is that fermented rice is gluten-free. Keep in mind, you will end up with more sticky rice (aka glutinous rice) due to the extra soak time.
Types of Fermented Foods
Eating fermented foods is perhaps the most important choice you make when you eat every day because the health impacts are tremendous.
Rice just happens to be super easy to ferment on your own at home. Other examples of fermented foods are raw sauerkraut, aged cheese, buttermilk, yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, natto, fermented carrots, and miso.
Indian-style fermented rice is called tapai rice and is made within tapai leaves, while one type of Chinese-style fermented rice is called jiuniang.
Fermented rice health benefits
By fermenting rice, you are increasing the nutrition content in foods that are available to be absorbed into your body. This is because the fermentation process reduces phytates, trypsin inhibitors, and lectins in foods, which are known as anti-nutrients.
Basically, by reducing phytates and anti-nutrients, you get more nutrition and less gut upset [R]. The release of enzymes within the grain occurs when the rice is fermented, and the enzymes then break down phytic acid and trypsin inhibitors so that you can absorb the food better.
Fermenting brown rice versus white rice
There is a big difference in the nutrition content of fermented brown rice compared to white rice, however.
Brown rice is going to contain around 4 times as much zinc as white rice and is going to have more fermentable fibers as well.
This is because when rice is processed to become white rice, most of the minerals like iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium, calcium, and phosphorus are stripped away. Brown rice also has about 50 percent more heart-healthy potassium than white rice.
There is no amount of fermenting of white rice that can overcome the losses of nutrition due to the processing of white rice, in other words. Still, fermented white rice is MUCH healthier than just plain white rice.
Boost antioxidants, reduce toxins, and improves digestive function
Other benefits of fermenting grains like rice are that it helps the rice to last longer, increases the antioxidant content of the grains, makes the protein more digestible and even helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria within the grain.
A very interesting fact about fermentation is that it even may break down a toxin called aflatoxin in the grains, according to a research review published by Food Science and Nutrition [R].
By soaking and fermenting rice, you may also be reducing the chances that it is contaminated with arsenic too.
May reduce colitis
Colitis is an autoimmune condition that results in inflammation of the digestive tract and increases the risk of many other diseases because of this.
We have long known that the microbiome plays a key role in the health of the colon and may help prevent or reduce symptoms of inflammatory diseases if eating probiotic foods.
Using fermented rice bran as a source of probiotics reduced symptoms of colitis by increasing short-chain fatty acids and decreasing inflammation in early research [R].
While more research is needed about fermented rice in colitis, fermented foods are generally good for colon health, so no need to wait for more research to enjoy this healthy food.
May reduce stress
Stress and anxiety plague our minds and our bodies if we don’t learn techniques to dampen down the root cause and effects on our body.
Many research papers show that probiotic foods help reduce mood disorders, including stress and anxiety as well as depression.
Probiotic-rich foods that are fermented are notorious for being stress-busters and fermented rice is no exception. A recent study found that stress reduced after eating fermented rice in a study of rats [R].
May reduce fatigue
When your microbiome is healthy, you have more nutrients available to your whole body, so it makes sense that fermented foods like fermented rice may also reduce fatigue by helping supply the body with adequate nutrient compounds.
Eating fermented brown rice may also reduce fatigue because it has fermented rice bran in it. An animal study found that giving fermented rice bran results in improved endurance [R].
May reduce cancer
Digestive cancer risk continues to grow among younger adults at alarming rates, and one possible culprit for this is the damage that processed foods are doing to our microbiome.
Fermented foods are linked to many gut health benefits, and may even reduce the risk of colon cancer according to early research [R]. Eating rice that was fermented helped to reduce colon cancer in animal studies, but more research is needed in humans to confirm these findings.
Still, all signs point to the fact that fermented rice is healthy for your gut, so feel free to enjoy it.
May reduce heart disease
The health of the gut is also linked to the health of the heart and every other organ in the body. This is because fermented foods have healthy bacteria that send signal messengers throughout the body and even help to reduce inflammation in the liver.
By doing so, the body more effectively handles cholesterol too. And by dampening stress and improving nutrition, blood pressure numbers may improve too.
By lowering blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, fermented rice bran may reduce heart disease risk according to research in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine [R].
Another perk is that fermented foods may be easier on diabetes numbers because the fermentation process reduces the glucose spikes you may get after eating compared to standard rice.
How to Ferment Rice
There are a number of ways to go about rice fermentation and the end result can be different flavors and degrees of fermentation.
For example, some traditional fermentation recipes include a tape yeast or distillers yeast to help the fermentation process. Other fermentation methods simply involve soaking the rice, brown or white.
Either way, you will improve the health benefits of the rice, but incorporating yeast will make the fermentation flavors and probiotics develop more fully. Fermenting brown rice is identical to fermenting brown rice, so no additional steps are needed.
Simple Soak Method
Many recipes for fermenting rice simply soak the rice in water at room temperature for a period of about 12-24 hours.
Grab a big bowl, cover your rice with water, put a lid on, and check it in about a day. That’s all you have to do.
Drain off the rice water or save it for future batches. Then, cook the rice, reducing the cooking time because fermentation softens the grain.
Some research shows that baking soda may further help reduce the phytic acid, so feel free to throw a pinch of baking soda in the mix for soaking [R].
Around 75 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for rice fermentation, and this holds true with traditional methods of rice fermentation too. If your house isn’t this warm, consider putting the rice in an Instant Pot and use the yogurt setting [R, R].
Be aware that if you ferment rice too long, it will become rice wine; not exactly what we are after in this post or for the best gut healing.
Save the soaking water each time. This will speed up the fermentation next time and reduce the anti-nutrients more quickly in subsequent fermented rice batches.
Bonus: fermented brown rice cooks quickly in about 30 minutes, which makes it easier if you are busy on a weeknight.
Adding yeast also helps speed up the fermentation of rice and other grains. Simply soak the rice in water with a teaspoon of yeast the day before you intend to cook the rice.
Distiller’s yeast is helpful for this. I use the Red Star Dady type like this one.
Cook the rice as you would normally, but reduce the cooking time for white rice to about 8 minutes, and for brown rice, the cooking time will be about 30 minutes.
How to make fermented rice water
Since you went to the extra step of making fermented rice, why not use the fermented rice water too? Simply save the water that you used to ferment the rice in for various purposes.
It will help improve the fermentation in future batches of rice fermentation too.
Rice water benefits may be numerous. Traditional uses of rice water include treatment of diarrhea and dehydration, as a skin soother when used topically, and as a milk substitute for dairy milk.
Many people also use rice water for skin and hair beauty routines as well. No harm, so feel free to try it.
Keep in mind, no research has been conducted about rice water specifically, but plenty has been for fermented foods!
How to use fermented rice
You made your rice ferment, now what? There are many recipes you can use, or simply cook the rice, and you are done.
The cooking time of the fermented rice, both brown or white rice is going to be much quicker.
Recipes that use fermented rice
Now that you’ve made fermented rice and know how healthy it is, you may want to experiment with different ways to use it.
The easiest method is to serve it as you would any other rice. I like making fried rice with it or adding some cinnamon and coconut milk for a treat.
Here are some recipes that use fermented rice.
Dosa is a type of flatbread made with fermented rice.
For best gut health, I don’t recommend Rava dosa, which is wheat-based. Only choose the rice-based dosas if possible.
Idli is a rice cake that is usually made with fermented rice and lentils.
Sweet Fermented Rice
Sweet fermented rice uses white glutinous rice and yeast to ferment.
Fermented rice is a very easy way to add more nutrients into your diet, improve digestion, increase antioxidants, and even provide probiotics for your gut health. When you make fermented rice, it speeds up the cooking time and helps the rice last longer too.
You can make lots of different recipes with fermented rice, such as Idli and dosa, or just use it as you would normally in rice. The flavor will be more delicious than regular rice too, so give it a try.