What Is Wild Rice—Is It Actually Rice?

Rice has a pretty neutral reputation. It’s always there to provide a solid, reliable base for other, more exciting foods. But, every so often, plain rice just isn’t enough, and we in the kitchen want to get a little, oh I don’t know…WILD! Well, thankfully, there’s wild rice.

What is wild rice? Name aside, wild rice is still pretty darn steadfast and reliable. However, it’s notably healthier than most other variations, containing more fiber, potassium, and zinc than the others. Let’s learn more about this wild rice, and see if it lives up to its rebellious moniker! 

Is wild rice a grain?

Wild rice is a grain—but it’s not technically rice. Wild rice is the seed of an aquatic grass species called Zizania, which is a cousin of Oryza sativa, the plant that produces “true rice.” ZIzania was originally discovered by Indigenous people in the Great Lakes region in the first century A.D. They originally called it manomin, which means “good berry.” Today it is also cultivated in California and Florida. 

Is wild rice a whole grain?

Wild rice is, indeed, a whole grain. According to the Whole Grain Council (an actual council, even though it sounds like something one would make up), wild rice “contains all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire seed.” On top of being a whole grain, wild rice has three grams of fiber per cup, and is higher in protein than most other varieties of rice. For example, cooked wild rice has about 30 percent fewer calories than brown rice as well as 40 percent more protein. 

What does wild rice taste like?

Wild rice has a toasty, nutty, earthy flavor. Its aroma is sometimes compared to black tea. There’s decidedly less caffeine, though—none, in fact—which is unfortunate for anyone who might want to swap it out for their morning mug! 

Is wild rice gluten free?

Ready to get your mind blown? All rice is gluten free! That’s right, you heard us correctly: wild, brown, white, jasmine, basmati, even the stuff they throw at weddings that make pigeons explode… It’s all free of gluten! 

Does wild rice go bad?

Not really. When it’s kept free of dust and any other contaminants, uncooked wild rice is good forever. This makes it a good item with which to stock your “end of times” bunker. But, failing that, it can of course be stored in your pantry, fridge, or even freezer. Cooked wild rice, on the other hand, should be refrigerated and consumed within 4-6 days, or else it will spoil and, frankly, start to smell. 

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

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