Brown Rice Not Cooking: What’s Gone Wrong and How To Fix It

Last update:
Brown rice inside the pot with a text "Brown Rice Not Cooking"

Why is my brown rice not cooking? Have you been simmering your rice for what seems like forever, but it just won’t soften? Let’s debunk why your brown rice isn’t cooking well and how to avoid these problems. Read until the end for a foolproof recipe and tips for making perfectly fluffy brown rice.

You can cook brown rice perfectly if you address the potential issues below, adjust your cooking technique, and use fresh, high-quality rice. Don’t forget to take notes of any changes you make while cooking so you can enjoy excellent brown rice every time. Let’s dive in!

Why Your Brown Rice Isn’t Cooking

There are several possible reasons for undercooked brown rice:

You skipped soaking. Brown rice has a tough bran shell, making it harder for the kernels to absorb liquid. You can soften this layer by soaking brown rice for at least 30 minutes (ideally 90 minutes) before cooking. This method will reduce the cooking time.

You skipped rinsing. Yes, brown rice also needs to be rinsed. Running the rice under cold water helps remove excess starch and improve the final texture (and flavor). If you skip rinsing, brown rice can be less tender and cook unevenly.

Insufficient cooking time. I used to think brown rice takes just as long as white rice to cook, but I was wrong. While white rice can cook in 15 to 20 minutes, 1 cup of brown rice needs at least 35 minutes. As someone who cooks a lot of brown rice at once, I’ve noticed that you should increase the cooking time by about 8 minutes for each additional cup.

Incorrect water-to-rice ratio. Since brown rice takes longer, it also needs more water than white rice. A good starting point is 1 cup rice to 2 1/4 cups water. This ratio will yield fluffy brown rice with a manageable chew. If you prefer softer and creamier brown rice, use a 1:2 ½ ratio instead.

Old or poor-quality rice. Like old beans, outdated brown rice can take forever to cook and might never soften. It may still be edible, but it probably won’t be enjoyable (here’s how to tell if brown rice has gone bad). Poor-quality rice may contain extra dry grains with absorption problems, so use good-quality brown rice for best results.

Hard water. Did you know that hard water that contains high levels of minerals like magnesium or calcium can affect the cooking process? I suggest experimenting with filtered or bottled water to rule out this cause.  

High altitude. Lower air pressure at high altitudes affects not only your lungs but also the cooking process. You’ll need to adjust the cooking time and water amount depending on your altitude above sea level. Check out this High Altitude Cooking Guide as a fantastic reference.

How to Make Perfectly Fluffy Brown Rice Every Time

Rice cookers do an excellent job of cooking rice because they maintain an even temperature and tell you the exact measurements for each type of rice. Still, the rice always comes out a bit sticky and has a slimy layer at the bottom of the pot.

That’s why I prefer cooking on the stovetop.

Chicken and rice cook in a pan in a kitchen.

Here’s my recipe for flawless brown rice using 1 cup medium grain or long grain brown rice and 2 ¼ cups water:

  1. Rinse the rice under cold water once or twice.
  2. Drain it well through a mesh strainer.
  3. Place the drained rice in a pot and cover with water. Let it soak for at least 30 minutes before cooking (preferably 90 minutes).
  4. Drain the water and rinse the rice 1-2 more times.
  5. Place the rice back in the pot and cover with 2 ¼ cups of water. Transfer it to the stove.
  6. Bring the rice to a boil with the lid off.
  7. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 35 minutes.
  8. Taste to see if the texture is to your liking. If not, add ¼ cup more water and cook 5 to 10 minutes longer.
  9. Turn off the heat and let your brown rice sit covered for 10 minutes.
  10. Season with salt and butter or olive oil.
  11. Fluff, serve, and enjoy!
Lemon Chicken, Rice, Lemon, Dill

Bonus Tips for Cooking Brown Rice

The rice should go from a rigorous boil to a light simmer. If you don’t turn the heat to low, the water will evaporate too quickly, and you’ll burn the brown rice.

Let the rice rest for 10 minutes before uncovering the lid. This step allows the grains to absorb any remaining moisture and become extra fluffy.

You can salt your rice before or after cooking—chef’s choice.

Resist the urge to stir the rice while it’s cooking. Stirring can release starch and make the rice stickier. But if you plan to make sushi, then, by all means, stir away.

Fluff the rice with a fork before serving. This step helps to distribute the moisture evenly and prevents clumping once cooled.

Increase the cooking time with an electric stove instead of a gas stove.

Lastly, the cooking time can vary depending on the type of brown rice. Medium grain and long grain brown rice take 35-40 minutes, while short grain brown rice takes 45-50 minutes to cook properly. Brown basmati rice takes only 15 minutes to cook (and it’s the fluffiest too!).

You’ve Got This

Now that you know your brown rice better, you’ll get along splendidly. I sure wish I had known these issues and tips before I cooked brown rice for the first time!

Share your thoughts on brown rice and how you like to prepare it in the comments. Did we miss any good tips? We’d love to hear about your experience!

Saniya Baxi Avatar


Leave a Comment