The Real Difference Between White Rice And Yellow Rice

Rice is one of the world's most important food crops. In fact, this grain is a staple in the diets of more than half of the world's population, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. And according to Bon Appetit, there are more than 40,000 varieties of rice in the world. Although brown and white rice are fairly ubiquitous in the U.S., you might be less familiar with yellow rice. 

Both white and yellow rice come from brown rice. Brown rice has had only the grain's outermost layer, the hull, removed. According to Utter Spoken Word, the outer bran, the kernel, and the inner germ of the grain are left in place. This is why brown rice has its rougher texture and nutty flavor and why takes longer to cook than more refined white rice.

White rice is brown rice that has undergone processing to remove the bran and most of the germ, according to Rainbow Foods. This gives it a starchier and creamier texture that many people prefer. It also makes white rice easier to cook, but strips the grain of some of its inherent nutrients. White rice varieties are easy to find in the supermarket and include the familiar short-grain rices, such as arborio and sushi rice, according to My Recipes, as well as medium and long-grain rice, such as the aromatic basmati and jasmine varieties. But what about yellow rice?

Yellow rice isn't a different variety of rice per se

It might be surprising to know that yellow rice is not actually a natural rice variety. It is white rice that has been flavored and colored by the addition of turmeric or saffron — both spices that are essential to Asian cooking. According to Bon Appetit, the flavor of turmeric can be described as earthy and slightly peppery. It is commonly featured in most curry powders. Turmeric adds culinary heat to yellow rice, according to Utter Spoken Word.

The other ingredient behind yellow rice, saffron, has a sweet, floral flavor. It has also been described as having a fragrant aroma and an "earthy" or "nuanced" flavor, according to Rumi Spice.

You can buy yellow rice off the supermarket shelf or at Asian specialty food stores. Common grocery store brands make yellow rice, including Carolina, Goya, and Zatarain's. You can also make your own yellow rice with recipes like this one from All Recipes, which uses turmeric, or this recipe from, which utilizes saffron.