The Reason Black Rice Is Also Called 'Forbidden Rice'

From short grain to long grain options, arborio to wild to jasmine, there's a massive variety of rice on the market today, including the intriguingly nicknamed "forbidden rice."

According to MasterClass, black rice received its moniker of "forbidden rice" in ancient China where it was only allowed to be consumed by the aristocracy. The designation of the grain as a royals-only ingredient was also intended to ensure a long, healthy life for the Chinese emperor (via The Spruce Eats). This was taken so seriously that anyone caught eating black rice without permission could be sentenced to death (per

However, says there may have been a few exceptions when the grain was offered to others within the emperor's court, including consorts. After all, it's considered an aphrodisiac for a reason! Even Italians know the grain by the name "Venus Rice," after the goddess of love (via Icoloniali).

Another component in its coveted status? Black rice is also more challenging to grow than other varieties of rice because a single harvest yields only about 10 percent of what other rice harvests do.

Black rice is packed full of nutrients and antioxidants

Now that the grain is no longer reserved for royalty, individuals around the world can enjoy its health benefits — and there are plenty. 

Black rice gets its distinct color from a pigment called anthocyanin (via Healthline). This is also found in blueberries and is full of antioxidants that support heart and brain health (via MasterClass). Anthocyanins also come with anti-cancer properties — a study from the scientific journal Nutrients found that individuals who consumed higher levels of anthocyanins may face a lower risk of colorectal cancer. 

As if that weren't enough, black rice is also full of vitamin E — which boosts your immune system and supports both skin and eye health — and it's a perfect protein-rich staple for vegetarians

Now if you're wondering what the grain actually tastes like, black rice is slightly nutty but is a fairly neutral ingredient, which means you can enjoy it in a wide variety of dishes. So don't be put off by its dramatic appearance (or dramatic history for that matter), it can be used the same way you would use any other kind of rice. As Food and Wine suggests, you could craft a delectable risotto, or even take it in a sweeter direction for a rice pudding.