These days, we feel very lost in an ocean of new discoveries surrounding classifications of food. Tomatoes are fruits, almonds are berries, rhubarb is a vegetable – how can you keep up?
Lately, we’ve been seeing rumors going around that now rice is classified as a vegetable.
So, is rice a vegetable? No, rice is a cereal grain, not a vegetable. While it is made up of the edible parts of a plant, it does not have the characteristics that would categorize it as a vegetable.
There are, however, riced vegetables, which are plant-based and grain-free versions of rice.
Today, we will take an in-depth look at exactly what vegetables are, the definition of rice, and whether or not there is any possibility that rice is some type of vegetable.
Then, we will also look at some delicious and easy-to-make riced vegetables.
What Is A Vegetable?
Before looking at whether or not rice is a vegetable, it is important to first look at exactly what makes a vegetable a vegetable. By definition, a vegetable is any herbaceous plant grown for its edible parts.
However, this means that virtually every type of plant-derived product should be classified as a vegetable. This includes the roots, stems, fruits, seeds, grains, flowers, and leaves of a plant.
Now, you probably know that everything isn’t classified as a vegetable. So, obviously, some scientists, culinary experts, and botanists developed different definitions that made it much more clear-cut.
This is where the different food groups come in. And, each food group also has sub-categories.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 5 subgroups of vegetables exist. These include starchy vegetables, dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and finally, other vegetables (the exceptions).
These categories were developed taking into consideration which part of the plant the ingredient comes from, and also the physical (and chemical) characteristics of the ingredient itself.
For example, starchy vegetables all have extremely high amounts of starch and are mostly roots and tubers (which all grow underground).
Some common examples of starchy vegetables are potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, and butternut squash. These vegetables are all very high in starch and mostly grow underground.
There is, of course, the exception or two in this category like corn, which grows above ground in husks.
Popular dark green vegetables are bok choy, broccoli, cucumber, kale, lettuce, and spinach. These ingredients all share a very dark and deep green color. This deep green color is an indication of specific nutritional contents.
Then, your red and orange vegetables include carrots, butternut, pumpkin, red bell peppers, and sweet potatoes. As you can see, some of these vegetables mentioned also falls into other categories of vegetables like starchy vegetables.
Now, if you look at the beans and peas category of vegetables, this pretty much includes a ton of fresh beans and legumes. Lentils, black beans, pinto beans, soybeans, black-eyed peas, and kidney beans are only a few well-known examples.
And finally, we have the “other vegetable” category. Now, this category is the one that sparks debate amongst the scientific community. Any ingredient that can scientifically be classified into more than one food group is placed into this section.
For example, we have all heard about the debate over whether or not tomatoes are fruits or vegetables. Well, the short answer is that they’re actually both! The same goes for produce like mushrooms, eggplants, zucchinis, and corn.
And of course, many scientists argue about whether or not some of these ingredients should be labeled as a vegetable or not.
Is Rice A Vegetable?
So, as you can see above, rice doesn’t really seem to fit into any of the above-mentioned definitions or categories of vegetables.
That is simply because it isn’t in any way close enough to be any type of vegetable to even be up for debate. So, where does it belong?
Other than vegetables, there are other main food groups, namely proteins, dairy, grains, and fruits.
Obviously, rice will not fall into the dairy or protein category, seeing as it isn’t derived from any type of animal. So, that leaves us only with grains and fruits.
Fruits are defined as any ingredient that has been formed from the ovary of any flowering plant. Rice isn’t formed this way and is actually a type of seed.
Rice comes from different types of Asian and African grass species. It is made up of the seeds of these plants. Because of the way they grow and their structural build, rice is classified as a grain. More specifically, rice is a type of cereal grain.
Regardless of the type of rice that you have or which species of grass it comes from, all rice is a type of cereal grain – no exceptions!
Types Of Rice
Even though there are different types of rice, it doesn’t change their classification. Rice can be classified into three main types; short-grained, medium-grained, and long-grained.
Short-grained rice is an extremely common type used in Japan. The length and characteristics of this category of rice make it perfect for making sushi rice, which should be very sticky. Then, medium-grained rice includes Arborio, Bomba, and Carnaroli.
Long-grain rice includes varietals like basmati, white rice, and jasmine rice. There are also some types of long-grain brown rice.
Nutritional Breakdown Of Rice
Different types of rice have different nutritional breakdowns. Right off the bat, white rice and brown rice differ vastly! That is because all white rice initially started as brown rice.
Through processing, the rice’s color and nutrients are removed to produce the white color. But, often white rice has been fortified with additional vitamins and minerals to counter the initial loss.
Because brown rice is a whole-grain (contains all of the seeds’ parts including the germ, endosperm, and bran) it is very nutritious and naturally higher in calories.
Whole grain ingredients have the potential to lower the risk of heart diseases, type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and stroke.
White rice is lower in fiber and generally all vitamins and minerals. That being said, it is still a relatively good source of carbs and lots of other nutrients.
Types Of Vegetable Rice
Now, even though rice isn’t a vegetable, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t vegetable-based rice out there. Just like vegan chicken and cheese became a thing, today, you will find loads of different rice made from fresh vegetables.
This product is also referred to as “riced vegetables,” which we feel better describes what they are and helps prevent confusion.
What makes riced vegetables so great is that they are an excellent substitute for regular rice in a gluten-free diet, are paleo-friendly, Whole 30 approved, and are generally low-carb. They are also an excellent alternative to high-carb staples like potatoes and rice.
Vegetable rice products are also generally very nutritious and contain the vitamins and minerals that the base-vegetable have.
You can rice virtually any type of vegetable that is firm. This includes broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, squash, carrots, and beets.
They aren’t particularly high in moisture (like cucumber for example) and won’t just make a watery mess. These ingredients can actually be chopped finely to produce a rice-like texture.
How To Make Vegetable Rice At Home
To make riced vegetables at home is extremely easy! All that you will need is a food processor. Now, when it comes to the type of blade you need, it should be a grating blade or a chopping blade. Both will work great!
Personally, we prefer the chopping blade because it allows you to better control the exact size that your rice pieces should be.
Now, when making riced vegetables, all that you basically need to do is choose your base ingredient. As we have mentioned above, this can be anything that you’d like. As long as the vegetable doesn’t contain too much liquid and is pretty firm.
You can also combine vegetables and make a carrot and beetroot vegetable rice, or cauliflower and broccoli rice. And, if you want to take it a step further, you can already include spiced to make flavored riced veggies!
Once you have chosen your base ingredients, simply place them in the food processor and mix for a couple of seconds. Or, of course, until you have the desired “grain” size.
How To Store Vegetable Rice
Because this rice has been made using fresh vegetables, they are high perishable as compared to their grain counterpart that has been completely dried.
You have to store them inside of the fridge, but you can actually also freeze them! To store this rice, simply portion them into a zip-lock or any re-sealable bags. Make sure to remove as much of the air as possible before sealing the bag.
Then, place the bag inside of the fridge or freezer away from any odorous ingredient, like garlic or onions.
If you are freezing this rice, make sure to use a freezer-safe bag. Lay the bags flat on a roasting tray so that they freeze in an easily-stackable shape.
Make sure to always label your frozen products with the product description, the date it was frozen, and the estimated expiration date. These frozen riced vegetables will keep well for up to 3 months.
How Do You Cook Riced Veggies?
Cooking these riced vegetables is just as easy as cooking regular rice. In fact, it actually won’t take nearly as long and can be cooked in many more ways too.
You can boil them like you would regular rice, but in our opinion, this can make them very soggy and mushy. So, we like to simply pan-fry them either alone, or alongside some other flavoring ingredients – like when making a stir-fry!
You can also bake this vegetable rice in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes at 350°F (180°C). Another alternative cooking method is to use the riced veg as part of a filling for chicken or dumplings.
When the item is baked, steamed, or fried, the rice filling will also cook.
Types Of Riced Veggies And How To Make Them
Below we have listed some of our favorite vegetables to rice. These are all very affordable, easy to work with, and have pretty neutral flavor profiles.
That is extremely important as you don’t want the vegetable rice to necessarily overpower the flavors of the other ingredients in the recipe.
- Cauliflower Rice
By now, everyone has heard of cauliflower rice! It is arguably the first type of veggie rice that became mainstream.
Cauliflower rice is made using plain fresh cauliflower heads. One medium-sized head makes about 5 cups of cauliflower rice.
So, there are a few things to keep in mind when making this rice. First, always make sure that the cauliflower is fresh and free of any mold growth. Then, you will definitely have to cut the head into smaller pieces to fit into the food processor better.
And, remember to also use the stems! The only part that you shouldn’t rice is the green leaves on the cauliflower. They are very bitter and won’t be appealing.
You can also make broccoli rice instead and use the exact same quantities.
- Carrot rice
Carrot rice works incredibly well in stir-fry and as part of a filling. To make roughly 2 cups of carrot rice, simply wash and peel 3 medium carrots. Make sure to remove the ends and cut the carrots into smaller chunks.
It is much easier to make carrot rice using the grating blade of the food processor. You can also leave the peel on if you need to save yourself some time. The skin is just sometimes a bit bitter, which is why we like to remove it.
- Riced Beetroots
These vegetables make an incredibly colorful and unique riced veggie. And, it has an incredibly complex and earthy flavor profile that goes great with more neutral-flavored foods. You can peel 3 large beetroots to make about 2 cups of beetroot rice.
One big thing to keep in mind when making this specific riced veg is that it stains everything! Wear gloves when working with beetroot and try to keep it from staining your clothing or kitchen linen.
- Sweet Potato Rice
Our last riced veggie of choice is another one of our favorites. We absolutely love grating sweet potatoes and they go surprisingly well with a ton of dishes. As with the other root vegetables, you can peel them before cutting them into smaller pieces.
When processing, again, the grating blade works the best for achieving the correct texture. Now, the regular potato will not work for processing as it has too much water.
So, stick to sweet potatoes. But, you can sue a wide variety of types as they all still have the same consistency.
Can vegans and vegetarians eat rice?
Both vegetarians and vegans can eat rice. This cereal grain is a plant-based ingredient and during no part of the process are animal products used.
Is rice safe to include in gluten-free diets?
Rice is a gluten-free product and can be safely eaten by people with a gluten allergy or intolerance.
However, just to be safe, always check the packaging to ensure that the rice hasn’t come into contact with any gluten-containing products.
Can you use a blender to make riced vegetables?
Unfortunately, you cannot use a blender to make riced vegetables. This has to do with the blade that a blender has.
Blenders are made to completely pulverize and liquidize food with their flame-sharp blades. Food processors have been designed to chop and grate ingredients.
For rice vegetables, you want a textured product, not vegetable juice or puree. So, again, only food processors with chopping blades or grating blades will work to make rice vegetables.
Can you turn any vegetable into rice?
You can’t turn any vegetable into rice. Only ones with a low moisture percentage work. Otherwise, the excess moisture will simply blend the vegetable, not rice it.
So, include vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, cauliflowers, and broccoli.