The Best Substitutes For White Rice

Rice is the primary source of sustenance in India. Research studies have estimated that average rice consumption in India is approximately 72 kilos per person per year, or six kg per month. In comparison, the per capita consumption of wheat, the other staple in our country, is estimated to have reached 48 kg per year, or four kilos per month.

White rice is the preferred form across most of the country. While white, polished rice is easy to consume and healthy in moderate quantities, it is high in refined carbohydrates and lacks essential nutrients. 100 grams of white rice contain anywhere from 28 to 37 grams of carbohydrates and almost no dietary fiber or nutrients, save for a meager 2 grams of protein and miniscule amounts of vitamin B6 and potassium. Sona masuri, a regular on Indian grocery lists every month, averages around 30 grams of carbs per 100 grams of rice.

According to a 2020 study published in the Lancet, rural Indians consumed approximately 432 grams of carbohydrates per day, while urban Indians consumed 347 grams of carbohydrates per day. These numbers are significantly higher than the recommended 282 grams of carbohydrates per day. Eating too many carbs is not ideal for long-term health. Refined carbohydrates (like white rice) raise blood glucose and triglyceride levels and spike the risk of insulin resistance. A 2015 study in the US gathered enough evidence to conclude that they "found the significant association between white rice consumption and several risk factors of CVD including type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome..." Combine this with India's love of fried and junk foods, and we have a bit of a problem. It’s the lack of other nutrients that makes white rice problematic.

We've compiled a list of foods that can be substituted for white rice on specific days. Yes, it’s not easy to replace a decades-long habit or taste, but using these options at regular intervals can help improve health. These grains have a healthy balance of carbs, protein, and other vital nutrients, providing the right kind of sustenance and energy for your body.


This is perhaps the best substitute for white rice. It does take getting used to, in terms of texture, taste, and price (quinoa is still relatively expensive in India), but it is a fantastic alternative to white rice. It has 35 grams of carbs, but that is balanced by the protein: most varieties of quinoa on the market contain 4–8 grams of protein per 100 grams of the grain. It is also rich in nutrients like dietary fiber, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, vitamins, and folate. Using quinoa in place of white rice could be one of the best diet changes you could make.


Another great grain that can be used in place of white rice as a part of your grain rotation is quinoa. It is a familiar presence in the northern parts of the country, and with good reason. Daliya is high in carbs, but that is offset by the high protein content: it packs in 12 grams of protein in 100 grams of the grain. It’s also rich in fiber, potassium, vitamins, iron, magnesium, and folate. Moderation is the key here. As a replacement for a rice-based meal, daliya is a great grain to include in your upma, khichdi, or porridge.


Barley is a whole grain that can turn around your health. It is related to wheat and looks, and sometimes even tastes, like oats. Like daliya, 100 grams of barley (jau in Hindi) contain 12 grams of protein. It is also rich in minerals like potassium, selenium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc, as well as nutrients like dietary fiber, folates, B vitamins, and antioxidants. Barley does take more time to cook than white rice, but a little patience yields good rewards in terms of health. 

Brown Rice 

We’ve heard it discussed endlessly: brown rice isn’t that different from white rice. Well, not really. For starters, it takes longer to cook precisely because it is different. Brown rice is a whole grain, meaning it contains all parts of said grain: "the fibrous bran, the nutritious germ, and the carb-rich endosperm." That’s why it’s so ‘chewy’. In white rice, the bran and germ—the most nutritious parts with the vitamins, minerals, etc.—are removed, and you’re left with almost no nutrients. Brown rice has more fiber and magnesium and a lower GI (glycemic index)—closer to 60 compared to white rice, which has a GI nearer to 75. If nothing else, brown rice is a good way to ease yourself into including whole grains in your cooking. You won’t regret it.

 Cauliflower Rice 

This is popular with the keto crowd, and it’s easy to see why. This rice is low in carbs—very low. The carbohydrate content of 100 grams of riced cauliflower is only about 6 grams. Yes, six. A 50-gram serving of this rice has only 13 calories as opposed to white rice, which contains 100 calories. It contains only 1 gram of protein but packs in a ton of good stuff: antioxidants, a range of vitamins (especially vitamin K, which prevents blood clots and reduces the risk of hemorrhage, and a whole lot of vitamin C), minerals, etc. Don’t let the name throw you off; it’s pretty easy to make: chop the head of the cauliflower into smaller pieces, grate the vegetable with a box grater, then cook by boiling or with a small amount of oil until it turns mildly brown. This is a great choice for those looking to explore a ketogenic diet.

Bonus tip: You can follow the same process to have riced broccoli.