5 Instant Rice Brands You Should Buy, And 6 You Might Want To Avoid

Rice is a versatile ingredient that can work as a filling side dish or a flavorful centerpiece to your meal. This staple pantry item comes in many varieties and flavors, which is why it's such a popular addition to a wide range of cuisines. The mild natural taste of rice is an excellent canvas for absorbing spices and sauces, and that means it can extend the size of nearly any meal without taking away from the main ingredients. It is also traditionally a very affordable ingredient that is high in carbohydrates, which leaves those who eat it feeling full and satisfied.

The only real downside to cooking rice is the time that it takes. Although most white rice takes about 15 to 20 minutes, whole grain or brown and wild rice can take up to 45 minutes. In addition, the timing is crucial, and too much or not enough time can quickly thwart your meal. Undercooking rice will create a crunchy, chewy texture that doesn't soak up flavors as well, and overcooking it creates a mushy, clumpy end product. Neither option is desirable, which is why cooking rice can be intimidating. 

Thankfully, there are quite a few instant options that are tasty, nutritional, and very quick to prepare. Everything from cooking time and ingredients to flavor and price can determine whether you should buy or avoid certain instant rice brands. Check out those that are exceptional and those you should pass on.

Avoid: Great Value

Brown rice is one of those ingredients with a long history that's a bit complicated thanks to misinformation that happened to stick. It was once believed that brown rice was naturally a more health-conscious option because it was less processed. This information may have been rooted in some truth, but unfortunately, most brown rice nowadays contains inorganic arsenic. Arsenic is a toxin that can be found in our environment thanks to previously used pesticides and industrial processes. Consuming this heavy metal can increase the chance of developing certain cancers in your lifetime. Although regulations have been put in place to limit the amount of arsenic today, it is still prevalent in groundwater and soil around the country. Unfortunately, this form of arsenic is more frequently found in brown rice than white rice.

There are ways to naturally reduce the arsenic found in rice, such as soaking or rinsing it prior to cooking. However, the option is limited when working with precooked instant rice. Great Value Natural Instant Whole Grain Brown Rice is certainly an affordable and accessible option, but you might want to avoid this particular product or use it sparingly. Brown rice is great if you're looking for slightly more textured rice with a nutty flavor but opt for an organic option that isn't grown with harmful pesticides and is monitored more carefully when it comes to arsenic.

Buy: A Dozen Cousins

When it comes to a quick and easy dinner that is full of nutrition and flavor, look towards A Dozen Cousins rice that has been cooked in bone broth. This product is slightly more expensive than other instant rice brands, but the taste and quality are well worth the price tag. This new favorite brand of rice is fully cooked and it only takes about a minute in the microwave or just three to four minutes in a skillet to warm through. In just a few minutes you have a perfectly cooked base for stir fry, Jambalaya, stuffed peppers, soups, and more, or a side dish that will have your dinner guests coming back for seconds and thirds.

A Dozen Cousins is a quality company that recognizes the demand for top-quality food. With a mission to make nutritional, tasty food more available, the brand offers rice that has been prepared in bone broth. Not only does the broth infuse some amazing flavor, but each serving is a source of collagen-rich protein. Just one serving has 7 grams of protein. Bone broth has grown in popularity over the years for its nutritional value; however, it's not always easy to come by. This rice offers all of the benefits of bone broth and collagen at a great price with plenty of great taste.

Avoid: Goya

Goya is a brand that likely took up plenty of space in your cabinets while growing up. The recognizable name has long been found in the ethnic food aisle, and those bold letters displayed on packages of rice, beans, marinades, and oils typically signify big flavors with a reasonable price tag. Yet, you might want to skip the Spanish Style Instant Yellow Rice next time you're stocking up. This rice has great flavor, but just a single serving contains about 500 milligrams of sodium.

Too much sodium in our daily diets can lead to high blood pressure and negatively impact our internal organs, such as our brains and kidneys. The official Food and Drug Administration suggests a daily intake of about 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day for the average adult. Sadly, the typical diet regularly exceeds this amount and one serving of Goya's instant yellow rice contains about 25% of a daily dose. A salty snack at the end of a long day can be hard to say no to, especially one that's affordable and ready in just a few minutes. But, this one might be best to avoid.

Buy: Lundberg

Definitely grab more than one bag of this much healthier version of jasmine rice from the trusted company Lundberg. Organic products have become increasingly popular as we learn more about how our food is made. Organic labels might cost more, but that label signifies the company adheres to stricter regulations when it comes to the use of antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, and other genetically modified organisms. Lundberg's Organic White Thai Jasmine Rice is stamped as USDA Organic, Certified Organic by CCOF, Non-GMO Project Verified, and Fair Trade Certified; it also only has 25 milligrams of sodium per serving, which means it might be the overall healthiest option on this list. This product is definitely worth the minimal extra cost.

The fully-cooked rice only contains two ingredients: water and rice, which means there are no surprises when you're preparing it for you or your family. Infused with light flavors, this addition to your meal can work as a base, or with a little salt and butter it can be a satisfying side dish. It's hard to beat a tasty, healthy side dish that can be ready in just 90 seconds.

Avoid: Ben's Original

Meal preppers and comfort food fanatics may be disappointed to discover that Ben's Original Ready Rice in Roasted Chicken Flavor  is on the list of instant rice brands to avoid. However, there are simply better options available from this brand and others. This flavorful favorite is a product that is ultimately too high in sodium and preservatives. One serving has 670 milligrams of sodium. If you're hoping for an extra punch of flavor, you'll find it; however, you might be better off opting for a plain version and adding your own seasoning to avoid the risk of high blood pressure.

A final indicator that you might want to avoid this Ben's product is the use of soy lecithin, which is found in a plethora of products and serves as an emulsifier to stabilize certain ingredients. However, it has been linked to negative health effects, such as increasing your risk for cancer and causing toxins to build up in your body. This is a genetically modified ingredient that can trigger soy allergies even in small amounts and contains phytoestrogen, which mimics estrogen and has been linked to precursor symptoms of breast cancer.

Ben's is another option that is affordable at about $2 for a single packet. Combine this with the idea of a 2-minute meal and you may be sold. But there are more than a few healthier options that are just as quick and easy.

Buy: Tasty Bite

Tasty Bite Organic Basmati Rice is the perfect accompaniment to Indian, Middle Eastern, and Persian dishes. Longer grain rice is quite common in these cuisines and the fluffy texture goes perfectly with thicker, rich sauces that are overflowing with flavor and spice. If you've ever enjoyed tikka masala or red curry, you're likely familiar with basmati rice.

This simple-to-prepare, instant rice doesn't lose that desirable fluffy texture even when cooked in the microwave. Tasty Bite offers an organic product that will elevate your meals with a nutty-flavored, light white rice that will taste anything but instant. 

A few other added benefits are the lack of extra additives or preservatives and the very low amount of sodium. Foodies everywhere can enjoy this product guilt-free as one serving only contains 5 milligrams of sodium. The product is made with aromatic basmati rice and sunflower oil, and it's considered vegan and Kosher. Add this instant brand to your shopping cart alongside a Tasty Bite Indian Vegetable Tikka Masala and you'll have a five-star dinner ready in minutes that's rich with spice and flavor.

Avoid: Thai Kitchen

Thai Kitchen is another go-to brand that offers a wide variety of delicious ethnic food products that taste authentic. However, you may want to avoid regularly buying its Ready to Heat Coconut Rice. This brand usually demands a slightly higher price for the great flavors and quality of ingredients. However, when the price is compared to other organic products, you might expect a more nutritional or beneficial product. One serving size, or one 8.8-ounce pouch contains a whopping 980 milligrams of sodium. That's higher than any other product on this list.

In terms of ingredients, Thai Kitchen offers a product that is relatively low in preservatives and additives. Water, rice, coconut milk powder, coconut milk, sugar, and salt are the main ingredients labeled, which means a true coconut flavor is bound to shine through. If you're a dedicated fan of this brand, you might want to consider swapping the coconut rice with Thai Kitchen Jasmine Rice – which has only 95 milligrams of sodium — and adding a bit of your own coconut milk to get that desired flavor.

Buy: Simple Truth Organic

Buy Simple Truth Organic's 90-second clove & cardamom basmati rice if you are looking for flavorful, quick, and nutritional rice for you and your family. This product ranks high on the list of favorite instant rice to cook because it comes pre-seasoned with clove and cardamom, which go great with Indian cuisine. In 2 minutes or less, this rice is warm, fluffy, and ready to be enjoyed with a delicious curry sauce or Tandoori chicken.

Simple Truth's basmati rice has zero milligrams of sodium, making it a great option for those on a low-sodium diet. It also has 5 grams of protein per serving and 3 grams of dietary fiber. The ingredient list is simple, including only organic basmati rice, organic refined sunflower oil, organic cloves, and organic green cardamom.

This Simple Truth Organic instant basmati rice might just be your new go-to side dish for weeknight dinners and more. Grab more than one packet and you'll always have handy dinners that won't break the bank or take hours to prepare.

Avoid: Zatarain's

If you're familiar with the classic Zatarain logo, then you probably know that these products are packed with exciting flavors. The Big Easy Jambalaya instant rice packet is no exception. This product can easily transform your mid-week dinner into a festive feast. However, not everything that tastes good is good for you. Unfortunately, this product contains a long list of mysterious ingredients alongside natural flavors, which are mainly chemical components that can have negative health effects. 

Although occasionally serving up Zatarain's instant rice isn't a major health concern, you might want to avoid consuming it too regularly. The rice is ready to eat after just 90 seconds in the microwave, but some of the flavors don't come from spices and other ingredients. Natural flavors are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and they can be found in plenty of food products; however, it's an umbrella term that isn't strictly regulated. In fact, natural flavors can be anything that originally came from nature, meaning they don't have to explicitly disclose what makes up those natural flavors. Companies are not required to list what's actually in natural flavors and most of them contain artificial preservatives and solvents under the guise of being "natural."

This particular product is available for just a few dollars and it can be prepared quickly. Not to mention, adding a bit of sausage, chicken, or a few other ingredients can easily transform it into a large satisfying meal. You may want to save this item for special occasions though and avoid regular use.

Buy: Seeds of Change

Seeds of Change Organic Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic adds a little extra fiber and crunch to your meals that you didn't know you needed. Definitely add this item to your shopping list if you're in search of a fast, nutritional addition to your lunch or dinner that's also a great source of fiber. Simply serve this on the side of some roasted vegetables or add even more protein with grilled chicken and you have a healthy meal ready to eat in minutes. 

This instant rice from Seeds of Change is also a great option for those sticking to a vegan or vegetarian diet. Brown quinoa is an excellent source of nutrients and you won't miss out on other proteins with 5 grams of plant protein in one serving. Seasoned perfectly with garlic, this instant meal packet will take your dish to another level and give you a boost. This product doesn't contain any harsh preservatives or chemicals. It's also a source of nutrients, such as six percent of your daily potassium, and eight percent of your daily iron. As an added bonus, this is an inexpensive organic option that's available at Walmart and other grocery stores for just under three dollars. 

Avoid: Rice A Roni

Cups of Rice A Roni have long been praised as a quick snack that will fill you up, warm your belly, and won't break the bank. However, this time-honored dorm room snack may be something you want to avoid on your next shopping trip. Rice A Roni's cup of rice only takes about 3 minutes to cook in the microwave and it comes with a ready-to-mix spice packet that smells like a home-cooked meal. Unfortunately, the brand's instant rice provides next to no nutritional value, and in addition to 600 milligrams of sodium, it also contains harmful additives.

Although this brand does not contain harmful dyes (it actually uses natural turmeric for color), it does contain thiamine mononitrate. This is a common additive in prepared foods and is frequently found on the label of other instant rice packets — many of them are on this list of products to avoid. However, you do not want to incorporate this into your diet too frequently. Thiamine mononitrate does occur naturally in certain vegetables, but excessive amounts when added to processed foods have been linked to serious issues with kidneys and livers. This wouldn't be a problem if our bodies could filter out the unwanted additive, but that's next to impossible as the ingredient tends to gather in our fat cells. Keep this in mind when you're planning your next trip to the rice aisle.