Given the great answer to the question on adding salt to water when cooking pasta, I am curious whether the same explanation holds for rice as it does for pasta (flavor and starch gelation)? Is there more at work?

Flavor is true in my experience, but what else?

6 Answers 6


For rice it depends.  Cooking any starch in water will first cause the starch granules to swell and eventually tangle up with each other (the gelatinization).  Dissolving sugars or salts in the water slows down the process by raising the temperature the swelling starts.  While few prefer pasta as a stuck blob of strands, the same is not the case for rice.  I like my Basmati loose, but my risotto and sushi sticky, so salt may be required for Basmati and optional for Arborio.

There are many techniques for controlling the starch for rice.  To control the starch gelatinization of rice:

  1. cook it like pasta with lots of water, then drain; or 
  2. par cook it

Method 1 won't avoid the grain surface starch gelatinization, but it will help with stickiness (you may oil coat it after draining).  Method 2 delays the starch release allowing you to finish a risotto in seven minutes. Cool for parties or for restaurants.

  • 3
    If you're worried about the starch on the surface of the grain, you can also rinse the rice in cold water before cooking it. This is commonly mentioned in recipes with basmati rice from middle eastern or indian cookbooks. Rinse until the water runs clear or almost clear -- the first few rinses will leave very cloudy water.
    – Martha F.
    Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 18:24
  • @MarthaF. I've never been able to rinse rice until the water is almost clear. By the time that the water beings to clarify, the rice has absorbed too much, is too soft, and some grains start to break and release more starch. How do you do it? Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 12:34

Salt is not necessary when cooking rice, but can be added. Unless you add a ridiculous amount of salt it will not significantly change the boiling temperature or time.

  • 1
    Agreed that it's not necessary (and, when our child was small, we didn't, as salt intake is something to watch). But what about additional matters, such as the starch aspect? Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 11:17
  • i think the point of adding is to evenly salt the rice, not to expediate the process
    – amphibient
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 1:05

Rice without salt, is like cooking pasta without salt. You need to season the rice, so YES you need to add salt to the water when cooking rice.


I am Asian and perfectionist with rice. I find by using salt to wash the rice and allowing some of the salt to remain in the final rice water, you get overall a better quality of rice in the finished product.

  • 1
    But why would you use it when washing the rice? That wastes salt. I'd just throw the salt in when you're cooking it.
    – Andrew
    Commented Mar 28, 2020 at 22:34

I read somewhere that adding salt to rice changes the osmotic balance, and this can prevent the elongation of basmati rice, and reduce its fluffy consistency. However I confess I have tried it with salt!


So my dog is on a special diet from the vet. Lucky girl gets chicken and rice for some tummy issues. I buy her the pulled rotisserie chicken from the store then make her white rice.. she won’t eat instant of course.

First couple weeks I didn’t add salt, and about 2/3rd through it would start spoiling even though it was in the fridge. I had a moment where I remembered way back when people would salt raw meat and could travel with it in sweltering heat and the salt killed bacteria. On a hunch, I figured a tiny tiny amount would 1.) make her want it more and 2.) possibly let it ‘keep’ a little longer.

It seems to have worked. Her rice doesn’t spoil in 3-4 days anymore, more like a week. But I use a nice sea salt grinder and to one quick 1/4 turn.. I’d say way less than a teaspoon even. I counteract any Ill affect it may have on her by putting down a fresh bowl of cold water with her lunch and dinner, she loves cold water.

So, salting up your rice if you cook 1-2 cups at a time and save it in the fridge does seem to help it stay fresh longer. This is anecdotal and my googling lead me to this thread lol.

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