Brown Rice Flour: A Whole Grain Alternative Flour

Brown rice flour is made from brown rice, a less refined form of the rice grain. It is the same grain that is polished to become white rice. Brown rice is the powdered rice grain. The history of brown rice flour is not well documented, but it most likely originated in Southeast Asia. Most of the world’s rice flour is made and consumed in India, Japan, and neighboring countries. 

Most historians agree that rice was first cultivated in China over 6000 years ago. Up until the 19th century, it was mostly milled at home. The result was that most of the available rice was brown rice. Most of the rice flour used by regular people in this era would have been brown rice flour. In the 19th century, commercial mills came along and were able to mass-produce highly refined white rice, which was stripped of much of its nutritional value. 

As with wheat in Europe, the refined version of the healthier grain became associated with wealth and status and was deemed the superior product. White rice and white rice flour became the more popular options than brown rice and brown rice flour.  

Brown rice flour flavor profile

The key flavor of brown rice flour is that of a strong nuttiness accompanied by a subtle sweetness. Along with the flavor, brown rice enhances the texture of baked and fried goods by making them crunchier and lighter. It is especially beneficial when combined with wheat flour.

Health benefits of brown rice flour

The brown rice used to make brown rice flour is well known for its high nutritional value, so it is beneficial for health. The benefits come from an array of nutrients that includes:

  • Fiber: Brown rice flour is a good source of dietary fiber since it consists of rice that still has its bran layer and cereal germ. 
  • Protein: You can get a significant amount of protein from brown rice flour, especially when you compare it to white rice flour. 

Brown rice flour can help you to manage, treat, or prevent conditions like:

  • Diabetes: Animal studies show that brown rice flour can help to prevent diabetes. Brown rice flour slowed digestion, which helped to control blood sugar levels.  
  • Celiac disease: Brown rice flour is gluten-free, making it an acceptable option for people with celiac disease. 

Health concerns

Brown rice flour contains compounds that hinder your ability to absorb some nutrients. These compounds are called antinutrients and include phytic acid, which is also known as phytate. In addition to antinutrients, brown rice flour may also contain relatively high levels of arsenic. Arsenic is a known toxin. 

Common uses

You can use brown rice flour to make cakes, pie crusts, and other baked goods, including bread and muffins. Use it to make the breading on fried foods. Brown rice flour can also be used as a thickener in soups, sauces, and gravies. It is suitable for making Asian noodles and dumplings. 

If you are baking with it for the first time, one thing to note is that it can make some baked goods unpleasantly dense. You may need to add another flour to it to lighten the texture; for example, you can combine it with chickpea or millet flour to make bread. Also, brown rice flour has a relatively short shelf life. To keep it from going rancid quickly, you will need to store it in the refrigerator.