No matter where you live, rice is a popular side dish, base, and staple in cultures across the world. There are numerous ways to cook rice, but steamed rice and fried rice are two of the most common variations. Whether you’re making a meal with rice at home or ordering takeout, you might wonder about the difference between steamed rice vs fried rice.
The biggest difference between steamed rice vs fried rice is how they're made and their nutritional values. Since steamed rice is typically made with just water and salt, it has significantly fewer calories than fried rice. Fried rice is cooked in sesame oil and often has many other added ingredients.
Both steamed rice and fried rice are delicious, but there are quite a few differences in their nutritional values and flavor. Keep reading to find out more about the differences between steamed rice and fried rice.
Steamed Rice vs Fried Rice: What Is the Difference?
There are many different types of rice in the world, such as white rice, brown rice, short-grain, and long-grain. When it comes to the difference between steamed rice vs fried rice, the distinguishing factor is the cooking process. While steamed rice is the standard way to make rice, fried rice is often steamed first and then fried with other ingredients.
Fried rice refers to the way the rice is cooked. When you order fried rice at a restaurant, it will usually come with other ingredients such as scrambled eggs and vegetables. Overall, steamed rice and fried rice have different ingredients and different nutritional values.
If you’re making rice at home, steamed rice is much simpler to make, but with a few extra ingredients, you can also make fried rice in no time. Since many people choose to make fried rice with day-old rice, you can even save your leftover steamed rice to make fried rice the next day.
Nutritional Values of Steamed Rice vs Fried Rice
What is Steamed Rice?
Steamed rice is simply rice that you cook through the process of steaming. It can be white rice, brown rice, wild rice, or any other variety. The steamed part refers to the cooking process. Whether you cook it on the stove or in another appliance, you start by boiling water and then letting the steam cook the rice. This method of cooking leads to the signature fluffy texture.
Steaming rice is the most popular and common way to cook it. You can steam the rice on the stove, in a rice cooker, or even in a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot. Compared to fried rice, steamed rice often has fewer ingredients and can be pretty bland on its own since it’s meant to be a side dish or a base that will soak up the sauce or flavor of the main dish.
How Do You Make Steamed Rice?
Even though steamed rice is pretty straightforward, it can be tricky to make perfect rice. The cooking time will depend on your cooking method the type of appliance you use. Generally, the ratio is 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water. For example, if you wanted to cook 2 cups of rice, you would double the water to 4 cups.
If you’re using the stove method, you would first boil the water and add salt if desired. You can also add butter at this point if you choose. Once the water is boiling, add the rice and reduce the heat to a simmer. You can let the rice simmer for about 15-20 minutes, but it’s best to check it after 15 minutes. You’ll know the rice is finished when it has absorbed all the water and you can easily fluff it with a fork.
Although it’s not absolutely necessary, washing your rice before cooking can remove some of the extra starch from the outside and keep it from being too sticky. When you cook rice in a rice cooker or pressure cooker, it’s a similar process but it’s even simpler than cooking it on the stove. While cooking rice in one of these appliances, all you have to do is add the ingredients and press the button to start.
What is Fried Rice?
Fried rice is a dish that includes rice fried in sesame oil. Most versions of fried rice also include vegetables and it’s common for it to include scrambled eggs as well. There are two basic methods for making fried rice. You can either start with pre-soaked, uncooked rice or you can use rice that you’ve already cooked.
Fried rice has become a popular side dish in American-Chinese restaurants. When you order different meals such as orange chicken or General Tso’s, it will usually come with a side of fried rice. The fried rice you see in popular restaurants typically includes scrambled eggs, soy sauce, and vegetables.
How Do You Make Fried Rice?
Even though steamed rice and fried rice are very different, you actually can steam your rice to prepare it for frying. When you make fried rice, the best way to make it is to use rice that’s a day old because this keeps the rice from becoming mushy during the frying process. If you steam rice for dinner, you can save the leftovers for fried rice the next day.
To make fried rice using cooked rice, heat some sesame oil in your wok or skillet of choice and then fry the vegetables you choose to include. You can then move the vegetables to the side and scramble your eggs. Then, mix the vegetables with the scrambled eggs and push them off to the side while you add your rice. After adding soy sauce and seasoning, cook the rice until it’s heated through.
If you want to make fried rice with uncooked rice, be sure to rinse the rice and soak it before cooking. Then, after frying the rice with your other ingredients, add water to the skillet and reduce the heat to let the rice cook and absorb the water.
Can You Substitute Steamed Rice for Fried Rice?
Whether you’re ordering it in a restaurant or making a recipe at home, you might wonder if you can substitute steamed rice for fried rice. Since it’s usually used as a side, there’s no reason why you couldn’t use them interchangeably. Even though fried rice is delicious, swapping it out for steamed rice can be one way to make your meal a bit healthier.
If you’re looking to add more flavor to your meal, you could also do the opposite and swap out steamed rice for fried rice. Fried rice requires some extra ingredients to make it properly, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty simple to make at home.
Which Is Healthier: Steamed Rice or Fried Rice?
There’s no doubt that fried rice and steamed rice bring different flavors to a meal. Although there are vegetables in fried rice, steamed rice is a healthier alternative.
While the frying process and extra ingredients in fried rice lead to higher calories, sodium, and cholesterol, steamed rice is cooked only in water. White rice is the most popular type of rice to use for steamed rice. However, you can also swap it out for brown rice to make your meal even healthier.
Which to Serve With Dinner: Steamed Rice vs Fried Rice
- Steamed rice is very simple: it is usually just made with water and salt. Meanwhile, fried rice is cooked in sesame oil, and almost always has added ingredients like egg, chicken, or seafood.
- Since there are fewer ingredients and the cooking process is simpler, steamed rice is easier to make than fried rice.
- Fried rice is higher in calories, fat, and cholesterol compared to steamed rice. This makes steamed rice the healthier choice.
No matter what you're making, rice is the perfect addition to your lunch or dinner. Both steamed rice and fried rice can taste delicious with a variety of meals.
If you’re not sure whether you should serve steamed rice or fried rice, think about any possible dietary restrictions. Steamed rice is always going to be the healthier choice, but fried rice can be a delicious treat. You can even try making popular variations like shrimp fried rice.
2 egg whites
½ teaspoon salt, divided
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups diced cooked chicken breast (rotisserie chicken works well)
3 Tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
3 cups cold cooked brown rice
1. In a small bowl, combine the egg whites, egg, and ¼ teaspoon salt. In a large nonstick skillet or wok coated with cooking spray, cook the egg mixture over medium heat. As eggs set, lift edges, letting uncooked portion flow underneath. When the eggs are set, remove, and cut into 1 inch pieces; keep warm.
2. In the same pan, stir fry the onion and garlic until tender.
3. Add vegetables; cover and cook over medium high heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until no longer frozen.
4. Stir in the chicken, soy sauce, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt; cook for 1 minute.
5. Add rice; stir fry for 4 to 5 minutes or until heated through. Add eggs; heat through.
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