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Is Sweet Rice the Same as Glutinous Rice? (and What About Sticky Rice?)

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  November 5, 2022

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It is one of the most basic questions any person new to Asian cuisine asks, and it’s really okay to be a little confused.

Many people call sweet and glutinous rice the same thing; others proudly disagree with the notion, calling the two different ingredients.

Who’s right and who’s wrong? Let’s find out!

Is Sweet Rice the Same as Glutinous Rice? (and What About Sticky Rice?)

To give you a short answer, sweet rice and glutinous rice are the same things, and both names are used interchangeably, together with sticky rice. Glutinous rice is often called sweet rice because it is slightly sweeter than regular white rice. It is called sticky rice because it sticks together readily when cooked.

In this article, I will be answering this fundamental question in profound detail and try to clarify many other related questions you might have in mind.

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Is sweet rice the same as glutinous rice?

In short, yes! Sweet rice is the same as glutinous, and both names are used interchangeably for the same type of rice.

Sweet rice, or glutinous rice, is a staple ingredient in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisine and is commonly used to prepare sweet dishes in whole and flour forms.

For example, in Chinese cuisine, sweet rice is primarily used in savory and spicy dishes, while in Japanese cuisine, it is used primarily in savory dishes.

Generally, there are two glutinous rice varieties: short grain and long grain (technically medium grain).

Sweet rice (also known as short-grain glutinous rice) is grown in regions where the temperature is moderate, including Japan, Korea, and North China, while long-grain glutinous rice is grown in various tropical and subtropical regions like South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Southern China.

However, since short-grain rice is chewier and sticky, It is also commonly called sticky rice. That’s also one of the reasons why short-grain rice is often confused with Japanese sushi rice.

However, these are both very different, with separate uses (although, in a pinch, sushi rice is a suitable substitution for glutinous rice).

What differentiates glutinous rice from other types of rice?

Now that you know much about glutinous rice, you might as well like to know what separates glutinous rice from other types of rice.

Just so you know, It’s more than just the specific size and shape; it’s their chemical composition.

Or more specifically, about the presence of two key chemical components: amylose and amylopectin.

Amylopectin is responsible for giving small-grain rice its characteristic stickiness, while amylopectin keeps the texture of rice fluffy.

As we move from small-grain rice to bigger-grain rice, the amount of amylopectin decreases, and the texture of rice gets more fluffy and less sticky.

Here are the three different types of rice based on their size and starch content and their specific uses:

Short grain rice

This variety of rice encompasses glutinous (or sweet) rice and sticky rice. These rice are filled with a high amount of amylopectin and have an incredibly chewy and sticky texture.

Short-grain rice is popularly used throughout Asia for making desserts. Some cuisines also use it in various savory dishes.

Some popular dishes made with short-grain rice include Chinese sticky rice and mochi. Plus, sticky rice also serves as a great pairing with sushi.

Medium grain rice

Medium-grain rice contains less starch (amylopectin) than short-grain rice or glutinous rice.

These are not as sticky and chewy; the starch content is just enough to give them a creamy texture when cooked.

Medium-grain rice is mostly used in risottos, puddings, and other sweet and savory dishes native to Asian and European cuisine.

Long grain rice

Long-grain rice is the most common rice variety, having the least amount of amylopectin.

This rice variety has a very fluffy texture when cooked. This variety of sweet rice is most commonly used all across Asia.

You can also partner this rice with your favorite stews and curries for an extra layer of fluffy goodness.

Some common varieties of long-grain rice include basmati rice and jasmine rice.

FAQs

Is glutinous rice good for health?

Glutinous rice has many health benefits, including help in increasing bone density, improving heart health, and decreasing inflammation.

Plus, glutinous rice also helps prevent and treat gastritis and peptic ulcers.

Is glutinous rice good for people with diabetes?

No, glutinous rice is not good for diabetics.

Due to low amylose content, glutinous and sticky rice digest very easily, which can cause a rapid spike in blood glucose levels.

Does glutinous rice have more protein?

Since glutinous rice comprises about 98% amylopectin (starch), it contains a very meager amount of fats, proteins, and other nutrients required for the body.

All in all, it has a poor nutritional profile.

Does glutinous rice contain gluten?

No, glutinous rice does not contain any gluten. The word “glutinous” in the name refers to the glue-like, sticky texture of the rice when cooked.

Is glutinous rice high in carbohydrates?

Yes, glutinous rice is super high in net carbs, with 100g per serving containing about 20.09g of net carbohydrates.

Is glutinous rice high in uric acid?

Though moderate consumption of glutinous rice won’t do any harm, eating glutinous rice in high amounts can significantly raise your uric acid levels.

Is glutinous rice expensive?

Yes, glutinous rice is expensive. It costs almost double the price of regular rice.

Conclusion

And there you have your answer!

Now you know what makes sweet and glutinous rice similar, why the two names are used interchangeably, and why some people like to make the distinction between both.

Moreover, why you shouldn’t worry about the taste and texture when picking up a pack of any of the aforementioned, whether sweet rice or glutinous rice.

Same stands for the flour obtained from them (learn more about sweet rice flour here).

They are just two classes in the same category; picking any of them won’t make any difference. You can use either in any of your favorite recipes, whole or flour.

Now, to make your life easier, here are the top 4 best rice cookers for sticky rice reviewed

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.