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Red Bean Essentials: Popcorn Rice

Rice is an essential but often-overlooked co-star of Louisiana’s most famous and distinctive dishes: gumbo, étouffée, jambalaya, dirty rice, rice and gravy, and — yes — red beans and rice. And when you’re choosing the rice that will complement your cooking, there’s no reason to settle for run-of-the-mill varieties when something as delicious as popcorn rice is available.

Savor the Hints of Nuts and Popcorn

Popcorn rice — a Louisiana-bred long-grain specialty variety of aromatic rice — is a sure-fire way to make your red beans even tastier. Popcorn rice delivers just what you’d expect from the name: a uniquely strong, nutty, toasty, popcorn-like aroma that is comparable to basmati rice.

The prominent extra flavor and fragrance in popcorn rice come from natural biochemicals that rice farmers purposefully cultivate, chiefly one called 2-acetyl 1-pyroline (or 2AP) that delivers the special aroma. You’ve heard of artisan cheeses, beers, and sausages; well, popcorn rice is an artisan grain.

Better Ingredients, Better Beans

The preparation of popcorn rice is generally no different from other varieties of white rice, though you should refer to your package’s label for specific instructions. To preserve its flavor, store popcorn rice in a cool, dry place or even freeze it.

Your red beans and rice won’t be any worse off if you don’t use popcorn rice, but as with anything you cook, the better ingredients you use, the tastier your final product will be. Using popcorn rice (or other aromatic types such as pecan rice and jasmine rice) is simply another way to up your kitchen game with a higher-quality flavor component that will never be accused of blandness.