Tips & Techniques

The Rice Salting Debate Without an Answer

September  7, 2017

Reddit, the internet’s favorite sounding board, is playing host to a salty culinary debate: Should one salt or not salt their rice while it’s cooking?

Reddit user MicaMtnGirl posed the grainy query that set the message board alight: “From expert sources I've heard that you should not put salt in the pot when cooking rice. From other expert sources, I've heard that you must salt the rice in the cookpot. What do you all think?” And thus a debate was born.

MicaMtnGirl, our curious questioner, might be onto something. We’ve settled on the fact that pasta water should be as salty as the sea, but there exists no definitive rule regarding the salinity of the water in which we cook our rice.

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Responses were varied. Many called upon their East Asian heritages, cultures where rice occupies a sizable and important role on the plate, to throw weight behind cooking rice in unsalted water. Some users mentioned alternatives to salt as an additive, throwing out suggestions like bouillon cubes, chicken broth, dried sausage, or a splash of olive oil.

Currently, the most popular answer in the digital debate field, was submitted by realmacarooni: “Speaking as a Chinese person who's seen both my grandmas, aunts, uncles, mom, dad, my Japanese gf's aunt, mom, dad, grandma and my Korean friends' families make rice, I've never seen them add salt. But if it tastes good to you, do what you do, that's the only thing that matters anyway.”

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Top Comment:
“Koreans, Japanese and Chinese do not add salt to plain rice when cooking it. The raw rice needs to be agitated (swirled around using a clean hand) while running cold water over it, stopping the water then draining it -- as many times as this takes for the water in the pot to look crystal clear. The end result is worth this bit of effort.”
— P

Because at the end of the day it all boils down to preference anyway. I, for one, am no rice pro and am always looking for ways to improve my grain game. Do you salt your rice or hold off? Share your sprinkling tips below.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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    amanda russell
Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


Justin B. May 5, 2021
I've always added salt, and I wondered why I could never cook rice with grains that separated. Tonight, as an experiment, I did not. The grains actually separated.
Amina B. May 23, 2022
I'm South Asian we heavily salt our rice and it's considered bad when biriani rice sticks together, the secret- oil/ghee/butter... lubrication.
Steeeve December 7, 2019
When eating rice, just to eat rice, I add salt. When adding food to the top, I don't always salt since the food being added is usually plenty salty. If you know the food is low in salt, add salt to the rice (it doesn't take much in the food). I like to cook stir fry a lot, it never needs salt. However, I like to eat it plain rice with butter & sugar on top and I also like to mix eggs in with leftover rice and fry it, both of which aren't very good without salt being added with the rice.

Really, you can't go wrong salting it. Half tsp per cup uncooked rice isn't enough to make a meal too salty. I've done this many times when I've made a salty stir fry and wanted leftover rice for eggs and rice. There's not really much of a difference between salted and not salted when the food has salt in it.

Brand I usually get is "Mahatma" long grain rice, don't need to wash it... actually says not to. :)
Naomi September 7, 2018
When I cook rice for Asian dishes, I use Asian short grain rice and no salt or oil. When im making Latin or non-Asian inspired dishes I do salt and add oil to my rice.
P March 26, 2018
Koreans, Japanese and Chinese do not add salt to plain rice when cooking it. The raw rice needs to be agitated (swirled around using a clean hand) while running cold water over it, stopping the water then draining it -- as many times as this takes for the water in the pot to look crystal clear. The end result is worth this bit of effort.
Coeur D. April 2, 2019
Yes, washing is important but not too much or too long as the rice absorbs the water. How my mother scolded me. I still feel I can't get it perfect. Also, we eat with chopsticks, except for Koreans who use a spoon, so the rice has to have a certain clingy-ness to it. We don't want to eat it grain by grain. Asian cuisine uses salty additions like soy sauce so adding salt is not desired.
amanda R. September 16, 2017
I never salt the water but I salt to taste once the rice is finished cooking (depending on what it's going with).
PHIL September 8, 2017
a little salt, a little butter, sometimes some chicken broth depending on what I am making.
BerryBaby September 8, 2017
I have never salted rice water. However I sometimes use chicken broth instead of water. If I'm making chicken and want a side dish, chicken broth and then add frozen peas. When rice is done, lift lid add the frozen peas, cover and wait five minutes. Toss together, perfect side dish!
Matti N. September 7, 2017
Seems to me that cultures that serve food with rice that includes salty (soy sauce based) sauces or as an end-of-meal palate cleanser would not add salt, as opposed to cultures that serve rice as a main dish (risotto, paella) would add salt. Doesn't seem like rocket science to me.
Kaite September 7, 2017
My Venezuelan husband always salts the water for rice no matter what type of rice it is. He says he doesn't like to add salt to rice after it cooks as the salt grains don't dissolve and he can feel them.
J. C. September 7, 2017
Think about risotto, pilaf, paella, jambalaya etc... You are essentially cooking rice in a seasoned, salted liquid. Why wouldn't you salt plain rice?
Smaug October 2, 2018
Because you didn't want it to taste like salt, maybe?
Hilmi A. September 7, 2017
In Pakistani heritage, salted water is SUPER important in basmati, It's tradition based! Other Asian cultures don't add! All r rght
Ron M. September 7, 2017
I've never heard of salting rice water, but I have to agree with @realmacarooni ... as with all cooking, the only thing that matters is how it tastes to you. For myself, I would never salt the water. Many things I put on rice are already salty, and I like the contrast. If I want salted rice, then I'll just add salt as I eat it. One of my favorite foods after a run is a bowl of rice with maldon salt and olive oil drizzled on top.