Sticky Rice vs White Rice: What’s the Difference?


Sticky rice doesn鈥檛 refer to the clumpy rice that remains in your rice cooker or clings to your pot after cooking. Sticky rice is a different grain altogether that is used in a variety of dishes all over the world.

Different from the usual rice grains, sticky rice is a short-grain variety of rice that is a staple food in Southeast Asian cuisines and has also carved an important cultural standing in East Asia.

What is Glutinous Rice or Sweet Rice?

Glutinous rice is also known as sweet rice or sticky rice. In other regions, it is also referred to as pearl rice, mochi rice, or waxy rice. Unlike other types of rice, sticky rice has a glue-like texture when cooked. This is due to the total absence of starch amylose. This type of rice falls under the short-grain varieties of rice grown in Southeast and East Asia. 

Sticky rice is a staple food in cuisines in Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. Glutinous sticky rice has a sweet taste, different from regular white rice. It is commonly used in desserts but there are instances where it is used in savory dishes.

Sticky rice can be bought at the grocery store.

What is Glutinous Black Rice?

Black sticky rice is the unpolished whole-grain version of white glutinous rice. Despite the name, glutinous black rice has a deep, dark purple hue. Similar to regular sticky rice, black sticky rice is also used in sweet and savory dishes.

Differences Between Sticky Rice and White Rice

While sticky rice is commonly white in color, it has a number of differences from regular white rice.

First, the two rice varieties differ in starch content. Regular rice contains two starch molecules, amylose, and amylopectin. On the other hand, glutinous rice only contains amylopectin. When hot water interacts with the amylopectin-heavy sticky rice, the starch molecules separate, giving the grains their soft, sticky, and chewy texture.

Next, sticky rice requires less water to cook than the usual white rice. Due to that, sticky rice is often steamed instead of boiling it. If you make them the same way as regular rice, the grains can get mushy instead of chewy and soft. Different regions typically use a bamboo steamer when cooking sticky rice. Additionally, thanks to developments in technology, there are also rice cookers these days that have a preset to cook sticky rice.

Unlike normal white rice, sticky rice is rarely eaten on its own. It is often used in desserts such as rice cakes. A popular dish in Thailand that uses sticky rice is Khao Niao Mamuang or mango sticky rice. It is made with mango, coconut milk, salt, sticky rice, and sugar. There are also savory dishes that make use of it. Some of these dishes are shumai, zongzi, and as stuffing in duck. Zongzi or Chinese Sticky Rice can vary in preparation; it can be stuffed with red bean paste and red dates to savory fillings like meats and fish.

Is Jasmine Rice the Same as Thai Sticky Rice?

Jasmine rice and sticky rice both grow in Thailand but they are two different rice types. Jasmine rice, also known as Thai fragrant rice, is a long-grain rice that is plump and fluffy when cooked. It is often incorporated into Thai food.

Long-grain jasmine rice has a more opaque and transparent grain color. After cooking, jasmine rice becomes more white. On the other hand, sticky rice or glutinous sticky rice is short-grain rice that has an opaque color when cooked. It is sticky and chewy in texture.

How to Cook Sticky Rice

Before cooking sticky rice, it should be soaked in tepid water. This softens the tough outer shell of the grain, ensuring that it will be cooked throughout. A bamboo steamer is commonly used to make sticky rice but you can also use a cooking pot.

To steam on the stovetop, place the rice in a pot and cover it with water. A typical ratio is 2 cups of grains to 3 1/2 cups of water. Add a 3/4 teaspoon of salt. In the pot, allow the water and rice to come to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover partially with a lid and simmer for 100 minutes.

If the water has not been absorbed, steam for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Place the lid on the pot and let it sit for 10 minutes to continue cooking.

To make sticky rice in a bamboo steamer, drain the soaked rice, place it in the steamer, and cover it. Steam over high heat for 10 to 45 minutes until the grains are soft and translucent. 

Can Cooked Sticky Rice Be Stored in the Fridge?

Yes, you can store cooked sticky rice in the fridge to be used later. Ensure that you place the cooked glutinous rice in an airtight container. Use it up in 2 to 3 days. If you want to freeze sticky rice, transfer the portions to airtight containers of freezer bags. It can be frozen for up to two months.


Sticky rice is served in many Asian countries and is known for its use in Thai and Laotian food, as well as Japanese and Chinese dishes. It is different from other rice varieties due to its distinct chewy texture and sweet and floral flavor.