It seems like a simple question: how many calories are there in a cup of rice? It is a simple question, but the answer is not at all simple. Whomever asks the question probably has some assumptions which might not be shared by the person who answers. Variables like cup size, rice type, the condition of the rice (cooked/uncooked/method of cooking) and much more, affect the answer. In this post, we’re thinking about the assumptions, then answering the question!
Rice Varieties have Different Nutrition
Even though there are over 40,000 different varieties of rice, each with its own nutritional profile, we just need to know a few key points about the rice we’re measuring. Long grain rice has fewer calories than short grain rice (339 calories/100g compared to 356 calories/100g). Medium grain rice is, predictably in the middle. Less processed rice like brown and red rice has fewer calories than white rice. For this post, we are assuming that the question is related to a cup of white medium grain rice.
Cooked versus Uncooked Rice Calories
Cooking drastically changes the per-weight calorie count of rice. In addition to changing the physical and chemical structure of rice, cooking by boiling or steaming adds lots of water to each grain of rice. This makes the rice bigger, so that one cup of uncooked rice yields up to three cups of cooked rice. The amount of water absorbed mainly depends on cooking time, cooking temperature, relative atmospheric humidity and pressure (the weather!), the type of water, and of course the type of rice. In every case, cooked rice has far fewer calories than uncooked rice on a weight for weight basis.
Cooking Method affects Digestible Calories
As we explained in our post on reducing starch in rice, the method of cooking affects the amount of digestible (nutritionally useful) calories in rice. Adding oil to cooking rice may reduce the amount of calories able to be absorbed by your body, even whilst increasing the actual calorie count! The amount of calories your body will actually draw from rice (or any other food) is impossible to know without complicated scientific methods and equipment.
Weight of Rice in a Cup
Somewhere, perhaps in Plato’s mystical world of forms, there exists a perfectly-sized 250ml capacity cup. However, that cup is not in our (nor, probably, your) kitchen. Even with a proper measuring cup (the type with lines), it is practically impossible to measure exactly one cup of rice. There will always be a slightly different weight of rice. That said, the average cup of uncooked medium grain white rice weighs 206 grams. A cup of white, medium grain boiled rice weighs 196 grams.
Calories in a Cup of Uncooked Rice
At last, with our assumptions out of the way, we can answer the question! Starting with uncooked rice: one cup of uncooked, white, medium grain rice contains 729 calories, equivalent to 3061 kilojoules.
Cup of Cooked Rice Calories
Since you’re probably not going to eat uncooked rice, let’s take a look at the cooked version. One cup of cooked, medium-grained, white rice contains 313 calories, or 1315 kilojoules.
Best to Use a Food Scale
The thing about using a cup to measure rice, is that it is highly inaccurate. It is possible to squeeze double the amount of cooked rice into a cup. Even shaking the cup to rearrange the grains will change how much rice you can measure. It is just as easy to count a three-quarter full cup of uncooked rice as a full one. And, that’s before even considering what size of cup you’re using!
If you want to get a meaningfully accurate estimate of the calories in your rice, it is best to use a food scale! Now, find out what happens if you stop eating rice altogether!