Bringing back the traditional Kala Bhat to our plates

Kalabhat is a local Indian/Asian variety of rice that has a fine taste, a delicious aroma and great cooking quality. It works best for spicy as well as sweet rice preparations. It is a not-so-popular folk variety of rice in India.

Black rice is very high in nutritional content and is an excellent source of Iron, Vitamin E and antioxidants (even more than blueberries). The bran of the black rice contain the highest levels of anthocyanins antioxidants in food. It’s fiber content is similar to brown rice, and it has a mild, nutty flavor like Brown Rice too. It is best suited for making porridge, dessert, traditional Chinese Black Rice cake, bread, noodles, Risotto, etc.

It is said that for centuries, Black rice was reserved only for the Chinese Royalty. Thousands of years ago, Chinese Noblemen took possession of the Black Rice and banned their consumption among anybody who was not wealthy or royalty. The crop was grown in limited quantities, was closely guarded and reserved for the most elite. Common people were not allowed to grow, buy or consume the black rice, and hence it got the name “Forbidden Rice”.

To know more about Black Rice, you can visit my blog on the Forbidden Rice:

One serving of black or forbidden rice contains only around 160 calories, but offers a very high amount of flavanoid phytonutrients, a good source of important fiber, substantial mineral content including iron and copper, and even a good source of plant based protein. Would you like to know how Black rice stands with other varieties of rice like Red rice, Brown rice, White rice and the like? Here you go –

  • Polished white rice – contains 6.8 protein, 1.2 iron, 0.6 fiber.
  • Brown rice: 7.9 protein, 2.2 iron, and 2.8 fiber.
  • Red rice: 7.0 protein, 5.5 iron, and 2.0 fiber.
  • Black rice: 8.5 protein, 3.5 iron, 4.9 fiber, and the highest amount of antioxidants of any rice variety.

The anthocyanins in Black Rice help prevent cardiovascular disease, protect against cancer by arresting free radical damage, improving brain function, reducing inflammation, etc. The Vitamin E antioxidants in Black rice are useful in maintaining eye, skin and immune health among other important functions.

Black rice decreases dangerous atherosclerotic plaque formation in the arteries. helping keep arteries clean, and preventing heart attacks and strokes. It also helps reduce LDL cholesterol or the harmful cholesterol.

Black rice also helps detox the body, and cleanse the liver of harmful toxins and reduce internal inflammation. It also helps prevent digestive symptoms like constipation, bloating, IBS, etc. It helps you feel full faster, aiding weight loss. The fiber and nutrients of black rice help shut off hunger signals, preventing overeating.

Black rice is naturally gluten free, and it also slows down sugar absorption in blood, thus helping prevent diabetes. It also helps prevent insulin resistance. It is highly recommended for diabetics and pre-diabetics. It is also believed to have cancer-fighting properties.

Since Black rice is unrefined and denser than other rice types, it takes longer to cook, and needs more soaking time, minimum an hour, preferably more.

Climate change has been resulting in erratic increase/decrease in temperatures, humidity, leading to breeding of new pests and diseases, making chemically grown paddy particularly vulnerable to fungi attacks and reduced efficacy of pesticides. Contrast to this, folk varieties like kala bhat require less water. They are able to withstand weather aberrations while maintaining their yield. There are multiple strains of Kala Bhat, though the most popular ones are the aromatic shorter grain and a non-aromatic longer grain varieties.

Normal de-husking machines cannot be used for the Kalabhat, as it would completel remove the black husk of the rice, robbing it of its abundant nutritional benefits. This is why post-harvesting kalabhat requires special de-husking machines and processes to ensure the entire husk is not removed and the rice retains its nutritional properties. The yield of the Kalabhat is generally about 2/3rd compared to the usual white paddy. While 60 kg paddy yields about 35 to 40 kg of white rice, 60 kg of kala bhat paddy yields 30 to 32 kg of black rice. The kalabhat generally has a slight black aftertaste and is sticky in nature. This is why oriental cuisine finds a lot of usage for the kalabhat.

It has often been found that customers avoid consuming Kalabhat not just because of its black appearance (Remember how used to we are to the shiny white long grained basmati rice), but also because they are not very comfortable with its flavor. Personally, I really like the Kalabhat, because it has a great mild nutty taste, with its amazing aroma. However, if you want to consume the black rice for its health benefits, but its flavor has been stopping you from doing so, you can mix the kalabhat with white rice in a 1:1 proportion, and then cook it. Mind well that the black rice would take more time than white rice to cook, so make sure you cook accordingly. I’ll also share a tip to help cook black rice better – soak it overnight in twice the amount of water as rice.

Kala bhat is also flattened to make poha or chira (Bengali name) and had with milk as breakfast (serving like a breakfast cereal)

Here are some recipes with Kalabhat that you can try out:

Kavuni Arisi Halwa

The Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu has been using the Indian Kala Bhat since a very long time. The Chettiars or the local people of Chettinad used to be mostly traders, often traveling for business to Indonesia and Burma (now Myanmar), would often bring back packets of black rice with them. The Chettiars call the kala baht as Burma Rice or Kavuni Arisi, and the most commonly prepared dish from it is Kavuni Arisi Halwa.


1 cup black rice (Kavuni Arisi)

2 cup grated fresh coconut

1 cup powdered jaggery

1/4 cup ghee


  • Wash and soak the black rice overnight
  • Add soaked rice to a mixer grinder with a little water, and grind it into a paste
  • In another mixer jar, add grated coconut along with a little water, and extract thick coconut milk from this
  • Pour out the thick coconut milk, then put the ground coconut back into mixer jar, pour some more water and now extract a thin coconut milk from it
  • Take a thick bottomed pan and heat it
  • Add powdered jaggery, and then add the thin coconut milk to it
  • Mix until the jaggery dissolves
  • Once the milk starts boiling, reduce the flame to a low, then add the black rice paste
  • Keep stirring until the mixture thickens to a porridge-like consistency
  • Once it thickens, add the thick coconut milk extracted previously, and cook on a medium flame while stirring continuously until the mixture comes together like a halwa
  • Now little by little pour in the ghee, and stir it in to incorporate it into the halwa
  • Keep cooking until the ghee leaves the pan and the halwa becomes darker & thicker
  • Halwa is ready!
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Have you ever cooked with black rice? It is an ingredient very new to my kitchen, for I started cooking with black rice fairly recently. These Indian Black Rice Pancakes are something I used it in a while back, and they were so much loved by everyone at home! In Bangalore, black rice has been making an appearance lately on the menus of new-age cafes, mostly in the forms of salad and pudding. I decided to use it in a savoury preparation, a very South Indian one at that – Indian-style pancakes or adai. . The Kavuni Arisi Adai tasted lovely, and the addition of onions took the taste higher by several notches. Thanks to the urad daal in it, it turned out super soft too. Actually, I added in a variety of lentils to the batter – even some of the black moth daal that I picked up in Kashmir. Super nutritious, with all those whole grains in! . The black rice I have used here is from @happyhealthymeorganics . Check out the recipe for Kavuni Arisi Adai aka Indian Black Rice Pancakes, just in on my photo blog! . . #kavuniarisi #blackrice #purplerice #forbiddenrice #madefromscratch #recipepost #kavuniarisiadai #indianblackricepancakes #blackricedosai #blackricepancakes #cookinghealthy #eatinghealthy #indianfood #indianfoodblogger #bangalorefoodies #bangalorefoodblogger #huffposttaste #ifoundawesome #chettinadu #tamilnadufood #chettinaducuisine #chettinadufood #tamilnaducuisine #manipuricuisine #manipurifood

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Kavuni Arisi Adai (Black Rice Indian Pancakes)


1 cup black rice

1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

1/2 cup white rice

1/2 black moth dal

1/2 cup chana dal

1/2 cup split black urad dal

1/2 cup toor dal

Salt to taste

7-8 dry red chilies

6-7 cloves of peeled garlic

1 inch piece of ginger – peeled and finely chopped

2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves

Oil as required

Finely chopped onions (optional)

Finely chopped coriander (optional)


  • Place the black rice chana dal, fenugreek seeds, urad dal, toor dal and moth dal in a large vessel
  • Wash these ingredients well under running water
  • Drain all the water
  • Add fresh water in at least twice the amount of these ingredients and soak overnight or at least for 8 to 10 hours
  • Once soaked, drain out the excess water, and grind half of these ingredients to a coarse batter
  • Take the remaining soaked ingredients in a mixer jar and add the dry red chilies, garlic cloves and ginger
  • Grind to a coarse consistency
  • Add this coarse mixture to the previously prepared batter
  • Add curry leaves and salt to taste, mix well
  • Just before beginning to make pancakes, add the finely chopped onions and coriander leaves
  • You can also add finely chopped green chilies if you want to make the pancakes spicier
  • Heat a dosa pan, then reduce the flame
  • Pour a ladleful of batter on the pan, and make pancakes
  • Cook well on both sides

Black Rice Stir Fry


1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp freshly crushed garlic

1/2 cup diced onions

Green chillies to taste

1/4 cup diced red bell peppers

1/4 cup diced green bell peppers

1/4 cup diced Zucchini

1 cup shredded Bok Choy

1 tbsp Tamari sauce

Salt to taste

1 tsp lightly roasted sesame seeds

1 cup black rice


  • Heat the sesame oil for 30 to 60 seconds on medium heat in a large pan
  • Add minced garlic and sauté till light brown
  • Add chopped onions, green chilies and mix till onions are sauteed
  • Add the chopped vegetables and stir fry until vegetables are crisp
  • Add tamari sauce and salt to taste (Tamari sauce is salty to begin with, so adjust salt accordingly)
  • Boil the black rice (1 part black rice with two parts of water, bring water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minute. Then remove the pan from heat, continue to keep it covered and let sit for 15 minute)
  • Fluff the cooked rice with a fork
  • Take the rice out on a plate and sprinkle the roasted sesame seeds over it
  • Serve the stir fried veggies on the side, or cool the rice and toss the rice in the heated pan with the stir fried vegetables
  • You can top it with peanut sauce or sriracha sauce while serving

Kala Bhat Payesh


3 tbsp kala bhat (Or take equal parts of white and black rice)

2 tsp ghee

1 liter full fat milk

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp cardamom powder

10-12 cashew nuts, chopped

10-12 slivered pistachio nuts

10-12 slivered almond


  • Wash the rice and soak for 8-10 hours
  • Drain the rice and mix with ghee
  • Heat milk in a heavy bottomed pan
  • Once the milk starts to boil, add rice and cook on low heat until rice is cook and milk is reduced to half, stir from time to time or rice and milk will stick to the pan and burn
  • Add more milk if rice is not fully cooked and the milk reduces quicker
  • Add sugar and cook for 3-4 minutes while stirring constantly
  • Add cardamom powder and mix well
  • Garnish with cashew nuts, pistachio nuts and almond slivers
  • Serve hot or chilled

Vegetable Black Rice Khichdi


1 potato, peeled and julienned

1 1/6 cup refined oil

2 tbsp hung curd

1 tsp roasted cumin powder

1 tsp chopped coriander leaves

1 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp asafoetida

3 tbsp chopped onions

1 tsp chopped garlic

1 tsp chopped chilies

1.5 tbsp chopped tomatoes

1 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 cup cooked masoor dal

1 cup cooked black rice

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

2 tsp pure ghee


  • Heat one cup oil in a small deep pan over medium flame
  • Deep fry the potato juliennes until golden brown and crisp
  • Mix together the hung yogurt, roasted cumin powder and 1/4 tsp of chopped coriander leaves
  • Heat remaining oil in a pan over medium-high flame, add cumin and asafetida, cook for a minute until aromatic
  • Add onion, garlic, and chilies and cook for about three minutes
  • Add tomato, then cook for another 2 minutes
  • Then add turmeric powder
  • Add masoor dal and water, and bring to a boil
  • Add black rice, season with salt and pepper
  • Simmer for about five minutes
  • Finish by adding ghee and the remaining coriander leaves
  • Serve khichdi topped with the fried potato juliennes and hung yogurt mixture

Tell me how you liked the recipes and how you found the black rice.

You can buy black rice on the Amar Khamar online store here

Penny for your thoughts!