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Baroness Canada

what is purple rice

Purple Rice Milk Tea – The Secret Behind Our Playful Purple Drink!

We’ve all heard of the classic white and brown rice, but have you heard of purple rice?

While it often serves as a fun element to add a playful pop of colour to a wide range of rice cooker, instant pot and stovetop rice recipe options. Some of the most popular recipes being Korean purple rice, black sweet rice and Congee.

On top of being pretty to look at, purple rice also hosts several health benefits that can help improve heart, digestion and liver health. That said, the crop itself is not a new invention or discovery.

In fact, like most other rice species, it’s been around for centuries. Purple Rice has been celebrated throughout Asia for years for its slightly chewy yet sticky rice texture and delicious nutty flavour.

By now, you’re likely wondering, what is purple rice, where does it come from, what are its benefits and what ultimately makes the rice purple?

Don’t worry! 

Today, we’re answering all these questions surrounding purple rice, why we feature it as the key ingredient in our delicious Purple Rice Smoothie with oat milk, and why it’s a popular bubble tea flavor

We’ll cover its unique history and health benefits as well as how it gets its unique colouring.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

What is Purple Rice?

purple rice

One of more than 40,000 varieties of cultivated rice globally, purple rice sets itself apart with its signature hue. 

However, when raw, it has an inky black colour and doesn’t gain its signature deep purple appearance until cooked!

It is almost always sold as a whole grain, meaning that the bran’s outermost layer is intact. This feature technically makes this ricea variation of brown, or unrefined, rice.

Purple rice is available in two primary forms: long-grain, jasmine rice, and sticky black glutinous rice. Luckily for all you celiacs out there, both are gluten-free! 

Why is Korean Purple Rice Called Forbidden Rice?

Purple rice goes by many names, including black rice, emperor’s rice and forbidden rice. The story behind the last one is steeped in legend.

According to the story, it was reserved exclusively for Ancient China’s emperors, likely due to its colour and rarity.

Long ago, this crop, in particular, was difficult to grow and was likely less widely available than other types of rice. Like all other rice species, the rice itself originates from Japanese rice and is actually a type of grass seed.

What Makes the Rice Purple?

Like the purple yam we use in our Purple Yam Ube Milk Tea drink, purple rice owes its distinct characteristic colouring to water-soluble flavonoid known as anthocyanin pigments.

Anthocyanin is present in many types of fruits and vegetables that you likely have in your kitchen already, including raspberries, grapes, red cabbage, blueberries, and black rice.

These pigments change these various items’ colours during the growing period due to various outside influences, including light exposure, temperature, structure, and soil pH.

Soil pH, in particular, plays a crucial role in what colour a fruit or vegetable turns out to be, with more acidic conditions appearing red and pH increases turning blue. 

Thus, like purple yams, this rice owes its unique trait to these colour-popping pigments!

What are the Benefits of Purple Rice?

forbidden rice milk tea

It's an Excellent Source of Protein

Whether you’re looking to carb load before or after a workout or seeking to integrate more protein into your vegetarian diet, purple rice is an excellent source of protein.

Protein is crucial to your body. It helps maintains muscle while also building and repairing muscle tissue. It also contributes to healthy cell growth and bone strengthening.

Purple Rice is Rich in Antioxidants

Remember those anthocyanins? Well, they don’t just stop their services at giving supplying the signature purple hue. They’re also packed to the brim with healthy antioxidants!

Antioxidants are compounds that protect our body’s cells from damage, one of the most prominent being oxidative stress.

Anthocyanin has been associated with reducing cases of type 2 diabetes, obesity, inflammation and heart disease.

Purple Rice is Packed with Fibre

Like its sibling rice species, brown rice, purple rice is a whole grain, making it an excellent source of fibre. Not only that but being a whole grain, meaning the outer bran layer is intact, it also gives it its slightly nutty flavour.

Fibre is essential for multiple reasons, the primary being that it promotes regular bowel movements and overall bowel health. Don’t get shy on us now! It’s simply biology. Everyone does it!

Fibre can also help with weight loss and lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.

How to Use It

If you’re looking to integrate this colourful rice into your next meal, there are a few ways to do it. However, all of them involve cooking it in one way or another!

Unless the packaging says that it has been pre-rinsed, always wash your rice in cool water before you use it. Rinse it 3 to 4 times before cooking. 

Depending on if you’re using an instant pot, ricer cooker or stovetop, the process will vary slightly.

Instant Pot:

  • Add 1 cup of forbidden rice to the pot and pour 1 cup of water on top. 
  • Remove 2-3 tbsp of water.
  • Close the lid and pressure cook on high pressure for 18 minutes. Then, natural release for 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes, release the remaining pressure and open the lid carefully.

Rice Cooker:

  • Add one cup of black rice into the rice cooker and pour 1 3/4 cup of water or stock on top.
  • If your ricer cooker has a brown rice mode, start it. Otherwise, set the timer for 25 minutes.
  • Once the timer goes off, remove the lid to release the excess steam.


  • In a pot, add 9.1 oz of water to 1 cup of rice.
  • Bring the pot to a boil and reduce to medium heat for 6 minutes.
  • Lower the heat for 5 more minutes.
  • Let the rice rest with the lid on for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Our Favoruite Way to Use Purple Rice? Purple Rice Bubble Tea!

If you’re looking for a sweeter treat that cuts out the need for cooking entirely, we have got just the item for you! We have taken this traditional ingredient and incorporated it into a modern bubble tea flavor that we love and think you will, too.

Our Purple Rice Smoothie + Organic Milk fantastically highlights the sticky, nutty flavour of purple rice blended with delicious and creamy organic milk for a smoothie that is sure to send your tastebuds into overdrive!

At Baroness Bubble Tea, we are passionate about using only the best ingredients for our recipes prepared by-hand, in-house every day. 

If you’re looking to kick things up a notch, you can also add on some of our signature toppings, including brown sugar pearls, for an added dose of sweetness!

If you’d like to try it for yourself, we’d be happy to make one fresh for you! We encourage you to visit us at Baroness Bubble Tea at 2790 W Broadway, Vancouver, and try some out for yourself!

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