What drained rice water has to offer – ways Indians use it in everyday life


Out of many culture shocks I experienced living in South India was the eating habits of thousands of Asians. How it is possible for those people, they are able to eat rice daily 3 times – for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? And each time the rice is a) cooked exceptionally, b) can be served in hundreds of ways (lemon rice, tamarind rice, biryani… etc), c) its method of cooking determines eating pleasure. For me, a Polish potato girl, eating rice was an exotic – once in a month – adventure and that only during lunch timings. I never put much attention to which rice to eat, how to cook it, and what to do with its drained water. But those people do and with time, I also had a chance to see, learn, and understand how the rice world is organized here. Believe me, it can be as yummy (oh biryani!) as my childhood potato upbringing.

To start off, before I move to rinsed water rice properties, one has to know that rice is one of the chief grains of India. This country has the largest area under rice cultivation, as in fact, it is the dominant crop here (I live in South India where rice, along with peanuts are cultivated by the majority of farmers). India is not only a leading consumer of rice crop but also its second-largest producer in the world. So, it might come to your mind that there are hundreds of varieties of rice then… and yes, that’s true!

Cooking in a pressure cooker or boiling in a pot?

So, you want to eat your rice, great. I assume you want your rice to be cooked in a decent way – but how to do it when there are many different ways of cooking it? As I live in India, I got to know that Indian’s most popular, yet old fashioned, cooked rice method is: the boil (lots of water) and drain method. Rice is boiled in lots of water, it has to be manually checked to see when it has got cooked. After that – excess water is drained out. This water contains lots of starch and people here use it for different reasons I’ll cover in the next parts.

Btw. another method popular here in India I met in the cities would be the electric rice cooker method (or pressure cooker). It cooks rice in the absorption method and all the water used in cooking (usually ratio is 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water) is absorbed in the process of cooking.

Why cook rice by boil & drain method?

I was told by my Indian family that cooking rice in a pressure cooker not only creates harmful chemicals released to your body that is dangerous to health but also, such rice can cause obesity. When cooking in a pressure cooker, all the water from rice is absorbed by the body and this leads to weight gain.

There are two golden Indian rules for cooking rice: 
1. measure rice by volume - it makes it easier to assess how much water to add. 
2. during boiling, don't stir rice , it will break up and turn sticky.

I tried both ways of cooking rice and honestly saying boiling rice in a pot with excess water appeals to me more now. Not only I am able to see and control the starch level (Starch in rice is expected to reduce around 15%, using boil and drain method – Source – Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations) but also I can reuse the remaining drained water. Why do so? Such water is a vitamin bomb, in a farm life we give it to animals to drink, we water plants with it (starch rice water diluted with normal water) or...

Ok, so what do to with excess water rinced after boiling rice?

  1. Starch the clothes – starching your clothes creates a higher resistance to wrinkling and soiling. Why not use drained rice water that will ease ironing.
  2. Some of the Indian women’s secrets of their skin and hair care remedies lie in rice water. You can use it for hair wash or face pack… (freeze it as ice cubes and rub it over your face… Gives a nice soothing feeling)
  3. Did you consider using such water for cooking purposes? Indian women suggest:
    • adding salt and jeera (=*cumin seeds) and prepare soup out of it
    • cooling it and keeping it in a bottle in the fridge. One can use it in daal or to make curry thicker, instead of cornflour.
  4. Soaking cast iron pans – in general, it’s not recommended to use the dishwasher, soap, or steel wool, as these may strip the pan’s seasoning


The information presented in this blog post is my personal view that came from observation, discussion, and experience living in India. I am not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. Examples of using drained water after boiling rice are shared on Facebook group Super Mums of India. All appearing in the article do not reflect my views and I do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. With this post, I am not providing any medical, legal, professional advice. It is in no way a substitute for a qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist for more information and before trying any of those – check your medical condition – if needed, consult with the doctor. One is taking all the provided information at his own risk.

I would love to hear your comments on this! Have you heard about any other usage of drained rice water? Thank you very much for reading this article. I am curious if you have/had any experience of yours? Any comments? – please share your experience. And if you liked the article – share it, click “Like it” and subscribe to my newsletter.