Red Rice: Sri Lanka

Whole-Grain Health from Paradise

Retail Price: $12.99
Our Price: $9.99
JOIN and Get 46% off Retail!

equitable trade vegan pesticide and chemical free
Like brown rice, red rice is minimally processed to retain more of the fiber, vitamin, and mineral content of the original rice kernel.  This particular variety - Pachchaperumal, named for its resemblance to the fabled color of the Buddha’s skin - has a deep, rich burgundy color when cooked. It is high in proteins and is said to have been the staple of the great armies led by semi-mythical chieftains known as the “Ten Great Giants.” The rice is considered divine and often offered as alms, in thanksgiving offerings or in vows seeking rains or the protection of crops.

Red Sri Lankan Rice


Red raw rice should not be washed too many times as the Vitamin B in the bran is water-soluble. Starchy white rices however can benefit from additional washing until the water is less cloudy – this is the starch washing away.

Place in a saucepan or rice cooker with at least two cups of water for each cup of rice – heirloom grains typically benefit from half a cup more. Any rice cooker on “soft” or “medium” will cook the rice just right. If using a pan, boil rapidly with the lid off until the level of water subsides to the level of the rice. Then reduce to a very low heat, cover and allow it to simmer. 

The rice should become fluffy and, in most cases, stick to the spoon handle. Serve warm (Sri Lankans count themselves as in grave misfortune if they must have their food cold). Try adding one or more of couple of cardamoms, cloves, a couple of rampe (screwpine) leaves, lemongrass, bay leaves or a few curry leaves to add to the taste and aroma. 

Milk rice is usually served at important ceremonies, eaten on the first day of every month, or as a heavy breakfast. It can be served with a simple ground onion-and-chilli sambol, with one or two gravy curries, or even with some jaggery or sugar. Prepare as normal with raw rice. Bring to boil, add 1 cup of coconut milk for each cup of rice when water has subsided to level of rice. Add salt to taste and optionally 1-2 cardamoms for every cup of rice. Let simmer until no gravy is left; serve when sticky and warm. Traditionally the milk-rice is laid and flattened into a cake on banana leaves (or anything grease-proof) and cut into diamond shapes.

Sri Lanka, once known as the Granary of the East, is home to more than 2,000 rice varietals, many of them “red” rices which are little-known outside South Asia. Red rices are considered more nutritious, their color being considered a physical manifestation of their higher iron, fiber and protein, and lower carbohydrate; and healthful, being included in traditional Ayurvedic and home remedies. Many varieties are prized for their taste, aroma and unique colors, with some fabled to have been reserved for kings, and others fed to armies preparing for battle. 

As is still the case all over the world, rice is overwhelmingly a smallholder crop in Sri Lanka, grown in almost every one of Sri Lanka’s 47 diverse agro-ecological zones from saline marshes to high terraces, irrigated river valleys to rain-fed plains. Most cultivation was de-facto organic until the late 20th century, with devout religious and biodynamic practices being an integral part of the agrarian rhythm of life. Rice plays a key part in daily lives and special events wherever one lives in Sri Lanka. A symbol of bounty and fertility, rice still features prominently at weddings and invocations of blessings.

This pure, nutritious red rice is the end-result of an amazing story of collaboration and hope.

Two Sri Lankans who grew up together and wound up studying business at an Ivy League college decided to address the poverty in their beautiful homeland with a cooperative, socially and ecologically responsible business venture.  They coordinate and work closely with five communities of 135 farmers to produce this beautiful, nutritious red rice and pay a higher initial price to help address rural poverty. 

Twenty percent of the country’s rice production capacity which was offline due to the decades-long ethnic conflict is now returning to cultivation, representing both a threat and an opportunity. Commodity cultivation would paradoxically result in massive over-production as the rest of the country had finally reached self-sufficiency in the last decade. Yet at the same time these long-fallow fields are ideal candidates for immediate conversion to organic cultivation, opening up an important means of supporting returning displaced populations.

Our partners work with established farmer groups and/or strong local leaders in order to build the capacities of these communities in order to break free of restrictive monopolistic arrangements typically forced on small farmers in global commodity market situations.

Community 1
Based in one of the most fertile districts in the North- West of Sri Lanka, 3 members of this group started organic cultivation in 2003. The group grew to 22 within a few years and is particularly entrepreneurial and dynamic. They soon began to feel restricted by the kinds of agreements they are required to enter into with the company that they have sold to for many years. Therefore they were glad to find us as an alternative customer, and one willing to help the community increase its income by sharing a fairer portion of profits, while at the same time helping the community invest in its own capacity to expand its position in the value chain, investing in machinery and self-financing their certifications etc. Seven new members with 8.5 acres between them are currently cultivating rice for us.

Community 2
This community is another well-established one that has extended its support to many others by sharing knowledge and producing seed paddy and machinery such as row weeders for cultivation using the SRI method. The group consists of 62 farmers in the North-West region of Sri Lanka. They have been producing heirloom rice for the local market at lower profit, and have been experimenting with value-addition activities such as producing rice flour and flour-based foods such as red rice noodles. Our source has submitted a grant proposal on behalf of this community to fund a medium-scale mill with parboiling machinery etc.

Community 3
This group consists of two communities who have worked for several years with an INGO which is happy to support our partners in helping its 136 farmers find better markets and increase their - incomes. The farmers are located in a semi-arid part of the country in the North-West close to the Mannar Rice Bowl, where dry conditions and irrigated water are ideal for high rice yields. This group is particularly well organized thanks to the INGO’s support and has experience in SRI cultivation.

Community 4
This community is located in the East of the country, in the deep interior and heavily affected by the recently ended ethnic conflict. The farmers in this community had abandoned their fields and are now finally returning to reclaim and re-cultivate their land. Because of this, their land is ideally suited for immediate organic certification with no conversion period.

Community 5
This community is also located in the East of the island, close to the coast, and was heavily affected by the conflict. The community consists almost exclusively of ethnic minority Tamils, most of whom do not speak any other language than Tamil. The community is working hard to recover from the depredations of the conflict, and are industriously preparing to work with our partners. A strong Sri Lankan NGO with a presence in the area is working closely with our partners to secure funding and training resources to support the community in its efforts to recover from the conflict.

Please log in

Sign up for the BeON Newsletter

Get advance word on special deals & new product releases, info & videos on our Global Good projects, recipes, health tips, and more!

with Us!