It's easy to confuse raw jasmine and basmati rices: They're both long-grain varieties, and both contain a compound that can give them a popcorn-like aroma. Here are the main differences.
We prepared a batch each of basmati rice and jasmine rice and, once they were cooked, their differences became apparent. The basmati grains remained distinct and maintained their long, slim shape. The jasmine rice had a plush, moist texture; its grains collected in delicate clumps, perfect for eating with chopsticks.
Why the difference? It's all about the two different molecules that make up starch. Basmati has a lot of amylose: a straight molecule that organizes into a tight formation, which helps each grain stay distinct when cooked, making basmati a great choice for pilaf. Jasmine rice's starch, by contrast, has less amylose and more of another molecule: amylopectin, which has bushy branches that prevent it from organizing itself tidily. That's what gives jasmine its clingy texture and makes it ideal for gently piling into a rice bowl and unmolding to make an impressive mound.
We love both of these fragrant rices, but they're a bit pricier than standard long-grain white rice. We'll save basmati for a refined pilaf and serve jasmine alongside our favorite Thai curries.