Banza, the popular food brand that made chickpea pasta into a favorite for the gluten-avoidant and protein lovers — becoming the fastest-selling pasta at Target and Whole Foods, according to Forbes — also makes a line of “rice” made from chickpeas. And just recently, the company launched three new flavors of its rice — chipotle tomato, garlic olive oil and ginger scallion — and I tried them all.
I’m really not a fan of food swaps and normally prefer to just have smaller portions of foods that aren’t as healthy as I’d like. I am just not into deprivation. However, after eating Banza rice for over a week, I’ll just say it — I love it.
It was as easy to make as any boxed rice pilaf I’ve tried. Just boil the rice for three minutes, drain and add the flavor packet and an (optional) pat of butter or splash of olive oil. You can use Banza rice just like regular rice, as a side dish, as an addition to a stir-fry or as the base for a yummy veggie bowl.
While Banza rice looks pretty much like the brown rice you’ve had a million times before, the flavor and texture reminded me a lot of whole wheat orzo or Israeli couscous. It was light and fluffy, and had a touch of a nutty flavor. The garlic olive oil flavor was super savory and rich, the chipotle had just the right amount of umami for a spicy chicken bowl, and the ginger scallion was perfect stir-fried with veggies and an egg. And if you’re looking for a plainer rice, Banza also has its original flavor that simply draws on chickpeas.
Should you try Banza rice? Yes, if you’re looking to avoid grains and get more protein, says holistic nutritionist Kristen Ciccolini. “This food swap is good for anyone who is on a grain-free diet or who wants to improve the protein content of their meals,” she says. “The combination of protein and fiber will help add balance to a meal to make it more physically satisfying than actual rice as well.”
Banza rice has 11 grams of protein per serving, while another popular flavored rice brand has 5 grams. Banza has cut the net carbs to 25 grams, while other brands usually have around 40 grams. It’s also cut the sodium, which can lead to bloating, but not the flavor. The ingredient list is pretty simple, with chickpeas at the top.
It also includes a few ingredients some people may need to be mindful of, says Ciccolini.
“Yeast extract can have similar effects to MSG, so those who avoid it for health reasons (sensitivity, migraines) may want to be careful,” she says. “Xanthan gum is a common additive in gluten-free products to act as a binder, but for some it can cause digestive issues.”
However, Ciccolini noted that this experience is pretty rare. “I’d say the majority of people eating this won’t have a problem,” she says. “It’s a pretty good source of protein with 11 grams per serving.”
That was really my favorite thing about Banza rice: It’s packed with protein, and it tastes just as good as the rice I usually eat. I made a box of it and had a portion as a side, and it was so satisfying I didn’t finish my chicken. If you use it to create a veggie bowl or veggie stir-fry, it’s almost like you ate a big salad that makes you feel like you ate a burger, but without all the calories and cholesterol. Who wouldn’t love that?
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