Asian restaurants are often a safe space for vegans due to the already plant-based nature of many dishes. A common dessert at Thai restaurants, mango sticky rice is a simple but delicious dish with seemingly innocent ingredients, but is it always vegan?
As a general rule mango sticky rice is a vegan dish. None of the traditional ingredients in mango sticky rice contain animal products. In some rare cases, coconut milk may be swapped with sweetened condensed milk.
To be safe, it’s always a good idea to check with restaurant staff that no animal products were used in the dish you’re ordering.
Mango sticky rice may usually be vegan, but is it healthy? Even if they are plant-based, desserts can contain an outrageously high amount of sugar; moreover, some types of sugar make the dish no longer vegan due to their refining process.
Here we explore the ingredients, history, and nutritional profile of mango sticky rice.
What Is Mango Sticky Rice Made of
Mango sticky rice has five base ingredients:
- Sticky rice
- Coconut milk
The preparation of the dish includes soaking and cooking the sticky rice and then combining it with a heated coconut milk, salt, and sugar mixture.
While the rice is soaking up the coconut milk mixture, mangos are peeled and sliced to be placed on top of the rice. Extra coconut milk or coconut cream may be added on top of the final dish. Optional toppings include yellow mung beans or toasted sesame seeds to add texture.
Refined Sugar: Not Always Vegan
Besides the possible substitution of cow’s milk for coconut milk, mango sticky rice may not be vegan due to the sugar used. Bone char (from cows) is often used to filter and whiten sugar in the refining process.
Processing of organic sugar, 100% pure beet sugar, and raw sugars is bone char-free. These are therefore safer options than 100% pure cane sugar for those avoiding animal products. For more information on bone char used in sugar production see this article.
What Is Sticky Rice
Most readers will be familiar with the above ingredients apart from sticky rice. It is a kind of rice, like Basmati rice, rather than a way of cooking rice, such as fried rice. Sticky rice is also called sweet rice or glutinous rice (referring to its glue-like texture, it is gluten-free) and is a short-grain rice that becomes very sticky when cooked.
Unlike other short-grain rice varieties that have two forms of starch: amylopectin and amylose, sticky rice does not contain amylose. This makes sticky rice easier to digest and is also the reason for its unique cooking requirements.
Where Does Mango Sticky Rice Come From
Mango sticky rice is originally a Thai dish but is consumed throughout the Indochina region (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam) as well as some countries in South Asia (India, Bangladesh). It is popular in the spring and summer months when mangos are at peak ripeness in Thailand and neighboring regions. It has gained some popularity worldwide from its introduction in Thai restaurants.
How Do You Eat Mango Sticky Rice
Mango sticky rice can be served in a bowl with the mango on top or scooped on a plate with the mango on the side. Fresh mango sticky rice should be consumed warm, but the rice and coconut milk mixture can be refrigerated to have a cool version of the dessert if made at home.
Sticky rice should ideally be consumed within two days of cooking to avoid hardening in the fridge. The dish can be eaten with a spoon or fork, although it is traditionally eaten with the hands in Thailand due to the ease with which sticky rice can be rolled into balls.
Is Sticky Rice Healthy
Rice is a healthy, whole-natural food containing an array of vitamins and minerals such as zinc, magnesium, selenium, and B vitamins. Sticky rice is low in fat and contains fiber and a decent amount of protein. While rice sometimes gets categorized as a “bad carbohydrate”, eating brown sticky rice was found in a Japanese study to improve glycemic control in diabetic patients.
Although brown rice may have a slightly better nutritional value, white rice (along with fruit) was proven to help treat hypertension and kidney failure in people following the Kempner rice diet.
Is Mango Sticky Rice a Healthy Dessert
Free from oils, low in salt, and high in vitamin C, mango sticky rice is a better option than a lot of other sweet dishes you’ll find out there.
The fat content in mango sticky rice comes from coconut, a natural source, and the mango and rice provide fiber and nutrients that are lacking in more processed desserts. However, mango sticky rice is not a low-calorie food and has high sugar content.
High sugar consumption can lead to tooth decay, chronic disease, and weight gain. The WHO recommends people consume less than 10% of their daily calories from sugar (equivalent to around 50g of sugar in a 2,000 calorie diet).
Mango sticky rice may be a healthier choice than cakes, cookies, and vegan ice cream for those of us with a sweet tooth, but it can contain almost a day’s worth of sugar.
Consumption in moderation won’t cause much harm, but a better alternative would contain less added sugar, like fruit.
Nutritional Comparison of Mango Sticky Rice vs. Mangos
If you’re looking for a dessert that’s always vegan and doesn’t require moderation, look no further than the mango itself.
Mangos have natural sugar the body can process easier than refined sweeteners as well as fiber, water, minerals, and antioxidants which aid the immune system and support heart and digestive health.
In comparing a cup of mango with a cup of mango sticky rice, we see that mango has less fat, sodium, and sugar and more fiber and vitamin A and C. Still, mango sticky rice has beneficial levels of calcium, iron, and protein.
Best Mango Sticky Rice Recipe
With a short ingredients list, the difficult part of making mango sticky rice is the preparation and waiting time (soaking the rice alone takes at least 2 hours). This top-rated recipe by The New York Times walks you through the process in 5 easy steps.
If you’re not a fan of mango, mango sticky rice can instead be made with durian or papaya. Sticky rice substitutions aren’t recommended because other forms of rice won’t provide the same texture and taste profiles; however, brown and black forms of Thai sticky rice can be used if you’re avoiding white rice.
If you have a coconut allergy, soy milk, oat milk, or cashew cream could be used in place of coconut milk rather than substituting with sweetened condensed milk. Finally, coconut sugar, agave, or dates can be used in place of sugar.
As with most meals, cooking at home provides the greatest control and is more cost-effective. By cooking yourself you can be sure that all ingredients are high quality and vegan.
Restaurants typically charge $3.00 to $6.00 for mango sticky rice. Assuming you already have a teaspoon of salt and some sugar around, only 3 ingredients need to be purchased:
|Mango||Between $1.50 and $4.00|
|1 cup of Uncooked Sticky Rice ($13.81 for a 5 lb bag)||$1.19|
|Coconut Milk (Full can)||$1.49|
In total, making the recipe at home (which creates 4 servings) will cost around $4.18, or $1.05 per person.