Healthy food from Sri Lanka  

Traditional Rice Varieties of Sri Lanka

In the recent years there has been a major push towards making carbon-based fertilizer mandatory for farmers in our region. Along with this campaign, there have been many smaller local movements advocating a return towards varieties of rice and plants that have been known in the indigenous medicinal traditions for boosting immunity and guarding against many forms of diseases including cancer, digestive and heart-related problems. There are over 2000 varieties of traditional rice to found in Sri Lanka. In this article, we look at some of these traditional rice varieties, and the benefits they offer.



One of the most well-known varieties of traditional rice, Suwandel is a white rice with a delicious taste and unique aroma. (‘Suwanda’ in Sinhala, means aroma or fragrance). It is grown in the Southern Lowland regions and usually takes a longer time from planting to harvesting than other traditional or high-yield types.

Suwandel is known to have relatively high concentrations of vitamins and glutamic acids. Its antioxidant properties make it ideal for people with high blood pressure.

In ancient times Suwandel was also utilized as a beauty product for better skin and hair.

Suwandel is prepared plain, with turmeric, which gives it a yellow colour and an even more delicious aroma. It can be made into a porridge either mixed with other grains or by itself.  



A red variety of traditional rice, Kuruluthuda (bird’s beak in Sinhala) is grown in the lowland areas.

Kuruluthuda has a low glycemic index making it ideal for people with diabetes. Improvement of bladder functions and sexual potency are some of its other benefits according to Hela medicinal traditions.

Kuruluthuda is best prepared after being soaked in water for around 20 minutes and then cooked with Pandan leaves (for flavour) and salt. It can also be added to a rice porridge mix for added nutrition.  



Kaluheenati (Black Long Grain Rice) is the dark red variety of the Heenati family of rice where the grains are usually fine and long. Kalu Heenati is normally found in the Eastern Province.

Kaluheenati has many benefits including being good for expectant and lactating mothers. It also has a low Glycemic index which makes it really good for people with diabetes. Kaluheenati has also been found to be beneficial towards reducing high blood pressure and fat due to its antioxidant properties. Other benefits include weight loss, aiding physical recovery and fighting anaemia.

Kaluheenati can be cooked on its own or added to a porridge mix to provide extra nutrition.  


Other varieties of traditional rice include, Pachchaperumal, Meneri and Oluhal (Water Lily Rice). All of them offer tremendous health benefits when used as a substitute for normal white grain rice or other starchy staple foods. In addition, as a mixture of rice varieties or with other grains, they can be consumed as a porridge drink to achieve maximum benefits.

Suwandel rice
Kuruluthuda rice
Traditional rice of Sri Lanka
Traditional rice of Sri Lanka

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