You are currently viewing Adlai: The Healthier Alternative to Rice, Its Nutritive Value and Uses

Adlai: The Healthier Alternative to Rice, Its Nutritive Value and Uses

For most of us, Filipinos, a meal would not be complete without rice. Rice in itself, when consumed as whole grain, is healthy. However, consuming a variety of whole grains, and not just rice, is recommended to bring in a wider array of nutrients into our bodies. Other examples of whole grains include quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, bulgur, sorghum, wheat, triticale, farro, oats and adlai. While these (when whole) are all great sources of complex carbohydrates, one grain that has gained so much popularity in the recent years is adlai, and for good reason. It’s a powerhouse grain.

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What is Adlai? 

Just like corn and rice, adlai belongs to the grass family with its long stalks that primarily grow in the tropical areas of Eastern and Southern Asia. It is also known as Chinese pearl barley, or Jobs’ Tears because it bears tear-like shape grains which has become the staple food of the many indigenous people. Here in the Philippines, majority of what’s available in the market are cracked adlai grains due to the milling practices in the country.

Adlai is the champion crop of the Subanen Tribe in Mindanao, particularly in Zamboanga and Northern Mindanao. It also grows in the regions of Cordillera, more commonly in Sagada and the Mountain Province. 

It looks and tastes close to rice, but has slightly nutty flavor. It’s similar to al dente pasta and fluffy rice but the grains are a bit larger. Compared to white corn grits, cooked adlai grains are softer in texture and more compact. It is slightly chewy which can be an adjustment for some people. 

Nutritive Value, Its Interpretation and Health Benefits

Here is a table of Adlai’s nutritive value and how it compares to some of our staple carbohydrate sources.

Nutritive Value per
100-gram edible portion
AdlaiWhite Corn GritsBrown RiceWhite RiceQuinoaOats
Energy (kcal)368357363356392374
Carbohydrates (g)73.377.576.380.463.961.5
Protein (g)
Fat (g)
Dietary Fiber (g)94.531.33.55.6
Sugars (g)
Calcium (mg)63116274780
Iron (mg)6.80.481.075.8
Glycemic Index (Average)359068735358
Gluten FreeFreeFreeFreeFreeFree
Sources: 1) Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) Philippines,
and 2)

1. It is an energy-dense and nutritionally-dense food. It is a perfect energy boost that leaves you full longer.  If you are restricting your calories, you may eat ⅓ to ½ cup of it per meal. 

2.  It is a good source of protein contributing 14% of its macronutrient distribution. Carbohydrates and fats contribute 83% and 3% respectively.

4. It is also high in dietary fiber which nourishes healthy probiotic bacteria in our gut, removes bad cholesterol from the body and slows down absorption of glucose in the body.

5. It is a high in calcium which helps maintain healthy bones and teeth and is very important in nerve transmission, blood clotting and muscular function.

3. It has a low glycemic index rating of 35 whereas glucose is 100.  What does it mean? Carbohydrates with a low GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized and cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and, therefore usually, insulin levels. This makes it completely safe for those who are watching their blood sugar levels. 

4. It’s a gluten-free grain which is great for people with gluten-sensitivity.

How to Use Adlai

For every cup of adlai, add 2 or 3 cups of water. Try each ratio and decide which of the ratios you prefer. For a fluffier texture, pre-soak the grain in cold water for 4 to 8 hours, or overnight after the initial cleaning. 

It can also be used as an ingredient in soups and broth. The grain can be ground into flour and used to make bread, pasta, and porridge. 

For desserts, adlai can be cooked into maja blanca, champorado, polvoron and turones de adlai. It can also be used to make our kakanin. 

In traditional Chinese medicine, adlai is used extensively as an alternative medicine leveraging its anti-inflammatory properties for treating the painful effects of rheumatism and lower lung inflammation and damage.

Some Recipes to Try 

Mexican Spiced Adlai (left), Roasted Vegetable And Adlai Salad With Mustardy Dressing (right)

Final Thoughts

  • Adlai is a great whole grain alternative because it is a great source of energy, complex carbohydrates, protein, dietary fiber, and minerals such as phosphorus, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine. Also, it has a low glycemic index. 
  • There are a number of options on how to eat adlai. To start, you may try to cook it as an alternative to your staple rice. 
  • Include this in your whole grain cycle to add diversity to your diet. 
  • Locally source your adlai by buying directly from farmers or from businesses partnering directly with farmers. 

Shop for Adlai


Roni Matalog

Roni is a Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian. She completed her certification in Plant-Based Nutrition from eCornell University and T.Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. Her interest in plant-based nutrition, holistic wellness and sustainable living only intensified in recent years, but she has long been passionate about helping individuals make positive and sustainable changes to their health, to be able to live and enjoy a better quality of life while being mindful of the environment and all beings. She founded Plants & Purpose where she offers her services and shares things about plant-based nutrition.

This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. Renory Bilugan

    thank you so much this is very helpful! God bless and more power!

  2. Julius Verdadero

    Oh my! I’m eating adlai now (and even selling some of it) and seriously need to know more about how to prepare adlai-based dishes. Thank you. This article is very informative.

    1. Roanna Medina

      Very glad you found value in this article. More power to you and your business!

    2. Cherrie

      Hi Julius, that grain was just refered to me and looking for it right now. How can i buy some from you?

      1. Roanna Medina

        Hi Cherrie, this website has a store that sells adlai. Links to both white and brown adlai variants are just above in the article.

  3. Aika

    Thank you for sharing this! I found this in S&R and first time to try this sometime this week. It will help me with my gluten-free diet :)

    1. Roanna Medina

      Hi Aika, that’s exciting! Let us know how you like this grain. Adlai’s amazing, and there are also other yummy gluten-free grains that you can play with to add variety to your diet. :)

  4. ma'am bing

    I also want to try this Adlai. Thanks for the info, Ms. Roana Medina. Please share with us more about health and food.

    1. Roanna Medina

      Hi Ma’am Bing, hope you were able to try it. If you can, please share your experience. Would love to hear it. And, I’ll will try my best to share more about health and wellness on this site. Messages and comments like this definitely are very encouraging for us to share more.

  5. jeff

    is adlai rice good for people in diet? and lastly which i better? adlai or brown rice?

    1. Roanna Medina

      Hi Jeff, it depends on what your body needs. Based on the table above, adlai contains more protein, and has a lower GI compared to brown rice. Adlai is good for people wanting to cut down on sugar and carbs in a complete meal. In my opinion, both are great sources of nutrients, and are good to be interchanged with other grains to ensure your body gets a variety of the good stuff.

  6. Ruby Chua

    Hi Ms. Roana,

    Many thanks for sharing these nutritional facts. Just incidentally picked a pack of Adlai from a Supermarket for a try. Amazingly, it’s really an exact substitute of a regular rice, not to mention the benefits. This is indeed a great help for me who’s watching my sugar level.

    1. Roanna Medina

      Hi Ruby, happy you found a great alternative in adlai, and that it helps you manage your sugar intake. More power to your health!

  7. Kristel

    Hi. Does adlai rice help lower down cholesterol level?? Parang i read somewhere that it does? I just bought brown adlai rice because of it..

    1. Roanna Medina

      Hi Kristel, yes it may help due to its fiber content. The brown especially since it’s been polished less and has retained more of its bran fiber.

  8. Joe


    Are the nutrition values presented for cooked or uncooked 100 gram servings?

    1. Roanna Medina

      Hi Joe, all values are for cooked grains. Thanks for asking!

  9. Charlene

    Hi po. Do you know if Adlai is safe to be given to babies and toddlers?

    1. Roanna Medina

      Hi Charlene, as long as your baby has started eating solids, and because it is a gluten-free grain, it is safe and very nutritious.

  10. Veronica

    Is it available in the US?

    1. Roanna Medina

      Hello Veronica, we are based in the Philippines and unfortunately do not have stockists or retailers in the US at this time.

  11. Alice

    Hi, Can people on a keto diet eat Adlai? Thank you very much in advance.

    1. Roanna Medina

      Hello Alice, if you are on a less-strict keto diet and are already consuming low-carb grains, I would suggest you try brown adlai as it retains more of its fiber vs. its white variant. You can refer to the chart above to check how much would meet or exceed your personal carb allotment for each day.

      As an added reminder, always pre-soak your grains before cooking to remove its antinutrients, and to ensure your body easily digests and absorbs its healthy benefits.

  12. Jeremiah Iesaac R. Cebrian

    Hi good po can i eat adlai rice if i have a fatty liver po? Same lang po ba siya sa brown rice ? Thank you po

    1. Roanna Medina

      Hi Jeremiah, for guidance on any health condition, please ask your personal doctor who can look at your case more closely. In general however, people with fatty liver are encouraged to consume for fiber which can be found in grains that are whole – brown rice and brown adlai included.

  13. Carmen

    Hello po! Thank you so much for sharing this article—this is very informative. I’ll try to buy a pack of Adlai. ‘Will appreciate having another article about other recipes of adlai (complete meal) for healthy conscious people like me. God bless you .

  14. Mines D. de Mesa

    Thank you for the inputs.
    If one soaks 1 cup adlai rice overnight, how much water would be needed to cook it the next day?

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