Updated: Sep 4
Rice cookers are a common kitchen appliance in many Asian households. Why? Because rice is a staple food in Asia. Bigger rice cookers can make 20 portions of rice in a little under an hour; and that’s just the ones for home use! Imagine industrial ones!
First, we must understand how rice cookers work. Rice cookers bring up the contents to a boil, then a sensor is triggered and the heat shuts off. At this time, the heat is sealed in because of the air-tight lid. This air-tight lid of many rice cookers ensures that not too much moisture is lost, but just enough steam is released to maintain a safe pressure and prevent boil overs. This is what ensures fluffy rice without a single grain stuck and/or burnt at the bottom. Additionally, most rice cookers have a “keep warm” setting that maintains the temperature of the rice after the rice is done cooking (cooking time is usually 40-45 minutes). This setting can be kept for hours, even a couple days.
So, when rice isn’t a staple in your home, why bother buying a rice cooker? Other than quick and no-fuss rice, what else can rice cookers be use for? Here’s a list of our favorite foods you can make in the rice cooker.
1. Soup, Stews and Curries
This is when the “keep warm” function becomes your best friend. If you add all the ingredients for a stew or curry in the rice cooker, it will keep it on a constant low heat for a long time. This is great for stews and curries that require a really long cooking time to get all those flavors blended beautifully together and break down any meat into tender pieces.
Yes, you can keep a pot on low heat on the stove for hours but that can be dangerous and troublesome for many reasons. The biggest trouble is that it can’t be left alone. Someone must always be watching it as it is an open heat source and therefore a fire hazard. Additionally, because the heat source is only at the bottom, the heat is not evenly spread out. The food has to be stirred every few minutes or so to ensure that the whole dish gets cooked evenly.
Back to the rice cooker then! Rice cookers evenly heat the stew/curry for many hours whilst also being a closed heat source. Which means you can add in all your ingredients before you leave the house, and come back hours later to a lovely piping hot stew or curry!
Here’s a great recipe for Beef Rendang that can be cooked in a rice cooker!
This is a super easy recipe, and almost the same as cooking Jasmine or Brown Rice in the rice cooker.
Simply add 1 ½ times more liquid (water or stock) than couscous and cook it on the “white rice” mode. That’s it. Then just walk away until dinnertime.
Much like other rice dishes, you can play up the recipe by adding it other ingredients in the cooker like spices, scallions, garlic, even some meats! We recommend pairing the couscous with a spicy Red Curry.
3. Caramelized Onions
An awesome way to make a big portion of caramelized onions without much effort. All you need to do is add sliced onions, oil, salt and a little water in the rice cooker, and cook and leave on “keep warm” for a total of 60-90 minutes, depending on how many onions you used. If it is a particularly big batch, open and stir briefly every 40 minutes.
Because of the constant heat and pressure control, none of the onions burn and what you are left with is beautiful sweet and jammy onions. Perfect for a French Onion Soup, French Onion Dip, or just caramelized onions to pair with dishes like burgers or sandwiches.
No, seriously, pancake. A really big one. Hear us out.
This method of making one big pancake was made popular in Japan. These pancakes are super yummy because they are sort of half steamed and half baked, resulting in a lovely fluffy and cakey breakfast surprise.
There are tons of recipes online on how to make huge pancakes in a rice cooker, but you can use any instant pancake mix and it will work just fine. Simply add the mix into the rice cooker until its about an inch filled and cook for 2 white rice cycles. It’s all done when you stick a toothpick in and it comes out clean. The total cooking time can be from 40-60 minutes depending on how much batter you have added.
Take it out, add a generous amount of your favorite sweet sauce (maple syrup, chocolate, etc) and share with friends and family! Or have it all to yourself. No judgement.
5. Braised Meats
Yes, we are a vegan company, but for all our omnivore friends, here's something for you!
Perfectly marinated ribs that fall off the bone anyone? Rice cookers are up to the challenge!
Cooking meats in the rice cooker lets the juices circulate back into the meat, resulting is extremely tender and visibly juicy meats. Anything from chicken, beef, pork, or even fish can be made wonderfully in a rice cooker. There are tons of recipes online, but feel free to get creative and add in any marinated meats into the rice cooker for as long as you’d like (we recommend around 2-3 hours). If your rice cooker is big enough, you can even cook a whole chicken!
This method is so flavorful and fragrant, so we highly recommend playing around with different recipes. Our favorite is adding chicken, our Organic Lemongrass Turmeric Paste, and some coconut milk. We cook this for about 2 hours and its delightful to say the least.
Modern rice cookers usually have a non-stick base which is perfect for making oatmeal! (Unless you actually do like the burnt bits at the bottom) This method of making oatmeal is perfect for families or households that do not have breakfast together because of conflicting schedules – or for those of us that like to sleep in a little.
All you need to do is add in your favorite oatmeal recipe, close the lid, press the start button, and walk away! The rice cooker keeps it warm for a long time, so when anyone is ready for breakfast, a lovely bowl of warm oatmeal is ready for them!
Plus, if you add in any fruits such as berries, apples, or pears, they start to stew and caramelize in the rice cooker. This adds a beautiful deep fruity flavor to your oatmeal without the need for added sugar.
7. Poached Fruits
Speaking of fruits, we totally understand the idea of poaching fruits and even attempting to make anything under fancy French cuisine is intimidating. But poaching fruits in a rice cooker is actually quite easy!
Simply add in the wine of your choice, the fruit of your choice with the seeds and stem taken off (we recommend pears or apples), sugar, and spices of your choice. There are many recipes available online if you need some ideas! After leaving the fruits in the rice cooker for about 20 minutes, open the lid to flip the fruit. This is because most fruits tend to float and flipping them ensures that they are evenly poached. Keep doing this every 5-10 minutes until they’re your preferred softness.
So why buy a rice cooker?
As you have seen in most of the dishes we talked about, the main reason we love rice cookers is that we can place in all our ingredients and just walk away. A good rice cooker (please do your research on reviews when buying one) has a secure lid and a non-stick base. This ensures all the dishes will be evenly cooked and can be safely left alone for a long time. It’s extremely convenient and produces amazing results.
Plus, it cooks rice.
That’s pretty cool.