basics

10 *Other* Foods You Can Cook In a Rice Cooker

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Rice isn’t the only food you can cook in a rice cooker. This versatile and cheap appliance can cook a whole range of foods. Here are 10 ideas.

10 other foods you can cook in a rice cooker besides rice
Perfect porridge!

The rice cooker was poorly named.

Why?

Well yes, it can cook rice and cook rice rather well, so the name seems pretty accurate.

But…

It can also cook so much more than rice.

When I succumbed to buying a rice cooker after many years of “why do I need another appliance?” the first thing I Googled was “what else can I cook in a rice cooker?”

I was surprised that you could cook just about anything! People cook whole roast chooks in the rice cooker, cakes, braised ribs, hard-boiled eggs.

Who knew?!

In this article, I share some foods you can cook in a rice cooker other than rice. Most ideas I’ve tried, a couple I have put on our meal plan for the upcoming weeks.

Also, at the bottom of the article, there is a quick reference guide for grain to water ratios for the rice cooker.

6 Benefits of a Rice Cooker

Why bother with another appliance when a stovetop is sufficient? That’s what I wondered for many years. Then I fell in love with my rice cooker and use mine every week for all sorts of cooking. Here are six benefits of using a rice cooker:

1. Inexpensive Small Space Cooking Appliance

Do you have a small kitchen or live in a college/dorm? Because a rice cooker can cook more than just rice, it’s a cheap option for small space cooking.

2. Travel Cooking

Another way to use a rice cooker is for travel cooking, especially if you’re road-tripping or you’re on a cabin stay. A simple recipe like this baked tandoori chicken and rice pilaf means you can have dinner on the table with only 10 – 15 minutes of hands-on work. More holiday. Less cooking!

3. Convenience

My rice always boils over when I cook it on the stove. And if I cook brown rice, I have to continually watch it because it either boils over or boils dry.

With the rice cooker, I can walk away and let it do its thing without watching it. It’s one less thing to worry about when you’re juggling other parts of the meal plus kids who need help with homework plus everything else that goes on during a busy evening in your average family household.

4. Uses less electricity than the stovetop

Truth: you don’t get a massive saving in electricity costs, but it’s a bonus on top of convenience.

How much electricity does a rice cooker really save?

My rice cooker uses 400 watts per hour on the cook setting. The average small electric burner on a four-burner stovetop uses approximately 1,000 watts per hour.

calculating the running costs of your rice cooker

For cost comparison, let’s assume it takes 20 minutes to cook and the cost of electricity is 28 cents per kilowatt-hour. Here’s how to work it out:

Rice Cooker: 400 watts x 0.3333 (20 minutes) / 1000 = 0.133KWH x 0.28 = 3.73 cents

Stovetop: 1,000 watts x 0.3333 / 1000 = 0.333KWH x 0.28 = 9.3 cents

That’s a saving of 5.6 cents per pot of rice. It’s not a huge saving – about $9 a year if you cook three pots of rice a week – but it’s a nice bonus on top of convenience. At $9 a year, it would take nearly three years to recoup an initial $25 purchase price, less if you use it more often.

5. Less heat in summer

Using smaller appliances that don’t generate as much heat as the stove will keep the temperature down inside your house during Summer. This can reduce the need for air conditioning, saving you more money.

6. Free up stove space

If you have a small stove or if you’re using a few burners at once, a rice cooker frees up a stovetop burner, leaving you with more room and less stress.

Rice Cooker Basics – Cooking the Perfect Rice (White, Brown and Basmati)

You don’t need a fancy rice cooker to cook a variety of foods. A cheap ($25 approx.) rice cooker that has a ‘cook’ and a ‘warm’ setting is sufficient. This is the rice cooker I use.

Your rice cooker will come with directions. It’s best to refer the instructions specific to your rice cooker, but as a general guide:

White rice: 1 cup of rice to 1 cup of water

White long grain: 1 cup of rice to 1.5 cups of water

Brown rice: 1 cup of rice to 3 cups of water

Basmati rice: 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water.

Once the rice is done and the rice cooker switches over the ‘warm’ setting, taste the rice. If it’s not cooked to your liking add a little extra water (¼ – ½ a cup) and then switch to ‘cook’ again. Note down your ideal ratios for next time.

Other Foods You Can Cook In a Rice Cooker

A rice cooker isn’t a one-show pony. It’s more versatile than the name suggests. And the convenience transfers to the other foods you can cook in a rice cooker.

Note: It’s normal to have a ‘skin’ on the bottom of the rice cooker when you cook grains. Some people (like me!) love this crusty bit and fight over it. If you don’t enjoy it, you can smear a little oil or butter on the base of the cooker to prevent the crust, or just leave it on the bottom when you scoop out the food. Leave to soak, and the skin will lift right off – no scrubbing!

1. Oatmeal

rice cooker oatmeal cooked

Because you don’t have to watch the rice cooker, you can switch it on when you get up in the morning, have a shower or a cuppa and then come back to hot porridge!

The general ratio for cooking rolled oats is 1 cup of oats to 2 cups of water.

I like to put the oats and water in the cooker the night before to let soak so that all I have to do is switch the rice cooker on in the morning.

You can substitute the water will milk if you prefer and add flavourings like cinnamon to the cooking oats.

2. Quinoa

Quinoa is super easy to cook in the rice cooker and comes out perfect. Rinse your quinoa in a fine sieve before putting it in the rice cooker.

Water ratio: 1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups of water.

3. Other Grains

cooking grains in the cooker.

I’ve been eating the McKenzie’s Freekah, lentil and bean mix lately for extra fibre after reading about them in the CSIRO’s Healthy Gut book. You can buy the grain blend at the supermarket(Australia) for around $4 depending on the store.

The packet instructions for stovetop are 1 cup of grain mix to 3 cups of water, but in the rice cooker, I prefer 1 cup of grain to 2.5 cups of water.

For other grains like buckwheat, the ratio is 1 cup of grains to 2 cups of water.

4. Polenta

polenta in the rice cooker

Polenta is messy and time consuming on the stove. Save the bother by cooking it in the rice cooker. I don’t think I’ll ever cook polenta any other way now that I’ve cooked it in the rice cooker.

Ratio: 1/2 cup of polenta (not instant) to 2 cups of liquid (stock or water). Once the rice cooker clicks over to the ‘warm’ setting, stir in some parmesan cheese and a little cream for deliciously creamy polenta.

I use this recipe with a few variations for delicious cheesy polenta.

5. Lentils

Should you soak lentils before cooking?

They are better digested if you do soak them, but it’s not essential. Let your tummy be your guide.

The ratio for brown or green lentils in the rice cooker is 1 cup lentils to 3 cups water.

Red lentils go mushy when cooked, which is great if you want a dhal. Add spices and vegetables for a delicious vegetarian meal.

Looking for a dhal recipe? Here’s a great video recipe for rice cooker dhal ( the actual recipe starts at the 2:19 mark if you want to skip all the chit-chat)

6. Stewed Apples

stewed apples in the rice cooker

Confession: I’ve ruined a pot stewing apples. They are not something you can forget about and leave on the stove.

But they are something you can leave in the rice cooker and not worry about while they stew.

Here’s how to stew apples in the rice cooker: peel (if you like) and chop apples. Place apples, any favourite flavourings (like cinnamon) in the rice cooker along with a little water to cover the bottom, so they don’t burn (about ¼ cup of water). Let cook until mushy to your liking.

If there is too much liquid, cook for a further few minutes with the lid off to reduce the liquid.

7. Steamed Vegetables

Most rice cookers, even the basic models, come with a steamer rack. Place vegetables on the rack over rice or other grains to steam while the grains cook. This saves you time, washing up and electricity!

I also like to stir some baby spinach through whatever grain I’m cooking and let it wilt on the ‘warm’ setting.

8. Super Easy DIY Mac ‘n’ Cheese

I haven’t tried making mac ‘n’ cheese in the rice cooker yet, but this super easy recipe from Around My Family Table makes me want to give it a go.

Update: I cooked the mac ‘n’ cheese recipe and it turned out really well. However, I would avoid doing the second cook and just use the warm setting to melt the cheese.

9. Jam

Do you have some extra fruit? Turn it into jam using this easy recipe for jam in the rice cooker.

10. Dessert (that’s NOT rice pudding)

Why would you cook a cake in a rice cooker?

Well, if you don’t have an oven, you’re travelling, or you want to reduce the heat at home but still have dessert, then you can cook a pudding in a rice cooker.

This recipe from Baking Makes Things Better is banana pudding with caramel sauce, entirely made in the rice cooker. Other ideas include chocolate fondant, hot chocolate, cheesecake or poached fruit.

Rice Cooker quick reference guide (download and print)

There are so many things you can cook in a rice cooker besides rice, and there are whole books on the topic. The Everything Rice Cooker Book and The Pot and How to Use It are just two books that would make great gifts for college students and travellers wanting to cook where there is no oven or full kitchen.

For simple grains, I’ve included a quick reference for grain to water ratios but use your tastebuds to guide you and adjust the proportions according to your preferences and rice cooker!

Alternatively, for a super simple quick reference, use a sharpie to write the ratios on the back of the actual rice cooker.

Rice Cooker Quick Reference Guide

Download the rice cooker quick reference guide as a PDF.

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6 Comments

  1. Hi Melissa,
    Are you concerned about the teflon lining of rice cookers? We are trying to get rid of this in our house – any thoughts?
    thanks,
    Renaee.

    1. In truth, I periodically worry about teflon then not. From what I understand, a rice cooker doesn’t heat up hot enough for it to off gas, so I decided I wasn’t going to worry about it. But that’s just me and the decision I’ve made I can’t say for certain if whether that’s true. You know what is best for your family. Trust your gut ????

  2. Melissa, you are a true gem. I am one (surely there must be many!) of your male readers and I visit your site now and then to pick up tips for Myself and My Faire Spouse to use at home.

    You have given our old Kambrook rice cookers (for unknown reasons we own two) at home a new lease on life.

    I had absolutely no idea it was so cheap to use. In this expensive-everything day and age, that is a big plus!

    The porridge I enjoy on cold winter mornings in Bachus Marsh will be made in it from now on.

    Now how about some more Kambrook soup tips?

    Many thanks and with my best regards,

    DANN

  3. Hi Melissa… I have literally stumbled across your website thru Pinterest and have found it very enlightening ad interesting….thank you so much! I will be trying your basic muffin recipe and giving my rice cooker some more work to do! I have my own veggie garden and we do a lot of caravanning so we like to live simply but well…. I also like to cook. I shall be investigating your website further. Thank you for all the work you put into it.

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