Despite its name, the rice cooker is not a single-minded kitchen unitasker. Sure, it is the easiest way to make perfect rice, but it’s also a convenient way to cook a wide variety of foods. Here are a few examples that might just convince you to invest in a rice cooker or use yours more often. Even if you have the most basic rice cooker, one with just two settings—cook and warm, as Roger Ebert recommended—you can still “trick” your rice cooker to make more than just rice.
Your rice cooker might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you want to make breakfast, but many breakfast foods can indeed be made in the rice cooker.
There are approximately a billion techniques for making the perfect boiled egg. The rice cooker is another one. Although I prefer using a pressure cooker, the rice cooker has similar benefits: cooking many eggs at once and producing easy-to-peel eggs. The rice cooker, admittedly, won’t save you any time over just doing it on the stove, but it’s pretty hands-off. Also, technically, the eggs aren’t boiled, they’re steamed, but eggs will come out like soft, medium, or hard boiled eggs in the rice cooker. See this Reddit thread for steaming times.
Perhaps you prefer a frittata to boiled eggs? Pre-cook some vegetables or whatever ingredients you want in your frittata (you can microwave the veggies), then whisk some eggs right in the rice cooker bowl and add your ingredients to the egg mixture. Cook on the regular rice setting and when it’s done, you’ve got a quick breakfast (or dinner) for at least two people, depending on your rice cooker size.
Just like you can cook oatmeal overnight in a crock pot, you can make oatmeal in a rice cooker. Let the oats soak overnight in the rice cooker, then turn it on in the morning for a hot breakfast in about half an hour (or set the timer, if available, for the oatmeal to be done when you drag yourself out of bed). Compared to a crock pot, the nonstick rice pot is easier to clean and you can make smaller amounts of oatmeal without worrying about the oatmeal crusting on the bottom. The Kitchn suggests using 1 cup of regular old-fashioned oats to 1 3/4 cups of liquid or 1 cup of steel-cut oats to 2 1/2 cups of liquid (water and milk, for example), then cooking it on the lower-temp porridge setting. (Sorry those of you who have the basic on/off rice cooker, this meal seems to require the porridge setting.) You can make other hot breakfast cereals this way—such as breakfast barley, breakfast grits, and breakfast rice pudding—and/or mix in fresh fruit, cinnamon, and other flavorings.
And then there’s the epic made-in-a-rice-cooker pancake—a giant pancake cake that’s fit for a big breakfast or dessert.
One of the best things about the rice cooker is that you can mix in ingredients for a one-pot meal and basically walk away.
While you cook your rice, why not steam vegetables and meats at the same time? As a bonus, the meats/vegetables enhance the flavor of the rice or you could use broth to cook the rice and up the flavor of the entire dish. Your rice cooker should have instructions for using the steaming tray (if it came with one).Start the rice first and then insert the steaming tray with your vegetables/meats towards the end of the cycle. If you don’t have a steaming tray or rack, you might be able to buy one from Amazon or directly from the rice cooker manufacturer. You can even steam a whole fish in a steamer basket lined with vegetables for a full one-pot meal. Or try steaming fully cooked sausages on a bed of sauerkraut and potatoes (30-40 minutes cooking time).
Creamy mac and cheese with minimal effort or stove-watching. Endless adaptability and easy cleanup. The rice cooker is the ideal vehicle for homemade mac and cheese. By the way, you can cook other pastas in the rice cooker, either plain pasta or an entire pasta and meat sauce meal or Cubano casserole
You’ll still need to soak your beans, and cooking time ranges between 30 minutes to 4 hours (soybeans take the longest), but with a rice cooker you don’t have to watch over a pot for cooking lentils, soybeans, kidney beans, and other beans. If your rice cooker has a timer, you can soak the beans and set it to start cooking for when you want the beans to be done.
Basically, just throw everything into the pot and see what happens. Anything soup-, stew-, or chili-like gets the same treatment. Just be careful the whole thing doesn’t overflow. Otherwise, have fun with it.
If you don’t want to turn on the oven and wait for it to heat up (or you perhaps live without a conventional oven), your rice cooker is your dessert-making friend.
Homemade hummus is a treat and you can customize it to be as garlicky or mild as you want. The rice cooker takes care of cooking the chickpeas (it takes about half an hour) and then you can simply puree the chickpeas with your other hummus ingredients.
Cook fruit in hot liquid to soak up the flavors and you’ve got poached fruit. Wine-poached pears, for example, poached pomegranate spiced pears, poached rhubarb and strawberries, homemade applesauce, and more can conveniently be made in your rice cooker.
Many rice cookers (the fuzzy logic kind with many different settings) have a pudding setting. So why not use it to make tapioca pudding. In the rice cooker, you can use whole pearl tapioca (normally a time-consuming pain to make on the stove) and fold in fruit and other ingredients, such as coconut milk instead of regular milk. It’s as simple as can be in the rice cooker: put in your tapioca pearls, mix in the milk and other ingredients, and set it on the porridge cycle.
The rice cooker can mimic the oven when it comes to baked goods. If you have a hankering for cheesecake, mix the ingredients (cream cheese, eggs, sugar, lemon juice, heavy cream, and flour) in the rice cooker bowl, switch on the normal rice cooking cycle, and when it’s done, you have perhaps the easiest way to make cheesecake.
Similarly, this rice cooker cake recipe, which requires no eggs or milk (so it’s fit for vegans and those with allergies) requires just mixing the ingredients in and waiting for about an hour.
“Bake” banana bread in the rice cooker in about an hour and a half. Mix the ingredients, lightly oil the pot, pour the batter in, and cook on the regular rice setting. You might need to run the cycle twice.
Rice is a grain, so it probably isn’t a huge surprise that you can cook all sorts of other grains in the rice cooker—quinoa, rice pilaf, risotto, polenta, grits, and even a pseudo paella dish (just mix the sausage, chicken, and other ingredients in with the rice). You can even make a breakfast burrito in your rice cooker: cook rice, tomatoes, and peppers together and crack some eggs in when the rice is done, letting the eggs cook during the “keep warm” setting for ten minutes before scooping the whole thing into tortillas. But I bet most of us rice cooker owners aren’t using the machine to make more than just plain rice.It’ll take some experimenting with the timing and settings to get a one-pot meal or different dish out of that rice cooker, but, chances are, you can probably cook anything your heart desires in it. Want even more ideas? Aroma Housewares has 275 suggestions for things you can make in the rice cooker (besides rice), including clam chowder, enchiladas, and buffalo wings.Maybe the rice cooker deserves a permanent spot on your counter.