Sticky rice, also known as glutinous or sweet rice, is a staple food across Asia. Its chewy, sticky texture makes it perfect for eating with your hands. While it may seem intimidating to make at first, how to make sticky rice in a rice cooker makes preparing sticky rice easy and foolproof. With the right techniques, you’ll be able to make restaurant-quality sticky rice at home every time.
An Introduction to Sticky Rice
Sticky rice is made from short-grained rice varieties that have a high starch content. This starch is what gives the rice its distinctive sticky or glue-like texture when cooked. Sticky rice goes by many names including:
- Glutinous rice
- Sweet rice
- Mochi rice
- Pearl rice
- Sticky jasmine rice
Despite its name, sticky rice does not actually contain gluten. However, it should still be avoided by those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Sticky rice is eaten across East and Southeast Asia from China to Thailand. It can be found in everything from desserts like mango sticky rice to savory dishes like stuffed zongzi. The rice’s sticky quality makes it perfect for eating with your hands and handling with chopsticks.
Beyond cuisine, sticky rice holds cultural significance. In Thailand and Laos, sticky rice is eaten at almost every meal. It is customarily eaten using the right hand without utensils. In Chinese culture, sticky rice is used to make zongzi, a traditional food for the Dragon Boat Festival.
Selecting the Right Rice
The first step in making great sticky rice is choosing the right type of rice. Here are some tips how to make sticky rice in a rice cooker:
- Look for sweet, glutinous, or Thai sticky rice – The package may specifically say it is for making sticky rice.
- Choose a short or medium grain rice – Long grain rice varieties won’t give the proper sticky texture.
- Shop at Asian grocery stores – They will have the best selection of authentic sticky rice.
- Buy rice grown in Thailand for ultimate stickiness – Thai jasmine sticky rice is the gold standard.
- Choosefresh,unbrokengrains – Avoid rice that is cracked or crushed.
- Buy theright amount – Sticky rice expands to about 3 times its raw size after cooking.
Some great sticky rice varieties to try are Thai sweet rice, Mochi rice, and Kokuho Rose sticky rice.
Choosing the Right Rice Cooker
While regular rice cookers can make sticky rice, a model designed specifically for sticky rice will provide the best results. Here are some key features to look for:
- Sticky rice or sweet rice cooking setting – This provides the ideal temperature and cooking time.
- Non-stick inner cooking pot – This prevents the rice from burning or sticking.
- Steam ventilation – Allows excess steam to escape so the rice doesn’t get too wet.
- Keep warm function – Keeps the rice at the perfect temperature after cooking.
- 4-20 cup capacity – Makes enough for 2-6 servings of sticky rice.
Some top-rated rice cooker models for sticky rice are the Zojirushi Micom and the Cuckoo Mini Rice Cooker.
Preparing the Rice and Rice Cooker
Before cooking, the rice needs to be rinsed and the cooker needs to be prepared. Here’s how:
- Rinse the rice – Place rice in a mesh strainer and rinse under cool water, churning the rice with your hand. Rinse until the water runs clear. This removes excess starch.
- Soak the rice (optional) – For softer, stickier rice, soak the rinsed rice for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
- Clean the rice cooker – Make sure the inner pot is clean and dry to prevent sticking.
- Brush pot surface – Rub a thin coating of vegetable oil on the bottom of the inner pot.
Now you’re ready to cook that sticky rice.
Cooking Sticky Rice in a Rice Cooker
Follow these simple steps for perfectly cooked sticky rice every time:
- Use the right rice to water ratio – Generally 1 cup rice to 1 1/4 cup water. Some brands may specify otherwise.
- Select the sticky rice or sweet rice setting – This provides the ideal temperature and moisture level.
- Allow rice to cook undisturbed – Resist the urge to lift the lid and peek.
- Fluff and stir gently after cooking – Use a rice paddle or wooden spoon to gently fold the rice.
- Let rest 10-15 minutes after cooking – This allows the rice to fully absorb moisture and steam.
- Keep on warm or serve immediately – The keep warm function will hold the rice for hours.
That’s all it takes for restaurant-worthy sticky rice from the comfort of home.
Serving and Enjoying Sticky Rice
Sticky rice is so versatile it can be enjoyed for any meal or occasion. Here are some tips how to make sticky rice in a rice cooker:
- Serve in a bamboo steamer or rice basket for an authentic presentation.
- Pair with Thai or Chinese main dishes that complement the rice’s flavor.
- Top with fresh mango or coconut milk for a sweet tropical dessert.
- Make sticky rice balls with sweet or savory fillings. Popular options are red bean paste, pork belly, and Chinese sausage.
- Use as a base for sushi rolls in place of regular rice.
- Add herbs, spices, or turmeric for extra flavor and visual appeal.
- Enjoy with chopsticks or use your hands traditionally eaten in Thailand and Laos.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to enjoying sticky rice.
Advanced Sticky Rice Recipes
Once you’ve mastered basic sticky rice, try advancing your skills with these popular Asian recipes:
Thai Mango Sticky Rice
The quintessential Thai dessert! Sweetened sticky rice is topped with fresh mango and drizzled with creamy coconut sauce.
- 1 cup Thai sticky rice
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 mango, sliced
- 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- Cook rice on sweet rice setting.
- Heat coconut milk, sugar, and salt until sugar dissolves.
- Layer cooked rice, mango slices, and coconut sauce. Garnish with sesame seeds.
Taiwanese Sticky Rice (Mifen)
Savory Taiwanese comfort food, often eaten as breakfast.
- 1 cup sticky rice
- 5 Chinese sausages
- 1 salted duck egg
- Soy sauce
- Steam rice and slice sausages.
- Top rice with raw egg yolk.
- Arrange sausages on rice and drizzle soy sauce.
This sticky rice is wrapped in bamboo leaves for the Dragon Boat Festival. Filling variations are endless.
- 10 bamboo leaves
- 10 strips string
- 2 cups sticky rice
- Choice of fillings: pork, red bean, dates, chicken, chestnuts, etc.
- Place filling in center of bamboo leaf.
- Wrap leaf around rice into a triangle. Tie shut with string.
- Steam zongzi for 50-60 minutes until rice is tender.
Beyond being delicious, sticky rice also offers nutritional value:
- It is high in complex carbs, providing long-lasting energy.
- Brown sticky rice contains fiber, magnesium, and antioxidants.
- It contains vitamin B vitamins like thiamine and niacin.
- Sticky rice is naturally gluten free, making it safe for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
- It has a low glycemic index, meaning it won’t spike your blood sugar levels.
Ultimately, sticky rice makes a nutritious addition to any diet when eaten in moderation.
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
Cooked sticky rice lasts 4-6 days stored properly. Here are some storage tips:
- Let rice cool completely before storage.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Add a damp paper towel to the container to retain moisture.
- Freeze for longer term storage up to 2 months.
To reheat, add 2-3 Tbsp water and microwave or steam until hot. The rice cooker keep warm function can also reheat leftover rice.
Customizing Your Sticky Rice
Once your sticky rice skills are solid, get creative with mix-ins and flavors.
- Infuse herbs like pandan, lemon grass or lime leaves into the rice.
- Stir in jams orNutella® for a sweet breakfast rice.
- Mix in canned coconut milk or fresh mango for tropical rice.
- Add spices like cardamom, cinnamon, or vanilla
Here are some more details and tips for customizing sticky rice:
One easy way to add flavor to sticky rice is to infuse herbs, spices, or aromatics into the rice as it cooks. Here are some creative infusion ideas:
- Pandan leaves – These Asian grass leaves provide a sweet, nutty flavor. Place 2-3 leaves in the rice cooker pot before cooking.
- Lemon grass – Cut 3-4 stalks into 3 inch pieces and bruise with a knife to release aroma. Add to the rice cooker for citrusy flavor.
- Lime leaves – The aromatic kaffir lime leaf pairs nicely with coconut sticky rice. Add 4-5 leaves to the water.
- Ginger – For a spicy kick, cut 5-6 slices of fresh ginger and add to the rice cooker.
- Cinnamon – A stick of cinnamon or 1 tsp ground cinnamon will give a sweet, spicy taste.
- Cardamom pods – Crush 3-4 pods and add to rice cooker for an exotic flavor.
Sweet and Savory Add-Ins
You can also mix all kinds of ingredients right into the finished sticky rice for extra flavor and texture.
- Diced mango, pineapple, or berries
- Shredded coconut
- Raisins or crushed nuts
- Maple syrup or honey
- Chocolate chips or Nutella
- Diced ham, chicken, or shrimp
- Cooked peas, corn, or edamame
- Kimchi or pickled vegetables
- Crispy fried onions or shallots
- Furikake or toasted sesame seeds
Go wild and combine sweet and savory elements for an umami flavor bomb! The possibilities are endless.
Colored Sticky Rice
For a festive look, you can make rainbow colored sticky rice. Here are some ways:
- Stir in labuyo chili powder for vivid red rice
- Use turmeric or curry powder for golden yellow rice
- Add purple ube powder for a jewel-toned violet rice
- Try blue pea flower powder for striking blue sticky rice
Colored sticky rice is perfect for tropical desserts, Hawaiian poke bowls, or festive occasions. Get creative with colors and flavors.
As you can see, making sticky rice at home is simple and straightforward with the right techniques. All you need is a rice cooker, some high-quality glutinous rice, and the proper water-to-rice ratio.
While basic sticky rice is delicious on its own, once you get the cooking method down, don’t be afraid to start experimenting. Infuse herbs, spices, broths, and mix-ins to make the rice your own. Try out different Asian recipes, from savory dishes to sweet desserts. Make colorful rice with natural powders for festive occasions.
Sticky rice is so versatile and customizable that it makes the perfect blank canvas for both sweet and savory flavors. Its wonderfully chewy texture also stands out from regular rice. Mastering sticky rice is a must for any home cook interested in Asian cuisine.
With the convenience of a modern rice cooker, you can now enjoy restaurant-quality sticky rice any night of the week in the comfort of your own kitchen. So grab some sweet rice on your next trip to the Asian market and get ready to become a sticky rice aficionado! Your taste buds will thank you.
Bobby Kelly is a bartender at Molly Magees, an Irish pub in Mountain View. He’s been working there for two years and has developed a following among the regulars. Bobby is known for his friendly demeanor and great drink specials. He loves interacting with customers and making them feel welcome. When he’s not at work, Bobby enjoys spending time with his friends and family.