Rice can be tricky!

Have you ever struggled to make fluffy, white rice as they do on TV?  Have you tried steaming it in a pot and burned it? There are a few other fancy recipes out there that take forever and produce marginal results, so what’s a poor cook to do?

The obvious answer is to buy an inexpensive rice cooker at the big box store. They really are inexpensive, there’s a few out there for less than $20, and the results are uniformly great. No burned rice, no gummy undercooked rice, just rice that is tender, and the grains easily separate.

Just because it is called a rice cooker doesn’t mean that rice is the only thing that can be cooked in it, it is in fact a steamer, so next time you decide to make rice, consider all the good things you can add and in just twenty minutes end up with a one-pot dish. How simple can it get?

Almost any vegetable will do, like onions, shredded carrot, bell pepper, greens, cheese, and almost any meat that has been pre-cooked. This really is an opportunity to use your imagination, just look in the fridge and see what leftover you might have, check out the precooked meats at the deli, like a rotisserie chicken, smoked pork chops, even sliced roast beef will do nicely.

Another question you might want to consider is the liquid you want to cook the rice in. Water is what most people use, but the stock of almost any sort will make the rice much more rich and hearty. Homemade chicken stock is my favorite, store-bought works as well, but vegetable stock, and even a little rice vinegar, olive oil, or hot sauce will make a big difference.

Here are a few quick and easy recipes, check them out, but don’t forget to take a look in the fridge, and use what you have leftover!

Rice and Greens

1 cup of rice

2 cups water or stock

Bunch raw spinach leaves

Red pepper flakes

1 poached egg per serving

This is about as simple as it gets. Add 1 cup rice to 2 cups liquid in the rice cooker, pack on the spinach leaves, put the lid on and steam. In 20 minutes’ toss, add a poached egg on top if you like. If you leave the spinach out, and wait 10 minutes into the steaming, you can add an egg directly on top of the rice.


Garlic Rice

This is a dish I was introduced to in Puerto Rico and it took me a while to figure out how they did it. If you want to give your gumbo a special twist, top it with this garlicy rice.


1 cup rice

2-3 crushed cloves garlic

3-6 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups water or stock

Optional red pepper flakes

Heat the oil in a sauté pan, add the garlic and cook till it just starts to brown, remove and discard. Add the rice and stir till all the rice is evenly covered in oil and just starting to toast. Remove and place in the rice cooker, add the liquid and steam.

This is delicious on gumbo or just as a side.

Saffron Rice

Saffron rice is another easy dish you can make in the rice cooker. Saffron is expensive and some people use turmeric instead, it will give you the color, but not the flavor. If you want to make this a one-pot dish, add onions and bell pepper, and if you are on the mood, a few slices of precooked sausage.


1 cup rice

1 pinch saffron

¼ cup warm water

2 cups stock

Place the saffron in the warm water and let soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Combine the rice, saffron and water, stock and place in the rice cooker. If you decide to add the veggies, make sure the slices are thin and if you use the sausage, make sure it is pre-browned.


Written by Julian Brunt

Julian Brunt is a food and travel writer that has been writing about the food culture of the Deep South for over a decade. He is the eleventh generation of his family to live in the South, grew up in Europe, traveled extensively for the first fifteen years after graduating from the University of Maryland, University College, Heidelberg, Germany. Today, he's a contributor for multiple publications, including Our Mississippi Home. He's also appeared on Gordon Ramsay's television show, "To Hell and Back in 24 Hours."


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