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A rice cooker, which is sometimes also called a slow cooker, is a nifty little device that has one simple job and it does that job very well. But even though the purpose of a rice cooker is to … well… cook rice, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck eating plain old white, flavorless rice all the time. There are tons of different ingredients you can add to different types of rice – from coconut to saffron, cilantro, pesto, or turmeric. And then, after about 30 minutes, you’ll have a tasty side dish or…

even a unique main course.

Plain Rice Recipes

For a plain white or brown rice side dish, you couldn’t have a better tool than the rice cooker. After adding your ingredients to the pot, you push a button, and the machine does the rest of the work itself. In no more than 25 minutes, you’ll have perfectly cooked, perfectly fluffy rice.

First, you want to rinse your rice under cool water to wash off excess starch. You should do this for all types of rice, including white rice, brown rice, basmati, jasmine, and other types. Then inside the rice cooker pot, be sure you stir all ingredients well before hitting the “cook” button. That’s the trick for preventing hard clumps of ingredients from forming, which can make your rice taste less flavorful. The easiest rice dish is one part rice to nearly two parts water, and some salt for taste. To add a little flavor to plain white rice (including basmati and jasmine rice), instead of water, use chicken or vegetable stock. Or a little Japanese-inspired rice, use the water-only method from above. After the rice is finished cooking, pour in a couple of tablespoons of rice vinegar. If you have a heavy pouring hand, you can get an exact measurement from the recipe on the vinegar. You can eat vinegar rice warm or cool, and with homemade sushi, or in a bowl with diced cucumbers, avocado, and soy sauce. This is an easy-to-make main dish on its own and has everything you need for a fully balanced meal.

Basmati Rice

Basmati and jasmine are a high quality, Indian and Thai long-grain rice. They have a nutty flavor and a strong, fragrant aroma. On their own, basmati and jasmine rice have a pleasant flavor that will not override or interfere with the main course or your other sides. But if you want to kick it up a notch, jasmine and basmati rice go well with a variety of different ingredients.

To make a lemon herb rice dish, add zest from half a lemon, and one teaspoon each of dried basil and dried oregano. Instead of water, use 2 cups of chicken stock (or vegetable). Once your rice is fully cooked, add lemon juice from half a lemon. This side dish goes well saffron chicken, a cucumber salad, and roasted veggies. If you’re making jerk chicken, chicken with lime chili, or salmon with sweet chili, consider pairing these dishes with an Asian or coconut basmati rice. The only ingredients you need are a can of full fat or low-fat coconut milk and a tablespoon of coconut sugar (or brown sugar). If you’re using a whole can of coconut milk (about 13.5 ounces), then cook 1 1/2 cups of rice and add in 2 1/4 cups of water. If your main course consists of curry chicken, paired with a chickpea salad and sugar snap peas, consider making saffron rice. Saffron rice also goes well with other Middle Eastern dishes. For a better outcome, allow a pinch of quality saffron to soak in a 1/4 cup boiling water for about 5 minutes, then combine with your rice along with 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder and vegetable or chicken stock, and allow the rice to cook. When it’s Mexican recipe night, you’re going to want an easy Mexican rice recipe that tastes like the real thing but doesn’t call for too much slicing and dicing prep time. With 1 cup of rice, combine 1 cup of salsa (either mild, medium, or hot), 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon chipotle or plain chili powder, and 2 cups stock (chicken or vegetable stock). Adding a tablespoon of coconut or olive oil, before you cook the rice, is optional. You can also combine cooked rice with black beans.

Other Rice Cooker Recipes

Want to hear a secret? You can make more than just rice in a rice cooker! Lots of practiced home chefs have created polenta dishes, frittatas, quinoa, soup, chili, and deserts in their rice cooker. It really is a more versatile tool than its name gives it credit for. With some onion, chicken broth, milk, Cheddar, and polenta, you can make a cheesy polenta casserole in less than 30 minutes. To make a frittata with veggies, you can use a frying pan to brown the garlic and sauté the vegetables, but you can also do this step in a microwave or even the rice cooker. After placing the egg and cheese mixture to the rice cooker pot, pour in the sautéed veggies. Then push the “cook rice” button, and after about 25 minutes, breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) is served.

This rice cooker chocolate cake will blow your family’s minds. First, combine all your dry ingredients: flour, sugar, dark cocoa (or powdered chocolate), baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. To make a more dense cake, use double-acting baking powder. Then combine your wet ingredients: oil, vanilla, vinegar, and water. And then mix and add all ingredients to the rice cooker pot and allow to cook on slow for 45 minutes. Before turning off the heat, check that the cake is baked through using a toothpick (poke the cake, and if the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is ready to eat.)

There are a lot of different kitchen gadgets that are designed to save you time. But many take up a lot of space and don’t get used very often (where did I even put that sandwich maker?) But a rice cooker is something that you will get to use several times a week, especially after you pick up new tips and tricks for making non-rice dishes. And unlike those one-trick gadgets (hello, sandwich maker), you will find endless uses for a rice cooker.

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