The Absolute Best Uses For Your Rice Cooker

The humble rice cooker, first invented in Japan in the early 1920s, was a far cry from the rice cookers of today. It took time to develop the practical and affordable rice cooker we know today. Luckily, after decades of trial and error, the modern rice cooker hit the global market (via Atlas Obscura).

According to the Smithsonian, modern rice cookers have been in the U.S. since the 1970s. However, they weren't as common as they are today. Nowadays, most homes have a rice cooker on their counter, which is an excellent addition to a busy home chef's kitchen. 

Unfortunately, rice is not that easy to make on the stove; it can burn quickly or become a mushy mess. So having a rice cooker that makes perfect rice is a must. Luckily, for those with small kitchens or overcrowded countertops, a rice cooker is a gadget that can do double duty. Home chefs will be pleased to know that a rice cooker isn't just for rice. They can also make many other great things, earning themselves a coveted place on the kitchen counter.

Rice, of course

Given the name, it stands to reason that a rice cooker's primary job is to cook rice. Making rice in a rice cooker is simple: add water and cleaned rice to the inner bowl and turn it on. The magic rice cooker will take care of the rest. Rice cookers have a sensor that automatically turns off the heat when the heat reaches the boiling point at 212 F (via CNET).

However, to make the best rice, you need to know more about what type of rice you use. For example, brown rice requires more water, jasmine rice needs less time, and wild rice needs more time than other varieties. So, while the rice cooker is the best way to make perfect rice each time, there is still some need for the home chef to make adjustments based on the type of rice.

Whether you like to make Spanish rice, sushi rice, or long-grain black rice, a rice cooker is still your best option to avoid burning, clumping, and overcooking this popular grain.

Make other grains

Rice isn't the only grain that a rice cooker can handle. The humble rice cooker can make other popular grains like quinoa, bulgar, and millet (via Cook's Illustrated). Of course, quinoa isn't precisely a grain — it's a seed that cooks like a grain (via HuffPost). Cooking healthy grains in a rice cooker is as simple as clicking a button, so the busy home chef can spend their time doing other prep work like cutting vegetables and cooking up protein.

According to Mayo Clinic, whole grains are an essential part of a healthy diet providing complex carbohydrates and vital nutrients to keep your body fueled throughout the day. Another plus is that whole grains are high in fiber which is perfect for anyone concerned about their waistline. Fiber keeps your belly full for longer, keeping hunger pangs away. So, add some whole grains to your weekly menu and reap the health benefits. They are so easy to make with the rice cooker you have no excuse not to add them to your daily menu.

Whip up an easy oatmeal breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is the fuel that gets you going in the morning. But many people don't make time for this essential meal. However, your rice cooker can change that dynamic. Yes, that's right, your rice cooker can make eating a healthy breakfast like oatmeal easy and life-changing. Watch your energy levels soar, and you will forget about needing a second or third cup of coffee.

According to Medical News Today, eating oats can lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease, and aid digestion. These are all great reasons to eat oatmeal for breakfast. But if oatmeal sounds like a boring breakfast, try getting creative. Use tea instead of water for a unique twist. Or add fruit, nuts, or cinnamon to transform the taste. For a punch of protein, whip in an egg for some added protein to make the humble oatmeal a more hearty breakfast choice. However you prefer to eat oatmeal, you can be sure your rice cooker can make it for you.

Eat your veggies in a simple frittata

A simple frittata is a great way to get more healthy vegetables into your diet. A frittata is an anything-goes dish; you can make it with ham and peppers, spinach and cheese, or go Greek with feta and olives. The endless possibilities are a perfect way to use the leftover veggies in your refrigerator. Finally, frittatas are healthy and loaded with nutrients. According to Healthline, eggs are not only a great protein but also full of essential nutrients, making them an excellent breakfast option.

Surprisingly, frittatas are easy to make in your rice cooker (via Southern Home Express). You don't need to mess with a hot oven or stand over a steaming stove; instead, load up all of your goodies in your rice cooker and let it do the rest. You only need a rice cooker and an outlet to make this simple egg dish with a fancy Italian name.

Hard-boiled eggs by the dozen

Your rice cooker can easily make hard-boiled eggs; just set it and forget it (via Tiger). Plus, you can also cook as many as you can fit in your rice cooker bowl. If you like to make boiled eggs for breakfast or have a craving for deviled eggs, your rice cooker makes it easier than ever to get a perfectly hard-boiled egg.

Hard-boiled eggs are high in protein and make an excellent portable snack (via Healthline). Keep hard-boiled eggs in your refrigerator for a robust pre-or post-workout meal. While you wouldn't carry around a plate of scrambled eggs, a hard-boiled egg is easy. Just throw a couple in your bag, and off you go.

According to the FDA, once your eggs are hard-boiled, they should be refrigerated and will keep for up to a week. Just make sure you don't peel them until you are ready to use them to ensure they stay as fresh as possible.

Pancakes, bread, and cakes

Put your rice cooker to work in the morning and make a pile of pancakes. Rice cooker pancakes are a great way to start the day. Making pancakes in the rice cooker is quick and easy; pour in the mix, set the timer, and it's ready in a few minutes (via Kirbie's Cravings). If you love fluffy pancakes, you will love making pancakes in your rice cooker.

There is no shortage of yummy things to indulge your sweet tooth that you can make in the rice cooker. For example, The Spice House has an amazing recipe for banana bread in the rice cooker, while the food site Entabe recreates the classic cinnamon rolls. The possibilities are endless with the rice cooker.

If you prefer your sweets with less sugar, opt for berries to sweeten your treats. Berries, otherwise known as nature's candy, are perfect in pancakes, bread, and cakes. According to Healthline, everyone should be eating more berries. These small colorful fruits are a powerhouse of nutrients and a great way to indulge in sugary cravings without all the sugar. So plug in your rice cooker and get baking.

Recreate your favorite kimchi

Are you a fan of kimchi? Have you discovered all of the fantastic ways to use kimchi? If so, then you should try making kimchi. You don't need any special equipment to make kimchi, just a place for it to ferment for hours. This is where your rice cooker becomes your trusty kitchen assistant. Follow your favorite kimchi recipe and leave it in the rice cooker basket to ferment. You don't even have to turn it on. Just place the lid on the basket and set it aside to ferment. The longer it ferments, the more intense the flavor will be. Once it's at the right amount of sweet, sour, and spicy, transfer it from the rice cooker bowl to an air-tight glass jar and store it in the refrigerator.

Kimchi is a spicy crunchy addition to many dishes. But more than a flavorful side, kimchi is a fermented food with fantastic health benefits. According to WebMD, eating fermented foods aids digestion, combats obesity, and supports brain function. Historically people fermented foods to keep them from spoiling. But nowadays, fermented foods are a favorite due to their tangy taste.

Make hot chocolate

Sipping hot chocolate on a chilly afternoon can turn any frown upside down. Hot chocolate is a creamy, decadent drink that everyone loves. According to the Washington Post, chocolate has natural components that release serotonin and endorphins, creating a feel-good effect. So science supports indulging in chocolate when you need a pick me up. You can think of hot chocolate as a hug in a mug.

So how do you get more hot chocolate in your life? Your rice cooker, of course. Packaged powders are not the best way to make hot chocolate. Instead, make hot chocolate from scratch with the help of your rice cooker. Tiger has the perfect recipe for homemade hot chocolate in your rice cooker. Use the cook function to perfectly blend the ingredients, and once hot, switch to the warming function to keep your hot cocoa warm for the whole family to enjoy. Enjoy your hot chocolate with marshmallows or cinnamon to add extra goodness to your cup.

Poach fruit for a healthy dessert

Are you looking for a sweet dessert that doesn't require hours in the kitchen and a culinary degree? Well, you don't have to look any further. Your rice cooker can make you a star dessert chef with simple fruit. Impress your friends and family with a sophisticated dessert of poached pears in pomegranate in your rice cooker (via Jeanette's Healthy Living). The key is to use pomegranate juice instead of water for poaching, creating a pear infused with sweet pomegranate flavors. It's a simple dessert that will make you want to make dessert for every meal, not just on special occasions.

If you are new to poaching fruit and wondering what the difference between poaching and boiling is, it all comes down to temperature (via Culinary Lore). Both boiling and poaching require small amounts of water, but boiling occurs at 212 F. Do you prefer peaches to pears? Try the same technique but use peaches and white wine to recreate the dessert with your rice cooker.

Make easy creamy risotto

Risotto, the creamy Italian cousin to traditional rice, is a beloved dish that requires attention to detail. Traditionally, risotto is made by lightly sautéing rice, then adding broth little by little and letting it cook down to a soup while constantly stirring to keep it from sticking. It is a laborious meal that most home chefs avoid due to time constraints. Luckily, there are other easier ways to recreate this classic dish.

You may be familiar with making risotto in the Instant Pot, but did you know you can make it in a rice cooker too? According to Carolina Rice, sauté the aromatics like garlic and onion on the cooker's cook function, add rice and broth, and cover for perfect risotto without having to keep an eagle eye on the stove. It's so easy you will want to add this recipe to your weeknight dinner rotation. Try other variations of risotto, for example, pea risotto with fried quail eggs and ham, or keep it simple with classic Parmesan risotto for a filling meal the whole family will adore.

Steam fish and veggies

These days everyone is trying to eat clean and watch their diet. It can be complicated and time-consuming to learn new healthy recipes, but it doesn't have to be that way. A few simple changes can transform a not-so-healthy dish into a better version. Instead of breading and frying foods in oil, try steaming proteins and vegetables for a cleaner take on dinner.

According to CNN, steaming vegetables instead of boiling keeps their essential nutrients intact better than any other cooking method. This is great news for rice cooker aficionados because most rice cookers, even the most basic ones, come with a steam basket, allowing you to make rice and steam protein and vegetables simultaneously.

Get creative with your rice cooker and steam fish for your protein. According to Healthline, adding more fish to your diet is a sure-fire way to amp up your healthy lifestyle. Over at Craft & Process, they have an easy no-fuss salmon and veggie dish, all thanks to the humble rice cooker. Making a healthy meal has never been so convenient.

Healthy homemade baby food

New parents often find themselves in a conundrum, they want their baby to eat healthy non-processed baby food, but they are too tired to make it happen. They know that jarred baby food is full of preservatives and chemicals, not the things you want the newest member of your family to eat. But many parents don't realize just how easy it is to make homemade healthy baby food in the rice cooker.

According to Bite My Bun, making baby food in the rice cooker is as simple as cutting the fruit or vegetables into smaller pieces and steaming or poaching them until they are soft. Then, run the cooked fruits and vegetables through a blender for a smooth finish that your baby will love. Introducing new foods to your baby is a fun way for them to get to know the different flavors and textures of natural foods.

According to the Center for Disease Control, wait a few days after introducing new foods to see if there is an allergic reaction. They also recommend mixing new foods with a bit of fruit your baby already likes to make them more palatable to a baby's tender tastebuds.

Reheat leftovers to avoid food waste

Surprisingly your rice cooker can help you save the planet. Of course, that is quite a statement, but it really can help the environment. According to The Environmental Protection Agency, one-third of all food in American households goes to waste. From perishable foods going bad to leftovers going uneaten, this adds up to a lot of waste in landfills. How can your rice cooker help the planet? By using your rice cooker to reheat leftovers, they end up content in your belly instead of the landfill.

If leftovers aren't appealing, then you need to think outside the box and create something new with your leftovers. There are lots of ways to use leftover rice and other staples. Put your thinking cap on and get creative with your leftovers. Over at Love Your RV!, they recommend reheating leftovers from meat and potatoes to rice and vegetables in a rice cooker. You and your rice cooker are superheroes, saving the planet one meal of leftovers at a time.

Cook a batch of dried beans

Beans are a pantry staple for many households. An affordable way to get dinner on the table, you can make beans into many amazing dishes, from refried beans to hummus to taco salad to veggie burgers. Many home chefs opt for canned beans to save time, but dried beans don't have to be a hassle to make.

If you are trying to stick to a budget, then dried beans are a more cost-effective way to get this protein-filled staple on the menu. According to The Bean Institute, dried beans are cheaper than canned beans. So to make beans easy on you and your wallet, use your rice cooker. At Strength and Sunshine, they use a rice cooker to make dried beans. Of course, making dry beans requires a bit of planning since you need to soak them overnight before adding them to your rice cooker. But then the rice cooker does all the work, allowing you to add more nutrient-rich beans to your plate.

Freshen your home with potpourri

Let's face it — sometimes, our homes get a little smelly. Pet owners, gym go-ers, and parents of teenagers know that your house sometimes needs a fresh smell. While plug-in air fresheners are popular, they aren't the best choice. According to Indoor Doctor, plug-in air fresheners have a lot of health hazards and are not the best option for cleaning up the air in your home. Instead, there are better ways to clean your home's air using natural ingredients in a potpourri.

If you don't have a potpourri burner, you are in luck because your rice cooker can help freshen your house and help with unpleasant odors. There are a lot of recipes out there to make homemade potpourri using a slow cooker or electric potpourri burner, but you don't need to add another kitchen gadget to your cupboard. A rice cooker creates potpourri in the same way. Add water to the inner bowl, throw in some of your favorite potpourri combinations and let the sweet scents take over your home. Off Beat Home uses lavender in the rice cooker to infuse a lovely fragrance into her home, but the possibilities are endless.

Make healthy homemade yogurt

Making yogurt at home may seem like a daunting task. But it is the best option if you want a yogurt that isn't full of extra sugar. According to NPR, store-bought yogurt isn't always as healthy as it seems since it's often full of sugar or added fruit, making yogurt an unhealthy treat.

However, making yogurt at home with your rice cooker is the best way to enjoy yogurt and its health benefits without adding more sugar to your diet. According to Nibblers Kitchen, making yogurt in the rice cooker is simple. Their recipe uses yogurt as a starter, but you can also use citric acid or probiotic capsules.

Once you have mastered making homemade yogurt in your rice cooker, you can make other yummy snacks like frozen yogurt bark. According to Healthline, calcium-rich yogurt is high in protein and helps your immune system stay on track. So enjoy your healthy homemade yogurt guilt-free.