How to Cook Sticky Rice in Steamer or Rice Cooker

Cooking sticky rice (glutinous rice) is different from cooking jasmine rice or basmati rice because of its sticky nature. The key factors for perfectly cooked sticky rice are the soaking time and the amount of water added. Furthermore, different cooking methods require varying soaking times and ratios of rice to water. Let’s learn how to cook sticky rice in a steamer and rice cooker to achieve the best results.

What is Glutinous Rice (Sticky Rice)?

Sticky rice is a type of rice that becomes particularly sticky when cooked due to its high starch content. You may also know it by other names such as glutinous rice or sweet rice. Despite its name, sticky rice does not contain gluten. The “glutinous” in its name refers to its glue-like, sticky texture when cooked. Sticky rice is commonly grown and consumed in many Asian countries, particularly in East and Southeast Asia. It has a sweet and slightly nutty flavor, and of course, a signature chewy, sticky texture. Due to its chewiness, some people may not like it. But, its unique chewiness also makes it perfect for many dishes.

How to cook sticky rice in steamer
Glutinous rice

It is often used in both sweet and savory dishes, such as Chinese Zongzi and Lo Mai Gai, Pilipino bibingka and biko, Vietnamese Grilled banana wrapped in sticky rice (Chuoi Nep Nuong), Thai mango sticky rice, Vietnamese Black Bean Sticky Rice, Savory Sticky Rice, Xoi khuc, etc. In Vietnam, we can’t live without sticky rice as it’s a compulsory ingredient in our traditional Sticky Rice Cake, served during every Lunar New Year festival.

From glutinous rice, people make glutinous rice flour by grinding it into a fine powder. There are also plenty of dishes made from glutinous rice flour, such as glutinous rice balls, Japanese mochi, Korean tteok, Thai khao tom mat, or snow skin mooncake.

How to cook Sticky Rice in Steamer?

I would say the most common and also the easiest way to cook perfect sticky rice is by using a steamer. In my opinion, among several cooking methods, sticky rice cooked by steaming can achieve the best softness and texture. It’s not too wet or mushy, and it’s sticky enough. And the most important thing is that it’s very easy for first-time cooking sticky rice since you can always check the doneness of the rice and stop when it achieves perfect doneness for you. However, to cook sticky rice in a steamer, you need to prepare the rice one day in advance or at least 6 hours. Follow these steps:

  • Preparation: Rinse the sticky rice 2-3 times until the water runs clear. This removes impurities and part of the rice starch so that the cooked sticky rice will be whiter.
  • Soaking: Soak the sticky rice in at least 6 hours, ideally overnight, to allow the rice to absorb water fully before steaming.
  • Steaming by regular steamer: Boil a large amount of water in a steamer. While waiting for the water to boil, cover one steamer basket with cheesecloth, then spread the soaked rice evenly. Once the water starts to boil, place the steamer basket on top and close the lid. The steaming time varies from 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the amount of sticky rice you are steaming. After 30 minutes, check it for the first time by trying to bite a grain. If it’s totally soft and sticky, your sticky rice is good to go. If it’s still hard, continue to steam and try again every 10 minutes.
How to Cook Sticky Rice in Steamer
Cooked sticky rice by steaming

How To Make Sticky Rice Quickly in Steamer

If you don’t have enough time to soak sticky rice (for example, if you forgot to soak the rice 😄), follow my guide below on how to quickly make sticky rice:

  • Preparation. Rinse the sticky rice thoroughly.
  • Parboiling your sticky rice. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (use a large pot to prevent a rapid temperature drop). While waiting for the water to boil, prepare a mesh strainer for draining. Once the water is boiling, add the sticky rice and cook for 30-40 seconds, stirring continuously to prevent sticking to the pot. Then, immediately pour the sticky rice into the prepared mesh strainer.
barboil sticky rice
Parboiled sticky rice.
  • After draining excess water from the rice, you can mix in the seasonings. If you are making sweet sticky rice, add salt and coconut milk. If you are making savory sticky rice, add salt and cooking oil (or shallot oil).
  • Then, place the sticky rice back on the stove and steam for an additional 10-20 minutes.

With this method, it will only take you 20-25 minutes to have the sticky rice cooked to perfection. The quality of the cooked sticky rice is nearly equivalent to that of the traditional method mentioned above.

How to Cook Sticky Rice in Rice Cooker/Instant Pot

With a rice cooker or instant pot, cooking sticky rice becomes much easier, although the texture may be slightly worse than sticky rice cooked by steaming. However, the convenience it brings always makes me choose it instead of steaming when I’m busy. It’s a great option for making sticky rice for breakfast. You won’t need to soak it in advance or spend a long time waiting for it to be cooked.

  • Preparation. Similar to steaming, in the cooking pot, rinse the sticky rice 2-3 times until the water comes clear. No soaking is needed.
  • Add water to the cooking pot. Not like cooking jasmine rice, the amount of water required to cook sticky rice is very little. Add water until it JUST covers the rice. The level of water should be higher than the level of sticky rice a fingertip.
  • Return the cooking pot to rice cooker/instant pot.
  • With rice cooker, turn on cooking function. After 10 minutes, stir it one time for evener cooking (optional). Leave it until the light turns to “warm” function, then wait for 10 minutes more before opening and stiring the cooked rice. With instant pot, select the high-pressure cooking mode for 15 minutes and allow it to naturally release pressure for about 5 minutes; or for 18 minutes and release pressure quickly by moving the pressure release valve to the open position.

One important note is that the water needed for cooking the sticky rice might vary among different types of sticky rice. Thus, you might not get the perfect result the first time, and you might have to adjust the amount of water. If the sticky rice is too wet, increase the water. If the sticky rice is too dry, reduce the water. Keep trying until you achieve the perfect texture with this method.

How to cook sticky rice in rice cooker
Cooked sticky rice by rice cooker

The Use of Sticky Rice in Culinary

After following these steps, you’ll get soft, fully cooked sticky rice to enjoy. It can become Vietnamese Xoi Man (Savory Sticky Rice) when you add Chinese sausage, Vietnamese pork Sausage, Pork Floss, Spring Onion Oil… on top. Vietnamese Xoi Chien is also a dish made from cooked sticky rice, by frying it until crispy. You can also make Thai Mango Sticky Rice (Khao Niaow Ma Muang), which is one of the most famous desserts in Thailand, by adding a special coconut milk sauce and ripe mango. Alternatively, you can simply eat sticky rice with sugar, roasted peanuts, and sesame seeds (I grew up eating this as a breakfast dish). Another option is to use the cooked sticky rice to wrap around a peeled banana and grill it to chuoi nep nuong, one of the most delicious desserts ranked by CNN.

How to cook sticky rice in steamer
How to cook sticky rice in steamer

How to cook sticky rice in Steamer and Rice Cooker

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

The key points for perfect cooked sticky rice are the soaking time and the amount of water. Let’s learn how to cook sticky rice in steamer and rice cooker.

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Sticky Rice
  • Water

Instructions

How to cook Sticky Rice in Steamer (6h soaking + 30 min steaming)

Cooking sticky rice in a steamer is a common method used in Asian cuisines. In my opinion, among several cooking methods, sticky rice cooked by steaming can achieve the best softness and texture. It’s not too wet or mushy and sticky enough. However, to cook sticky rice in steamer, you need to prepare the rice one day in advance or at least 6 hours. Follow these steps:

  • Preparation: Rinse the sticky rice 2-3 times until the water comes clear. It’s to remove impurities and part of rice starch so that the cooked sticky rice would be whiter.How to cook sticky rice in steamer
  • Soaking: Soak sticky rice in at least 6 hours, ideally overnight to let the rice absorb water fully before steaming.How to cook sticky rice in steamer Sticky rice after soaking in 6 hours.
  • Set up the steamer: Boil a large amount of water in a steamer. While waiting for the water to boil, cover one steamer basket with cheesecloth, then spread soaked rice on evenly. How to cook sticky rice in steamer
  • Steaming: Once the water starts to boil, place the steamer basket on and close the lid. The steaming time varies from 30 minutes to 1 hour, depend on the amount of sticky rice you are steaming. After 30 minutes, check it the first time by try biting a grain. If it's totally soft and sticky, your sticky rice is good to go. If it’s still hard, continue to steam and try again every 10 minutes.How to Cook Sticky Rice in Steamer

How to Make Sticky Rice Quickly in Steamer (30s parboiling + 20min steaming)

  • Preparation. Rinse the sticky rice thoroughly.
  • Parboiling your sticky rice. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (use a large pot to prevent a rapid temperature drop). While waiting for the water to boil, prepare a mesh strainer for draining. Once the water is boiling, add the sticky rice and cook for 30-40 seconds, stirring continuously to prevent sticking to the pot. Then, immediately pour the sticky rice into the prepared mesh strainer.barboil sticky rice
  • After draining excess water from the rice, you can mix in the seasonings. If you are making sweet sticky rice, add salt and coconut milk. In case you are making savory sticky rice, add salt and cooking oil (or shallot oil).how to make sticky rice quickly
  • Then, place the sticky rice back on the stove and steam for an additional 10-20 minutes.how to make sticky rice quickly

How to Cook Sticky Rice in Rice Cooker/Instant Pot (20 min)

With a rice cooker or instant pot, cooking sticky rice becomes much easier, although the texture would be a bit worse than sticky rice cooked by steaming. However, the convenience it brings makes me always choose it instead of steaming when I’m busy. It’s a great option to make sticky rice for breakfast. You won’t need to soak it in advance or spend a long time waiting for it to be cooked.

  • Preparation. Similar to steaming, in the cooking pot, rinse the sticky rice 2-3 times until the water comes clear. No soaking is needed.How to cook sticky rice in rice cooker
  • Add water to the cooking pot. Not like cooking jasmine rice, the amount of water required to cook sticky rice is very little. Add water until it JUST covers the rice. The level of water should be higher than the level of sticky rice a fingertip.How to cook sticky rice in rice cooker
  • Cooking in Rice cooker: With rice cooker, turn on cooking function. After 10 minutes, stir it one time for evener cooking (optional). Leave it until the light turns to “warm” function, then wait for 10 minutes more before opening and stiring the cooked rice. How to cook sticky rice in rice cooker
  • With instant pot, select the high-pressure cooking mode for 15 minutes and allow it to naturally release pressure for about 5 minutes; or for 18 minutes and release pressure quickly by moving the pressure release valve to the open position.How to cook sticky rice in rice cooker

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 200g
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 195

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