There is a best way to cook sticky rice (also called sweet rice or glutinous rice) in a rice cooker but it is almost certainly not to use the cooking program in your fancy electronic appliance.
There are hundreds of models of rice cookers on the market and we have not tested them all, but those we have tested by using them at home, have all produced rather disappointing results so far as cooking sticky rice goes.
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What to Expect from the Regular Rice Cooking Program for Sticky Rice
Even cooking regular rice in various rice cookers has given very variable results but the model we are using at the moment is the best yet. That model is a Sharp KS-ZT18 which I don’t think is made anymore but is still working fine.
So maybe the very latest, all-singing, all-dancing, rice cookers are better than the Sharp – I’ll let you know when I get a newer model.
But in all the models that have been working in my kitchen, I have never found cooking sticky rice to be a success.
You will find some rice cookers actually have a sticky rice cooking program, but perhaps the majority do not even have this feature. If the only settings are ‘white rice’ or ‘brown rice aka wholegrain’ then do not even bother trying to cook sticky rice in it.
Up until now, that is but you will have to read on further for the gen.
Even with a glutinous rice program, you will have problems. Sure the rice gets cooked, but the texture of the rice is all wrong, varying from too wet, too sticky to all stuck together. So I have tended to avoid using the sticky rice program and invariably use the traditional soak and cook method.
As you can see from our article on microwave sticky rice, that is also a viable option with the recipe method we use.
How to Cook Sticky Rice in a Rice Cooker Successfully
While researching this article series on cooking sticky rice, we came across an interesting product made locally. It is a simple bamboo basket that fits inside the microwave into which you place your glutinous rice for cooking.
It does have to be soaked first for 2 hours or so the same as the traditional method, so you will not save time there. You might wonder why bother with the rice cooker then and simply use the traditional method instead.
The benefit is that this method does not need any hands-on attention. You can just bung it in the rice cooker and let it cook and when finished the rice cooker will keep it warm for a while.
You probably don’t want to leave it in there warming too long though because it will eventually dry out. But it does give plenty of leeway and a level of convenience you don’t have with the traditional bamboo steamer method.
Best Way to Cook Sticky Rice in a Rice Cooker – Method Using a Bamboo Basket
Step 1 Washing the Rice
As in the traditional method, you must wash the rice thoroughly to remove the excess starch from the outside of the rice otherwise you will end up with the rice all stuck together.
Place the dry rice in a large bowl and cover with a copious amount of tap water. Move the rice around with your fingers to get the water around each grain and you will note the water go cloudy.
Drain off the cloudy water and repeat the process several times until the water is reasonably clear.
Step 2 Soaking the Rice
Now put the rice into a bowl and cover with water at room temperature and allow to sit and soak for about 2 hours. You can soak for longer if the rice is old crop or even overnight if you intend to cook the rice first thing in the morning.
Do not soak unpolished rice, that is rice with the bran still on, basically any rice that is not white rice for longer than 2-3 hours as it will start to ferment and go bad. You are good for overnight with clean white rice though if you want.
Step 3 Cooking the Rice
Take the rice and drain off the water used for soaking and rinse through quickly with tap water. Shake off any loose water and place the rice in the bamboo rice cooker basket.
Two things you need to bear in mind here.
If the bamboo basket is new then you will need to condition it by washing with mildly soapy water. Wash it quickly and then rinse with clean water. Then run it through one rice program in the rice cooker – without rice that is – using enough water to cover halfway to the bottom of the basket. Then remove and leave to dry before use.
The second point to consider is the holes that are in the basket. Some baskets have large enough gaps for the dry rice to fall through in which case use a cheesecloth or muslin to line the basket first and put the rice into the cloth.
You can then close the top with any excess cloth and the rice will cook perfectly as the steam with just pass straight through the muslin anyway.
Place the basket into the normal rice cooking container inside the rice cooker. Use enough water to rise halfway up the base of the basket, ensuring it does not touch the rice inside. If you use too much water here the rice will be wet at the bottom and too little will not create enough steam to cook the rice.
Close the lid and cook the rice on the regular white rice program – ignore any glutinous rice special programs for this method.
When the rice cooker has finished its program then you can remove the rice. If using the muslin simply lift the cloth out and if not then take extra precautions not to burn yourself lifting out the basket.
Step 4 Finish and Serve
To finish you should tip out the rice onto a flat surface and fluff it with a fork to allow the steam out. Then you can gather the rice back together and serve in a bowl or little individual rice serving baskets which look cool.
How to Cook Sticky (aka Sweet) Rice in a Rice Cooker Recipe
Best Way to Cook Sticky Rice in a Rice Cooker (Basket Insert Method)Pin Recipe
- 2 cups Glutinous Rice
- 1 bunch Pandanus Leaves adds aroma to steam
- 1 pints Fresh Water
Washing the Sticky Rice
- The sticky rice needs washing first so place your glutinous rice in a large bowl and put in lots of tap water – at least double the height of the rice in the bowl. Wiggle your fingers around in the rice like you are tickling it and the water will go cloudy.
- Drain off that water and repeat with more water, more tickling and then drain. Repeat the washing process 3-4 times until the water is fairly clear.
Soaking the Sticky Rice
- Place the washed sticky rice in a bowl and cover with water – enough to cover plus 1 inch.
- Leave to soak for 2 hours or 4-5 hours if using old crop glutinous rice. If you use unpolished rice such as black rice then soak no longer than 4 hours as it will start to go bad. Most rice bought in stores is new crop rice.
Setting up The Rice Cooker
- Look at the bottom of the rice cooker insert basket from the base to the underside of the bottom where the rice sits. Add in enough water to rise up halfway to the underside of the basket and no more. Do not use too much water (or too little) as the rice will end up either soggy (too much water touching the rice) or not cooked (too little water).
- Place your rice in the basket using a muslin cloth if necessary should the gaps in the bamboo be too large. The muslin also makes it easy to get the cooked rice out later.
- Close the lid of the rice cooker and set to cook for normal rice – note do not set for any specific glutinous rice program – just set as for cooking regular rice.
A Little Fluffing
- After the program is finished the rice cooker should set itself to warm. You can remove the rice on return a little later. Not too long though as the rice will start to dry out after twenty minutes or so of being cooked.
- Take the rice out of the basket and set on a flat surface, spreading out the rice with a fork to release any trapped steam. Gather up the rice and place in individual rice baskets for serving or a larger bowl.
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I am a Thai mum and love cooking for my children. Over the years, I have taken my family recipes as well as ones borrowed from friends and adapted them to make them even tastier. I publish my authentic Thai Food Recipes here for all to enjoy around the world. When I get a chance to travel I publish information to help others visiting Thailand.