One-use kitchen tools? Boo to that! Who wants to spend precious cabinet storage space on a gadget you can use to make one thing? (Unless that one thing is healthy mint chocolate chip ice cream!) Luckily the rice cooker isn’t a one-hit wonder. Yes, it makes perfect rice every time, but it can also make curry, soup, polenta, and even chocolate cake.
Surprised? Try out these versatile rice cooker recipes and see just how much range this gizmo possesses. Best of all, these dishes are the ultimate in set-it-and-forget-it cooking. That means less time manning the stove and more time getting R and R. So pick a recipe, set the cooker, and kick up your feet with Netflix or Web articles, knowing something delicious is minutes away.
Polenta is the very definition of comfort food: a warm-you-up cornmeal porridge that’s the perfect side dish to accompany a Sunday roast or veggie-based main dish. (Our advice: Put an egg on it!) Here it gets the ultra cheesy treatment in an easy-breezy recipe. (Tip: You can reduce the amount of cheese here and the end result will be just as tasty.)
Here are three great reasons to make this dish. One: This curry is out of this world. Two: It’s ridiculously simple to make. Three: It uses common ingredients—no more half-used bottles of obscure spices! Throw the ingredients in the rice cooker after a long day, and the wafting smell of curry will revive you. If you’re a vegetarian, skip the chicken and just curry it up; you won’t miss the meat thanks to the jambalaya mix—but feel free to add in more veggies to “beef” up the base. Potatoes would be a great addition here.
Mastering the perfect frittata requires patience and practice—or a rice cooker. This elegant dish pulls together potatoes, zucchini, and peppers, which get browned in a pan and then loaded into the rice cooker. Tip: You can use any veggies chilling in the fridge, so get down with your bad self and clear out that crisper drawer. Consider this hearty dish a major multitasker: Serve it between slices of crusty bread for a filling lunchtime sandwich or pair it with a side salad for a light dinner.
Whether you’re eating quinoa for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or you’re new to the quinoa camp, now it’s easier than ever to make. We mean, like, do-it-with-your-eyes-closed easy. Rinse the quinoa, add it with water to the rice cooker, and step away: You’re done! Make a big batch for the week and jazz it up as you go along: almonds, fresh herbs, and lemon juice are all great add-ins.
Our love of kimchi has been well documented. If you’ve only had the store-bought version, consider this an invitation to try your hand at homemade. As it turns out, a rice cooker makes the perfect fermenting dish for whipping up this spicy cabbage condiment. Keep in mind that kimchi requires a few days of hanging out for all the yummy flavors to meld, so this'll occupy your rice cooker for several days. But the tasty, tangy, probiotic results are so worth it.
Soups and Chili
Cursing flu season? When you need a cozy, healing soup, try this Chinese-inspired one. Ginger and chicken bob around in a full-flavored broth that will warm you down to your bones. Setting the rice cooker first to “Cook” then to “Warm” ensures that the broth gets a rich, slow-cooked taste in a fraction of the time it takes with a slow cooker.
Good news! Chili, that slow-cooker staple, comes together just as easily in the rice cooker. This basic chicken chili recipe is easily adaptable—use more of your favorite beans, replace the ground chicken with beef, sneak in some crushed red pepper for heat—or stick with the original version, a delicious, hearty classic. (Hint: Throw a little Greek yogurt on top as a sour cream sub.)
8. Taco Soup
Listen to this: Ribs cooked in beer that don’t require a grill or an oven. Did your heart just skip a beat? Turns out your humble rice cooker can give you fall-off-the-bone pork cooked to perfection. Here it’s slathered with a classic Guinness-and-BBQ sauce. Bonus: Hands-free cooking means less time mopping up sauce messes—until you’re ready to chow down; that's when it's time to bust out a stack of napkins.
10. Roasted Pork
Roasted pork sans oven? Get it, rice cooker. Sautéed garlic and pork start out in a pan and then get that roasted, slow-cooked taste while simmering in the rice cooker. The result is a juicy, tender roast that makes a great main dish in half the time as a slow cooker. Even better: Leftovers make awesome tacos, salads, and sandwiches.
Can we even call this a recipe if it has just one step? If the end result is this good, who cares? Basic chicken and rice gets jazzed up with the addition of coconut milk, ginger, and spinach. Dinner has never been so stupid-easy. Season to taste and enjoy.
Channel your Southern self and chow down on this sausage jambalaya. Adding five ingredients into the rice cooker produces a down-home meal that’s ideal for busy—or just lazy—evenings. The only struggle is resisting the urge to peek as the sausage, beans, and rice meld together in a cloud of delicious aromas.
13. Pasta Cubano
If your knowledge of Cuban food begins and ends with ham sandwiches, it’s time to expand your horizons. This Latin take on plain pasta is an excellent place to start. Beef and peppers are first browned in a pan and then finished off in the rice cooker along with pasta, a little olive oil, and other ingredients. The result is the perfect casserole shortcut.
Breakfast and Sweet Treats
Rice cookers: Not just for dinner anymore. All the best breakfast flavors—oh hi, vanilla, almond, and maple syrup—are involved in this filling steel-cut oatmeal. If breakfast is a ho-hum meal for you, get ready for a major upgrade.
Baking is a fun hobby, but we prefer eating baked goods to making them. That’s why this recipe takes the cake. Ten ingredients (plus water) tossed into the rice cooker result in this cushy, chocolaty cake. And with no eggs or milk required, it’s suitable for vegans, too. Top with your favorite frosting, a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar, or even a little nut butter for a dessert that requires zero oven time.
Loaded with flavors like cardamom, cinnamon, and anise, these spiced pears make an elegant dessert for a holiday party or potluck. Not only are they Instagram-ready gorgeous, you can make them ahead of time so there’s no need to disappear mid-party to nervously man the oven.
17. Rice Pudding
Four ingredients plus one rice cooker equals one crazy-good dessert. Even if you’ve never been a rice pudding fan, the simplicity of this version just might change your mind and sway you away from a late-night Ben & Jerry’s hookup toward a homemade, wholesome dessert.