help us replace boxed rice with rice cooker recipes
April 11, 2014 9:12 AM   Subscribe

Hi, me and mrs.chasles and the two littlest chasleses all eat rice, and how! we cook a LOT of white rice in the rice cooker but for flavored rice (think uncle bens type stuff) we switch to the boxes. they are great and savory but very high in sodium and quite a bit more expensive than white rice in the cooker. so how do we migrate from boxed to recipes in the rice cooker (or slow cooker)? the flavors we usually buy are like chicken and herb, wild mushroom, that sort of thing. nothing cheesey etc. In other words is it as simple as "throw some mushrooms in with the rice" or do we need to get more complex? Now with the background out of the way here is the question distilled down: how do we get that intense creamy flavor in a rice cooker? we are both good in the kitchen, so complexity or make-in-advance are all ok for us! thanks for helping!
posted by chasles to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
i've never had any of the boxed rice that you mention, but to make flavoured rice in the rice cooker is as easy as you suspect - just dump it in. To make hainanese chicken rice for example, instead of plain water, cook the rice with chicken stock (hainanese-style - so it's with ginger and garlic).

When it comes to biryani or similar, you'll need toast/fry the dry spices (over the stove) then cook it together with the rice and stock. It's dead easy. :)

I'm not sure about the creaminess, since I've never had boxed rice, but I suspect it's a question of liquid:rice ratio, and probably with some kind of fat (like oil or a knob of butter).
posted by cendawanita at 9:19 AM on April 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

how do we get that intense creamy flavor in a rice cooker

You can cook your rice with milk and a bit of butter or add in a couple spoons of plain yogurt. I cook all my rice stovetop and don't know precisely how this would translate to an electric cooker, but it definitely gives it a creamier taste and texture.
posted by phunniemee at 9:19 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Adding: yes this also goes for cooking rice dishes with meat.
posted by cendawanita at 9:20 AM on April 11, 2014

Start with stock, not water, then throw in mushrooms, onions, whatever, and garlic salt. To address the creaminess, make a little roux with hot water/stock and corn starch and maybe a little flour and stir it in towards the end. Easy peasy.
posted by stormygrey at 9:23 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I do a really nice pilaf by substituting broth for water, and adding sauteed Mirepoix to the rice. Fresh herbs are nice in there too. Thyme, dill, parsley, etc.

Will kick boxed rice's ASS if you do it right!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:23 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I had an ex whose mom worked for National Starch and Chemical Company and our house was overflowing with those flavor packets that simulate creaminess in various ways (mac and cheese, boxed rice, salad dressings, ramen) and I can tell you that the general answer is "starch" There are a few ways to do this and I'm not sure what sort of a rice cooker you have. Steamer-type cookers don't really let you make gloppy rice in the same way you can get from a box. Slow-cookers are made for this though. I'm with you, I like those recipes so here are some things I do

- more salt - you can add quite a bit of salt before you're getting as super-salted as the boxed recipes. Try cooking your rice in chicken stock/boullion instead of simple water
- more water - extra water and/or cooking time will lead to a wetter rice. Also some rices are starchier than others. Arborio which is what people use to make risotto has more starch which produces more of that creamy flavor. That said, usually it's the frequent stirring that gets the starch into the liquid, not just it sitting inside it. Kitchen Detectives has a good low-stir risotto recipe, I mention it here.
- after-the-fact additions - adding cheese or milk or something dairy/fat based after it's cooked and then letting it sit/soak for a bit can get you some of this.

The super easy way to do this is slow-cooker starchy rice with a can of (low sodium) soup of some kind swapped out for a chunk of the water.
posted by jessamyn at 9:23 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you live near an asian market, try making Tamago Kake Gohan (Egg Over Rice), and season with your favorite furikake. It's fantastically delicious, and you could cook it in damn near any hotel room assuming you had the right stuff with you.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:28 AM on April 11, 2014

Best answer: Does your rice cooker have a congee/porridge setting? Thats a sure ticket to creamy. It can take several hours, so a rice cooker with a timer is great for this. Basically you're cooking down the starch until it dissolves in the liquid. This is what you do when you scrub the starches off the rice grains when stirring a pot of risotto for 40 minutes. You can cheat this, and add a bit of rice or corn starch, which I suspect flavored boxes do.

Your secret weapon: nutritional yeast. It can be found in hippie-ish grocery stores. It is touted for B-complex vitamins, but it also happens to be a source of tasty tasty MSG. MSG is naturally occurring, and unless you are truly sensitive to it, perfectly safe. It helps things taste tastier, like salt. If you're trying to get the flavors like a boxed mix, you'll need to pull out the big guns.

So, grab your rice cooker and try any flavored rice recipe you'd find for a stove top. Start with the liquid and rice measurements that came with the rice cooker, and fiddle with your recipe from there.

For your chicken and herb, start with chicken stock, or chicken bouillon. But of course, boxed broth or bouillon might not save you much sodium. Any various herbs, thyme and parsley to start, fresh or dry. Salt/nutritional yeast. Butter/olive oil. A dash of turmeric to get that yellow color.

Crumbled dried mushrooms, salt, tiny dash of soy or nutritional yeast and mushroom stock would be great to replace the mushroom flavored box. Dried mushrooms can be pricy at a whole foods/upscale grocery, so try an asian market. You don't need much to get a very mushroomy flavor though.

Mexican style rice: chicken stock & canned diced tomatoes with their juice, sliced scallions, diced onion, optional jalapeno, fresh cilantro after cooking.
posted by fontophilic at 9:53 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We keep packets of Sazon Goya around for this purpose. Adds flavor as well as umami.
posted by jbickers at 9:53 AM on April 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

What kind of rice are you using? Some rices are more starchy than others. For creamy starchy rice you want arborio, carnoroli, or sushi rice, which are all short-grain white rices.

And definitely use a slow cooker, or a rice cooker on porridge setting (most programmable digital rice cookers have this setting, not the on/off ones).
posted by epanalepsis at 10:12 AM on April 11, 2014

Best answer: The creaminess you're after will come with either extra starch, extra fat, or both. My favorite way to flavor rice it to cook the rice in salted water or chicken broth and then, separately, saute my add-ins in butter. I'll saute mushrooms or scallions+pine nuts in several tablespoons of butter and then mix the sauteed items into the finished rice. The fat adds silkiness and the flavors of the sauteed items are far superior to those that develop if I just toss veggies in with the rice to boil/steam.
posted by quince at 10:58 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have been known to use coconut milk in my rice. There's a bit of oil in it, and it makes the texture nicer than water.
posted by bilabial at 11:59 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Fry the uncooked rice in a little oil, butter or whatever until the ouside layer goes translucent, I usually fry in in some oil I've cooked chopped up onions in for added flavour. Dump it all in a rice cooker, add some stock and easy flavourful pilaf. If you want to try it before buying a rice cooker, put it all in a dutch oven and cook it in the oven, the flavour is pretty much the same.

To get "creaminess" in rice you might want to look at making a risotto, super easy though a little boring as you have to stand at the stove stirring, just make sure you get the right aborio rice to make it with. There are lots of good recipes online, I use Jamie Olivers recipe and method, you can add cheese or not it's still creamy.
posted by wwax at 12:45 PM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I find a little bit of canned coconut milk in your rice water (I've tried full replacement but it seems like coconut milk does something to make rice awfully mushy) can create creaminess.

My aunt taught me an interesting food service trick, which is that powdered chicken bouillon gives things a remarkably buttery flavor. Look for low-sodium options, though, as the regular stuff is wicked salty.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:56 PM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: On a (very slight) tangent, we love The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook, which might have some good suggestions.
posted by Lexica at 7:26 PM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for kick starting our thoughts on this. I'm going to try one of them for lunch, thanks lexica, never occurred to me to find a book - already requested from our local library!!
posted by chasles at 7:01 AM on April 12, 2014

To make rice non-sticky, cook without stirring. To make it sticky/ creamy, stir it a lot. For flavor, add Better-ThanBouillion from Trader Joe's or their packets of stock. Swanson's also makes chicken/ beef/ veg. stock. In addition to stock, you can add red or white wine. Also, herbs, garlic, sauteed onions/ mushrooms/ celery/ shallots, or broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, almonds, etc. You can also add cheese when the rice is pretty much cooked - it still needs to be a bit wet so you can stir cheese in. Look up recipes for risotto, but you don't have to be mental about stirring it every second and adding liquid in minute amounts, and you don't have to use arborio rice. I occasionally add some orzo, and I occasionally saute the rice in oil 1st, sort of like rice-a-roni.
posted by theora55 at 8:41 AM on April 12, 2014

The Everything Rice Cooker Cookbook has good recipes, too. TECZCAPE-AN ESCAPE TO FOOD, which I think is written by the author of the book I just mentioned, also has great recipe ideas.
posted by SillyShepherd at 1:44 PM on April 12, 2014

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