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How to Make Sticky Rice at Home

Sticky Rice
Put down the takeout menu! Whether you’re in the mood for cashew chicken or beef and broccoli, no Asian dinner is complete without a side of sticky rice. Making it at home has never been easier with this how-to that walks you through what to buy, how to make it and how to serve it. Disclaimer: you’re on your own for how to use chopsticks. MORE+ LESS-
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Sticky rice, a.k.a. glutinous rice, is a sweet Asian rice that becomes sticky when cooked. The key to making a takeout-worthy sticky rice at home starts with buying the right kind of rice at the store. The other part is choosing a method to cook sticky rice and then mastering the method. Here are three tried-and-true methods that work for making the best sticky rice every time.

How to Make Sticky Rice on the Stove

Making sticky rice on the stove is an easy method when you don’t have a rice cooker or steamer basket on hand. All you need is a large pot, water and time. The key to the perfect stovetop sticky rice is a long soak in water—whatever you do, don’t skip this step. If you follow these steps, you’re guaranteed success.

sticky rice ingredients

What You Need:

  • Large pot

Ingredients:

  • Rice
  • Water
  • Salt

Step 1: Measure two cups of rice and three and a half cups of water into the pot. Let the rice soak for at least half an hour or as long as four hours.

Measure two cups of rice and three and a half cups of water into the pot.

Step 2: Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and stir.

Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Step 3: Place the pot over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Turn the heat to medium low and cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly off on one side to vent. Cook for 10 minutes - but DO NOT stir the rice while cooking!

cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly off on one side to vent

Step 4: After 10 minutes, check to see if the rice has absorbed all of the water by pulling the rice away from the center with a fork to create a hole. If there is still water, continue cooking for 5 to 10 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed.

Step 5: Remove the pot from the heat and place the lid on securely. Allow the rice to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

That’s all there is to cooking sticky rice over the stove!

How to Make Sticky Rice in a Rice Cooker

While the stovetop works great for sticky rice, using a rice cooker is an even easier technique to try. For one, the rice cooker requires fewer steps than the stovetop and two, it’s rather foolproof with its timing.

Here’s how to make sticky rice in a rice cooker:

how to make sticky rice in a rice cooker

What You Need:

  • Rice cooker

Ingredients:

  • Rice
  • Water
  • Salt

Step 1: Measure two cups of rice and two and a half cups of water into the rice cooker. Allow the rice to stand and soak for 30 minutes to four hours; again, the longer you wait, the more authentic your sticky rice will taste.

Measure two cups of rice and two and a half cups of water into the rice cooker

Step 2: Toss in 1/2 teaspoon of salt, close the lid and turn on the rice cooker. If your rice cooker has an automatic timer, let it go until it shuts off. Otherwise, cook the rice for 15 to 20 minutes.

cook the rice for 15 to 20 minutes.

Step 3: Allow it to stand for at least five minutes before serving.

How to Steam Sticky Rice

If you don’t have a rice cooker and you’d prefer not to cook the rice on the stove, the most traditional way to make sticky rice is to steam it. There are a variety of ways to steam sticky rice; you can use a bamboo steamer, a wok or even just a steamer basket insert for a large pot. This method does take longer due to the long soak time but you’ll be rewarded with perfectly sticky, authentic sticky rice.

Follow these steps to steam sticky rice:

how to steam sticky rice

What You Need:

  • Large wok or pot
  • Steamer basket

Ingredients:

  • Rice
  • Water

Step 1: Pour three cups of rice in a very large pot. Cover it with two or three inches of tepid water and let it soak for at least six or up to 24 hours—the longer, the better.

cover rice in two to three inches of water

Step 2: Drain the soaked rice and pour it into a steamer basket.

Step 3: Boil two or three inches of water in a wok or large pot and set the steamer over it. Make sure the rice doesn't dip down into the water. Cover and steam for 20 minutes.

Step 4: Stir the rice so that the top layer is at the bottom of the steamer and vice versa. Steam another five minutes and it's ready to eat!

How to Make Sweet Sticky Rice

When you think of rice, you likely think of it as a side dish served along an Asian main like General Tso’s chicken or Mongolian beef, but sticky rice can be used in dessert-like dishes, too! To make sweet sticky rice, you’ll follow a similar method that you would with savory rice, but there are a few additional steps to add sweetness. Follow one of the methods we listed above (using the stovetop, rice cooker or steamer), and allow the rice to cool. The sweetness comes from an easy coconut sauce. To make the sauce, start with a can of coconut milk, a cup to a cup and a half of sugar, and a pinch of salt. Pour the ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a boil over the stove. Pour the sauce over the cooled rice, stir and voila! You have yourself homemade sweet sticky rice. Serve with fresh mango slices or any fruit of your choice!

Best Rice for Sticky Rice

Getting the best rice for sticky rice is a must if you want restaurant-like results. Look for bags labeled "long-grain sticky rice," "sweet rice" or "glutinous rice." If it isn't available in the rice aisle of your neighborhood market, check the ethnic foods section. Still no luck? Head to a nearby Asian or international grocer or try online.

You could use regular white rice or brown rice to create a similar texture, but you won’t get the same level of stickiness as you would the options listed above. If you’re going with regular white rice, short-grain white rice is your best bet to achieve stickiness as it has higher levels of starch.

How to Fix Sticky Rice

If your rice is not quite right after cooking, don’t worry; depending on the problem, it’s actually quite easy to fix sticky rice. If you’re cooking over the stove and your rice is too watery, simply keep cooking for five to 10 minutes longer. If it’s undercooked, add a bit more water and cook for a few more minutes.

If you’re using the rice cooker and your rice is underdone, simply close the lid and allow the rice to sit a while longer with the cooker off. The residual heat will continue cooking the rice.

If you’re steaming your sticky rice and it’s undercooked, continue to steam until the desired consistency is reached.

Whichever method you choose, the main thing to remember is to not skip the long soak time in the beginning. You should also make sure to not add too much water. Stick to the recipe recommended amount, otherwise you’ll be left with a gooey mess rather than sticky rice!

What to Eat with Sticky Rice

Now that you have your perfectly cooked sticky rice, there are endless ways to use it. Serve it alongside a spicy red curry full of crunchy fresh vegetables. Or turn it into dessert by adding fruit and sweetened coconut milk. Need more inspiration on what to eat with sticky rice? Check out these delicious recipes just waiting to be eaten alongside your home-cooked Asian side:

How to Store Sticky Rice

Sticky rice is best eaten the same day, but if you find you have extra, it can be stored and saved for later. Just remember sticky rice will get stickier over time. You can store the rice in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for a day or two—anything beyond a couple of days, and you’re better off just making a new batch. However, you can freeze sticky rice! Fill a plastic bag, remove the excess air and store it in the freezer for up to two months.Or, fill a plastic bag; remove the excess air and store in the freezer until needed.

Sticky Rice FAQ

Is sticky rice gluten free?

Yes. Despite being called “glutinous,” sticky rice does not contain gluten. The name simply refers to its sticky and glue-like texture.

Why is sticky rice sticky?

Sticky rice gets its infamous stickiness from starch; or rather, one type of starch in particular. Other starchy foods contain two starch components—amylose and amylopectin. Sticky rice, however, is mostly amylopectin and while it does contain trace amounts of amylose, it’s an insignificant amount. It’s the amylopectin, which is water-soluble and breaks apart in hot water that creates the signature stickiness of sticky rice.

So, now that you’ve got the steps and skills, you can make perfect sticky rice whenever you want right from the comfort of your own home. Serve it with entrees, desserts or even on its own. Skip the takeout temptation and enjoy!

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