How to Cook Whole Grains In A Rice Cooker

Healthy Eating, How-To, Learn, Tips & Techniques

This post comes courtesy of Jeanette Chen, blogger at Jeanette’s Healthy Living


I have owned a rice cooker for as long as I can remember and wouldn’t want to live without it. Rice made in a rice cooker is foolproof; you simply push a button and the rice is steamed perfectly. Although the rice cooker makes perfect white rice, it can also be used to make whole grains just as easily. I’ve used it to make Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal and rice porridge for breakfast, as well as pre-cooked grains for fried rice and healthy grain salads. Today, I’m sharing a recipe for Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf made in the rice cooker, a no-fuss side dish for dinner.


There are two general types of rice cookers. The basic version has an “on” switch, with a warm function that kicks in automatically after the rice is done. A fancier rice cooker has special settings for sushi rice, brown rice and congee (rice porridge). Although my very first rice cooker was a basic version, I upgraded to one with extra settings when I started making brown rice.


While white rice is best made following the manufacturer’s instructions that come with your rice cooker, cooking whole grains requires just a few adjustments. The main thing to keep in mind when cooking whole grains in a rice cooker is to use the normal stove-top cooking time as a guideline.


While oatmeal and quinoa are relatively quick to cook (15 to 20 minutes stovetop cooking time), other whole grains like steel-cut oats and barley (40 to 60 minutes stovetop cooking time) benefit from pre-soaking and require longer cooking times. Generally speaking, if the normal cooking time required on the stovetop is more than 30 minutes, it helps to pre-soak the grains for at least one hour and leave the rice cooker on the warm setting for an additional 10 to 15 minutes after the cooking cycle is over to finish cooking the grains.


Although simple, plain whole grains can be made easily in the rice cooker by using just water and the grain of your choice, it’s not much more work to make flavorful whole grain dishes like this Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf. By using chicken broth as the cooking liquid instead of water, and adding some sautéed onions, carrots and celery as flavorings, plain whole grains can be easily transformed into an elegant side dish.


Rice Cooker Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf


Quinoa has a bitter coating called saponin that needs to be washed off before cooking. Briefly soaking and then rinsing quinoa before cooking removes this coating.


1 cup white quinoa, soaked in water for 15 minutes, then rinsed thoroughly, and drained

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup carrot, finely chopped

1/2 cup celery, finely chopped

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1/2 tsp. turmeric

1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 3/4 cup low sodium vegetable or chicken broth


Heat oil in a medium saute pan. Add garlic, onion, carrot, celery and mushrooms. Sauté until onions are softened and mushrooms are lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add quinoa and turmeric and continue sauteing for 2 more minutes to toast quinoa. Transfer quinoa mixture to rice cooker. Add red bell pepper and broth. Cook on “white rice” setting.


Toss to loosen up quinoa. Serve. Serves 4.


Below are some more whole grain recipes that can be made in a rice cooker. The rice cooker setting for each recipe is noted below. If you have a basic rice cooker, and the brown rice setting is called for, simply soak the grains for at least 1 hour before cooking, and let grains continue steaming for 10 to 15 minutes on the warm setting after the cooking cycle is complete.


About the author: Jeanette is the wife and mother of four growing boys who serve as her taste testers in the kitchen. Her blog, Jeanette’s Healthy Living, serves up healthy dishes packed with flavor and goodness, all made with whole, unprocessed foods. She resides in a small town in Connecticut with her family.

26 comments about “How to Cook Whole Grains In A Rice Cooker

  1. Rice Cooker Quinoa Pilaf with Mushrooms - Easy Gluten-Free Side Dish - Jeanette's Healthy Living

    1. Jeanette

      The rice cooker is very versatile and works well with all different types of grains. The cooking time varies, but once you know roughly how long it takes, you can add whatever seasonings and aromatics you like.

  2. Martha

    Do you think I can use a microwave rice cooker for this recipe? For white rice, I just put in 1 part rice to 2 parts water and microwave for 20 minutes. Do you think I need to adjust it for quinoa?

  3. Jeanette

    Hi Martha,
    I haven’t tried microwaving rice before, but I would guess it should work as quinoa cooks in about the same amount of time as white rice. So, if it takes 20 minutes to microwave white rice, try the same for the quinoa (or perhaps cook it a few minutes less and check it, then cook longer if needed). Would love to hear how it turns out.

  4. Elizabeth @Mango_Queen

    Nice to find your post here, Jeanette! Like you, the rice cooker has been part of my life eversince childhood. I love the quinoa recipe you have here. I have a large tub of quinoa in my pantry and some mushrooms. I might just make this tonight! Thanks for sharing!

  5. John @ Best Rice Cooker Reviews

    I must admit I like this recipe and I am retired chef when I was learning to cook in the kitchen my mentor told me to try using rice cooker and I’m glad I did and the rices now taste much better then using the old method every household is using that don’t have rice cookers, It’s been interesting to read this article and it also sound so fresh, thanks!

  6. victoria benton

    JUST WANTED to know if I have to use a rice cooker? can I just use a regular pot to make the rice pilaf?

  7. Don

    I do it not in rice cooker, I have a multicooker (Redmond 4500) it’s much better, faster and meal is gone on time. In Redmond that meal is perfect, really. Everything is perfect, my children loved it! Thank for recepie!

  8. 14 Lazy Rice Cooker Recipes that's Also Healthy | HealthWorks Malaysia

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  10. Jade

    I’ve found it beneficial to leave the rice in the cooker for at least 5-10 minutes after it’s finished. It seems to lock in the moisture, giving it a more sticky, appealing texture. Great article and thanks for sharing.

  11. Lu Wong

    I’m really intrigued to see that you’ve made many other combinations of foods, rather than just rice in your cooker. I’ve done many kinds, like white, brown, and basmati, but I’ve never tried the oatmeal or even the sushi rice. I think it’s time I buy a new steamer for my family.

  12. Clin

    I have been using the karmin professional rice cooker and works really well 🙂


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