There’s More to Rice Cookers than Just Rice

Photo by Kingmond Young

Cultures around the world have been cooking rice using various methods for centuries — from soaked and boiled basmati rice in India to sticky, steamed medium-grain rice in Japan and boiled, spiced rice with vegetables and Andouille sausage in American Cajun-Creole jambalaya. Rice and rice cookery are important components of many customs and diets.

Although the basics of rice preparation haven't changed (rice + liquid + heat), the vessels in which it is cooked have evolved. Most recently, electric rice cookers have become a more common kitchen appliance. In 1955, the Toshiba Corporation launched its first commercially successful electric rice cooker in Japan. It outperformed versions developed years prior by the Japanese Imperial Army and Mitsubishi because it was the first set-it-and-forget-it cooker that consistently produced fluffy rice.

Technological advancements have led to even more enhancements, such as digital menus, sensors to detect when liquid is absorbed and automatic timing adjusters. From three-cup countertop cookers to industrial 100-cup versions, the rice cooker is an efficient, convenient way to effortlessly prepare its namesake food.

But don't pigeonhole the rice cooker as a single-purpose kitchen appliance. As adventurous cooks tap into the culinary potential of this electric wonder, rice cookers are being repurposed to prepare other grains, such as quinoa and millet, as well as breads, lentils and puddings. Beans and coarse grains, such as steel-cut oats and barley, require pre-soaking and a longer cooking time — but the results are tender and flavorful. Experiment with liquid-to-solid ratios when using a simple rice cooker; more advanced models may have special settings for different types of rice and porridge (or congee). Unlike other "unitasker" kitchen appliances, rice cookers offer more than what meets the eye.

Rice Cooker Frittata

One-pot meals may not have been the original intent, but the classic rice cooker does an excellent job making vegetable frittatas, fruit jams and soups.

Recipe by Christy Wilson, RDN


  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon olive oil or butter
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup white onion, diced
  • ¼ cup red pepper, diced
  • ½ teaspoon ground oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Whisk eggs in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Turn on the rice cooker (set to white rice setting if there are options) and add oil or butter to the nonstick pot of the rice cooker. As the pot gradually heats up, add garlic, onion and red pepper, and simmer until tender.
  3. Add eggs, oregano, salt, pepper and cheese. Stir ingredients to combine and close lid.
  4. Cook for approximately 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown and the eggs are firm on the bottom (time may vary per cooker). Use a silicone or nonstick-safe spatula to slice frittata into wedges and serve. Serves 4.

Nutrition Information

Serving size: 4 ounces

Calories: 104; Total fat: 7g; Saturated fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 192mg; Sodium: 261mg; Carbohydrates: 3g; Fiber: 1g; Sugars: 1g; Protein: 8g; Potassium: 116mg; Phosphorus: 131mg

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Christy Wilson
Christy Wilson, RD, is a health and nutrition writer, recipe developer and nutrition consultant. Based out of Tucson, AZ, she is a nutrition counselor at the University of Arizona and at a local HIV clinic where she also teaches a monthly cooking class. Read her blog and recipes at and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.