How to Make Congee (Chinese Rice Porridge)

Basic Congee Porridge

The Spruce

  • Total: 110 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 105 mins
  • Soak: 30 mins
  • Servings: 6 servings
  • Yields: 6 cups
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
119 Calories
1g Fat
24g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 119
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 2%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 598mg 26%
Total Carbohydrate 24g 9%
Dietary Fiber 0g 2%
Protein 2g
Calcium 83mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Congee (粥 or 稀飯) is a classic Chinese breakfast dish. It is also a staple in many other countries, including Burma, Indonesia, Japan, and even parts of Europe. Congee is essentially a rice porridge made by boiling rice in a great deal of water until it breaks down into a pudding-like consistency.

When made with water, the taste of congee is very bland, but there are many ways that you can add sweet or savory flavors. For a different base, switch to beef, chicken, or vegetable stock (or use equal parts of water and stock), and the rice will soak up that flavor as it cooks. You can also add flavorings like minced ginger and garlic and toppings such as chicken or mushrooms. The flavor possibilities are only limited by your imagination and the ingredients in your kitchen. Congee is often served with Chinese crullers (youtiao, 油條), and the fried dough is dipped into the congee.

Although eaten by all family members, congee is most often served to children and people who are ill or convalescing as it is nutritious and easy to digest. It's also incredibly economical—3/4 cup of rice turns into 6 cups of porridge—and has traditionally been used to stretch rice when food is scarce.

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Click Play to See This Chinese Rice Porridge (Congee) Recipe Come Together

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup long-grain rice
  • 8 cups water (or substitute chicken, vegetable, or beef stock)
  • Method 1:1 teaspoon salt
  • Method 2: 1 teaspoon sunflower oil (or peanut, vegetable, or olive oil)
  • Optional: minced ginger, minced garlic, lotus root, ginkgo nuts, shredded chicken, crumbled pork, bok choy, soft-boiled egg, crushed peanuts, etc.

Steps to Make It

There are three methods for cooking congee, each of which results in a slightly different texture. If at any time you feel your congee is too thick, you can add a little boiling water to the mixture.

Method 1

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for congee rice pudding
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  2. Rinse and wash the rice and soak it in water for 30 minutes; then drain the water.

    Rinse rice with water
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  3. In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring the rice and 8 cups of water or stock to a boil.

    Add water to make congee rice
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  4. When the rice is boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low. Place the lid on the pot, tilting it to allow some of the steam to escape (the same as you would do when cooking white rice).

    Congee rice simmering
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  5. Cook on medium-low to low heat, stirring occasionally,​ until the rice has the thick, creamy texture of porridge. This can take about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours.

    Congee rice cooked
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  6. Add the salt, taste, and add any seasonings or toppings as desired.

    Basic congee rice topped with nuts
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Method 2

  1. Rinse and wash the rice and soak the rice in the water for 30 minutes; then drain the water.

    Rinse rice with water
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  2. Add 1 teaspoon of oil to the rice and mix evenly. Adding oil can help the rice cook quicker and also make the congee smoother and softer in texture.

    Add oil
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  3. In a large pot or Dutch oven, boil the water and add the rice.

    Boil water and add rice
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  4. Turn the heat down to medium and keep stirring the rice for 5 minutes.

    Turn heat down and simmer rice
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  5. Turn the heat to medium-low, put on the lid, and simmer for 45 minutes. You can tilt the lid to allow the steam to escape. Season to taste and add your choice of toppings.

Method 3

  1. Rinse and wash the rice and soak the rice in water for 30 minutes, then drain the water.

    Rinse rice
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  2. Put the rice into a freezer bag and freeze for 2 to 3 hours. This can result in a smoother textured congee.

    Put rice into freezer bag
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  3. Boil 1 quart of water in a large pot or Dutch oven and then add the frozen rice into the boiling water.

    Boil water in pot and add rice
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  4. Bring it to a boil again, lower the heat to medium, and cook for 15 minutes.

    Cook rice
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  5. Turn off the heat and cover with the lid; let sit for 15 minutes before seasoning and adding your choice of toppings.

How to Serve

There are no rules about what you can add to congee. Typically, people add meat, fish, vegetables, and herbs:

  • For protein, add cooked shredded chicken, ground pork, or Chinese sausage, or a soft-boiled egg.
  • Cooked mushrooms, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, and bamboo shoots make a nice addition.
  • You can also add classic Chinese ingredients like shredded lotus root and ginkgo nuts.
  • Add crunch with crushed peanuts or brightness with fresh cilantro or Thai basil.
  • Make a sweet version of congee with raisins, Chinese dates (jujubes), and a bit of rock sugar.

Tips

  • The rice will continue to absorb liquid as it rests. If the congee isn't as thick as you like, remove the pot from the heat, keep it covered, and let it rest for about 15 minutes.
  • To store leftover congee, keep it in a sealed container in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to five days.
  • Reheat congee slowly in the microwave or on the stovetop just until warm. Stir in a little more liquid as needed to loosen up the porridge.

What Type of Rice Is Best for Congee?

Congee can be made with many different types of rice. Use basic white long-grain rice if you like; jasmine rice is a favorite as well. Other long-grain rice varieties like basmati can create a nice congee, and even short-grain rice will work. Cooking times may vary with any of these options. To make congee with brown rice, extend the soaking time to between 1 and 3 hours and remember that it may take longer to cook as well.

Is Congee Healthy?

As a simple rice porridge, congee is an excellent way to take advantage of the grain's health benefits. Congee is a good source of carbohydrates and protein with nearly no fat or sugar, and the high water content is hydrating. Congee has been a staple in Chinese diets for centuries, and it has played an integral role in traditional Chinese medicine. This simple comfort food is easy to digest and is often used to relieve gastrointestinal discomfort. These benefits are frequently enhanced with the flavoring ingredients. For instance, one popular congee combination is ginger and garlic: Ginger root is traditionally used to relieve digestive problems, while garlic has long been used to treat illness, including colds and flu.

Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, "Congee." 1 April 2020.

  2. Viljoen, Estelle et al. “A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect and safety of ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-associated nausea and vomiting.” Nutrition Journal vol. 13, no. 1, 19 March 2014, p. 20. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-20