Steamed Thai Sticky Rice

Steamed thai sticky rice

The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Soaking:: 6 hrs
Total: 6 hrs 40 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 4 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
119 Calories
1g Fat
25g Carbs
2g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 119
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 145mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 25g 9%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 1mg 0%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 20mg 0%
*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.)

Sticky rice holds a special place in my heart. Whenever my mom made sticky rice in my Cambodian childhood home, it always meant a celebration was not too far away. Sticky rice with mango and durian coconut sauce always meant the end of a dinner with aunts, uncles and cousins.

Sticky rice also represents the first time I went to Cambodia and visited my parents’ hometown. It was there where I met several relatives I had never met before. They greeted me with enormous hugs and sticky rice covered with banana leaves and stuffed with mung beans, pork and love.

Where Is Sticky Rice From?

For 4,000 years, farmers have been growing sticky rice in Southeast Asia. Sticky rice is predominantly used in Laos and other countries in Southeast Asia including Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and China.

The Difference Between Sticky Rice and Other Rices

Sticky rice is a short grain rice, similar to sushi rice. However, the similarities end there. When you compare the appearance of both rice varieties, you can see that sticky rice looks chalky and opaque and sushi rice looks more translucent. 

When cooked, sushi rice is fluffier and more tender. Steamed sticky rice has a chewier, less delicate texture and a sweeter flavor than other varieties of rice. The unique texture of sticky rice makes it impossible to substitute with other rice.

How to Cook Sticky Rice

The first step to perfect sticky rice is rinsing the raw rice with fresh water multiple times in a fine mesh strainer. If this step is skipped, your rice will end up in a massive clump and become too gluey. The rice is then soaked in water overnight or for at least 6 hours. This step is also very important. Not soaking the rice will result in uncooked rice with a chalky texture. 

After rinsing and soaking the rice you are ready to cook. Traditionally, sticky rice is steamed in a woven conical shaped basket placed on a large aluminum pot filled with boiling water. However, you can use a collapsible steamer, a pot with a steamer attachment, or a bamboo steamer. Once the steamer is placed on top of the pot, line the steamer with cheesecloth, coffee filters, or a cloth towel to prevent the rice grains from falling through the holes of the steamer.

Perfectly cooked sticky rice should look translucent. If it still has a somewhat chalky appearance, cover and cook for 5 minutes more. Once the sticky rice is cooked perfectly, eat it immediately.

How to Eat Sticky Rice

The most common way to eat sticky rice is by hand. Grab a big chunk of cooked sticky rice and roll it into a ball, then flatten it with your fingers to a size of a quarter. You can pick up food by using the rice as your utensil. 

Sticky rice is typically served in desserts or with salty and spicy food. The sweet profile of sticky rice helps balance the strong flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine. Dishes most commonly eaten with sticky rice include spicy papaya salad, pepper-filled curries, and the popular Thai mango and coconut dessert.

Tips for Making Sticky Rice

  • Where to find sticky rice — Sticky rice can be found in Asian supermarkets and online.
  • Do not skip the rice rinsing step — This washes away excess starch on the surface of the rice grains, preventing the finished rice from being gluey.
  • The important of soaking — Soaking the rice ensures that it will cook all the way through. Otherwise, the finished rice will be undercooked with a chalky texture.
  • If you don't have a bamboo steamer — You can use a collapsible steamer or a pot with a steamer attachment instead. Just line the steamer with a few layers of cheesecloth or even a thin kitchen towel (like a flour sack towel, not terrycloth).
  • Any leftovers must be covered — If you don’t, the rice will become hard. Also, look at the expiration date on the bag of sticky rice. Expired sticky rice will taste stale and unappetizing. 

"If you haven't tried making sticky rice at home, you should! And this is the perfect recipe to try. You can make the rice as chewy or as tender as you like. Either way, it's addictive! When shopping, remember that sticky rice is also called sweet rice or glutinous rice." —Diana Andrews

Steamed Thai Sticky Rice
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 2 cups sticky rice (also called glutinous rice or sweet rice)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients to make steamed Thai sticky rice

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  2. Place the sticky rice in a large fine mesh strainer. Rinse the rice for 1 minute, using your fingers to swirl it around in the strainer to clean it thoroughly.

    A metal strainer with rinsed sticky rice

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  3. Place the clean rice in a large bowl. Add water to the bowl until the water level is at least 3 inches above the rice. As the sticky rice soaks, it will expand. 

    Soak the rice covered in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. If you want the rice to have a softer texture and cook more quickly, soak it for the greater amount of time.

    A bowl of sticky rice in water

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  4. Drain the rice using a large fine mesh strainer. Set aside.

    A metal strainer with soaked sticky rice

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  5. Fill a large wok or pot 1/3 of the way with water. Place on the stovetop and cover. Turn heat to high. Heat until almost boiling. Lower the heat to medium-high.

    A hand pouring water into a wok

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  6. While the water heats up, line a medium to large bamboo steamer or steamer insert with cheesecloth or coffee filters. Make sure the bottom of the steamer is completely covered. Evenly arrange the soaked rice on the steamer. 

    A steamer lined with cheesecloth filled with soaked sticky rice

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  7. Remove the wok or pot lid and place the lined steamer with rice on top (the rice should be above the water). Cover and steam until the rice is translucent and tender, 30 to 35 minutes. You can check if it is done by looking at the rice. If you see grains of rice that still have a chalky white color, cook 5 to 10 minutes more. Remember to refresh the water in the wok or pot, if needed.

    A sealed steamer in a wok with water

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  8. Once the rice is done, turn off the heat and eat immediately. Any leftovers must be covered right away. If you don’t, the rice will become hard.

    A cheesecloth-lined steamed with Thai sticky rice

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

How To Store and Freeze Sticky Rice

  • When ready to store, wrap sticky rice tightly in an airtight container and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.
  • To reheat, steam the rice for 10 minutes. Flip halfway through steaming. 
  • To freeze, separate any clumps of rice and place in a freezer-safe bag. Seal tightly. It will last for 2 weeks. When reheating, use a mallet or rolling pin and gently tap the bag of frozen rice to release any clumps that may have formed in the freezer. Steam for 20 minutes and flip the rice halfway through steaming.