How to Make Congee (From Basic to Advanced)

Basic Congee Cooking Techniques

1. How to Make Congee Smooth

Methods of cooking congee usually involve boiling or stewing.

Boiling involves putting rice and water on high heat until it boils, then reducing to a simmer until it becomes thick. Take care to ensure that the heat is constant. The simmering duration and consistency in heat level are very critical when it comes to the smoothness of the grains. There are some congee that require a constant low heat over a longer period until they become soft and the rice grains became almost paste-like. In our article How to Make a Good Cantonese Congee Base, we also dive deeper into the different levels of heat and what each entails.

Stewing means boiling the congee using high heat first, then placing the boiled congee into a pot with a tight lid (such as a clay pot) and using the hot steam to cook the congee for around two hours. The congee produced using this method has a purer flavor and a softer texture. Stewing methods are usually employed in commercial kitchens, but they can also be used at home, adding broths and other ingredients to make congee. Though more time-consuming, stewing is almost a guaranteed method to ensure that your congee is fine and smooth as this gives the rice grains enough time to break down.

2. How to Make Congee Fast

There are four main tips when it comes to making congee fast:

  • Pre-soak the rice
  • Make a congee base
  • Use warm or hot water
  • Make congee with cooked rice

We usually instruct our readers to soak the rice grains for at least 2 hours or more. But we really prefer to soak the rice in fresh water for 5 or 6 hours then add to the pot. Soaking the rice first can cut down on cooking time, some Cantonese chefs even soak their rice overnight to prepare for their morning batches.

However, one disadvantage of this is that it can cause the nutrients in the rice to break down somewhat. And the solution is to pre-make a good Cantonese congee base ahead of time. This is a popular method in restaurants in order to serve different congee orders fast yet still preserve the quality of their congee.

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The easiest solution is to cook congee with warm water. This does reduce the overall cooking time, though not by much. Another popular household solution is to make congee with cooked rice, which we’ll talk about in further detail below at #6 How to Make Congee with Cooked Rice.

3. How to Make Congee Creamy

While smoothness refers to the fine texture of the rice grains, creaminess in congee refers to having silky-textured congee full of lingering flavors.

The difficulty comes as a smooth congee requires the rice grains to simmer or stew for a long time, while the ingredients will undoubtedly be over-cooked if left in with the rice for hours. Yet without boiling the ingredients together with the rice, the flavors won’t fully integrate into the rice grains to create a creamy sensation.

Nevertheless, the ingenious Cantonese people came up with the following 4 methods to overcome this.

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  • Crush the rice with your hand after soaking the grains. This not only reduces the total simmering time, but also helps the flavors of the ingredients to meld with the rice grains. This way we can add ingredients later into the stewing process to preserve their freshness and still have a creamy congee.
  • Marinate the soaked rice grains with salt and peanut oil for 30 minutes or longer before cooking. This adds flavors to the rice and helps the flavors of other ingredients to integrate especially in the case where ingredients need to be cooked separately from the congee base itself and added in later.
  • Boil the congee together with porcelain Chinese soup spoons. The spoons not only prevent the congee from sticking to the bottom, but also create a finer, smoother texture to the grains. This is a surprisingly effective method from traditional Cantonese chefs. We don’t know the exact science behind this, but it works!
  • Place pork bones and other congee base ingredients in a muslin bags and boil together with the rice. Depends on what the recipe calls for, different seasoning ingredients can be utilized in the congee base. Pig trotter bone is a very popular choice for savory congee recipes. The secret is to put them in a muslin bag so that the flavors can simmer through but leaving the rice grains pure and smooth. Ultimately, this creates a very creamy congee.

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4. Rice Cooker Congee

There are many different ways of preparing congee nowadays. You can make it in a household pressure cooker, an electric rice cooker, an instant pot, or even a microwave.

While these modern methods rarely achieve the smoothness and creaminess of traditional Cantonese congee, they are incredibly convenient and serve as shortcuts when the cravings come.

The only thing when it comes to rice cooker congee is the water to rice ratio, and this is a very tricky question as different people have very different preferences when it comes to thickness, and different rice cookers vary as well.

Normally we recommend 7-8 cups of water per cup of uncooked rice for Cantonese congee, and add about 2 cups of water on top of that if you merely want some less dense rice porridge. However, you may find this ratio to be undesirable to your liking or your specific rice cooker model, try a slightly different ratio and experiment a little bit.


After putting your rice and water in the cooker, simply close the lid and press “Congee/Porridge” setting on your rice cooker. If you do not have this setting available, press “Cook/Start” button, and come back and check on it after about 45 minutes. Cook until the rice grains are smooth and soft.

While we highly suggest putting the seasonings and condiments into the cooker together with uncooked rice, we do not recommend putting other ingredients such as fish, pork or chicken in there. Instead, cook these ingredients separately and add them in after the congee is done and cook them together for another couple minutes over the stove top. This ensures that the ingredients are fresh and tender, and the flavors are meld into the congee base.

5. Slow Cooker Congee

Just like the name suggests, slow cooker congee cooks a lot slower than rice cooker congee, but we find it to be more flavorful (yet nothing compares to the advance cooking techniques introduced below). Instead of cooking the plain congee base separately from the other ingredients, you can simply put everything together, put it on the low setting, and cook for a couple of hours or until your desired consistency.

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This is great as you can simply start the process before you go to sleep or head off to work, and you’ll wake up to or come home to a hot bowl of comforting rice congee. The water to rice ratio is similar to the one mentioned above in rice cooker congee.

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6. How to Make Congee with Cooked Rice

We find congee made with uncooked rice to be better, but if you have some leftover rice laying around, this is not a bad idea. Besides, making congee with cooked rice is a lot faster as well.

The process is exactly the same as making regular congee: add water, bring to boil, and simmer until desired consistency with some occasional stirring in between. Add any ingredients and seasoning throughout the process and stew them together.

Another little tip is that if you have some leftover Chinese food, you can also add them in! Make sure you pour in any extra grease or sauce from the dishes as they add tons of flavor to your congee. This is also called “pao fan” (泡饭) in other provinces and Korea.

7. How to Make Plain Congee

Plain congee or plain rice porridge is a staple food across China and many East Asian countries. If anything, they are a lot easier to make than savory Cantonese congee, but can also be smooth, creamy and delicious. With some congee toppings and accompaniments, silky plain rice congee produces a uniquely soothing experience.

In order to make the best plain congee, texture is key. This comes down to the right water to rice ratio (approximately 1:8) and the tips mentioned above in #1 How to Make Congee Smooth and #3 How to Make Congee Creamy.

However, it never hurts to repeat, and here’s a quick summary:

  • Pre-soak the rice overnight or for at least 5-6 hours
  • Crush the rice with your hand before boiling
  • Stewing the congee for a long period of time (2 hours or longer)
  • Maintain constant low heat level and simmer
  • Boil the congee together with porcelain/ceramic Chinese soup spoons


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About the Author: Thien Bao

Hello, my name is ThienBao. I am a freelance developer specializing in various types of code.