I got my first rice cooker last year, and I’ve been preaching the rice cooker gospel to anyone who will listen ever since. It’s dorm-friendly. It’s cheap. It guarantees that your pot of rice doesn’t boil over, burn your stove black, and piss off your roommates. The rice cooker offers a hands-off cooking experience (just set it to cook and you’re free to go study) without the fear that your food will burn or get cold. But even experienced rice-cooker lovers are often unaware of the true magic: you can cook anything in a rice cooker — not just rice!


These tried-and-true, dorm-friendly recipes (from my personal collection) range from savory to sweet. If you don’t own a rice cooker already, they will entice you to join me in rice cooker heaven. And if you already own one, get ready to embrace the variety that your gadget has to offer with just the press of a button. Doing it yourself has never been tastier.


A short note about rice cooker idiosyncrasies:

  • Some rice cookers automatically switch from “cook” to “warm” after 30 minutes. If you’re cooking something that needs more than 30 minutes to cook, just keep an eye on your rice cooker and switch it back to “cook” if it shifts over before the time is up.

  • Sautéing with a rice cooker is different — and easier — than Sautéing on a stovetop. Just put the ingredients in with some oil, put the lid on, and set the rice cooker to “cook.” Sautéing shouldn’t take more than 2-3 minutes, just like on a stovetop, but it’s completely hands-free.

Rice Cooker Chili:

1 bell pepper, chopped into small pieces

1 onion, chopped

1 can of kidney beans

1 can of crushed tomatoes

1 cup of vegetable broth

1 pinch of cayenne pepper

½ envelope of taco seasoning (Go the extra mile and make your own mix with 1 tbsp chili powder, ¼ tsp garlic powder, ¼ tsp onion powder, ¼ tsp red pepper flakes, ¼ tsp dried oregano, ½ tsp paprika, 1 ½ tsp cumin, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp black pepper)

Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

  1. Add the bell pepper and onion to the rice cooker, cover and set to “cook,” and saute until onions are translucent, about 2-3 minutes. 

  2. Add beans, tomatoes, vegetable broth, cayenne pepper, and taco seasoning. Stir to combine. Cover and set to “cook” for 15-20 minutes.

  3. Serve warm with a sprinkling of shredded cheese on top.

Rice Cooker Mac and Cheese:

2 cups of pasta

2 cups of vegetable broth

½ tsp salt

1 cup of milk

1 ½ cups of shredded cheddar jack cheese

  1. Place pasta, broth, and salt into the rice cooker. Cook until liquid is absorbed — for most rice cookers this is 15 minutes.

  2. Stir in milk and cheese. Cook for another 15 minutes.


Rice Cooker Curry Potatoes:

1 onion, diced

2 tbsp olive oil

2 large potatoes, cut into small cubes

1 15-oz can of chopped tomatoes, not drained

1 ½ cups of water

2 tbsp curry powder

Dash of cayenne

Salt and pepper to taste

1 14-oz can of coconut milk

  1. Add the oil and onion to your rice cooker; sauté until translucent, about 2-3 minutes.

  2. Add the potato, tomatoes, water, curry powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Stir well, cover, and set to “cook” for 25 minutes.

  3. Stir in coconut milk and let it cook for another 5 minutes.

  4. Serve in bowls as is or with a side of pita bread for dipping.

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Rice Cooker Chickpea and Pasta Soup:

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

¼ tsp of garlic powder

1 medium onion, chopped

1 15 oz can of chopped tomatoes, not drained

3 cups vegetable broth

2 cans of chickpeas, drained

½ cup of pasta (small pasta like ditali works best)

Salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese for garnish

  1. Add the olive oil and your chopped onions to your rice cooker. Saute the onions until they are translucent, about 2-3 minutes. 

  2. Add canned tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes. 

  3. Mix in 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, vegetable broth, chickpeas, and uncooked pasta. Cover the rice cooker and leave it to cook for 30 minutes.

  4. Serve in deep bowls with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. For extra flavor, add fresh herbs such as parsley or rosemary.

Rice Cooker Applesauce:

4 apples, diced

1 ½ tbsp butter

¼ apple cider or apple juice

¾ tsp ground cinnamon

  1. Cut the apples into small pieces. You don’t need to peel them.

  2. Add all of the ingredients to your rice cooker. Cover and set it to “cook” for 30 minutes.

  3. Enjoy your cinnamon apples as is, or toss them into a blender and blend until smooth.

Ideas for experimentation: use other fruit juices instead of apple juice; use pumpkin pie spice instead of cinnamon; try using other fruits like peaches.


Rice Cooker Frittata:

4 eggs

2 tbsp shredded cheese (optional)

½ cup spinach

1 small potato, peeled and diced

1 tbsp olive oil

⅛ tsp garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Beat eggs in a small bowl. Mix in the cheese, spinach, potato, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

  2. Coat the bottom of your rice cooker pan with olive oil. Pour in the egg mixture. Cover and set to “Cook” for 12-14 minutes.

  3. Serve hot.

Rice Cooker Pancake:

2 cups of flour

2 ½ tsp of baking powder

¼ tsp salt

2 ½ tbsp of white sugar

1 ½ cup of milk

2 eggs

1 tsp of vanilla

  1. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt.

  2. Add wet ingredients (sugar, milk, eggs, and vanilla) to dry mixture.

  3. Coat the bottom of your rice cooker pan with olive oil. Add the pancake batter, cover, and set to cook for 45 minutes. (Some rice cookers turn from “cook” to “warm” after 30 minutes; check up on yours to make sure the switch is always flipped to “cook” during the 45-minute span.)

  4. With oven-gloved hands, remove the rice cooker pan from the cooker and place it upside down on a plate. Cut pancake into slices and serve.

7 rice cooker meals (that aren't rice)

By Sam Kiss