How to Steam Vegetables in a Rice Cooker?

Rice cookers are versatile kitchen appliances that can be used for more than just cooking rice. One handy trick is using a rice cooker to steam vegetables. Steaming is a healthy cooking method that retains nutrients, colors, flavors, and textures better than other cooking techniques. With some simple tips, you can easily steam vegetables in a rice cooker for quick and nutritious meals.

Steaming Vegetables in a Rice Cooker with a Basket

The most straightforward way to steam veggies in a rice cooker is by using a steaming basket. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Pour 2-3 cups of water into the rice cooker pot. The amount of water depends on the quantity of vegetables you want to steam. Use more water for larger quantities.
  2. Chop, peel, or prep the vegetables as needed. Cut them into similar-sized pieces for even cooking.
  3. Place the prepared vegetables into the steaming basket.
  4. Set the steaming basket into the rice cooker pot, making sure it fits and sits above the water.
  5. Close the lid of the rice cooker.
  6. Press the “cook” button to start the steaming process. On some models, you may need to select the “steam” setting.
  7. Allow the vegetables to steam until they reach the tenderness you desire. Cooking time ranges from 5-15 minutes.

When steaming is complete, use oven mitts to remove the hot steamer basket. Drain excess water from the vegetables before serving.

Tips for Different Rice Cooker Models

The way you operate the rice cooker may vary slightly depending on the model:

  • One-button models: Simply press the button down to start cooking or steaming.
  • Digital programmable models: Select the “steam” function and press start.

Setting a Timer

Most programmable rice cookers have a timer you can set:

  • Set the timer in 1-minute increments to track steaming time.
  • Keep in mind the timer starts when the water reaches a boil, not necessarily when you press start.

Determining Total Cooking Time

The total cooking time is slightly longer than the time set on the timer. Here are some tips for figuring it out:

  • The cooking time varies depending on the amount and type of vegetables.
  • Test doneness after the minimum steaming time by piercing vegetables with a fork.
  • Write down the time it takes to reach the tenderness you like so you can repeat it.

Steaming Without a Basket

Don’t have a steaming basket? No problem! Here are some alternative methods for steaming vegetables in a rice cooker without one:

Use a Trivet or Mesh Strainer

A trivet or wire mesh strainer can act as a makeshift steaming basket:

  • Place the vegetables in a heat-safe bowl, on a plate, or a sheet of aluminum foil.
  • Set the trivet or mesh strainer over the cooker pot.
  • Cover it with a lid to contain the steam.

Cover Top with a Kitchen Towel

When using a trivet or strainer, wrap the top of the rice cooker with a clean kitchen towel before closing the lid. This helps keep the steam inside.

Use a Bowl of Water

You can also use a bowl or colander filled with water:

  • Place the bowl or colander of water directly in the rice cooker pot.
  • Put your vegetables in/on another bowl, plate, or foil over the water container.

Make Foil Balls

Here’s another clever trick:

  • Crumple foil into ping pong-sized balls.
  • Use these as a base to hold up a plate of vegetables inside the pot.

Steaming While Cooking Rice

It’s possible to cook rice and steam vegetables at the same time in a rice cooker. Here are some tips:

  • Make sure there is enough space for both rice and vegetables.
  • Adjust the rice and vegetable quantities so neither is overcrowded.
  • Put the rice in first, then add vegetables on top after cooking completes.
  • Quickly cover the cooker again after adding veggies.
  • The steam from the cooling rice will lightly cook the vegetables.

Steaming Times for Vegetables

Steaming times vary based on a few factors:

  • Your particular rice cooker model and performance
  • The size and freshness of the vegetables

As a general guideline from my experience, vegetables take 5 to 15 minutes to steam in a rice cooker until just tender.

The way to get perfect results is to test vegetables at 5-minute intervals. When they reach the tenderness you desire, take note of that time so you can repeat it.

Tips for Steaming Vegetables in a Rice Cooker

Follow these tips to steam vegetables successfully in a rice cooker:

  • Use fresh, quality vegetables for best results.
  • Cut vegetables into even-sized pieces to ensure uniform cooking.
  • Add aromatics like sliced ginger or garlic to infuse more flavor.
  • Spritz vegetables with lemon juice to help retain color vibrancy.
  • Be careful when opening the lid as hot steam will release.
  • Use tongs or oven mitts when handling hot containers.
  • Let cooked vegetables sit for 1-2 minutes before serving.

Cleaning Your Rice Cooker After Steaming

It’s important to clean your rice cooker properly after steaming to prevent odors and bacterial growth.

  • Unplug the rice cooker and let it cool completely before cleaning.
  • Remove all food debris from the cooking pot, steamer basket, and lid.
  • Hand wash accessories with warm soapy water using a soft sponge or cloth.
  • Rinse and dry thoroughly.
  • Soak the cooking pot to loosen any stuck bits, then scrub clean.
  • Wipe the exterior of the cooker clean with a damp cloth.
  • Let all parts air dry completely before storage.

The Benefits of Steaming Vegetables

Here are some of the top reasons to steam vegetables:

  • Steaming preserves more nutrients than boiling or microwaving.
  • It retains natural flavors better than other cooking methods.
  • Brighter colors are preserved compared to sautéing or roasting.
  • The quick cooking time avoids overcooking vegetables.
  • Steaming doesn’t require oil or butter, making it low calorie.

Frequently Asked Questions

What vegetables work best for steaming in a rice cooker?

Some great options are broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, potatoes, and zucchini. Quick-cooking veggies are best.

Can I steam frozen vegetables in my rice cooker?

Yes, you can steam frozen vegetables, but they may take slightly longer to reach doneness. Add 1-2 minutes to the steaming time.

Should I use hot or cold water to steam vegetables in a rice cooker?

You can use cold water since it will heat up quickly. Using hot water from a kettle may speed up the preheating slightly.

Do I need to stir or flip vegetables when steaming in a rice cooker?

Stirring is not necessary since the steam circulates all around. Flipping halfway may help some vegetables cook evenly.


Steaming vegetables in a rice cooker is one of the easiest cooking hacks. With the proper techniques, you can quickly steam crisp-tender vegetables to pair with your rice for fast, healthy meals. I hope these tips help you get started steaming with your rice cooker!

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