How to Cook Chinese Steamed Rice on the Stove

This guide will show you how to properly steam rice on the stove top without a rice cooker so it turns out perfectly every time for Chinese food dinners. From buying the right kind of rice to washing the rice to measuring the right water to rice ratio, these details ensure great results. And  prevent you from having dry partly uncooked grains or waterlogged mushy rice.

The ratio of rice to water for perfect steamed rice on the stove is 1 cup of rice to 1.2 cups of water. But don’t use a measuring cup. Instead do it how East Asian households do it!

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Vegan Hainanese Rice in pot

What Chinese steamed rice is for

This style of perfect Steamed Rice is made for your favorite Chinese restaurant-style dishes. The light, mild flavor provides the perfect backdrop for saucy stir-fries or dry fried dishes like Salt and Pepper Tofu. The rice is fluffy with each grain distinct but with some slight stickiness so it can hold together while eating with chopsticks.

Rice bowl with snow pea greens and veggie tofu

Also, with some minor adjustments, you’ll be able to use this rice right away for making Chinese Fried Rice. Or don’t adjust; just make extra and use the leftover rice the next day to make fried rice.

Because of similar cuisines, this steamed rice will also pair well with many Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and more East Asian recipes.

Choosing the best type of rice for Chinese steamed rice

For classic Chinese-style steamed rice, choose medium or long grain white rice. If you can get it, Thai Jasmine Rice is the top choice. Jasmine rice is very lightly scented. Don’t worry, you won’t feel like you’re eating flower petals.

If you can’t find Thai Jasmine Rice or another kind of jasmine rice, choose a medium to long grain white rice. 

If you’re aiming for East Asian-style steamed rice, avoid Basmati Rice. Basmati Rice is delicious and can be cooked the same way but it has a very different texture.

brussels sprouts with sushi rice

How to Make Chinese Steamed Rice on the Stove and without Measuring Cups

In most rice-loving Asian households, no measuring cups are involved in the daily task of steaming rice. Instead, you just measure with your fingers! This method gives a rice to water ratio about 1 to 1.2; perfect for making steamed rice on the stove.

  1. Measure out your rice into an appropriately sized pot. Either use a measuring cup or eye-ball it. Remember that the dry uncooked rice will double in size.
  2. Wash the rice. Add water, swish it around with your hand and drain. Repeat until the water runs clear. Make sure you drain well.
  3. Measure the depth of the rice with your index finger touching the bottom of the pot. Use the tip of your thumb to mark the top surface of the rice. 
  4. Add enough cold water to cover the rice, then additional water that will reach double the height of the rice. You can measure this by just touching the tip of your finger to the surface of the rice, then making sure the surface of the water just touches the tip of your thumb (where you measured the depth of the rice).
  5. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid, then cook over high heat. In a few minutes, the water will start to boil. Just as you can see the water starting to boil, turn the heat to low. Continue cooking for about 15 to 20 minutes until the rice is cooked and the water is fully absorbed. 
  6. Take the cooked rice off of the heat but leave the lid on and let it stand for another 10 to 15 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a rice spatula.

Two plates of Vegan Chinese Black Pepper Tofu with rice

Your Chinese Steamed Rice Questions, Answered!

Still have questions? Take a peek here or leave yours in the comments. I’ll do my very best to answer so you can have perfect steamed rice every time!

Why is my rice sticky?

Did you forget to rinse your rice? Excess starch left in unwashed rice will make rice stick together. Properly steamed jasmine rice will be slightly sticky but it should not be as sticky as sushi rice.

Why is my rice soggy?

You added too much water. Next time, add a scant bit less. 

Why is my rice partially uncooked/ slightly crunchy?

You may not have added enough water, you let the water boil too long before putting on a lid and turning the heat to low, or you peaked and let too much steam escape. If it’s just a little too dry, add a tablespoon or two of water and cook on low for 10 more minutes. That will usually be enough to save it.

If you did indeed add enough water, this could mean you didn’t let the rice come to a boil (just a bare simmering boil is needed, not a rolling boil), OR you need to give it more time at low heat.

If you definitely had it hot enough before turning it down to low, there’s still un-absorbed water (you can check by tilting the pot and seeing if any water leaks from the rice) and it’s already been 15 minutes, try bumping up the heat a tiny bit.

Storing Leftover Steamed Rice

Cool leftover rice as quickly as possible by placing it in a shallow container, covering and placing in the refrigerator.

Leftover rice can stay food safe for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. It will dry out a little during this time.

You can reheat it on the stove top or microwave but add a little sprinkling of water first to restore moisture.

Or, use this slightly dried out rice to make perfect fried rice! Many Asian households make extra rice just to use the day-old rice for making fried rice.

Frozen Rice

Cooked rice can also be stored in the freezer. However, the texture will be changed after thawing. 

That said, here are some best practices when freezing rice for later:

  • Completely chill before packing. You can do this quickly and safely by spreading the cooked rice over a large wide plate/container and placing it in the fridge uncovered. When it is completely chilled, transfer the cold rice to your freezer-safe container.
  • Pack it in serving sizes. Frozen rice will become a solid hunk; impossible to break off pieces. Plus, it should not be thawed and refrozen so make sure it’s packed in the amounts that you will cook with later.
  • Use within two months. For best results, don’t wait too long to use up your frozen rice. Otherwise, it can start to take on freezer odors or get freezer burn.

Add-ins for Steamed Rice

You can add extra ingredients to the pot before turning on the heat for extra flavour and nutrients!

You can try one or a combination of these ideas:

  • add the white parts of some green onions. Slice them thin first.
  • add a thin slice of ginger or two
  • add some powdered bouillon for flavor. Use the appropriate amount for the water you’re using
  • throw in some frozen peas, carrots and corn mix. Try 1/3 cup for every 1 cup of dry uncooked rice
Mushroom, Beans n' Rice all cooked up!

Mushroom, Beans n’ Rice all cooked up!

Extra tips for perfect steamed rice

  • Use a pot with straight sides. This helps with the finger/eye-balling measurements.
  • Make sure it has a tight fitting lid. It’s okay if it has a small steam vent.
  • Bonus points if it’s a glass or otherwise see-through lid so you can see when the water comes to a boil without peaking
  • Which brings me to the last and most important tip: NO PEAKING. 

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Wok full of Vegan Chinese Black Pepper Tofu Stir Fry