Home Contact RSS Feed About Me Latest Content

How To Cook Grains and Lentils
In A Food Steamer


Learn how to cook grains in a food steamer. It's the easiest way of cooking whole grains because it's foolproof. Perfect for lentils and small beans too.

You can even combine any and all grains/lentils/small beans in one batch — I know, it's TOTALLY crazy of us, but we like to live on the edge!   ;)

Steamed brown rice/wild rice/barley combo

Here's what you'll discover below:


How To Cook Grains/Lentils In A Food Steamer: Presoaking Your Grains/Lentils

We're going to use brown rice in the example on this page, just to keep things simple. But the same general rules apply to steaming most whole grains, lentils, and small legumes (such as mung beans or aduki beans).

First, soak your brown rice for 8-12 hours, or overnight. Drain, rinse, and drain again.

Why should you pre-soak your grains and legumes? Because it makes them easier to digest and the nutrients become more available.

There are some "grains" that aren't grains at all but "pseudocereals" (such as quinoa and buckwheat) that don't HAVE TO BE presoaked. But I'm pre-soaking ALL of my grains AND pseudocereals these days because I just feel better when I do.


How To Cook Grains/Lentils In A Food Steamer: Measure and Cook

Fill the base of your steamer to the line indicated in your steamer's instructions. It's usually to the highest water (FULL) line. You may or may not have to add the drip tray, depending on the steamer. Next, add the steamer basket.

(These days we're using a 3-in-1 cooker like this. And if you do too you'll notice the rules are just a bit different, so simply follow the instructions for your own steamer or 3-in-1 cooker.)

However, since MOST people have a countertop steamer instead of a 3-in-1, we'll keep the instructions on THIS page focused on using a countertop steamer.

Now, let's get the rice ready.

  1. We usually start with 2 cups of brown rice BEFORE soaking.

    Since the rice will swell during the soaking process, you'll end up with more than the 2 cups you started with.

  2. Since we started with 2 cups, and it's customary to add the same amount of water to cook, go ahead and add 2 cups of water to the rice-steaming bowl along with the pre-soaked rice.

    (Of course, you can soak as much or as little as you like. But if you always use the same amount, you never have to sit there wondering "Damn, how much did I soak this time?")

  3. Add your bowl filled with the rice/water combo to the steamer. Place lid on top of the whole shebang.

    (If you're using the 3-in-1 cooker that we recommend, you will simply add the water/rice combo directly to the cooker bowl itself. There is no need to add additional water to the base of the cooker or you'll destroy the electric component!)

  4. Set timer for 60 minutes.

    Many pre-soaked whole grains, lentils, and small legumes take 60 minutes to steam, but some take a much shorter time. Refer to our handy chart below for guidance. And always play around and find the tenderness you like best.


    Series of video clips showing you how to soak, cook and cool whole grains/lentils

    Here, hubby Jeff demonstrates the entire process; pre-soaking your grains/lentils (see how they expand after soaking?), rinsing and draining, cooking them in a countertop steamer and cooling them in a fairly quick manner so you can get the whole batch into the fridge for your next cooking adventure. (Never place hot grains directly into the refrigerator; you'll want to be sure the center cools off or harmful bacteria could form).


    How To Cook Grains/Lentils In A Food Steamer: Cooling and Storing Your Grains

    When timer goes off, it's okay to let it sit for 10 minutes or so to cool slightly and allow any additional liquids to be soaked up.

    Using oven mitts, remove rice bowl from steamer. Set aside to cool. Fluff with a fork.

    Scoop out what you need into a bowl to season.

    Before storing the rest away, be sure rice is completely cooled. What I like to do is spread the rice out into the bottom and up the sides of a large bowl. Takes about 20 minutes or so to cool completely. Set a timer so you don't forget about it. Spoon into a jar or other container with a lid.

    Store in the fridge for 3-5 days. We've noticed after 5 days the rice starts to dry out.


    How To Cook Grains/Lentils In A Food Steamer: Mix and Match!

    Be sure to mix and match like we did here with a mix of brown rice/wild rice/barley/green split peas/yellow split peas. Here they are before cooking:

    Brown rice/wild rice/barley/green split peas/yellow split peas combo before cooking

    And here they are after cooking:

    Steamed brown rice/wild rice/barley/green split peas/yellow split peas combo

    The texture contrasts make for a deliciously interesting meal!

    We used to purchase our grains/lentils pre-mixed and then we realized they were so much more expensive that way.

    So that's when we started to buy all of our grains and lentils and small legumes separately.

    Now we can mix and match them ourselves, depending on what we feel like eating or textures we want to create or what mix might be best with the produce we have on hand — as well as the season! (For instance, I'm more apt to eat more barley in the winter than I am in the summer. And I'm more apt to eat more quinoa in the summer than I am in the winter. But that's just me. You can always do whatever you (and your taste buds) like.

    Of course, the cooking times may all vary, so just be sure to use the cooking time of the ingredient that takes the longest time to cook.

    You can mix and match because the rules are the same for any whole grain. And also for lentils and small legumes.


    How To Cook Grains/Lentils In A Food Steamer: Cooking Times

    Below you will find some of the more popular grains and small legumes you can steam, with the approximate timing of each (based on pre-soaking first).

    For more in-depth info, click any one to learn all about shopping for each, prep tips, and flavoring suggestions (as well as other cooking techniques we recommend).


    These foods steam perfectly.
    Times are based on pre-soaking.
    Photo of buckwheat-kasha
    Buckwheat!
    15 minutes
    Photo of quinoa
    Quinoa!
    15 minutes
    Photo of barley
    Barley!
    45 minutes
    Photo of millet
    Millet!
    60 minutes
    Photo of small beans
    Small Legumes!
    60 minutes
    Photo of brown rice
    Brown Rice!
    60 minutes

    By the way, you can also steam up some tempeh. Organic Corn on the Cob also steams beautifully and takes about 15 minutes. I like to cut the cobs into thirds and stand them up in steamer, but they can also be laid down horizontally, depending on the size of your steamer.


    Happy cooking!    :)


    Heart with quotes"I LOVE your website! It's super resourceful! I've been a vegan for the past 4 1/2 months and love it! Keep up the great work. =)"
    -- Kate Rotondo, Wilkie, Saskatchewan, Canada


    Back to the top - How To Cook Grains In A Steamer