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 and lentils and small beans in one batch. I know, it's TOTALLY crazy of us, but we like to live on the edge!   ;)

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

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 5-12 hours, or overnight. Drain and rinse and they're ready to cook.

Why should you pre-soak your grains and legumes? They will steam much faster. Pressure cooking (without soaking) is another option, but some grains and small legumes hold their shape better if steamed.

It is difficult to use a pressure cooker (such as an Instant Pot) for steaming. You would leave the vent open so the pressure doesn't build and you would need to place the rice bowl on a stand in the bottom. Personally, I say if you are going to be using a pressure cooker, 3 in 1, 7 in1, etc, it would be much easier to just pressure cook your grains/small legumes instead (without soaking). In this case you would cook in TWO times the water. If I want to steam them, I use a dedicated food steamer which makes for a slower cook and I've found it works better for delicate items such as aduki beans or millet.

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. Next, add the steamer basket that you will set the rice bowl in.

(Look at our Kitchen Tools page for more information.)

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 slightly more than the 2 cups you started with. Don't worry about that.

  2. Add the same amount of water as you started with grains/legumes, so... Since we started with 2 cups of rice (or any grain/legume combo), add the same amount of water to the bowl, in this case 2 cups of water to the rice-steaming bowl along with the pre-soaked rice.

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

Steaming soaked grains/legumes should not take more than 60 minutes.

Many pre-soaked whole grains, lentils, and small legumes take 60 minutes to steam, but some take a much shorter time. Until you become familiar with your available grain/legumes, check every so often to see how they are doing when you steam them for the first time as many factors (i.e., item, age, cultivar, etc) could change the cooking time. Maybe they will be perfection at 40 mins. Once you know, you'll know for future batches.

You Asked...

"What are the ratios if you increase the amount of rice?"

    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 and yellow split peas. Here they are before cooking:

And here they are after cooking:

    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.

    What is YOUR favorite grain and/or legume combo? Please share in the comments below.

    Happy cooking!    :)

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