How to Make Congee (Plain Congee, 白粥) – Omnivore’s Cookbook

Easy congee recipe rice cooker

Simple congee is not only the best comfort food, but it is also an important staple on the Chinese dinner table, as popular as steamed rice. Check out the recipe below on how to make congee on the stove or in an instant pot, with various ingredients spicing it up! {Gluten-free, vegan}

How to make congee

A simple introduction

to congee

Growing up in Beijing, white congee appears on our table as often as steamed rice. It is usually served as a side dish that complements the other main dishes, such as sautéed vegetables and braised meat.

I consider the function of the congee to be half soup and half starchy staple. Because a complete Chinese meal usually contains three dishes and a soup (三菜一汤) with a starchy staple (rice, noodles, bread, etc.). Soup is especially important because we love to wash “dry” food with something liquid. Congee is a convenient way to add a soup without too much effort or cost.

The plain congee itself is very simple and humble, usually containing only rice and water.

Unlike many Western-style congees I’ve seen after moving to the United States, our daily congee doesn’t use chicken or other types of broth, which is considered a luxury in China (most broths are homemade and not store-bought). And we usually add a few small dishes on the side, like pickles or salted duck eggs, to add flavor to the congee.

Simple congee topped with pickles, sesame oil and green onion

How to make simple congee

What type of

rice to use My favorite rice to use for


is short grain rice. It creates a creamy, starchy texture that I love. You can also use medium grain, which produces a very similar result.

I would avoid

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long-grain rice (including jasmine rice). It produces a sticky, soft result with more starch released into the water and grain decomposing, but the texture is much thinner.


congee is super simple, although it takes longer than making steamed rice. You can use a regular pot to cook it on the stove or use an instant pot (or pressure cooker).

Personally, I prefer to cook my congee in the Instant Pot. It is hands-free and generates a better result.

NOTE, you won’t really save time using an Instant Pot. Although it only uses a fraction of the cooking time (25 minutes instead of 1 hour), it takes a while to add and release the pressure. So you’ll end up using the same amount of time you would on the stove.

The main attraction of using an instant cooker (or any pressure cooker) is that it doesn’t intervene and you don’t need to monitor it for the span of an hour. Unlike the stove method, where you need to keep an eye on it to prevent it from spilling and burning the bottom.

Also, the

pressure-cooked congee will have a slightly more starchy result, if that’s the texture you’re looking for.

Either way, you will need to rinse the rice before cooking, then simmer the rice with water until it is fully cooked.

Simple congee texture (medium thickness)

Water ratio

Each has its own preferred texture when it comes to congee


Personally, I like mine thin and liquid if I plan to serve it as soup. Or medium-thick if I want it a little more prominent with some ingredients.

On the other hand, you might like your congee very thick and cozy, like a bowl of creamy oatmeal


In the following recipe, I listed three options: thick, medium-thick and liquid

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  1. Thick congee – For 1/2 cup of rice you will need 4 cups of water in the instant pot, or 8 cups of water for the stove. It will produce a result like creamy oatmeal.
  2. Medium-thickness congee – For 1/2 cup of rice, you will need 5 cups of water in the Instant Pot and 10 cups of water for the stove. The texture is shown in the images in this blog post.
  3. Congee liquid: For 1/2 cup of rice, you will need 6 cups of water in the instant pot and 12 cups of water for the stove. A soupy texture that washes other heavier dishes.

NOTE: Pay attention to the end of cooking if you are using the stove method. The congee will thicken quite a bit towards the end and you should remove it frequently to prevent the bottom from burning. Especially if you cook the thick type of congee, you should constantly stir at the end (just like when cooking oatmeal).

How to make Congee (Plain Congee)

Coverage options

I’ve shared some coverage options I like the most. They are more for inspo than a specific recipe and you are welcome to cover it with the ingredients that you like the most.

Congee Serving Ingredient Products

Because I’m originally from Beijing, my family’s favorite congee ingredients include salty pickles, fermented tofu (quite funky and some people call it Chinese blue cheese), and salted duck eggs. All of them are very rich and salty, but would combine perfectly with the simple congee.

NOTE: The pickles I serve with congee are usually the salty type, such as pickled mustard tubes, pickled radish in chili oil, and Sui Mi Ya Cai.

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You can also top the congee with XO sauce, which is more of a South Chinese style.

Toppinging options for simple Chinese congee

For a thicker congee,

it’s also great to add soy sauce, chili oil (or sesame oil), and fried shallots (similar to how I make tasty oatmeal).

Another option is to sweeten your congee. It was one of my favorites when I was a kid. You can use regular sugar, brown sugar, or any other type you prefer.

Congee mixed with brown sugar


If you’re looking for a fancier congee, my seafood congee and

the century egg congee and chicken could be great choices. If you prefer to make a more elegant congee, it’s

totally fine to replace the water with chicken broth. In this case, you can consider salting your congee once it’s done, drizzling some sesame oil, and serving it with some chopped green onions. You can also add some cooked meat (leftover roast chicken or roast pork) to add volume.

For me, the

humble simple congee made with water and served with salted duck eggs gives me maximum comfort.

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If you give this recipe a try, Let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a photo and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

Another home-cooked meal

Chinese Steamed Eggs

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  • Napa cabbage with glass noodles
  • Wonton soup

Lilja Walter is part of the Omnivore’s Cookbook team and worked closely with Maggie to develop and test this recipe.

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