Coming from a Vietnamese family, a rice cooker in the kitchen was just as essential as pots and pans. Since I was so accustomed to having a rice cooker that always had rice in it every day, I honestly have expected nothing from a rice cooker other than rice.

Peyton Stotelmyre / Daily Nexus

Entering college, one thing I was always curious about was whether people were really living off of cup noodles and microwaved foods. I was pretty surprised when I met a girl who had an interesting way of catering all her meals. I remember visiting her apartment for the first time, and my eye caught something that really made me feel at home. She had a goddamn rice cooker. To be frank, I laughed at the fact that she brought a rice cooker with her to college, but who could blame her? Rice is pretty important.

Every time I visited her, I noticed she was using that rice cooker for everything. She was making pasta, eggs and she even found a recipe to make cake. That rice cooker provided her with breakfast, lunch, dinner and even freaking dessert. With a kitchen appliance I thought I was so familiar with, I was really shocked at how she was using a rice cooker to not make rice.

Upon my newfound discovery, I realized how quick and versatile a rice cooker is, and you can easily find one for less than $30; my friend got hers for $25. I’ve grown to enjoy joining my friend in experimenting with her rice cooker and seeing what kind of random meals we could make. Some are just straight-up food hacks for lazy people like myself, and some recipes take a bit more effort but are still cool. I mean, doesn’t saying you made chicken curry with a rice cooker sound kind of awesome?

Based on the things I’ve seen my friend make and the recipes we’ve found online, here are some of my favorite rice cooker tricks.

Boiled Eggs
Add a cup of water into the cooker and set the egg(s) on top of a steam basket (included in most rice cooker models). Cook for 20 minutes. If your model doesn’t include a steam basket, what I usually do is cook my eggs and rice together so that I have a full meal.

Steamed Vegetables
If you do have a steam basket, you can also add steamed vegetables with rice for a full meal. The process is just like boiling eggs: Fill the rice bowl with water, then cook the veggies on the basket. Add seasoning if you so choose.

Add your pasta into the rice cooker if you have shaped pasta. For spaghetti or linguine, break the dry pasta in half. Add water and sauce, then cook. If it still feels uncooked, add more water and stir until fully cooked. If you want meat in your pasta, cook your choice of meat in the rice cooker before the pasta.

Okay, they won’t look like pancakes, but they’ll still taste like pancakes. Pour two (or fewer) cups of pancake mix into the rice cooker and let it cook. Feel free include add-ons like chocolate chips.

Chicken Curry  
2 tbsp. oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. curry powder
2 cups of water
8 oz. tomato sauce
8 oz. jambalaya mix
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken (cut into small 1 in. cubes)
¾  cup yogurt
⅓ cup chopped cashews
½ golden raisins

Yield: 4 servings

Directions: Set the cooker on cook and add oil, onions and garlic. Cook and stir for 5 minutes. Add curry powder and cook and stir for 2 minutes. Then, add water, tomato sauce, Jambalaya mix, raisins and the chicken in, and mix the ingredients. By this time, the rice cooker will have switched from “Cook” to “Keep Warm.” Hit the cook button again and add yogurt. When you are done cooking, sprinkle the cashews over your chicken curry.
Courtesy of Demandy from

Chocolate Cake
1 ½ cups white flour
½ cup white sugar
4 tbsp. powdered chocolate
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. double-acting baking powder
6 tbsp. oil
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. vinegar
1 cup water

Yield: 12 servings.

Directions: First mix the dry ingredients, then add all the wet ingredients. Mix for about a minute so that the batter is smooth, and pour it into the greased rice cooker. Cook for a total of 60 minutes (Hit the cook button again until it’s been an hour because it will set to “Keep Warm”). To check if it’s ready, stick a toothpick in, and make sure it comes out clean. Once you’re done, add the toppings of your choice.
Courtesy of circle3 from

Chicken Chili
1 lb. ground chicken
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup tomato sauce
Chili seasoning (your choice)
2 tsp. dried oregano

Directions: Add the ground chicken into the rice cooker. Once fully cooked, drain the excess fat and add the beans, tomato sauce and tomato paste. Stir, then add all the seasonings and let it simmer.
Courtesy of Nisa Cochran
To conclude, I have greatly underestimated what the rice cooker has to offer; it is so much more than its name. It can do so much more than just cook rice. Pots and pans are cool, but give the rice cooker a shot. Whatever you choose to make with it, all it takes is the click of a button.