← Back to Search Results
steaming Laotian, Thai, Vietnamese
Basic Sticky Rice Recipe-9040

Photo by: Joseph De Leo
Comments: 0


Khao neeo

If there is any one food that for us symbolizes the regional cuisines of Southeast Asia, it is sticky rice. It is the staple food, the staff of life, in Laos, northern Thailand, and northeast Thailand. It is also widely eaten in Cambodia, Vietnam, Yunnan, and other parts of Thailand, and it is often used for making sweets and ceremonial foods.

Sticky rice is medium to long grain and opaque white before cooking. It is a different variety of rice from jasmine, “sticky” when cooked because it contains a different form of starch (it is very low in amylose and is high in amylopectin). It is sometimes called sweet rice or glutinous rice. Sticky rice from Thailand is often sold marked pin kao, or with the Vietnamese term for sticky rice, gao nep.

Sticky rice is fun, liberating food. No utensils are needed. When it comes to eating sticky rice for the first time, children are usually better than adults; they have no problem eating with their fingers. For us, sticky rice is a way of eating, a way of organizing meals. To eat it, take a large ball of rice in one hand, then pull a smaller bite-sized piece off with your other hand and squeeze it gently into a firm clump. Then it’s almost like a piece of bread: Use it to scoop up some salsa or a piece of grilled chicken.

To prepare sticky rice, you must first soak it overnight in cold water. It is then steam-cooked in a basket or steamer over a pot of boiling water. The long soaking gives the rice more flavor, but you can take a short-cut and soak it in warm water for just 2 hours.

People tend to eat a lot of sticky rice, or at least we do, and so do our friends, so we cook 3 cups for 4 to 6 hungry adults.

Yield: Makes about 6½ cups rice; serves 4 to 6


  • 3 cups long-grain Thai sticky rice


Soak the rice in a container that holds at least twice the volume of the rice: Cover the rice with 2 to 3 inches of room-temperature water and soak for 6 to 24 hours. If you need to shorten the soaking time, soak the rice in warm (about 100°F) water for 2 hours. The longer soak gives more flavor and a more even, tender texture, but the rice is perfectly edible with the shorter soak in warm water.

Drain the rice and place in a conical steamer basket or alternative steaming arrangement (see Equipment Note). Set the steamer basket or steamer over several inches of boiling water in a large pot or a wok. The rice must not be in or touching the boiling water.

Cover and steam for 25 minutes, or until the rice is shiny and tender.

If using an alternative steaming arrangement, turn the rice over after about 20 minutes, so the top layer is on the bottom.

Be careful that your pot doesn’t run dry during steaming; add more water if necessary, making sure to keep it from touching the rice.

Turn the cooked rice out onto a clean work surface. Use a long-handled wooden spoon to flatten it out a little, then turn it over on itself, first from one side, then from the other, a little like folding over dough as you knead. This helps get rid of any clumps; after several foldings, the rice will be an even round lump.

Place it in a covered basket or in a serving bowl covered by a damp cloth or a lid.

Serve warm or at room temperature, directly from the basket or bowl. The rice will dry out if exposed to the air for long as it cools, so keep covered until serving.

In Thailand and Laos, cooked sticky rice is kept warm and moist in covered baskets.


EQUIPMENT NOTE: You will need a large pot for soaking the rice and a rice-steaming arrangement; there are several different options for steaming sticky rice. By far the best is the traditional basket and pot. If you can shop in a Thai, Lao, or Vietnamese grocery, chances are you can buy the conical basket used for cooking sticky rice as well as the lightweight pot the basket rests in as it steams. You can also buy the basket and pot by mail-order (see Sources ). This is the ideal equipment for cooking sticky rice—low-cost and made for the purpose. However, you can improvise by using a Chinese bamboo steamer or a steamer insert, or a large sieve. Line it with cheesecloth or muslin, place over a large pot of water, and cover tightly. The steamer must fit tightly so that no steam escapes around the edge and all the steam is forced up through the rice.

© 2000 Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid

Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

This recipe serves 6.

342kcal (17%)
10mg (1%)
0mg (0%)
0mcg RAE (0%)
0mg (0%)
6mg (0%)
0g (1%)
1g (1%)
1mg (8%)

Would you like to leave a comment about this recipe?

Notify me of new comments on this recipe. Add comment

We'd love to hear what you think!

Please or to add a comment to this recipe.
Free Activity Kit for Love Monster and the Last Chocolate!

Discover Related Recipes

Sign up for
The Cookstr Weekly

Free handpicked cookbook recipes delivered straight to your inbox

Explore Cookbooks on Cookstr

the-vegetable-dishes-i-cant-live-without The Vegetable Dishes I Can'...
by Mollie Katzen, Greg Atkinson
david-rosengarten-entertains-fabulous-parties-for-food-lovers David Rosengarten Entertain...
by David Rosengarten
american-masala American Masala
by Suvir Saran
allergy-free-desserts Allergy-Free Desserts
by Elizabeth Gordon
the-asian-grandmothers-cookbook The Asian Grandmothers Cook...
by Patricia Tanumihardja
julias-kitchen-wisdom Julia's Kitchen Wisdom
by Julia Child
bistro-cooking-at-home-more-than-150-classic-and-contemporary-dishes Bistro Cooking at Home: Mor...
by Gordon Hamersley
salmon-a-cookbook Salmon: A Cookbook
by Diane Morgan
parents-need-to-eat-too Parents Need to Eat Too
by Debbie Koenig
flavor Flavor
by Rocco DiSpirito
mom-a-licious Mom-a-Licious
by Domenica Catelli
gluten-free-and-vegan-holidays Gluten-Free and Vegan Holidays
by Jennifer Katzinger
ham-an-obsession-with-the-hindquarter Ham: An Obsession with the ...
by Bruce Weinstein, Mark Scarbrough

Thanks for signing up!

You'll receive an activation email in your inbox shortly. Don't forget to click that link and activate your new Cookstr.com account!

Already a member? Sign in here

Sign up for Cookstr!

  • Receive a free, handpicked selection of recipes in your inbox weekly
  • Save, share and comment on your favorite recipes in My Cookstr
  • Get updates on new cookbooks, Cookstr features, and other exclusives we know you'll love
By signing up you accept the
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
New to Cookstr? Sign up here
Thanks for commenting!
Would you like to share your comment on Facebook or Twitter?