Stuck on Sticky Rice, a Gluten-free Treat

I spent last weekend in Washington DC, eating a lot of rice.

Of course, eating a lot of rice isn’t all that uncommon for someone who eats gluten-free – it’s versatile, cheap, satisfyingly starchy….

traditional gluten-free sticky rice in a banana leaf

Sometimes all that versatility makes me forget one or another way that I used to enjoy eating rice, though. This weekend I was reminded of an old favorite, and one I plan to bring back into rotation as soon as I can get myself to the grocery store: sticky rice.

Sticky rice is most commonly associated with Thai food, and is sometimes written as Kao Niew. The best word for it is probably toothsome; the texture is chewy and pleasant and satisfying in every respect. You’ll see it sweetened with coconut milk and served with mango for dessert, or simply steamed and served alongside certain dishes, to be balled up and used a sponge for sauces. But did you know you can also make it at home?

There’s no special equipment required, but there are a few keys to making sticky rice properly:

  • Get the right kind of rice. You’ll find it in most Asian groceries, where it might be labeled as either sticky rice, glutinous rice or sweet rice. There may be some variation between Thai, Chinese and Japanese brands but any of them will work.
  • Prep the rice. Sticky rice needs to be rinsed, but it also needs to be soaked to break down the outer shell. It’s ideal to soak sticky rice overnight, but in a pinch an hour or two will do.
  • Choose a cooking method:
  1. Traditional Steaming: wrap the rice in cheesecloth and steam it until it’s done, taking care not to let the rice touch the water.
  2. Boiling: you can boil 2 parts rice and 3.5 parts water in a partially covered pan for 10-20 minutes
  3. Microwave: Combine 1 part rice to slightly more than 1 part water and microwave in 3-minute intervals until translucent.
  • Let it sit. The rice will benefit from sitting in the heat for another 10 minutes if you are steaming or boiling it.
  • Enjoy!

Here are some recipes for sticky rice and dessert sticky rice that should get you well on your way:

  • Chez Pim cooks Sticky Rice and offers options for sweet or savory
  • offers options for Boiling Sticky Rice
  • put a how-to video up that’s also quite helpful and gives some background on how sticky rice is different
  • Black sticky rice is a beautiful alternative, and Thai Food and Travel has a great Black Sticy Rice Pudding recipe that’s of course gluten-free

Do you enjoy sticky rice? If so, have you made it at home?

3 thoughts on “Stuck on Sticky Rice, a Gluten-free Treat”

  1. It is hard to believe that sticky rice is gluten free. It has all the qualities that I associate with “gluten”. I wonder if there is some way to replace gluten in bread and cereals with sticky rice?!

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