A Congee Recipe Packed with Umami Flavor

by Nicole Lesmeister

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Having trouble grocery shopping as of late? Grabbing simple pantry staples like grains and canned goods has become a little less, well, simple. But there’s no need to fret. We have a delicious congee recipe for you to whip up with grocery items and fresh produce you may already have.

Congee is a nourishing solution that turns a single cup of rice into six full servings. The best part? You can top it off with whatever you like! Just add veggies, a little fat, and some protein for total satiety.

What Is Congee?

Originally hailing from China, congee is a type of rice porridge that you can eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It requires a typical serving of rice with about 3.5 times the amount of water you’d use to make regular rice, as well as about three times more cooking time, which creates a creamy, soupy texture. It’s best prepared with savory ingredients, but the flavors are totally adaptable so it’s an easy recipe to make completely your own.

About This Congee Recipe

The only ingredients you really need to make congee are rice and water. From there, it’s just a matter of dressing it up and customizing it with whatever you have on hand.

This congee recipe uses white rice. While white rice gets a bad rap, it’s actually a very cleansing food. It’s easier to digest than brown rice, and absorbs flavors well for an adaptable dish base. While long grain or basmati are suggested, work with what you have.

Customizing your congee base

First, kombu and bonito flakes have excellent shelf lives, and are mineral-rich pantry staples. Kombu is a vegan-friendly type of seaweed, while bonito are dried tuna flakes. You can incorporate either of them as flavoring into your congee by soaking them in the rice-cooking water in advance. Alternatively, you could add a tablespoon of miso paste to your water for extra flavor.

To add extra bulk and beta-carotene to your rice base, you can also add sweet potatoes to your congee. Just peel and chop one into large chunks to add along with your rice. It’ll soften up as it cooks.

toppings

After you get the base down, you’re free to top with as many (or as little) fixings as you like.

First, I like to add quickly pickled red cabbage. Cabbage stays fresh in the crisper drawer of your fridge for a few weeks, so you can make a head last for many meals when served as a garnish. It also adds a gorgeous pop of color on your plate. To prepare it, quickly sautee it in some sesame oil, and mix the slightly wilted cabbage with rice or umbeoshi plum vinegar.

Then, mushrooms are a great option that provide powerful anti-viral properties, chewy texture, and umami flavor. I like to prep shiitake mushrooms by sautéing in sesame or peanut oil to add strong, nutty flavor. However, you can use any other vegetables you have on hand like broccoli, kale, or other greens. It’s a great way to use up leftovers!

Next, umeboshi plum vinegar will give your easy congee recipe quick-pickle flavor and texture, plus a gorgeous pop of color on your plate.

Finally, don’t forget the protein by soft boiling or frying an egg. When you break it open, the yolk will add an extra, thick, and delicious layer of flavor. Otherwise, for vegan or vegetarian options, you can crumble and sauté tempeh for plant-based protein.

Finally, top with any other fresh herbs or seasonings you like, such as sliced green onion or chopped cilantro. If you like spicy flavors, chili oil and sriracha are great options. For extra crunch, you can add sesame or pumpkin seeds. The possibilities are endless!

Congee Recipe

Congee Recipe

Congee Recipe

Note: The measurements in this recipe will yield about six cups of congee. If you’d like to customize your congee daily, store plain congee separately from toppings. Also, once you turn off the heat, the congee will continue to thicken. Add more liquid if necessary before serving and if needed for leftovers.

PREP
10 min
COOK
1 hour 15 min
SERVES
6

INGREDIENTS

  • 7 cups water (option to use seasoned water)
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • Sea salt or soy sauce
  • 1/5 prepared pickled cabbage
  • 1/2 cup shiitake or maitake mushrooms
  • 1 egg (or tempeh)
  • Optional garnishes (cilantro, green onion, chili oil, etc.)

SUPPLIES

  • Large pot or Dutch oven
  • Pan

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Set aside 7 cups of liquid in a large pot or Dutch oven. You can simply use water, or add miso, or make a dashi broth using kombu strips and bonito flakes for extra umami flavor.
  2. Thoroughly rinse the white rice. Add rice to the liquid and bring to a simmer. If you want to include any sweet potato or other root vegetables, add it here. Cover and continue to simmer softly for an hour or until a thick, soupy porridge forms.
  3. Season to taste. If you used dashi or miso broth, you may not need salt. If you simply used water, you can add salt or tamari at this point.
  4. While the congee base is cooking, prepare your toppings. Sauté, steam, or pickle any vegetables you want to use. Soft boil an egg or sauté some tempeh. Add these on top of your bowl of congee.
  5. Continue topping your dish with any fresh herbs, oils, or seeds.

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