Saturday, May 22, 2010

Easy Gluten Free Rice Cooker Meals

Being gluten free can be a serious challenge when you're traveling. I took pictures of some of our gluten free rice cooker meals on a recent trip to the beach. I bought a rice cooker shortly after beginning a gluten free diet in 2007. After using it once or twice, we immediately realized the benefits it would have for a gluten free diet on trips!

A rice cooker can do so much more than simply cook rice. The model we have is a small, very frugal option. I think it was around $20.00 when I bought it and it's certainly not in the high end range of rice cookers. My sweet little rice cooker has not only kept my tummy safe on countless trips, but it has saved us hundreds of dollars on restaurant meals!

Whenever we go on trips I plan meals around the rice cooker. It's awesome to know we can make hot fresh naturally gluten free meals quickly and easily.

For dinner I usually bring pasta or rice and make a one pot meal. Trips are one of the few occasions I will use a boxed, prepackaged meal, but they certainly aren't necessary. For our recent trip I brought along a package of Namaste Pisavera Pasta. I love that Namaste meals are top 8 allergen free and contain no soy, wheat, or dairy. The Pisavera flavor is our very favorite.

To make pasta in a rice cooker, I simply heat the water on the "cook" setting until it's begins to simmer. Cook the pasta (any gluten free pasta works with this method!) for about 10-15 minutes tasting it along the way - it should come to a boiling point. It may take a little longer than it would on your stove at home. Keep an eye on the cooker to make sure the pasta doesn't boil over! In the last 2-3 minutes of cooking I add a drained can of organic vegetables to the pasta to heat them through. Drain the pasta & the vegetables. Add the drained pasta & vegetables back to the pot and add the seasonings & coconut oil. We sometimes also add a can of drained chickpeas or canned chicken to the meal to add a little protein. Voila. Quick, easy, hot travel meal from the rice cooker!

For breakfast I love making grits and eggs! It's probably a southern thing, what can I say? Grits are so easy to make in the rice cooker. I love Bob's Red Mill yellow polenta grits. They are certified gluten free which is really important to me. I used to buy other brands that did not have gluten in the ingredients, but I would still often end up with a very grumbly tummy. Corn products are one of the easiest products to cross contaminate during processing, so to keep my very sensitive tummy happy, we stick with certified GF grits.

To make grits in the rice cooker simply put 3 cups of water in the rice cooker on the "cook" setting. When the water is starting to simmer add 1 cup of dry grits. Cover and cook 5 minutes and then begin stirring. The grits will thicken quickly. When they are as thick as you like them, remove them from the pan and pour into serving dishes. This makes around 4 (1 cup) servings of grits.

Make scrambled eggs simply by whisking several eggs in a bowl and then pouring them into the cooker on the "cook" setting. Using a flat spatula move around the eggs as they cook. Add sea salt & freshly ground pepper and any other seasonings you like. (Unless you completely forgot the seasonings like I did... and you can just enjoy bland eggs! lol) Cook the eggs as soft or firm as you like them. Serve immediately (and preferably on top of those grits you just cooked!)

Bacon. Yes! You can even make bacon in a rice cooker. This particular bacon is happy, organic, nitrate-free, all natural bacon from a local farm. It's pricey so we don't eat it very often, but I thought a trip to the beach merited a special breakfast.

To make bacon in the rice cooker, simply cut the bacon into small pieces and place them in the pot on the "cook" setting. It will take a little longer than cooking bacon on your stovetop and it may not get super crispy. The only downfall to cooking bacon in the rice cooker is the cooker will automatically change to the "warm" setting occasionally which of course means it will cook more slowly. But turn your bacon when it's slightly crisp and brown and cook the opposite side. Then remove to a paper towel to drain any remaining fat when you're finished. Serve immediately with your grits and eggs!

More things you can make with a rice cooker either at home or traveling:
  • Oatmeal (this is such a wonderful way to make oatmeal. I usually plan 2 breakfasts for our trips: oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon, ground flax seeds, honey, and coconut oil is always my favorite!
  • Rice! Of course. Follow the directions that come with your rice cooker to specifically cook the type of rice you have.
  • Ground beef or chicken. A great addition to a pasta meal or a meal with potatoes, etc.. you can brown ground beef or chicken easily and quickly in a rice cooker on the "cook" setting. Make sure to cook to proper temperature for food safety. If you are going to cook chicken, make sure to cut it into very small pieces to make sure it cooks completely through.
  • Steam Vegetables. Most rice cookers come with a steaming rack so you can steam broccoli, asparagus, green beans, etc...
  • Boiled eggs. I usually have leftover eggs on our trips and I always boil them for a quick boost of protein as a snack. Fill your rice cooker halfway full with water. Allow the water to come to a simmer on the "cook" setting and then add your eggs carefully. Let them simmer for 10-15 minutes. Cut the rice cooker off and allow them to continue cooking for several minutes. Drain the water off. Remove the shells from the eggs. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
  • A cup of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. You can heat water so easily with the rice cooker. Simply add as much water as you need to the rice cooker and let it come to a simmer and then pour into your mug!
  • Simple stirfrys. You can make quick simple stirfrys with very thinly sliced vegetables and an optional meat or legume protein. Serve over pasta or rice made of course, in the rice cooker!
  • Toast: If you have gluten free bread, you can make very quick toast on the cook setting! My favorite way is to add a very thin layer of coconut oil on the bread and place oil side down in the rice cooker and toast for about 2-3 minutes on each side.
  • Poached eggs. - The "cook" setting on my rice cooker will heat water to the perfect simmering boil to make poached eggs. Yum!
  • Salmon and other fish - Often you can cut salmon and most other fish into small serving sizes that will cook perfectly in the rice cooker on the cook setting! Cook for about 5-6 minutes on each side until the fish is flaky.
  • Lentils - A very under-appreciated little bean! Lentils are so healthy and cook quickly. They are the fast food of the legume family. You can make a lentil soup in about 30-40 minutes. In the bottom of your rice cooker add a little coconut oil, add chopped onions, garlic, very finely chopped carrots & celery. Add 3-4 cups of water and 1 cup of lentils (any variety!). Cook for 30-40 minutes on the "cook" setting and you'll have a very quick healthy vegetable soup for dinner!
  • Cooked Fruits (Cinnamon Apples). You can make simple fruit dishes like cooked apples by slicing 2 apples and adding them to the rice cooker. Add a little coconut oil, cinnamon, and honey. On the "cook" setting, cook apples for about 15 minutes until they are just slightly soft. Delicious!
  • Desserts! - Yes! You can make desserts in your rice cooker. My favorite is a quick yummy rice pudding. Add leftover rice to the rice cooker and add just enough coconut milk to cover. Add about 3 tablespoons of honey, a pinch of cinnamon, a teaspoon of vanilla, and as many raisins as you want! Cook for about 10-15 minutes until heated through.

Not only is using a rice cooker an easy way to make sure your foods are safely gluten free when you're traveling. It's extremely frugal. You'll save money on meals and you will be able to control the amount of other unhealthy ingredients like salt, fat, and sugar.

Have rice cooker ideas? Please share your thoughts, comments, and awesome rice cooker recipes in the comments below!

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  1. Thanks PDW!! It works so well! Sometimes it seems like a hassle to take extra food along, but usually everything you need is in the pantry and it saves us SO much money! And it's kinda fun! Like indoor camping! lol

  2. This rocks! We have a mandatory hotel stay (for medical reasons) and the thought of 56 restaurant meals is nausiating, if not enormously expensive. I never would have thought to use my rice cooker for anything else. Bless you!

  3. Little Ol' Liz - YAY! I'm so glad this will be helpful to you! (Although I'm very sorry you are in for a long hospital stay!) I also meant to add that you can also just heat water for tea/coffee/plain ol' hot water with lemon/ hot chocolate etc... sometimes you just need a hot mug of tea, and the rice cooker is a perfect way to heat your water if you don't have a microwave!

  4. There are some great ideas here, Carrie. I can already see some folks are finding them helpful. I bet even some college students who live in dorms would find the rice cooker tips helpful.

    I would add that I don't considered Bob's Red Mill gluten-free products "certified gluten free." Their site says: "Which products are gluten free? All of our products marked with our gluten free symbol are produced in a dedicated facility and batch tested for gluten content." They use the Elisa test. This may be considered semantics, but I consider "certified gluten-free" products to be ones that undergo third-party inspections throughout the process. For example GIG's GFCO offers that type of certification to less than 10 ppm. I have no idea to what level that BRM is testing. It may be the same as General Mills, which is less than 20 ppm. I am one in the most sensitive group and can't eat either of these brands. I know I am in the minority, but I know I'm not alone either based on what others have stated elsewhere. Just wanted to mention that wording clarification.


  5. Hi Shirley!
    Thanks for your comments. I will say that I completely trust Bob's Red Mill gluten free products. I've used them since I became gluten free (only products that are marked as gluten free and made in their dedicated facility) and I've never, ever had a problem with them. As a matter of fact I use them exclusively (and I'm not paid or endorsed by them in ANY way!) I am also extremely sensitive to gluten, which is why I stopped using other brands.

    However, you bring up a very valid point and I've contacted BRM with your question. I'll let you know what they say in return. Thanks so much for your comment.

  6. Apparently I've been under-utilizing my rice cooker! Great ideas.

  7. this is such a good idea-especially for when you have to stay in a hotel that doesn't have a kitchenette. i may just have to go get one for times like that!! it is so hard to even eat continental breakfast at a hotel because almost everything is either gluten or dairy based. this is a stroke of genius!!

  8. Ya know, we have a rice cooker for home but I do think that I will purchase the model you have (ours doesn't have the 'cook' setting per say) and while this will be our travel model, I have a new idea to add to the list...

    When not travelling, I will keep it at the office, as I often work so late that it's necessary for a decent meal and while I'd never have the time in the morning to make something special, I would enjoy the break to make dinner :-) Brilliant!

  9. Tasty Eats at Home - I really love my rice cooker! i absolutely can't stand single use kitchen appliances, so it's awesome be able to use it for so many different things!!!

    Alison - You know, it's kind of funny! I actually look forward to planning hotel room meals with the rice cooker for trips, it adds something fun to the trip (as long as you don't mind washing dishes when you're traveling! lol) But I think it's fun and I always look forward to it!!

    TheGirlCan'tHelpIt - That is a brilliant idea! Keeping a rice cooker in the office would be a wonderful way to make meals if you had to work late at night! I love it!! And it would give you a fun way to make your meals and give you something to look forward too! Thanks so much for sharing that idea! Let me know how it works out!

  10. I never knew that a rice cooker could do so many things! As a freshman in college, we are required to have a meal plan, but I can't use mine because of my dietary restrictions - nothing is safe! I have come to depend on my rice cooker for things like rice and scrambled eggs, but I'm glad you included how to cook pasta in the rice cooker! After my hot pot broke making gf pasta became a hassle!! Thanks for posting!!

  11. Elena - Aren't rice cookers great!! I bet as a college student it is incredibly helpful to you!! I wish college cafeterias were more aware and could cater to food allergies! It would be SO helpful! I'm so glad this info was useful for you! Enjoy that gluten free pasta!

  12. This is amazing!!! I'm also a college student who will probably end up curled in a ball in my bed if I eat in the cafeteria again...I wish places like this actually understood, this isn't a game we play. Sorry! Off topic! I am definitely picking myself up a rice cooker!! This is AWESOME. :)

  13. Hi Rachel! I'm so glad this will be helpful to you! I sure wish I had used a rice cooker in college!! I would have eaten much healthier if I had!! :-) Thank you for commenting!

  14. Carrie - this is brilliant! You just put a whole new spin on traveling for me!

  15. My rice cooker has 3 settings steam, brown rice, white rice. Would the plain steam setting work for cooking? Any tips would be GREAT thanks so much! Tiffany

  16. This was a fun read. I documented my first attempt at travel rice cooker cooking here: and THEN learned about other people having these great ideas. =)

    I really like the steamer basket on mine... then I can cook rice and a side dish at once.

  17. Hi Carrie,
    This is amazing! We are grain-free as well as gluten-free so you can imagine what it is like traveling -- we usually stay at time shares or Residence Inns where there is a full kitchen --but sometimes we cannot find something in the location we need to be at... so this is a great option.

    I have never used a rice cooker -- what about a samll crock pot -- how are they different?

  18. Great ideas......Thanks for the tips!!