The Magic of Rice Cooker Risotto

Risotto -- made in the rice cooker -- for the easiest rendition of all.

Who doesn’t need an extra pair of hands when cooking the holiday feast?

If you have a rice cooker in your kitchen, you are good to go then.

Because it’s almost like having an extra helping hand.

Especially when it comes to making risotto.

Imagine being able to make this creamy rice dish without having to stir it constantly. The rice cooker will free you up from that.

“Risotto Milanese” is from the 10th anniversary edition of “The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook” (Harvard Common Press) that was written by my two good friends, Julie Kaufmann (my former editor at the San Jose Mercury News), and Beth Hensperger, a James Beard award-winning and most prolific cookbook author.

The book boasts 250 recipes, many of which you’d never guess could be made in a rice cooker, including tamales, puddings and porridges.

Their “Risotto Milanese” is a favorite of mine that I’ve made many times. It’s made with saffron, yellow onion, white onion and chicken stock that go into the bowl of the rice cooker with Arborio rice. Push the button and let the rice cooker do all the work. Just before serving, you stir in a pat of butter and a shower of grated Parmesan. That’s how easy it is.

The rice gets fluffier in texture from the steam in the rice cooker than it would if cooked on the stovetop. It’s also not as loose in consistency. It’s a little different in that way than a traditional risotto. It gets a deep golden color from the saffron. And the taste is so satisfying, what with the cheese and butter folded into it.

This risotto is traditionally served as a side dish to osso bucco (braised veal shanks) or carbonata (Milanese beef stew), Kaufmann and Hensperger write in the book. But I think it also goes beautifully with fish, shrimp, roasted chicken, pork loin, rack of lamb and so much more.

Risotto Milanese

(Serves 4 to 5)

Machine: Medium (6-cup) or large (10-cup) rice cooker; fuzzy logic or on/off kind

Cycle: Quick Cook and/or Regular or Porridge

3 cups chicken stock, or one 14.5 -ounce can chicken broth plus water to equal 3 cups

Pinch of saffron threads

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons medium-grain risotto-rice (superfine Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone nano)

To Finish:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


In a small saucepan or in the microwave, heat 1 cup of the stock and crush the saffron into it; let stand 15 minutes.

Set rice cooker for Quick Cook or Regular cycle. Place olive oil and butter in the rice cooker bowl. When butter melts, add onion. Cook, stirring a few times, until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add rice and stir occasionally until grains are transparent except for a white spot on each, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the saffron stock and remaining 2 cups chicken stock. Close cover and reset for the Porridge cycle, or for the Regular cycle and set at timer for 20 minutes.

When the machine switches to the Keep Warm cycle or the timer sounds, stir the rice with a wooden or plastic rice paddle or wooden spoon. The risotto should be only a bit liquid and the rice should be al dente, tender with just a touch of tooth resistance. If needed, cook for a few minutes longer. This risotto will hold on Keep Warm for up to 1 hour.

When ready to serve, add butter. Close cover for a minute to let butter melt. Stir in the cheese and salt to taste. Serve immediately.

From “The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook” by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann

The signature Grey Dog "Chili Mint Herb'' blend.

WINNER OF LAST WEEK’S CONTEST: In the previous Food Gal contest, I asked you to tell me a fond memory of a favorite pet. The winner will receive a tin of Grey Dog Tea’s signature “Chile Mint Herb Tea,” plus a refill, in their choice of loose leaf or bags.

Congrats to:

Rae, who wrote, “My story is about a greyhound. She was adopted by my husband and I. Her name? The Girl. She was the best dog! I know what your thinking, “thats what everyone says” But she was! My dad had a minor stroke and as part of his rehab he walked. Well The Girl kept Grampa company during the week while we worked and she also kept him on his schedule. His walking schedule that is! She would come into his office and stand there an stare at him. Always around 11:30am. If he was up and about she would nudge him in the behind to remind him it was that time. When we lost her to cancer it broke not only our hearts but my dads as well. He lost his day time compainion and walker. Funny my dad never liked any of our pets through out our years, but her he LOVED. She was so gentle with him never pulling. It’s been two years now that she’s been gone. But not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. She really was the best dog!”

More Rice Recipes: My Mom’s Chicken Rice

And: Ming Tsai’s Cranberry-Hoisin Chicken ‘N’ Rice

And: My Version of Jook

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  • Rice is so versatile and scrumptious! Your risotto looks really good.

    Happy Holidays!



  • Awesome idea. Our rice cooker broke down but maybe it’s time to get another one. 🙂

  • Cooking risotto is such a complicated and intense process, with all the stirring and adding liquids gradually, etc, etc. Simplifying it and using a rice cooker sounds like one of those ingenious ideas that can revolutionize risotto-making :-). Your blog is a constant source of innovations :-). Merry Christmas, Carolyn, and have a beautiful delicious year!

  • My hubby makes one mean risotto, but he rarely does it because it is a lot of work for two people, we have a really awesome Japanese rice cooker, I bet we can pull this off!

  • I cannot wait to try this! I love risotto and the idea of not having to the stand there and stir is so time freeing! Thank you.

  • Pingback: Rice Cooker Risotto | Can~Can de Kazakh

  • I made this last night, & it worked out quite well. I sauteed the onions in butter in a frying pan, though, then added wine & rice, and then added it all to stock in rice cooker. Also added some fresh peas I had just shelled. I had no saffron, but added a dash of turmeric for color.

    An attractive & tasty dish. Thanks!

  • Virginia: So glad you liked it. Yes, this recipe takes to all manner of add-ins and substitutions.It’s a great way to make risotto when you don’t want to be standing at the stove, stirring non-stop.

  • I have recently brought a rice cooker through one of the online website called UBM Marketing and I was completely unsure what to cook exactly and moreover how to cook. But foodgal thank you so much for this post I have just tried your recipe yesterday and me and my husband just totally loved it. Please keep posting some more recipes which could be prepared by rice cooker.

  • The first risotto in my life! I’ve done it in Redmond 4502 multicooker and it gets more than just perfect – very fast and so delicious you know. My multicooker helps me again and much better than another cookers.

  • In my opinion this recipe calls for too much liquid. Three parts liquid to one part rice makes sense when making risotto in a open pot which results in a lot of evaporation, but when made in a rice cooker, with which there is a lot less evaporation, this high water to rice ratio results in mushy rice. I know because I tried it.

    Today, I used a ratio of one and one-half parts liquid to one part rice and got perfectly al dente rice, but without the creaminess of risotto. This is still a work in progress for me.

    I will try adding a little broth after the cooker switches to “Keep Warm” and see what effect that has, or I may increase the liquid ratio from 1.5 to 1.75.

  • Elliot: Let me know how your experimenting goes. It definitely is not as fabulous tasting as true risotto you make with all that stove-top stirring. But in a pinch, when you don’t have the time or desire to do all that stirring, the rice cooker-method is a good alternative. Happy cooking!

  • Carolyn: Thank you for inviting me to update my comments with the results of my experimenting. Today, I made a very acceptable mushroom risotto for lunch. The ratio of liquid (chicken broth and white wine) to Arborio rice was 1.63:1 – 2 1/2 cups of liquid to 1 1/2 cups of rice.

    I set the rice cooker to the porridge cycle, which, including soaking, normally runs about one hour. I opened the lid after 40 minutes. The rice looked and tasted done. I reset the cooker to “Keep Warm” and added another 1/2 cup of broth, butter, sautéd mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese.

    This dish was delicious and had better texture than previous attempts. It was not quite al denté, however. In the future, I would check the rice after 35, rather than 40 minutes, but I think that I am getting to a very good, if not quite traditional, risotto.

  • Elliot: Thanks for the great tips! I am definitely going to try them the next time I make the rice-cooker risotto. So glad you reported back on your results after tinkering.

  • Carolyn: After a good deal of experimentation, I have found that my problem resulted not from too much liquid, but from using the porridge setting on my rice cooker and letting the cycle continue until the cooker switched to Keep Warm.

    Automatic rice cookers switch to Keep Warm when all the water has been absorbed by the rice. With the amount of liquid in this recipe, this results in over cooked rice. With risotto, one wants a good amount of water left, to yield a sauce, when the rice is cooked.

    Using an on/off rice cooker or setting an automatic rice cooker to Quick Cooking, allows one to limit the cooking time. Twenty minutes cooking time, as mentioned in Beth Hensperger’s recipe, is just about right. I set my timer for 15 minutes and check the rice then. If it is not yet done, I give it a stir and let it cook another five minutes or so. When it is done, it will be just short of al dente and still somewhat soupy. It will continue to cook a little, after the pot is removed from the cooker, while it is finished with butter and Parmesan.

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