Automatic rice cookers are a convenient way to cook perfect rice, but they don’t have to sit empty when rice isn’t on the menu. They can serve other purposes, whether you need an extra “burner” or just want the convenience of making dishes with minimal supervision. Here, delicious ideas for your plug-in rice cooker…

Note: These recipes are guidelines. You may need more or less water, or more or less cooking time, depending on your cooker.


Making oatmeal in a rice cooker produces a delicious result without the hassle of stirring or watching the pot.

1 cup old-fashioned oats

2½ cups water

Add the oats and water to the pot of the rice cooker. Press the cook button, and cook for 15 minutes. Press the warm button. Let sit 10 minutes. Carefully remove the cover to avoid being burned by hot steam, and stir the oatmeal. The liquid should be absorbed. Cook longer if necessary. Serves two.

Additions: Stir in one or more of these ingredients right before serving—raisins, brown sugar, nuts, ground cinnamon, blueberries and bananas.

Note: Do not use instant oatmeal for this recipe. To make steel-cut oats, place the oatmeal and water in the cooker, and let sit overnight. Turn the cooker on in the morning.


Dried legumes such as beans and lentils cook well in a rice cooker without you having to constantly check them. Rinse legumes, and remove any little stones. Soak the beans in enough water to cover for four to five hours, then drain. Lentils do not need to be soaked.

For one cup of black beans or kidney beans, use three to four cups of water in the rice cooker and cook for about one-and-a-half hours. For one cup of lentils, use two to three cups of water and cook for 40 to 60 minutes.

You can sauté a combination of one or more of the following in a separate skillet and add them to the nearly cooked legumes—onions, bell peppers, garlic, chilies, bacon, ham, spices, herbs, etc. Add salt after the beans and lentils are cooked to avoid the legumes becoming tough.


Barley lends a crunchy, healthy touch to meals.

1 cup quick pearl barley

2 cups water

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Salt and black pepper

Add the barley and water to the pot of the rice cooker, cover and press the cook button. Cook for 10 minutes. Press the warm button, and let the barley sit 10 minutes. Remove, and add olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.


Vegetables are easy to make in a rice cooker, and they keep their bright colors.

For green beans (¼ pound), use one cup of water and cook for 10 minutes.

Broccoli florets (one pound), ½ cup of water, five to 10 minutes.

Asparagus (½ pound), ¼ cup of water, five to 10 minutes.

Carrot slices (one pound), ½ cup of water, 10 to 15 minutes.

Cauliflower florets (one pound), ½ cup of water, 10 to 15 minutes.