Japanese Rice Porridge or Okayu is so simple and easy to make. All you need is water and rice to make this traditional healing food. Add your choice of toppings to this warm and comforting dish that soothes the body and restores energy.
At this time of year when the cold and flu season is at its peak, my children usually take turns to bring home a few rounds of sicknesses from school. Last weekend we caught a cold traveling back from Utah and our whole family came down with fever and coughs.
We didn’t have much of an appetite, so I decided to make some warm Japanese Rice Porridge (Okayu) for the family. It is the most comforting Japanese cold remedy that I depend on to tackle a weak stomach.
Japanese Rice Porridge – A Healing Food
Rice Porridge, or we call it Okayu (お粥), is a simple dish made with rice and water. The rice is simmered in a pot with water until the mixture disintegrates. As the rice is tender soft and easily digestible, it is known as a healing food in Japan. We usually serve Okayu to people who are recovering from sickness, the elderly, or babies.
For those of you who are familiar with Chinese foods, you’d probably know that rice porridge (or congee) is very much enjoyed in many different ways. Some versions come with protein and assorted ingredients, and they are perfect for lunch or dinner.
Contrary to that, the Japanese don’t eat porridge as frequently as the Chinese do as a regular meal. In the case of Okayu, it is served specifically as a healing food – to soothe the body and to restore energy. You’ll find the toppings rather simple so the meal itself is light and mild tasting.
How to Make Japanese Rice Porridge
In this recipe, I use a 1:5 rice-to-water ratio to yield a thicker consistency. We refer to this ratio as zen-gayu (全粥). You could add more water for a lighter porridge. There is even a whole range of rice-to-water ratios that the Japanese follow, and each one comes with a specific name. You could read more on this in the Recipe Note below.
Sometimes we cook the rice porridge in dashi (Japanese soup stock), chicken stock, or miso to flavor the broth. For extra substance and nutrients, feel free to serve it with salted salmon, egg, or pickled plum. However, I made today’s rice porridge very basic and plain so you can enjoy it with optional toppings.
Cooking Rice Porridge with Donabe (Earthenware Pot)
We use a donabe, the Japanese earthenware pot when making the rice porridge for the people we care for. It is a traditional way of preparing the dish as the pot cooks the porridge evenly and retains the heat well.
I suppose you can use a rice cooker or a regular pot to make the porridge, but donabe has always been the preferred method.
I hope you give this Japanese home remedy a try when you’re under the weather, or in need of something light and healthy.
More Healthy Recipes You’ll Enjoy:
Wish to learn more about Japanese cooking? Sign up for our free newsletter to receive cooking tips & recipe updates! And stay in touch with me on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram.
Japanese Rice Porridge (Okayu)
- ¼ cup uncooked Japanese short-grain rice
- 250 ml water (for cooking the rice; 1 cup + 2 tsp, to be precise for 1 serving)
- green onion/scallion (chopped)
- umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums)
- toasted white sesame seeds
- shredded nori seaweed (kizami nori)
- Homemade Japanese Salted Salmon (flaked)
- mitsuba (Japanese parsley) (for garnish)
- Gather all the ingredients. I follow a rice-to-water ratio of 1 to 5 for a thicker consistency in my Okayu recipe; please see the Notes below to adjust for a runnier consistency.
- Rinse the rice in water, then drain. Repeat until the water runs clear. Drain into a colander and shake off excess water. Wipe off the water on the bottom of the donabe with a towel (or else it may crack).
- Add the well-drained rice and measured amount of water to the pot.
- Soak the rice for at least 30 minutes. Tip: You can use a heavy-bottomed pot or a donabe clay pot as I have here. Select a cooking pot with plenty of room for the rice and water to cook without boiling over.
To Cook the Rice Porridge
- Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Once boiling, lower the heat to the stove’s lowest setting (make sure to use the right size of stove burner for your pot size). Open the lid and gently mix with a spoon, making sure the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Then, cover with the lid and gently simmer the rice for 30 minutes. During this time, I do not open the lid or mix the rice. Tip: With a good size pot and the lowest heat on the stove, the water should not boil over. If you cook with more water or your pot is smaller than mine, you may want to leave the lid slightly ajar so the water doesn’t boil over. Tip: If you are worried, you can take a quick peek to make sure there’s enough water so the rice doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pot. If necessary, you can stir the rice or add a bit of hot water. Otherwise, don’t stir the rice because that may break the rice grains.
To Steam and Serve
- After 30 minutes, turn off the heat and let it steam with the lid on for 10 minutes. The rice porridge should be soft and thickened. If you want to add a beaten egg or salt, this is the time to mix it in. I keep this recipe plain and simple. Serve in individual rice bowls and garnish with toppings of your choice.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and keep them for 2 days in the refrigerator or for up to a month in the freezer.
- Zen-gayu – 1 : 5 (50 grams : 250 ml)
- Shichibu-gayu – 1 : 7 (50 grams : 350 ml)
- Gobu-gayu – 1 : 10 (50 grams : 500 ml)
- Sanbu-gayu – 1 : 20 (25 grams : 500 ml)
- donabe (earthenware pot) or heavy-bottomed pot
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on January 30, 2013. The content has been updated in March 2020.