Congee (Chinese rice porridge) is a comforting dish made simple ingredients. Basic congee is made with rice and water (or stock). Then, it can be flavored with ingredients cooked inside, garnishes scattered over top, or a mix of both! This recipe is my go-to vegan congee recipe at home. It's simple, yet flavorful.
As a kid, congee is what my mom cooked for me when I was sick—and it's also what the Cantonese side of my family enjoys over lively weekend dim sum. This recipe makes a smooth congee—without chunky ingredients inside of it—because that's what I grew up with. But, unlike the congee of my childhood, it adds flavor without relying on meat or seafood. I listed some of my favorite plant-based congee topping combinations below, including homemade chili garlic oil, but feel free to get creative. Congee is better with toppings!
Why you'll love this recipe
- Easy to make: It takes less than 5 minutes to get congee cooking. Then, all you need to do is check on the pot every so often to give it a stir and adjust the temperature if needed. (Or, cook the vegan congee in an Instant Pot, using the instructions below).
- Simple ingredients: All you need are 5 ingredients (plus water!)
- Meal prep friendly: Congee keeps well in the fridge or freezer. You can easily re-heat congee over a stove or in the microwave (with a splash of water), then add any toppings you'd like.
- Can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner: Congee is often eaten for breakfast (similar to morning oatmeal). But, congee is delicious at any time of day, so feel free to enjoy it for lunch, dinner, or even a mid-day snack.
- Customizable: Once you have this vegan congee made, the toppings can be a choose-your-own-adventure situation. It's a great way to serve a mixed crowd—if someone isn't vegan, they could add a soft boiled egg or meat of their choice.
Ingredients (and substitutes)
To make this vegan congee recipe, you only need 5 ingredients (plus water)! Basic congee can be made with only rice and water, but we prefer to add a few more ingredients for flavor. Then, the toppings are entirely up to you!
- Jasmine rice: White Jasmine rice is our favorite for congee. But, another long-grain or medium-grain rice (like this) would work too.
- Vegetable stock: Better Than Bouillon No Chicken truly makes the best vegan congee we've had! It reminds me of the congee my mom used to make for me growing up, because she flavored hers with chicken. Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base is a good second choice—or another vegetable stock you love.
- Water: Congee requires a lot of liquid, so water helps cook the rice to the right consistency without making the dish overly salty or changing its color too much. You can add more/less water depending on how thick or runny you like your congee.
- Salt: See the recipe notes at the bottom for tips on how to adjust the salt, depending on what type of vegetable stock you use.
- Fresh ginger & garlic: These help add flavor to this otherwise simple dish. We like to use a microplane to quickly and finely grate the ginger and garlic directly into the pot. But you can use a knife to finely mince it instead!
Find the recipe card below for the complete recipe, including all ingredients and instructions.
How to make (step-by-step photos)
Find the recipe card below for the complete recipe, including all ingredients and instructions.
When it comes to congee toppings, you can go as simple or as extravagant as you'd like! Here are 3 delicious vegan toppings combinations to try:
1. Scallions, fresh ginger, and white pepper: Whenever the Cantonese side of my family goes for dim sum, this is how we top our congee. My grandma (popo) always makes sure to order a plate of Chinese donuts (Youtiao) for dipping. It's hard to beat freshly fried Youtiao, but you can buy them frozen at Asian grocery stores and reheat them in the oven.
2. Mushrooms, sesame oil, sesame seeds, scallions, and soy sauce: This combination is loaded with umami! When the congee is almost done cooking, saute shiitake mushrooms in a bit of oil with fresh ginger and garlic. Drizzle with toasted sesame oil and soy sauce to taste—a little will go a long way!
3. Chili Garlic Oil, fried shallots, scallions, and fresh ginger: This is how we usually top our congee at home! Homemade chili garlic oil adds delicious flavor and heat. We usually use store-bought fried shallots for convenience, but you can make them fresh if you'd like. To fry shallots at home, follow the first step in this recipe, then scoop the shallots out of the oil and onto paper towels to dry.
Frequently asked questions
We recommend using white Jasmine rice for congee, for its subtle flavor. But, you could substitute another long-grain white rice—or even a medium-grain white rice (such as this one). Congee is very adaptable, so feel free to use your favorite rice and adjust the liquid-to-rice ratio to get your preferred consistency.
Yes, you can use an Instant Pot to make congee. For full transparency, you won't save much time using an Instant Pot to cook congee...once you factor in the time it takes for the Instant Pot to pressurize. We also prefer the stovetop method because you can see how thick the congee is—and easily add more liquid, as needed, during the cooking process. That said, if you're looking for a hands-off method, then you can definitely use an Instant Pot to make congee. See the recipe notes below for full details on how to make this recipe using the Instant Pot method.
Yes, you can freeze congee. Plain congee freezes remarkably well. Congee that's had other ingredients mixed in (such as vegetables) can be frozen as well—just make sure those ingredients can stand up to freezing and defrosting. Fresh herbs, like cilantro and green onion, are best added to the congee right before serving (after freezing and defrosting).
To freeze congee: We recommend cooling the congee in wide, shallow freezer-safe containers or bags. (As with most leftovers, for food safety, it's best for the food to be cooled as quickly as possible). Once cooled, transfer the congee to a freezer for up to 3 months.
To defrost and reheat congee: Transfer the container of frozen congee to the fridge to defrost (this usually takes at least overnight, sometimes longer). Reheat over the stove or in the microwave. You will likely need to add a bit of extra broth or water to thin the congee when reheating.
Tip! Refrigerate any extra homemade chili garlic oil and drizzle it over eggs, pasta, pizza, dumplings—or even spoon it into sandwiches the next day.
Vegan Congee (Instant Pot option)
- 1⅓ cup Jasmine rice (see note 1)
- 6 cups vegan chicken broth (or vegetable broth, see note 2)
- 5 cups water (more as needed)
- 5 cloves garlic, finely grated (or minced)
- 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger (or minced)
- ½ to 1 teaspoon fine sea salt (more as needed, see note 3)
- Homemade Chili Garlic Oil
- Sliced scallions (green onions)
- Minced fresh ginger
- White pepper
- Rinse rice: Rinse rice in a colander for 1 minute, using your fingers to swirl the rice under the running water.
- Combine and cook: To a large pot (see note 4), add rinsed rice, broth, water, garlic, ginger, and salt. Cover with the lid slightly ajar and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Then, reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is soft, about 30 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is falling apart and the congee is smooth, about another 15 minutes. (Add more water, if needed, to thin the congee to desired consistency; If congee is too runny, cook longer until thickened).
- Season and serve: Taste the congee and add more salt, if needed. Garnish with toppings of your choice and serve hot.
- Rice: We recommend white Jasmine rice, but you could substitute another long- or medium-grain white rice instead. Rinsing the rice helps remove some surface starch, but the water does not have to run completely clear (1 minute of rinsing is plenty).
- Broth: For best results, we recommend Better Than Bouillon No Chicken. Or, if not available, use Better Than Bouillon Vegetable or another quality vegetable stock you love. If using a bouillon paste, don't worry about dissolving it in hot water before adding it to the pot—just add the paste and water to the pot, and the paste will dissolve/mix in during cooking.
- Salt: Add ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) of salt if using Better Than Bouillon No Chicken (because it's quite salty!). If using Better Than Bouillon Vegetable or another vegetable stock, add 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of salt to the pot. As always, taste and season with more if needed, before serving.
- Pot choice: In side-by-side tests, we found that cooking congee in a regular metal pot was more forgiving than a Dutch Oven. The Dutch Oven retains more heat, so if you neglect the congee for a while, some of it can stick to the bottom of the pot if it's too hot. Ultimately, both of these pots work—but if you're using a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, turn the temperature down if you notice sticking.
- Instant Pot option: Use 3 cups (710 ml) of water (instead of 5 cups/1185 ml). In step 2, combine everything (including the reduced amount of water) in an Instant Pot and cook on high-pressure for 25 minutes. Then let it naturally release, before removing the lid. The congee will thicken as it cools. If you want to thin it further, add more hot water until its your desired consistency.
- Storage and reheating tips: Extra congee can be refrigerated or frozen. Congee will thicken as it cools, so when reheating (on stove or in microwave), thin with more water or stock as needed.