Why is a perfect mound of steamed jasmine (or brown, basmati, black, or red) rice so hard to come by? The chronic under-cookers among us have it easy—just add a bit more water and continue to gently cook the rice until all the liquid is absorbed. If you've overdone it with the water in the first place, however, that's another story.

Luckily, there's more than one way to fix mushy rice, and none involve giving in and buying a rice cooker.

Be patient, and don't reach for the trash bin

To start, you might be tempted to chuck the whole soupy mess. Don't do this! Yes, your pot of wet rice is going to require more attention than habitual, expert rice-cookers need to pay to theirs. But with a bit of patience and technique, you'll have an acceptable side dish ready to eat in no time (emphasis on no time—these fixes are quick). How to fix a pot of soggy rice just depends on the watery state of excess you're dealing with.

If you've got just a bit of extra water

Okay, this is easy. The timer's gone off, a taste-test reveals a slightly chewy grain just where you want it...and a few tablespoons of excess water at the bottom of the cooking pot. Turn the burner's heat to low, remove the pot's top, and let the extra water steam away. Cooking off the excess liquid shouldn't take more than five minutes, so don't go anywhere. This fix works best if you keep a close eye on the pot to avoid that other rice danger territory, scorching.

Another option: baking. If the steaming-away method doesn't seem to be working on the wet rice, turn on your oven to 350°F, spread a sheet of baking paper on a baking sheet, and turn the rice out on top. Spread it around evenly, pop it in the oven, and let it cook until there's no longer too much water in the rice. This, too, shouldn't take more than a few minutes, so stand by!

Tip: The baking process goes even faster on a convection setting, so if you've got one, use it.

If you wound up with a lot of extra water

If you've really got way too much water in the rice and it's otherwise finished, forget steaming or baking. You're actually going to treat the grain like pasta: set up a sieve or a colander in the sink and drain away the excess. If the rice is still a little wet for your liking, pour it back into the warm pot on very low heat and give it a stir. It should only take a minute to dry out.

Know when rice is unsalvageable (and you need to make pudding)

Are your grains of rice splitting and truly mushy? Unless you're making baby food, this rice is done for as a savory side dish. That said, you can still turn it into a simple rice pudding.

  1. Pour in enough milk (any kind!) to just barely cover the rice.
  2. Turn the burner's heat to medium and stir the mixture frequently until it boils.
  3. Turn down the heat to medium-low. Add a bit of whatever sweetener you'd like, whether it's white or brown sugar, honey, agave, or maple syrup, or a mix of several of these options.
  4. Alternate adding the sweetener with tasting the mixture until it's at your preferred level of sweetness. 
  5. Add some flavor! Think vanilla beans, a touch of vanilla extract, a dash of cinnamon, or a bit of lemon zest. 
  6. Let everything simmer together for 10-15 minutes, until the rice reaches a pudding-like consistency, stirring frequently.
  7. Serve your rescued rice. If you're feeling adventurous, thoroughly stir in an egg yolk immediately upon removing the pudding from the heat, to thicken it even more.

Fixing runny rice pudding

By the way, if you've overcooked the rice pudding and burned the heck out of it, unless you're a big fan of scorched foods, you're out of luck. However, rice pudding you've merely over-liquified can be straightened out. First and foremost, if you're tempted to turn up the heat to quickly cook off the excess liquid, don't. This will merely beget curdled milk, not a deliciously thickened pudding.

Instead, slide the pudding mixture into an oven-proof casserole, set this is in a water bath, and pop the whole thing into the oven, pre-heated to 350°F. Check the pudding every few minutes until it's reached your desired consistency. Another option, if you're feeling decadent: let the overcooked rice pudding cool, then add in whipped cream until the pudding reaches a more thickened, albeit airier-than-usual, consistency.

And voila, no matter the once soggy state of your rice, you've got a salvaged side—or maybe even better, an unexpected dessert.

About the Author

Susannah Edelbaum

Susannah is a freelance writer based in Berlin. Her work has appeared on The Cut, Fast Company, SELF, and The Strategist, among others.