Congee (pronounced jook in Cantonese, 粥) is one of my favorite comfort foods. I grew up eating Mama Lin’s congee, which usually consists of rice, water, pork and/or chicken bones, and dried seafood (such as shrimp, scallops, and oysters). However, many people have requested that I come up with a vegan congee recipe, so here it is! By the way, here is my original congee recipe.
The main flavoring ingredients for my vegan congee are shiitake mushrooms, lemongrass, ginger, and vegetable broth. To serve, I add sauces and toppings to give the congee even more flavor and texture. Feel free to add your favorite ingredients to the congee.
HOW TO MAKE VEGAN CONGEE
RICE AND LIQUID
Start off by measuring 1 cup of jasmine rice and rinsing it once to get rid of some starch from the rice. Then, drain the rice and transfer it to the large pot. Typically, congee is made with jasmine rice because its natural aroma adds flavor to the rice porridge. However, if you don’t have jasmine rice on hand, you can use other types of long-grain white rice. If you decide to use brown rice, you’ll need to extend the cooking time as it takes much longer to break down brown rice.
I like to cook my congee with a 1 to 9, rice to liquid ratio. In other words, I measure 1 cup of rice and cook it with 9 cups of liquid. In this vegan congee recipe, the liquid is a mixture of water and vegetable broth.
For the vegetable broth, I use Better Than Bouillon’s vegetable base. It is a convenient paste that you dilute with water to make broth, and it’s usually easy to find in grocery stores. You can also use boxed vegetable broth, if you like.
In addition to the vegetable broth, I am using dried shiitake mushrooms, lemongrass, and ginger for flavoring. Dried shiitake mushrooms provide great umami flavor, but you need to reconstitute or rehydrate the mushrooms before using it. I usually let it soak in hot water for at least 30 to 45 minutes before using it for cooking.
With respect to lemongrass, I typically buy fresh stalks from the farmers market in Sacramento. When I get home, I’ll slice them into 3 to 4 inch chunks and freeze them to use year-round. If fresh lemongrass is difficult for you to find, you can use lemongrass paste, like the one by Gourmet Garden. Use 3 to 4 teaspoons of the paste for this recipe. One important note: Gourmet Garden’s lemongrass paste contains whey, so it is not vegan.
COOK THE CONGEE ON STOVETOP
Simply add all the ingredients for the congee in a pot and bring the water to boil. Then, reduce the heat to low, and let the congee simmer, covered for an hour. Occasionally, check the congee to make sure it doesn’t boil over.
After an hour, turn off the heat and stir the congee. Then, let it sit at room temperature for another 15 minutes, with the lid slightly covering the pot. This will allow the congee to cool and thicken. The congee is now ready to serve.
INSTANT POT CONGEE
Cooking congee in the Instant Pot doesn’t necessarily save much time, but it is more convenient as you don’t need to check it while it cooks. Cook the congee on high pressure in Manual mode for 30 minutes. Then, let the pressure release naturally, which will take about 15 to 20 minutes.
When you first open the lid of the Instant Pot, you’ll notice that the porridge is very watery. Similar to the stovetop method, give everything a stir and let the congee sit for 15 minutes so that the porridge thickens as it cools. Afterwards, you can serve the congee.
I add toppings to my congee all the time. Typically, I add a dash of soy sauce, white pepper, chili oil, and scallions. I also love to add fried shallots (or fried onions) and furikake. You can also serve the congee with youtiao, Chinese fried dough sticks.
MORE PORRIDGE RECIPES
Vegan Congee Recipe (Jook)
- 1 cup jasmine rice
- 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 4 cups water, divided
- 5 cups vegetable broth, (see note 1)
- 2 to 3 stalks lemongrass, sliced into 3 to 4-inch chunks
- 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, add more to taste (see note 2)
- Rinse the rice once and drain the rice.
- Bring 2 cups of water to boil. I like using an electric kettle to speed up the process. Then, pour the hot water into a bowl.
- Quickly rinse the dried shiitake mushrooms. Next, add the mushrooms to the hot water and let them soak for 30 to 45 minutes.
- Transfer the rice, shiitake mushrooms, and the water used for soaking the mushrooms to a large pot. Next, add the remaining 2 cups of water, vegetable broth, lemongrass, ginger slices, and salt to the pot.
- Cover the pot with a lid and bring everything to boil. Then, reduce the heat to low. I usually move the pot to a smaller burner at this stage. Let the congee simmer for 1 hour. Make sure to check the congee occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t boil over.
- After an hour, uncover the lid. The congee might look very watery at this point, and that’s okay. Give everything a stir. Turn off the heat and cover the pot with the lid again, leaving it slightly ajar. Let the congee cool for 15 to 20 minutes. The congee thickens as it cools.
- If after 20 minutes, the congee is still looking very watery, turn the heat back on to low and simmer the congee simmer for another 15 minutes.
- Remove the mushrooms, lemongrass, ginger, and garlic from the pot, if you like. Serve the congee in bowls and add your favorite toppings. You can slice up the mushrooms and eat them, if you want. I prefer sautéing fresh shiitake mushrooms and serving them with the congee.
Instant Pot Method
- Transfer the rice, shiitake mushrooms, and the water used for soaking the mushrooms into the bowl of the Instant Pot. Next, add the remaining 2 cups of water, vegetable broth, lemongrass, ginger slices, and salt.
- Secure the Instant Pot with the lid. Then, select “MANUAL” and let the Instant Pot cook at high pressure for 30 minutes.
- Once the congee is done cooking, let the pressure naturally release, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Double check that the pressure has released before opening the lid. You’ll notice that the congee is watery, and that’s okay. Give everything a stir and hit “CANCEL” to turn off the Instant Pot. Loosely cover the Instant Pot with the lid, leaving it slightly ajar. Let the porridge cool for 15 to 20 minutes so that the rice can absorb more liquid and the congee can thicken.
- Remove the mushrooms, lemongrass, ginger, and garlic from the pot, if you like. Serve the congee in bowls and add your favorite toppings.
- I typically use Better Than Bouillon to make stock. First, I boil 5 cups of water in my electric kettle. Then, I pour it into a bowl and mix it with 4 to 5 teaspoons of the Better Than Bouillon paste. It’s okay if the paste doesn’t dissolve completely because it will do so as the congee cooks.
- Vegetable broths have varying levels of sodium. Start with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Then, taste the congee when it’s done and add more salt, if necessary. Note that you may serve the congee with soy sauce, so the congee itself doesn’t need to be too salty.
- In my photos, I sautéed fresh shiitake mushrooms separately and used them to top my porridge. I find reconstituted shiitake mushrooms to be too chewy, so I don’t usually eat them. If you want more mushroom flavor in the congee, you can also add 1 to 2 teaspoons of porcini mushroom powder.
- Youtiao are large fried dough sticks that are usually served with congee. I buy mine frozen from Asian supermarkets and heat them in the oven at 400ºF for 15 minutes, flipping halfway.