My eldest daughter Emma hated store-bought baby cereal when she was just starting solids. My twins were quite constipated by it. Lucky for me, I stumbled upon a recipe for a homemade rice cereal that is nutritious, affordable, easy to prepare and highly adaptable. And, my babies loved it!
Rice Congee is a rice porridge popular throughout Asia, traditionally made with white rice cooked for long periods until the grains of rice begin to dissolve. It is traditionally quite runny, and sometimes served with savory ingredients such as fish, onions or other seasonings which vary by region. It is frequently served for breakfast (I see the congee carts when we go to dim sum here in Seattle), though for other meals as well, also fed to infants considered a therapeutic food for those who are sick.
I make my congee with brown rice (for increased nutrition and fiber) and a bit thicker — like a thin oatmeal or cream of wheat. In the slow cooker it is easy to make and tastes great! We find it a good alternative to oatmeal (though you can use oatmeal or other grains with this method, too) and you can add yummy things to it like dried fruit which softens up quite a bit and sometimes dissolves completely, adding flavor and a touch of sweetness. My oldest daughter was (and still is!) a fairly picky eater and mostly insisted on feeding herself, but she loved this cereal and we had it for breakfast often. We were also practicing baby led weaning (allowing for a range of food textures and self feeding) so having a more textured cereal was not a problem for us. As she got older I started adding other ingredients to our congee sometimes to change things up, but simple is great as well.
Homemade Slow-Cooker Brown Rice Congee Ingredients
- 3/4 cup to 1 cup short grain brown rice (or a mix of different grains, I sometimes use a combination of brown rice and steel cut oatmeal, cornmeal, quinoa, teff, barley or other grains)
- 8-10 cups water. Yes, that is a lot, you really cook this a long while! I tend to start with less and add more as it cooks (sometimes with a can of coconut milk as well), depending on how the grains and dried fruit absorb it.
- 1 cup (more or less if you wish) of diced dried apricots (you can also try raisins, prunes, dried cherries, or other dried fruit)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- If you’d like, you can also add other (non-traditional for congee but good nonetheless) ingredients such as shredded coconut (this adds more texture), fresh fruit (or perhaps sweet potato?), coconut milk, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom or nutmeg. Yum yum!
Note: this recipe makes a ton, feel free to halve it. Also, cooked congee stores in the fridge and reheats well — I would often make one large batch and use it all week.
- Put rice, fruit and water in the slow cooker, as well as any spices or additional ingredients you want to use.
- Cook overnight (6-8 hours) on low, or for 4-5 hours on high (if cooking on high, try to check every hour or two to stir and possibly add water until you’ve figured out your specific preferences).
- Add the dried fruit halfway through cooking if you want it to stay somewhat intact, and stir occasionally if you are able. If you don’t mind it dissolving into the porridge or are cooking overnight, just put everything in at once and check it in the AM!
- Add water (or milk of your choice) if the the congee feels too thick, add more time (and water perhaps) if the grains of rice haven’t dissolved enough. Just add more cooking time (and perhaps turn up the heat) if the congee is too thin for your preference — sometimes I cook it on high with the lid off, stirring occasionally, to help thicken it up a bit.