Thai Sticky Rice and Sauces

Thai sticky rice is a fun food you can eat with your hands and flavor with a variety of different sauces. You want to buy rice labeled “sweet rice” or “glutinous rice”. Shown is a store brand I currently have on hand, but I usually buy a Thai brand from the Thai grocery store. This is a short grain, glutinous rice, but it is not the same as sushi rice, so if you are unsure about what you are buying, you may want to ask a clerk. I have found the clerks in Asian grocery stores to be extremely helpful, despite the fact that I’m ordinarily very shy, so don’t be afraid to ask. In fact, everything I am about to show you about making Thai sticky rice, I learned from the very helpful lady at the Thai grocery store.

I cook most of my rice in an electric rice cooker after moving into a home with an electric stove (from one with a gas stove) and finding myself no longer capable of cooking rice properly, however, this type of rice can not be made in a rice cooker (although sushi rice, which is also sticky, can be). Instead, you will need a special steaming basket, which is available in Thai grocery stores and looks like this:

They are inexpensive and you can order them online, from sites such as this one, although you can probably just use a regular steamer if you don’t want to buy one.

First you need to soak the rice. Most of the instructions I have found online have given soaking times between 4 and 6 hours, however, the very nice lady at the Thai grocery promised me two hours was sufficient, and I’ve never had a problem soaking for as little as two hours. If I think of it earlier, I soak for longer, but two hours is fine. Figure on about 1/2 a cup dry rice per serving.

Here is my soaked rice:

Drain the rice. Get a piece of cheesecloth or muslin about 12″ by 12″ and mound the rice into the center of it. In the photo, I thought I would be clever by lining my sieve with the muslin and pouring the soaked rice into it, thinking the water would drain quickly through the fabric and save me a step, however it didn’t really work: the water didn’t drain quickly enough for me and I ended up pouring it out.

After mounding the rice in the center of the cheesecloth or muslin, fold it up into a neat little package:

Place the rice package into the steaming basket:

Put a few inches of water into the pot and place the basket on the pot (make sure the water doesn’t touch the basket). Place a snugly-fitting lid over the rice package:

Steam over medium heat. How long the rice takes to steam will depend on how long it was soaked and how much you are making. I have found it usually takes about 45 minutes, although I start checking it after half an hour. To check for doneness, remove the rice package from the basket, unfold, and try to grab a bit with chopsticks. If the rice is still hard and not sticking together, you still have a while to go. If it is clumping together, test a small amount in your hand and see if it feels soft and sticky. It’s never done the first time I check, but the bottom of the package is usually stickier than the top, so I’ll usually return the package to the basket upside down so it uniformly steams.

When the rice is done, remove from the basket and use a wooden rice paddle to remove from the cheesecloth or muslin.

Traditionally, the rice would be moved to a lidded serving basket, but I for some reason seem to not yet have acquired one of those. Sounds like a trip to the Thai grocery store is in order…

To eat, take a small amount of rice in your hands and dip it in a sauce. Here are a couple of sauce recipes:

Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce

I got this recipe off the internet somewhere a long time ago: it is not my recipe. For my husband and I, I usually halve these amounts.

1/2 cup white or rice vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt

Heat the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Meanwhile, crush the garlic with the pepper flakes and salt with a mortar and pestle.

Stir this paste into the vinegar and sugar solution. Bring to room temperature and serve.

Peanut Sauce

This is my very simple and easy peanut sauce recipe that I use for everything from sticky rice to noodles. The bottle on the right in the photo is my homemade chili oil, which looks strange because there is gunk that marinates in it and I actually ran out of the oil and only had some gunk left. Looks like I’ll be making chili oil tomorrow. I managed to get 1 tsp out of it and made up for the remainder of the heat by using sriracha.

1/4 cup peanut butter
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 Tbsp of seasoned rice vinegar
2 tsp of chili oil
1/2 cup water

Process all ingredients in a mini-chopper, blender, food processor, immersion blender…or just whisk them all together.

Here’s everything I made for dinner tonight (peanut sauce not shown):

The spicy tofu + sticky rice meal is popular around here. My best friend considers this his favorite, and it’s one of my favorites too.


  1. Lucy Said,

    September 26, 2008 @ 11:52 pm

    Thanks for the awesome recipe. I see that you purchased the rice and red pepper at a Korean market. The bag of rice says: “Jab ssal (strongly enunciated ” S” ) and the red pepper says: “Go choo gah roo”.
    Ssal means rice, go choo means red chili pepper, and gah roo means “powder”.

    Thank you for the tutorial!! I just love the sticky rice they serve at the restaurants that come in individual bamboo baskets. I can’t to try it!!

  2. renae Said,

    September 28, 2008 @ 12:03 am

    Thanks for the translation. I spend so much time at Korean markets I’ve often thought I should learn Korean!

  3. Charli Said,

    April 18, 2009 @ 11:41 pm

    I always use Gao sause with mine.(i love S-T-I-C-K-Y R-I-C-E)

  4. JoAnn W Said,

    June 16, 2009 @ 12:58 pm

    Any recipes that uses fish Sauce?

  5. melissa Said,

    August 5, 2009 @ 10:32 pm

    Hi! I’m so glad I came across your blog. I just purchased this sticky rice steamer and am excited to use it. How often do you use yours and is it easy to clean? Also, do you steam anything else in it other than the rice? Love your site – may I add you to my blog roll at Oh, don’t let the name fool you 🙂 My email is if you could let me know how this steamer works -thx!

  6. renae Said,

    August 6, 2009 @ 12:39 pm

    Hi Melissa,

    I only use that steamer for sticky rice, and I use it as described in the post. You could conceivably use it for other grains, I suppose, but I never have. It’s a single-use apparatus, but it’s essential for sticky rice, and sticky rice is essential to me, so it was a necessary purchase! It doesn’t really require cleaning. The only thing that goes in the aluminum pot is water, and the basket it protected from what you’re putting in it by the muslin (or cheesecloth) in which you wrap it (the rice). If necessary, you could just rinse the basket out.

    Of course you may add me to your blog roll. 🙂

  7. melissa Said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

    by the way, how much thai sticky rice do you usually eat in a sitting and what’s the calorie count on that? thanks much!

  8. renae Said,

    August 7, 2009 @ 9:16 pm

    I’d say a serving size is about a cup. It’s very filling, though, and I generally eat too much! According to the USDA, one cup of glutinous rice is 169 calories.

  9. melissa Said,

    August 11, 2009 @ 11:31 pm

    I am so sorry – one more thing. How do you clean the cheesecloth? The rice sticks to mine and not sure if I should handwash it.

  10. renae Said,

    August 11, 2009 @ 11:54 pm

    Having to clean cheesecloth is the reason I use muslin instead: I can stick it in the washing machine. (I recommend line drying, though, because it gets linty in the dryer.) It also lasts longer. If you have a nice thick cheesecloth, you can reuse it: I would just rinse it thoroughly and let air dry. It will get sticky from sticky rice, so I’d use cold water: hot water will just make it stickier.

  11. curtis foth Said,

    December 30, 2009 @ 12:23 am

    finally a person who lives to eat and experiment with recipes! thank you, curt

  12. maryann ross Said,

    February 6, 2010 @ 6:49 pm

    Great tutorial. Your peanut sauce said “seasoned vinegar” but the picture shows regular vinegar. I use both all the time so I know, but to the uninitiated, it could be confusing.


  13. Russ Said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 5:48 am

    I just stumbled onto your site. I want the recipe for your spicy tofu! It looks amazing! And I make an okay spicy tofu. If you posted it on the site could you provide a link? Or could your write a blog about how you make it. Thanks!

  14. renae Said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

    Hi Russ! My recipe for spicy tofu is here: I hope you enjoy it!

  15. Tara Said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 7:54 pm

    My boyfriend is from Thailand, he puts the rice directly in the basket then just lets it dry and knocks the leftover rice out of it. He flips the rice while it’s cooking then just dumps it on the counter to cool off.
    I love sticky rice with some of the Thai salads he makes…very spicy though!

  16. Miguel Said,

    April 28, 2011 @ 4:29 pm

    I have a recepie that requires fish sauce.

  17. Tiana Said,

    September 19, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

    I made the Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce but didn’t have pepper powder so I used pepper flakes instead which ended up working out fine. This is reallyyyy good. I ended up alternating between dipping my sticky rice and broccoli in.

  18. Jeni Said,

    January 15, 2012 @ 10:25 pm

    You can also substitute Ginger instead of 2 garlic cloves.

  19. trish Said,

    February 16, 2012 @ 8:50 pm

    i am looking for different spicy sauces for sticky rice and how to make them. Can anyone help?

  20. Larry Said,

    April 20, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

    You CAN make sticky rice in a rice cooker. I do it all the time. And you don’t have to pre-soak. I just put as much sticky rice as I want to use and pour water in it till it covers the rice with about an inch or so on top. Then I hit the button. Presto! It’s done in the same time as regular rice.

  21. Kaitlyn Said,

    October 3, 2017 @ 11:09 am

    How many servings is the Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce would you say?

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