Rice is a staple in so many cuisines around the world. There are several varieties of rice and different ways of cooking it. Rice is commonly boiled or steamed and sometimes pressure cooked. Another popular way to make rice is to cook it with some form of fat so that it gets crispy or forms a crust. I love the combination of crunchy and fluffy or creamy rice in one dish.
Paella that is properly cooked on an iron pan over a wood fire or outdoor charcoal grill results in a crunchy, crusty layer of rice at the bottom of the pan called socarrat. This is a surprise and a treat.
Tadig is a Persian style of rice that is cooked in a deep, heavy bottomed pot with oil and often butter added that encourages the rice to steam on the top and to form a golden, crisp bottom layer. The rice is served upside down so that the golden crust is the highlight.
A favorite rice dish in Italy is arancini. These are delicious deep fried balls of leftover risotto dipped in breadcrumbs. The fried balls are browned on the outside and creamy in the center.
One of my go-to quick meals is to take leftover rice and make it into patties or cakes and grill them to achieve that lovely crunchy exterior and soft center. This is so much easier than making paella or tadig on a busy weeknight and it satisfies my craving for crispy rice. I have a tendency to make a large pot of boiled rice on Sunday nights and look forward to the leftovers during the week to make rice cakes on my George Foreman Grill or for quick stir fried dishes with fresh vegetables and a protein.
Best Rice for Grilled Cakes
I have experimented with different types of rice for making cakes and grilling with mixed results. Here is what I have learned.
Whole grain brown rice is my favorite to eat. It is nutty in flavor and is delicious fried. If making grilled cakes with it, it is best to use short grain brown rice and to soak it overnight or until it sprouts. The texture after you cook soaked rice is a bit stickier and chewier than rice that is not soaked. It is also more digestible. This seems to work pretty well for grilling. However, you will need to add some binding ingredients, such as mashed avocado, mashed sweet potatoes, winter squash puree, or cooked and mashed beans or lentils. If I miss the mark and the cakes don’t hold their shape, I grill the rice anyway until it forms a crispy layer on the top and bottom and I eat it with chop sticks.
If using the most common domestic varieties of white rice, you also must have a binder. Otherwise, the cakes do not form and hold together. Eggs are the best option for making rice patties with leftover white rice. Some of us are allergic to eggs, so we substitute with a flax meal and water egg replacer + some breadcrumbs or a little flour.
I have found that the best rice for making crispy grilled cakes is Japanese sticky rice, also known as glutinous rice. When buying this rice it must be labeled “glutinous”. As the name implies, sticky rice kernels adhere to one another when cooked. Just to clarify, this rice does not contain gluten that many have issues with.
Whatever rice you choose, just follow the cooking directions on the package and make a big pot so that you have leftovers. We have 2 recipes here for grilled rice cakes. One calls for Japanese sticky rice and the other uses leftover domestic white rice with binders. The first recipe has Asian flavors, while the second is a little more American or European in the ingredients.
Remember, if the cakes fall apart while grilling; just stir them around to make a nice fried rice. I cook my patties on a contact grill with plenty of oil or butter. Sometimes I don’t close the top. I simply flip the cakes and double my grilling time. You can cook rice cakes on a Foreman contact grill or a flat surface grill, such as the Indoor-Outdoor Grill.
Easy Grilled Rice Cakes with Soy Glaze
- 2 cups cooked Japanese sticky rice
- 4 TBS tamari or soy sauce
- 3 TBS sake
- 2 TBS honey or brown sugar
- 1 TBS miso paste
- Vegetable oil for grilling
- 1 TBS toasted sesame seeds for garnish
- 1 TBS chopped chives for garnish
Total time:15 min – Prep time:10 min – Cook time:5 min – Serves:4 people
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the tamari, sake, honey, and miso paste until well combined. Place the glaze in a small pot and heat over medium/low to reduce and cook out some of the alcohol in the sake.
2. Dampen your hands with water. Take 1/4 cup of the rice and roll it into a ball. Repeat until all the rice is rolled into balls. Preheat your Foreman grill to high with the top closed. Flatten each rice ball into a disc while the grill is heating up.
3. Brush both sides of the rice cakes generously with vegetable oil. Place them on the grill and close the top. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until golden and crispy. Alternatively, grill with the top open for 3 minutes, flip, and grill the other side for another 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat until all the cakes are cooked.
4. Remove the cakes to a platter and immediately brush with the warm glaze. Then, sprinkle with the sesame seeds and chives. Serve immediately as a snack or pair with thinly sliced grilled pork or runny fried eggs as a main dish.
Grilled Rice Cakes with Cheese and Zucchini
- 2 cups cooked long grain white rice
- 2 whole eggs
- 1 cup grated Manchego or similar goat’s milk cheese
- 1 cup grated zucchini
- 1/4 cup grated yellow onion
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) for grilling
Total time: 21 min – Prep time: 15 min – Cook time: 6 min – Serves: 4 people
1. In a large bowl, crack the eggs and beat lightly. Add the rice, cheese, zucchini, onions, salt, and pepper. Carefully mix everything together to combine.
2. Preheat your Foreman grill for 5 minutes with the top closed. Meanwhile, form your rice cakes into patties using 1/4 cup measures. The patties should not be more than 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick so that the eggs will cook through.
3. Generously brush both sides of each patty with EVOO. Place them on the grill and close the top. Cook for 4 minutes until golden and crispy. Alternatively, grill with the top open for 4 minutes, flip, and grill the other side for another 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat until all the cakes are cooked.
4. These are excellent all by themselves. You can also serve them with a big bowl of garlicky sautéed greens, such as escarole, spinach, or Swiss chard (recipe follows).
Sautéed Greens with Garlic
- 2 large bunches fresh leafy greens (escarole, spinach, or Swiss chard)
- 1-1/2 TBS EVOO
- 3 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1-1/2 tsps balsamic vinegar
- 1-1/2 tsps tamari or soy sauce
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Total time: 11 min – Prep time: 5 min – Cook time: 6 min – Serves: 4 people
1. Rinse the greens well in cold water to remove any sand or soil. Place them in a colander to drain. Remove any tough stems or cores. Coarsely chop the greens.
2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium/high heat. Sautée the garlic and pepper flakes for up to 1 minute until just aromatic. Add the greens, as many as will fit and toss with tongs. Keep adding the greens and tossing until they all fit. Add the vinegar and tamari and toss well. Continue cooking until the greens are wilted but still bright green.
3. Serve the greens with your grilled rice cakes.