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Thai sticky rice in a bamboo basket over the table.

How to Make Thai Sticky Rice in a Bamboo Steamer

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5 from 4 reviews

  • Author: Suwanee
  • Total Time: 5 hours 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Diet: Vegan


Learn how to make Thai sticky rice in a bamboo steamer, traditionally using a steamer pot and a bamboo steamer basket. This method is the aged-old, proven, and true method that Thai people have used in Thailand for generations. Master the art of making this iconic rice that is popular worldwide!


  • 2 cups sticky rice, uncooked
  • 8-10 cups water. If your pot is larger, you may need more water.
  • Salt. Optional. For added to cooked rice


  1. First thing first. Wash the sticky rice. In a mixing bowl, add the rice and cool water to wash and rinse. Use your fingers to swoosh the rice grains in the water to help loosen up the grains and starch. Your water will be cloudy, milky water. Rinse the water out and repeat this step 4-5 times until your water is mostly clear. Use a strainer or splatter guard to catch the rice grains when pouring if you don't want to lose rice grains. Soak the rice in cold water for a minimum of 5 hours at room temperature up to overnight for the best result. No longer than 24 hours. See the note below for more kitchen tips. 
  2. Next, steam the rice the next day or a few hours after it's been soaked. Fill the bottom of the steamer pot with enough water to steam rice for up to 20-25 minutes without the water drying out. So anywhere from 8-12 cups, depending on the size of your pot. The large pot will require more water and also cooking time. The water level should be low enough not to let the bottom of the bamboo basket touch it. Allow at least 2 inches of space between the water and the bamboo basket. 
  3. Wash, drain, and rinse the soaked rice before steaming. Then line the bamboo basket with cheesecloth, and place the rinsed rice over the cloth. Wrap the cheesecloth around the rice grains, place the basket over the stainless steel pot then cover it with a lid before steaming. 
  4. Place the stainless steel with water inside and the cheese-clothe-covered rice in the bamboo basket. Turn the stovetop to high heat and cook for 15-20 minutes. It takes longer (20-25 minutes) if you soak your rice for less than 5 hours. 
  5. Check your rice 15 minutes into the steaming. (Set your timer if it's helpful). If the rice looks translucent and shiny, carefully take a small piece of cooked rice with a long fork or wooden spoon to see how it tastes. Be very careful of the hot steam!  
  6. The sticky rice should be cooked on the el dente side but not crunchy. If you love it, it's done. If not, cook for 5-10 more minutes. *But this is the part I want you to be extremely careful about, especially if this is your first time making sticky rice*. You're going to flip the rice. Carefully remove the basket steamer from the stainless steel pot, and open the cheesecloth carefully. It's going to be hot. Then slowly flip the rice until the rounded bottom part is on top. Use a fork or wooden spoon to fluff the rice to let moisture and steam evaporate so the rice is not mushy. Leave it briefly, then wrap the cheesecloth back on the rice. Cover with the lid and place the bamboo basket back into the pot of water. Be careful of the boiling water. 
  7. Steam the rice for 5-10 more minutes until the rice is soft and chewy. Turn the heat off, remove the rice basket from the pot, and set it on a steaming rack or sink. Fluff the rice again and leave the cheesecloth open. Let it cool for a few minutes. Sprinkle salt on the rice if you prefer some. Discard the excess water in the stainless steel pot. 
  8. Place the cooked in another sticky rice basket, the kind used for serving rice as you might sometimes see at your favorite Thai restaurant. That's it! ENJOY your sticky rice! You did it! 


  • Thai sticky rice MUST be soaked overnight before cooking. This step is crucial. The soaking will help soften the grains before steaming. At least 5 hours of soaking is recommended for the rice to achieve the proper consistency when steamed.
  • Do not soak sticky rice longer than 24 hours, or the grains will start to get too soft and break into short-grain rice. 
  • To speed up the soaking process, use warm, NOT hot water, and cut the soaking time to 3.5 hours. 
  • The longer you soak the rice, the shorter the steaming time.
  • Use a clear glass lid to cover the bamboo sticky rice steamer basket. It helps with seeing how the sticky rice is cooking. 
  • When flipping the sticky rice on step 6.  Ensure at least a few inches of water are left from the bottom of your steamer. Add a cup or more if you run out of water for the remaining cooking time. 
  • You can fluff your cooked rice on a flat surface using baking sheets to allow the moisture to escape. Allow it to air for 5 minutes before placing the warm rice in a serving container. 
  • ** Thank you so much for visiting my blog! This is truly a passion for me. If you have enjoyed these recipes and appreciate the hard work I put into them, I would love it if you would share them with your friends! Your recommendation is the highest review I could hope for, and I’d appreciate it! **
  • Prep Time: 5 Hours
  • Cook Time: 25 Minutes
  • Category: Rice
  • Method: stovetop, steamed, boiling
  • Cuisine: Thai