Cooking rice, pasta, and other grains in water is so boring. There is a much better way to guarantee they will have your mouth chewing something seriously tasty: cook them in something that isn't water. Alternative liquids such as stock, milk, juice, or even tea will give bland dishes a fresh new flavor boost. If you're not sure how your dishes might taste, never fear: we tested them out.
Before getting started, be sure to read this article first so that you know why it's important to rinse your grains before cooking.
Good for: rice, arborio rice (aka risotto), and quinoa.
Cooking these grains in store-bought or homemade stock is the easiest way to add savory flavor with zero stress. As the grains cook, they absorb this rich liquid, which adds a difference you can certainly taste. Some chefs recommend using half water and half stock if you don't want the flavor to be too overpowering. The Kitchn recommends that technique along with other good tips to add flavor to rice.
This tasty chicken stock quinoa by Giada De Laurentiis sounds like a good one to try. Yum!
Good for: oats, rice, and quinoa.
Depending on what other flavors you add, cooking with juice can either make a dish sweet or enhance once that's savory...so versatile! Apple, orange, carrot, and cranberry are good juices to start with because they pair well with most oats and grains. For breakfast bowls, you can keep the flavor sweet, but for lunch or dinner, you could add some spices to give the dish a stronger flavor. Orange-ginger quinoa anyone?
I made apple juice oatmeal from a recipe I found on Oprah's website and it was delicious.
Good for: rice, arborio rice, oats, quinoa, and durum semolina pasta.
Using milk instead of water will make for perfect breakfast or dessert dishes when you are wanting something sweeter and creamier, but it's also great for cheesy risotto and pasta. If you haven't cooked your macaroni for mac and cheese in milk, you have not lived. Don't forget your many milk options: regular, almond, soy, coconut, rice, and even chocolate milk for sweet breakfast dishes. The more you experiment, the better your recipes will become.
Remember that you can do a mix of half-milk, half-water if you want to save some milk or you want to moderate the flavor. And keep in mind that most dairy products, including milk, contain lactic acid—this usually softens or helps food break down more quickly than it would in water, so you want to adjust your cooking times.
Good for: rice, oatmeal, and quinoa.
Think of all of the amazing flavors of tea there are in the world: jasmine, cinnamon spice, chai, chamomile, etc. Then think about using those flavors to enhance your rice. You have lots of delicious possibilities. For the best flavor results, steep two tea bags in 2½ cups of boiling water, then cook your grains or oats as usual. I experimented with lemon-ginger herbal tea and brown rice. The result was awesome! If you want the flavor to be super bold, just steep an extra tea bag.
On a side note, to get perfectly fluffy rice every time, this is a must read.
Can you think of any other liquids to cook with for a big flavor boost?