This vegan brown rice congee is topped with sauteed shiitake mushrooms, edamame, and spinach. Healthy and satisfying, but won’t weigh you down.
Congee – the creamy rice porridge consumed all across Asia – is a dish I was vaguely aware of for years but never ventured to explore on my own. That is, until I had to research the recipe for a freelance client. When I took the first bite of my first-ever congee, I truly couldn’t believe my mouth.
It was good. As in, I couldn’t stop saying, “Oh my god, it’s so good” the whole time I was eating. The porridge itself was creamy and light, while the toppings I layered on with abandon rounded it out with salty, savory, nutty flavors, as well contrasting textures. Bite after bite, it felt like a party in my mouth. (But, like, a very nourishing, calming party… like a slumber party, perhaps.)
I am so excited to share this whole-food plant-based version with you. It’s packed with hearty veg and a plethora of flavors, and will warm you from the inside out.
What Is Congee
Congee refers to rice that’s simmered in a large volume of water until it completely breaks down into a thick, creamy, gelatinous porridge. It’s traditional in many Asian countries, including China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam (where it’s also called jūk/jook, juk, kayu, and cháo, respectively).
Congee is often eaten for breakfast, or by those who are sick or hungover, since it’s easy to digest. It also has a history of being made in times of famine – to stretch a small amount of rice to feed many people.
Sometimes the rice is cooked in salted water only, with meat, fish, vegetables, and/or other flavorings added on top (like this vegan version). Other times, the rice is cooked with additional ingredients in the broth itself.
What’s In This Version
This recipe consists of creamy brown rice congee – with the rice cooked in salted water alone. To complete the dish, shiitake mushrooms, edamame, and spinach are sauteed separately and seasoned with garlic, ginger, and soy sauce. Additional garnishes – scallions, cilantro, sesame oil, and sesame seeds – are key to rounding out the flavors and adding texture, since this dish is all about contrast.
How to Make This Recipe
The Porridge: To cook the rice itself, combine 1 cup of brown rice with 7 cups of water and salt in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the rice is completely broken down and the mixture is thick and creamy. Be sure to stir often to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom. Brown rice congee takes about 1.5 hours; white rice takes about half as long.
The Vegetables: While the rice is simmering, saute diced onion, chopped shiitakes, and shelled edamame until they’re golden brown – about 8 minutes. Stir in fresh minced garlic and ginger, then incorporate the spinach by the handful, adding more as it wilts. Finally, season everything with a bit of soy sauce.
The Garnishes: I’ve said it already, but these additional toppings are key. An extra drizzle of soy sauce and sesame oil, plus toasted sesame seeds, a handful of chopped scallions and/or cilantro, and a bit of hot sauce (if you want) will round out this dish. A squeeze of lime and crumbled nori are also great ideas.
Ingredients + Substitutions
- Brown Rice: Whole grain rice makes congee a little healthier thanks to its fiber, protein, and mineral content. To cut down on cooking time, use white rice instead.
- Edamame: Shelled edamame is found in many frozen vegetable aisles these days, as well as in Asian markets. Use organic edamame whenever possible. Frozen peas make a good substitute.
- Shiitake Mushrooms: The savory, meaty flavor of shiitakes is key for flavoring this vegetarian porridge. As a substitute, I recommend trumpet mushrooms or rehydrated dried shiitakes.
- Baby Spinach: I like baby spinach for its accessibility as well as quick cooking time. As a substitute, use mature spinach or baby kale.
- Other toppings… Congee is the perfect vessel for so many other toppings. I suggest playing around with other types of greens, crispy shallots/garlic, shiitake bacon, puffed tofu, kimchi, or even plant-based sausage.
Brown Rice Congee Is Perfect for Meal Prep
Yes, you can cook this in advance. Congee will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days – although it will thicken slightly. You can reheat it in the microwave or on the stove. The spinach mixture will keep well in the fridge, too. I love having this duo ready to go for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
More Asian-inspired recipes…
- Vegan Sushi Rolls with Crispy Tofu
- Thai Salad with Seared Tofu and Peanut Dressing
- Vegan Poke Bowl with Zucchini and Cucumber-Kimchi Salad
- Creamy Peanut Miso Noodles with Mushrooms
This vegan brown rice congee is topped with a mix of sauteed shiitake mushrooms, edamame, and spinach. Don’t forget the extra garnishes – they are key!
For the Congee
- 1 cup short grain brown rice, rinsed* (see note below)
- 7 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more to taste
For the Vegetables
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil, like avocado, organic canola, or refined coconut
- 1/2 medium red or yellow onion, diced
- 1 cup frozen shelled edamame*
- 6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon peeled and minced ginger
- One 5-ounce package baby spinach*
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- For serving: scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds (plus hot sauce, lime wedges, crumbled nori, and cilantro, if you want)
- In a medium heavy-bottomed pot, combine 1 cup rice, 7 cups water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low and gently simmer with the lid ajar until the congee is thick and creamy, about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, edamame, and shiitakes, and cook until they’re browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
- To the skillet, add the garlic and ginger, and cook for 30 seconds. Then gradually stir in the spinach a handful at a time and cook just until it’s wilted. Season with 2 teaspoons soy sauce and turn heat off.
- Divide congee among bowls and top with the vegetable mixture. Garnish with scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds before serving. (Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.)
- To halve the rice cooking time, use white rice instead.
- If you can’t find edamame, use frozen peas.
- You can substitute with baby kale or mature spinach.
- Serving Size: 1/6 of the recipe (without garnishes)
- Calories: 185
- Fat: 4.5 g
- Carbohydrates: 28 g
- Fiber: 2.4 g
- Protein: 6.4 g
Keywords: congee, brown rice, porridge, asian, shiitake