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A couple years back, the Huffington Post published an article titled, So What Exactly is Sticky Rice, Anyway?. The piece began by posing a series of questions related to the culture and uses of a popular food called, “sticky rice”. The opening HuffPo paragraph said:  “Sticky rice is one of those great joys of Asian cuisine that people love across the globe, but may not fully understand. What makes it sticky? How does it differ from regular white rice? Where does it come from and is it supposed to be that sticky?”

When searching for answers, I learned that, throughout Asia, sticky rice– also called “sweet rice” or glutinous rice (despite being gluten free)– is used in dumplings, desserts and more.   In Thailand it is eaten as a staple starch – the main filler of a meal, it’s also eaten as a snack along with something salty like grilled meat, and it’s also an important ingredient in many Thai desserts.

In this post, I’m not only going to explain to you how to make Thai sticky rice, but I’m also going to offer a bit of information about the culture of eating sticky rice and how it’s eaten in Thailand.

Sticky rice comes in both short-grain and long-grain varieties. Thai people prefer the long-grain rice; the short-grain variety is more commonly used in Chinese and Japanese cooking. Among the long-grain varieties, some have a delicate, aromatic flavor, and these “high-grade” hybrids are distinguished as “jasmine” sweet or glutinous rice, much like their fragrant cousins in the non-glutinous family. The starchiness of sticky rice gives it a distinct opaque whiteness different from the more translucent appearance of regular rice grains, but the reverse is true after the rices are cooked. Soaked and steamed as described, sticky rice becomes translucent, while regular rice turns opaque white when cooked.

Wadded into little balls and eaten with fingers is the customary way to enjoy it, the better to dunk into spicy saucy dishes. Sticky rice can be easily grasped with chopsticks, too.

Sticky rice recipe (วิธีทำ ข้าวเหนียว)

Time: Overnight soaking (or for 4 – 5 hour minimum), about 15 minutes to steam
Recipe size: 5 cups of sticky rice, which is probably enough for 4 – 6 people for a meal
Cooking utensils: pot, sticky rice steamer basket
Flavors: Fluffy Thai sticky rice
Eat it with: Isaan and northern Thai cuisine

How to Make Thai Sticky Rice (วิธีทำ ข้าวเหนียว)
Prep time: 10 hours
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 10 hours 15 mins
This is a recipe for how to make Thai sticky rice (วิธีทำ ข้าวเหนียว). The best way to make it, is to soak raw sticky rice in water overnight, allow it to sit, then steam it for about 15 minutes. You’ll have beautiful fluffy and delicious sticky rice. Read the recipe below, and watch the video here.
Author: Mark Wiens (
Recipe type: How to make sticky rice (Thai style)
Cuisine: Thai, Laos
Serves: 4-6 people 
  • water to soak rice
  • 5 cups sticky rice (or however much you want to make)
  1. The night before you want to cook sticky rice, take your raw sticky rice, place it into a bowl or plastic tub, submerge in water, and allow to soak room temperature overnight. Alternatively, you can soak for at least 4 – 5 hours, but overnight is best.
  2. Take the sticky rice out of the water (and the grains should be softer and a little swollen), and place into a bamboo steamer, or any type of steamer. Cover the steamer with either a lid, or you can do what I did and cover the basket with a cloth, then a metal lid – just to keep all the steam within the rice.
  3. Add water to a pot with the steamer over the pot (just make sure the water doesn’t touch the sticky rice), and once the water comes to a boil, steam for 15 – 20 minutes (usually 15 minutes for me is perfect) on a medium heat.
  4. After 15 minutes take off the lid carefully, because it will be very hot, and just grab a taste test of the sticky rice to make sure it’s soft and fluffy. If it’s still a little crunchy, steam for a few more minutes, but if it’s good to go, turn off the heat and either eat immediately, or transfer to some sort of airtight container or basket to hold until you’re ready to eat.
  5. Enjoy Thai sticky rice while it’s hot and fresh.