This chicken congee is a comforting Cantonese classic that's super easy to make and often enjoyed for breakfast or when someone is under the weather. The chicken is well seasoned and tender and the congee is velvety smooth and lightly seasoned to entice an appetite even when you're lacking it. Top it with some green onions, cilantro, and chili oil for a kick. It's perfect for enjoying by itself or with a side of Chinese crullers and scallion pancakes!
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What is congee?
Congee, also known jook in Cantonese and juk in Korean, is essentially rice porridge, usually made by boiling rice in a large amount of water until thickened. Congee is usually savory, like this chicken congee and pork and century egg congee, which are both Chinese classics.
Ingredients for making chicken congee
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the ingredient quantities!
- Rice and water - This is the base for all congee and the most common ratio is 1 to 8, 1 part rice to 8 parts water, and if you prefer it thinner, you can go even up a ratio of to 1 to 16. Do note that the type of rice used will affect how thick the congee turns out. We usually like to use medium grain white rice to make out congee, but short grain white rice and jasmine rice are also great choices.
- Unsalted chicken broth - Congee is most commonly made with water to keep it clean tasting and easier for digesting. But feel free to make it more flavorful and nutritious by using unsalted chicken broth instead! Do note that color will be a darker color.
- Oil - Any neutral cooking oil is fine. Adding a little oil to the congee helps to make the congee taste more velvety and smooth.
- Salt and chicken bouillon powder - For seasoning the congee. Chicken bouillon is also the little secret ingredient to make our congee more flavor and well rounded.
- Green onion and cilantro - We highly recommend adding green onions to the chicken congee, not only for colors but to also add another layer of flavor. The cilantro is optional, but it adds a pop of different, but nice, flavor.
- Chicken breast - We recommend using chicken breast for making chicken congee because it's got a very mild flavor, which will keep the congee tasting clean.
- Ginger - This adds such a fragrant and mildly spicy flavor the congee that pairs really well with the chicken. Ginger also helps with digestion and to kickstart appetites, which is perfect if you're feeling under the weather.
- Oyster sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, salt, cornstarch, oil - These ingredients are used to marinate and velvet the chicken. If you prefer not using oyster sauce, you can use a little more salt instead. However, we highly recommend not skipping the rice wine if possible because it makes the chicken super aromatic.
How to make chicken congee
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the full recipe and instructions!
1. Marinate the chicken. In a bowl, mix together the thinly cut chicken strips, ginger, oyster sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, and salt until well combined. Then add the cornstarch and mix until no more dry cornstarch is visible. To finish, add the oil and mix to combined. Set aside until needed.
Tip: Feel free to marinate the chicken ahead of time and keep it refrigerated up to 3 days. When ready to use, take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature before use.
2. Boil water and wash rice. To a claypot or a stainless steel pot, add the water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, wash and rinse the rice 2 to 3 times until the water runs mostly clear. Drain well.
3. Cook the rice. To the boiling water, add the washed rice and cooking oil. Give the rice a stir and cover with a lid. Bring the water back to a boil and lower the heat to medium or medium low to keep it at a simmer. Give the rice another good stir, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot and place a lid on the pot but keep it cracked. Let the congee cook for about 30 minutes or until it's thick and the rice tender.
4. Add the chicken. After the 30 minute cook time and the congee is thick, give it a good stir, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot in case any rice is stuck. Add the white parts of the green onion and the marinated chicken. Stir immediately and vigorously to separate the chicken strips.
5. Season. Stir in the chicken bouillon powder and salt and allow the congee to simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through.
6. Finish. Portion the chicken congee into serving bowls and top with green onions and cilantro and optionally some chili oil, if you want to add some heat. Enjoy by itself or with some Chinese crullers!
- Immediately stir the chicken vigorously after adding. This is important to separate the chicken strips and to prevent it from becoming one big clump. This process will also help break up the rice granules, which makes the congee taste more velvety and thick.
- Use more or less water depending on your preference. Our congee uses a 1 part rice to 8 parts water ratio, which yields a medium thickness congee. If you prefer your congee thinner, feel free to use more water, up to 1 to 12 ratio. For a thicker congee, you can use less water or simmer the congee for a longer time until it reaches your desired thickness. However, do note that congee will become thicker as it cools and after you vigorously stir it, so stop cooking a little before it reaches your desired thickness. If the congee becomes too thick, you can add a bit of water to help thin it out. In the photos you see below, you can see that before stirring, the congee looks thinner (left) and after stirring, it looks thicker (right).
- Keep the lid cracked to prevent the congee from overflowing. Congee has the tendency to boil over as it thickens, especially when the pot is covered. We recommend controlling the heat to keep the congee at a simmer and keep the lid cracked to prevent boiling over.
- Every stovetop is different, so adjust the heat as needed. Recipes give heat levels as a guide. It's more important to adjust your heat to execute the desirable cooking technique. For example, this chicken congee recipe requires a 30 minute simmering time. So adjust the heat to keep the congee at a simmer. Also, as the congee thickens, the heat may need to be lowered to maintain a simmer.
Leftover chicken congee can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. Just make sure to allow the congee to cool completely before covering and refrigerating.
Refrigerated chicken congee can be easily reheated in the microwave or on the stovetop.
Microwave method: Place the chicken congee into a microwave safe container and cover loosely. Microwave until hot. Midway through heating, stir so that the congee heats up evenly.
Stovetop method: Transfer the leftover congee into a pot and heat over medium high heat. Once the congee starts to bubble, reduce the heat so that the congee stays at a simmer. Heat until hot and stir occasionally.
If the congee is thicker than you prefer, add about 2 to 4 tablespoons of water at a time while heating up, until your desired consistency is reached. On the contrary, if the congee is thinner than you'd like, don't add additional water and let the congee simmer until it thickens to your desired consistency.
Absolutely! Pork is often time a popular alternative and tastes very mild. We usually like to use pork loin or pork chop and prepare it as we would the chicken breast.
You can make good congee with almost any kind of rice! Our favorite choices are medium grain and short grain white rice. Jasmine rice is also a great choice. Regular long grain white rice is okay, however, we recommend avoiding basmati rice because there's not enough starch content to give the congee that desirable velvety thickness.
You can easily adjust the thickness of your congee by cooking with more or less water. If you're already cooking the congee and it's is too thick, simply add more water and if it's too thin, cook the congee uncovered for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or as needed. But do note that the congee may look thin when you first uncover it after the 30 minute cook time. Stir it up well and you'll immediately see it thicken up.
The easiest way to substitute the oyster sauce in the chicken marinade is to just use a bit more salt. We recommend about ¼ teaspoon more salt per ½ tablespoon of oyster sauce.
If possible, we highly recommend keeping the rice wine in the recipe because it makes the chicken and congee super fragrant and aromatic. However, if you must omit it, simply substitute it with some water.
For the marinated chicken:
For the rest of the congee:
- Cilantro roughly chopped
- Chinese chili oil
- Youtiao (Chinese crullers)
- Marinate the chicken:In a bowl, mix together the thin strips of chicken breast, ginger, oyster sauce, shaoxing rice wine, and salt until well combined. Add the cornstarch and mix well. Finish by adding the oil and mix to combine. Set the chicken aside to marinate until needed.*If you want, you can even prepare the chicken ahead of time and allow it to marinate in the fridge overnight. Just take the chicken out of the fridge before you start cooking the congee to allow it to warm up at room temperature.*
- Make the congee:Into a claypot of stainless steel pot, add the water (or stock) and bring it to a boil.
- Meanwhile, wash and rinse the rice 2 to 3 times until the water is mostly clear. Drain well.
- Once the water is at a boil, add the washed rice and oil. Give the rice a stir. Then cover the pot and bring to a boil.
- When the pot returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium or medium low to keep the congee at a constant simmer. Stir the rice, making sure to scrap the bottom of the pot to prevent the rice from sticking. Place the lid on the pot but keep it cracked. Let the congee cook for about 30 minutes until it's thick and the rice tender.*As the congee thickens, it may overflow, especially when the lid is on the pot. So keep the lid cracked and keep an eye on the pot. Also adjust the heat as needed*
- Finish the congee:After 30 minutes, the congee should look visibly thicker. If needed, let it simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. Give the congee a good stir, especially the bottom of the pot.
- Then, add in the whites of the green onion and the marinated chicken. Immediately stir vigorously to separated the chicken. It's the easiest to do this using chopsticks. Next, season the congee with chicken bouillon powder and salt and let the congee simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.*At this point, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. But be VERY careful! The congee will be super hot*
- Portion the congee into serving bowls and top with green onion, cilantro, and some chili oil (if you want to add a kick), and optionally some Chinese crullers!
- Chicken broth - Congee is usually made with water so that it's easy on the palette and for digestion. To make it more nutritious, you can chicken broth instead of water. Just make sure to use the unsalted ones and do note that the color of your congee will change.