Adventures in (Post) Gradland

Thoughts on life after the PhD

Rice Cooker Mac & Cheese

mac cheese1

Yikes, another long gap between posts.

So…let’s all make macaroni and cheese! In the rice cooker!

When I first came to Japan in 2000 I occasionally sought out boxes of Kraft mac & cheese as a way to feel closer to home. Recently I was describing it to an Australian friend who’d never eaten it…and I was kind of horrified at how it sounded.

Needless to say, homemade mac & cheese is WAY better. Four or five years ago I was at a grad school friend’s house party and he’d made amazing southern food: fried pork chops, collard greens, and the most AMAZING homemade mac & cheese I’d ever tasted. I got the basic ingredient list / process from him and threw together my own version and made it regularly in L.A. Of course it requires an oven, so I hadn’t made it since coming to Japan.

Well, I whipped up a batch and instead of tossing it in a non-existent glass baking dish and tossing that dish into a non-existent oven, I buttered my rice cooker pan and closed the lid. And it worked! I even got that crunchy brown crust that I love (in the bottom of the pan).

Be warned that this stuff is NOT healthy–it’s pure comfort food, so enjoy in moderation. All measurements are pretty approximate. The key is to make a very creamy, liquid-y sauce so that your mac and cheese doesn’t dry out while baking.

Rice Cooker Mac & Cheese


1 1/2 small packages macaroni noodles (about 3 cups uncooked macaroni noodles or small shells)

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

2 cups milk

1 cup grated cheese (I usually use a a mix of cheddar and Beemster, but go with what you’ve got on hand–at least a few tablespoons of sharper cheese is always a good idea, though)

1/2 cup ham or block bacon, cut into small cubes and cooked for a few minutes in a skillet (optional)

1/2 cup frozen peas (optional–when I add peas I can convince myself it’s kinda healthy)


1. Butter your rice cooker pan.

2. Boil macaroni for a few minutes less than the package indicates–you want it to be fairly al dente as it’ll continue to cook in the rice cooker.

3. In a separate skillet, melt the butter until it bubbles. Lower the heat, add flour, and stir quickly until a sort of pudding-y substance forms (about 30 seconds to a minute).

4. Add in the milk about 3/4 of a cup at a time, stirring constantly until you’ve got a creamy base (about 2-3 minutes total). Add the cheese gradually, stirring it until it’s all melted in. Turn off the heat, add your noodles, peas (if using), and ham (if using), and gently mix everything together.

5. Finally, pour the whole mixture into your rice cooker,* close the lid, and push the button for plain white rice. It should be done in about 40 minutes.

mac cheese2

So yummy!

*Rice cookers vary, of course. My tiny little rice cooker that I bought from Don Quixote for about 3000 yen seems to be perfect for baking–bakes things all the way through and doesn’t shut off too early. But keep an eye on your rice cooker the first time you do this–it might require more than one cooking cycle, or it might shut off too early.


3 comments on “Rice Cooker Mac & Cheese

  1. Lynn
    February 10, 2013

    This looks really delicious. I completely agree that home-cooked macaroni is tons better than the box kind. Sadly, though, my attempts at home-made macaroni and cheese have been less than spectacular. This may be because all I would do would be to boil macaroni and then throw some shredded cheddar on top.

    Despite being in Japan for two years, I still don’t have a rice cooker. It’s a combination of not having enough space and not really eating white rice. I’m moving soon, so maybe I can find some free rice-cookers at a sayonara sale in Tokyo.

  2. anthea
    February 10, 2013

    This looks delicious and thank you for the recipe! I have to admit that I can’t stand the box stuffed primarily since the color freaks me out!

  3. gradland
    February 10, 2013

    Anthea, you’re welcome! Lynn, I think my rice cooker cost me about 3000 yen at Don Quixote–I make plenty of brown rice in it, though these days I’m partial to jasmine. The small size is great for saving space AND for baking stuff!

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This entry was posted on January 20, 2013 by in Food!, Japan and tagged , , , .
Anne McKnight

writing•translation•scholarship on Japan (and a few other things)

A Modern Girl / モダンガール

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