How to Make Homemade Baby Food With a Rice Cooker
Learn to Make Healthy Baby Food
So you want to know how to make your own easy, wholesome and homemade baby food. The solution is super simple. I won't keep you waiting. Here is the short answer:
- Chop up some fruits or veggies.
- Stick them in a rice cooker.
- Let them cook.
- Put them in glass jars.
- Store them in the fridge.
Ta-da! That is it! That's the secret to the universe. You can go home now, secure in the knowledge that you know it all, and that all is well.
Joking aside, if you want to make fast, easy baby food, a rice cooker is your best friend.
Much better than your real life, human best friend. Unless your real-life, human best friend brings over wholesome, homemade baby food every day like clockwork without leaving a mess or complaining. Oh, really, she doesn't? And she forgot your birthday this year? Then the rice cooker is your real best friend.
I have done this with my daughter—who is 1 1/2 years old as I write this—for the last year, ever since she turned six months and has been able to eat solid food. She has had steamed apples, pears, or peaches most mornings for breakfast for a year.
Now, my daughter may never want to eat apples, pears, or peaches again when she gets old enough to tell me that what she really wants every day for breakfast is a Happy Meal.
Even though my future will be filled with Happy Meals, right now, I feel good about making baby food with a rice cooker.
Benefits of Making Homemade Baby Food
- I feel good because I control what I put into her growing body. I am not filling her with sugar, corn syrup, or whatever preservatives keep baby food shelf-stable for years.
- I feel good that I save money compared to buying commercial baby food brands. I do buy the occasional Gerber, Plum, or Happy Baby brand baby food when we're on the road, but it adds up if you buy these regularly.
- I feel good that I save time. I no longer spend my mornings before work frantically trying to avoid second-degree burns while stewing prunes for my baby. (Really, I used to do this! It took 30 minutes out of my morning with collateral damages to my hands. My precious hands that I use to type all day).
- I feel good that all I have to do is just set it and forget it.
Now, you are wondering: What is wrong with this guy? Why is he so pleased with himself? Is he a moron?
Well, yes, I am a moron. That is why I am patting myself on the back.
I am the kind of guy who feels that not burning the toast is a huge accomplishment. My wife may tell you that I can cook well, but the facts betray her: I burned her toast twice last week alone. But I digress.
So, for my fellow morons out there, here are the more detailed instructions that are so easy that a moron like me was able to write them, much less follow them.
Step 1: Get Your Rice Cooker Ready (1 minute)
I will assume that you have a normal kitchen, with knives, cutting boards, and the like. If not, well, not to judge, but perhaps you were a bit hasty getting into the whole parenthood thing?
I will not assume that you already have a rice cooker, or even know what one looks like. I happened to grow up with one because my parents were Korean immigrants. (The rice cooker that appears in the photos here was bought by my mom—a bit of a Tiger Mother—in the vain hope that I would eat more rice. She will cry when she finds out I use it to cook apples and pears. So please, feel free to say hi at the grocery store, but don't tell her how I am using the rice cooker.)
So, before going further, you need a rice cooker. Buy one—they aren't that expensive. Or if you're strapped for cash, borrow one from a friend.
All you need to cook with a rice cooker is:
- Water. It goes into the main compartment (usually one cup of water, or however much water it takes to fill it to the line labeled 1).
- Plug it in.
Important Note: Even if you already have a rice cooker, you may be missing one thing that you absolutely need to have: a steamer compartment. This is (usually) a plastic compartment that rests above the main metal compartment where the rice and water normally go. It suspends food above the steaming water so that it can be cooked.
You Don't Need a Baby Food Processor
Please do not go out and buy one of those specialized baby food processors. I thought of doing this before my wife reminded me we had a rice cooker.
After doing a bit of research, I found out that they often cost twice as much as a rice cooker, they don't let you make very much food at once (many make just single servings), and they can't be easily used to make anything else—like adult food—once your baby is old enough to start eating anything other than mushed fruit or vegetables.
Step 2: Core and Chop Selected Fruits or Vegetables (5 Minutes)
If you're dealing with apples, pears, peaches, mangoes, etc., simply peel and core, and chop into at least fourths if not smaller.
A decently-sized rice cooker (12" diameter) should fit 4–5 full apples or pears, once chopped up.
If you intend to cook carrots, green beans, broccoli (blech) or something else, you can choose to chop them or not. Usually, I put baby carrots in whole, and just cut up broccoli as I normally would for me.
Just to give you a sense, here is what pears look like before being cooked in the rice cooker:
Step 3: Cook (20–30 Minutes of Waiting)
Rice cookers usually just have one button, and it is "cook." Once your fruit or vegetables are ready, you just put them in the steamer compartment and press "cook."
Voila! You are now free to spend time with your baby. Or if you can leave the baby with someone else, you now have 20–30 minutes to sleep, work, or drink beer. Enjoy.
You don't have to be around to watch the rice cooker because it stops cooking (steaming the fruit or vegetables) automatically after 20–30 minutes, or whenever the water more or less runs out. Also, the food will stay warm until you unplug the cooker.
Step 4: Storage (1 Minute)
You can, if you want, feed your child the cooked fruit or vegetables directly, but if you're doing that, remove the food from the rice cooker and let it cool for 5 minutes or so.
Otherwise, put everything in a good container. I use glass jars to store the baby food, mainly old peanut butter jars. I prefer glass to plastic jars so that nothing leeches into the food.
What Foods to Use and Avoid
The best fruit to use, I find, are apples and pears. Peaches, nectarines, plums, and mangoes work too.
Once cooked, I have found that these will keep at least one week in the fridge, perhaps longer; none of these will last nearly that long raw, even if you don't peel them. When you're finished, they'll end up quite squishy, so it may not matter how big you chop them, but I still like to cut them into smaller bits; it makes it easier to smush them up.
You can also simply wash and cut up carrots, broccoli, string beans, and other harder or crisper fruit or vegetables. The benefit of using vegetables is that you can cook rice at the same time. (I don't recommend doing this with fruit.)
Foods to Avoid
I don't recommend cooking any fruit or veggies that are already soft or soggy or quite full of juice (grapes, pineapple). I have never tried cooking bananas, as they fall in the "get soggy" category, but I could be persuaded otherwise. If you do cook bananas, and it works, please write to me or leave a comment below!
I guess this should be self-evident, but I don't recommend cooking meat or fish in your rice cooker. And beef jerky, foie gras, and M&Ms—those are just right out—but if you need to be told that.
There is sometimes a bit juice/syrup in the jar with the pears. There is usually some residue at the bottom of the main compartment of the rice cooker.
I usually put most of this syrup in the jar with the fruit. It is quite sweet, and my daughter loves it. The syrup helps preserve the fruit a bit, and is useful because it keeps things moist; I usually mix in some solid food, oatmeal or something else before feeding my daughter.