The Healing Power of Congee

The Healing Power of Congee

By Jennifer Tom


Many traditions and cultures have simple meals that also double as home food remedies for common illnesses. One of my favorite comfort-food-in-a-bowl meals is congee. It might look like a simple rice porridge, but it is easily customizable, easy to digest, and easy to meal prep for a quick meal or snack any time of day.

In Chinese medicine, the body’s digestion is like a furnace, in that it works best when it is warm. Cold or raw foods (think smoothies, ice cold drinks, cold cereal) can be harder for the body to digest due to the cold temperature, and over time can lead to digestive issues like indigestion, bloating, gas, and/or fatigue and feeling tired after eating a meal.

So, if you’re having these symptoms, or find yourself wanting something warm for breakfast when it’s cold outside, consider switching out the cold breakfast foods for a warm breakfast like oatmeal, cooked eggs and greens, or congee.

Congee is made with just rice and water, cooked low and slow on the stove until it becomes a creamy porridge consistency. It is admittedly very plain and bland to start, but this also makes it good to eat when you are feeling sick.

Congee is a common East Asian home remedy to eat if you are sick with a cold or cough, or recovering from any kind of digestive upset or stomach flu. One of my friends from college also swore by congee as her go to hangover cure!

This makes a great warm and comforting meal any time of day, but my personal favorite is to have congee for breakfast. It’s pretty much like a savory oatmeal that is endlessly customizable once you start adding toppings, and you can make it as plain or flavorful as you want.

You can use whatever you have in your fridge and pantry, but here are some ideas below. You can also add heartier toppings like vegetables or meats to make it more of a main dish meal.


Traditional Chinese Medicine Ingredient Breakdown

In traditional Chinese medicine, white rice is thought to benefit the spleen and stomach, making it a good choice for strengthening digestion, tonifying Qi, and boosting energy to
alleviate fatigue.

Ginger is considered warm and acrid, and is used to alleviate stomach upset, nausea or motion sickness. It is also great to take when you’re coming down with a cold, and helps to warm the lungs and stop coughing. Green onion is also a warm and pungent herb that is commonly used with ginger to treat the common cold.


Serves 6 as a snack or side dish, 4 as a main dish

  • • 1 cup uncooked white or jasmine rice
  • • 8 cups of water


Combine rice and water in a large pot on the stove. Bring the contents up to a boil, then lower heat down to a simmer, pot covered with the lid slightly ajar, for about 90 minutes. Stir occasionally throughout the cooking process to make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

If the congee is too dry or thick for your preference, add a little extra water while cooking for a thinner consistency. Add toppings of your choice – I like to keep a balance between textures and flavors, but feel free to experiment and find your favorite combo!

Topping ideas

  • • Aromatics - green onion slices, ginger, grated, or chopped into thin matchsticks, leeks or shallots, roasted or sauteed
  • • Crunchy - peanuts, walnuts, cashews, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.
  • • Sour - Chinese black vinegar, lemon juice 
  • • Savory and umami - soy sauce, tamari or coconut aminos, sesame oil, fermented bean curd, fish sauce
  • • Spicy - chili oil, sriracha, hot sauce, ground white pepper
  • • Meet - chicken, pork, beef, fish, Chinese sausage, salted duck eggs, century eggs, soft or hardboiled eggs


Key Takeaways

  • • Congee is a traditional Chinese rice porridge that offers several health benefits and healing properties.
  • • It supports digestive health by being easy to digest, soothing inflammation in the gut, and alleviating constipation.
  • • Congee provides hydration benefits, keeping you well – hydrated throughout the day and supporting optimal digestion.
  • • It boosts the immune system with its nutrient-rich profile, providing vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • • Congee is nourishing and comforting, making it an ideal food for recovery or boosting energy levels.


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