Millet porridge is an easy, comforting, and versatile side on the Chinese dinner table. Season it with sugar, pickled vegetables, or cheese; this porridge goes well with nearly any type of main dish.
Millet porridge is one of the most important side dishes in Chinese home cooking, and we serve it from breakfast to dinner. We usually cook a handful of millet in a big pot of water, until the millet is tender and the broth creamy. Then we serve it as a simple soup, seasoned with a pinch of sugar, or with a small cold dish, such as pickled vegetables or fermented tofu. No matter whether you’re eating a fluffy pork bun, a piece of steamed fish, or some braised pork, the warm and creamy porridge helps you wash down the food with such a comforting feeling – as satisfying as washing down a medium rare steak with a sip of wine.
Soup is an important part of Chinese cuisine. For a lot of families, soup is served on the dinner table every day. Different from most Western style soups, the soups we cook daily are very simple. They usually contain just a few ingredients and take practically no time to cook.
This millet porridge belongs to that genre.
Actually, since it’s so cheap to make, street food vendors and most lunch cafeterias give it out for free, as a side dish for a lunch set menu, a plate of dumplings, or a rack of steamed buns. If you’re eating a heavy or meaty main dish, the porridge will clean your palate and help with digestion. If you’re eating a very light meal or are on a diet, the porridge makes your stomach feel full and satisfied.
Cooking millet porridge is brainless and easy. You just need to throw the millet into boiling water and let it cook for 30 minutes, then it’s ready to serve. The only thing to note, is to add the millet after water is boiling and skim the foam from the top. This way, the millet won’t spill easily during cooking.
To prepare a dinner, you could start by cooking the porridge first, then prepare a stir-fry or a simple salad. With some pre-made steamed buns or bread, you can finish preparing a three-course dinner for two in 40 minutes. If you’re cooking for four people, prepare some braised meat ahead of time (or on the weekend) and reheat it in a steamer. You’ll probably still finish preparing dinner in 40 minutes or so. The great thing about this combo is that even if you make a main or appetizer from a different cuisine, like a green salad or hummus with toasted bread, the dishes will still go perfect together.
- Millet porridge (seasoned with sugar)
- Spicy cabbage stir-fry
- Kimchi pork buns
- Nutty steamed buns
- Lion’s head pork meatballs
- Millet porridge (serve with pickled vegetables)
- Oven fried wings with Korean BBQ sauce
- Asparagus Salad with Mushroom, Eggs, and Glass Noodles
- Millet porridge (seasoned with parmesan cheese)
Simple Millet Porridge (小米粥)
For the porridge
- 1/2 cup (120 grams) millet (*see footnote)
- 8 cups (2 liters) water
To serve with
- Fermented tofu
- Pickled vegetables
- Parmesan cheese
- Rinse millet a few times with tap water and drain.
- Add water to a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil.
- Slowly add millet to the pot.
- Continue cooking until the water returns to a boil. Turn to low heat. Use a ladle to skim the foam from the surface, so the porridge won’t spill during cooking.
- Cook while keeping the porridge boiling, but not too fiercely, for 30 minutes. Stir the porridge several times after 20 minutes, so the millet won’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
- If you want a thicker porridge, keep cooking after 30 minutes are up, and stir the porridge constantly as it thickens, about 10 minutes.
- The porridge is ready when the millet is tender but still keeps its shape.
How to serve
- (Option 1) Sweet porridge - Transfer the porridge to serving bowls and add sugar to taste.
- (Option 2) Savory porridge - Serve warm with pickled vegetables or fermented tofu.
- (Option 3) Cheesy porridge - Grate parmesan cheese into the porridge while it’s still hot.
- This amount of millet yields a creamy porridge that is not too thick nor too thin. For a soupy porridge, use 80 grams (1/3 cup) millet instead (my family’s favorite). For a thicker porridge, cook the porridge a bit longer until it thickens, about 10 minutes.
Questions and Reviews
This looks so comforting and delicious, Maggie! I love millet porridge and it sounds perfect for breakfast this morning!
I so want a bowl of this! Super simple, healthy and the add ins one can put in it are endless, but keep it simple! Love this one. Pinned, too!
This porridge looks so comforting and delicious! love!
I don’t think I’ve ever tried millet, Maggie! In fact, I’m sure I haven’t. I’m really surprised that you add parmesan to this, too. I didn’t think that cheese was at all popular in China!
Love the idea of having something simple and comforting like this as a side dish, though. Would love to try this (just as I always want to try the recipes you post!)
Oh, and absolutely brilliant photos!
Totally digging the darker more dramatic lighting you’re using in your photos Maggie. It makes your food look so exotic, like Gourmet Traveller type photos!!! I remember having millet porridge in China and Hong Kong. Never had it in Australia though. I must keep an eye out!
Great base recipe. Added some miso and garlic – yum. Going to try with kimchi next.
I thought 8 cups would be too much water, but this turned out just the right consistency. We added salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese and it was very tasty! I can see how this would be a good comfort food.
Brings me back to my childhood, so simple
Would you tiao be a good accompaniment for this dish?
Yes, it’s a perfect combo!
Cook covered or uncovered?
You should cook the porridge uncovered to prevent it from spilling over.
This looks so comforting! I only have millet flakes at home. Can I use those instead of whole grains?
Hi Emelie, I think you can (similar to cooking with polenta) but maybe you will need to adjust the water ratio and shorten the cooking time.
Also, make sure to stir it during the cooking to prevent the bottom from scorching, because the flakes might absorb liquid faster and clump on the bottom of the pan.
Do you use Millet Flour for this recipe? I have Millet Flour and also Puffed Millet.
I used the millet grains (small round shape, looks a bit like quinoa) and I’m afraid I don’t think the millet flour or the pulled one would work.
This looks good. Do you use any seasoning? Just millet and water?
When cooking the congee I only use millet and water. It is usually served with other dishes on the side as a soup, or with some salty pickles. When I was growing up, I like to add sugar to the congee to make it a sweet soup.
Hi! I plan to make this for my 1 year old’s parent child class. Question…do I make it the same way if I’m not putting any millet in? They are serving the millet and quinoa like rice style and I’m supposed to bring the side. I want to bring this as the “side” but not sure if I need to change recipe.
I didn’t quite understand your question. Do you mean to cook the millet, but strain off the liquid and serve the millet as a side?
If that is the case, I would cook the millet a bit shorter. This recipe is designed for making congee, so the long cooking time allows the millet to release starch and thicken the water. If you serve the millet separated, you probably want it a little firm, so it won’t fall apart when you strain it. I would try cooking it for 20 minutes first, taste it, and see if it needs more time.