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Why is my instant pot rice hard?

Having rice turn out hard and undercooked when using an instant pot can be frustrating. There are several possible reasons why rice made in an instant pot may end up hard and underdone.

Not Enough Water

One of the most common reasons instant pot rice turns out hard is that there simply wasn’t enough water used when cooking the rice. Rice expands as it cooks, absorbing water in the process. If there isn’t enough water in the pot, the rice won’t be able to fully hydrate and expand, resulting in hard, undercooked rice.

For white rice, a general rule of thumb is to use a 1:1 ratio of rice to water. So for every 1 cup of rice, add 1 cup of water. However, this can vary a bit depending on the type of rice being used.

Brown rice and other whole grain rice varieties often call for a 1:1 1⁄4 or 1:1 1⁄2 rice to water ratio. The extra water is needed because the bran layers on whole grain rice varieties make them absorb liquid a bit differently than refined white rice.

When in doubt, it’s better to err on the side of using a little extra water than not enough. Too much water can always be absorbed by the rice as it steams after cooking, but not enough water will lead to undercooked, hard rice.

Not Enough Time for Natural Pressure Release

Another common mistake is not allowing the instant pot to naturally release pressure long enough after rice has finished cooking. Rice needs time to fully absorb water and become tender after the pressurized cooking cycle is complete. If the lid is removed too quickly, the rice will not have had enough time to finish cooking and absorbing liquid.

White rice generally needs about 10 minutes of natural pressure release time once the cook cycle is done. Whole grain rices like brown rice may need 15-20 minutes of natural release time for the best texture.

Be patient and allow the instant pot to naturally release for the recommended time based on the type of rice used. Opening the lid too soon leads to hard, crunchy rice.

Incorrect Rice to Water Ratios for Rice Variety

Not all rice varieties use the same rice to water ratio. While a 1:1 ratio may work for basic long grain white rice, other types of rice need adjustments to the amount of liquid used.

Here are some common rice to water ratios for different rice varieties:

Rice Variety Ratio
Long grain white 1:1
Jasmine 1:1
Basmati 1:1 – 1:1 1/4
Arborio (risotto) 1:2.5 – 1:3
Brown rice 1:1 1/4 – 1:1 1/2
Wild rice 1:2

If the incorrect rice to water ratio is used for the particular rice variety in the instant pot, it can lead to rice that is undercooked and hard.

Not Rinsing the Rice First

Many people are surprised to learn that most rice varieties should be rinsed before cooking. Rinsing removes excess starch from the surface of the rice grains which can otherwise make the rice gummy or sticky.

Rinsing involves placing rice grains in a fine mesh strainer and running cold water over the rice, agitating the rice with your hands, until the water runs clear. This usually takes just a minute or two.

Be sure to account for any water absorption that occurs from rinsing when measuring out the amount of water to add to the instant pot. Usually about 1/4 cup of water gets absorbed if rinsing 1 cup of rice.

Neglecting this quick rinsing step means excess starch remains on the surface of the rice, affecting texture and absorbing liquid unevenly. This often leads to hard, crunchy results.

Not Allowing Rice to Rest After Cooking

After rice has finished cooking in the instant pot, it needs time to rest and continue to absorb any remaining liquid. Similar to letting a pot roast or roast chicken rest before carving, allowing rice to steam for 5-10 minutes after cooking gives the grains time to fully hydrate.

If rice is fluffed immediately out of the instant pot and served right away, the inside of the grains may still be hard and underdone while the outside seems soft. Resting gives everything an opportunity to evenly absorb moisture and deliver tender rice with the best texture.

Cooking Too Little Rice

Believe it or not, cooking too small of a batch of rice can also lead to underdone, hard results. Most instant pots need at least 1 cup of uncooked rice or other grain to reach proper pressurization and moisture levels.

Any less than 1 cup of dry rice may not generate enough steam inside the sealed instant pot chamber. Without adequate pressure and moisture, the rice will likely turn out crunchy.

For the best results, make at least 1 cup of rice in an instant pot. Scale up the rice and water amounts as needed to make more, but avoid cooking tiny 1/4 or 1/2 cup batches for proper texture.

Not Waiting for Instant Pot to Seal Before Starting Timer

On most instant pot models, after selecting a cooking program the pot will take several minutes to come up to pressure and seal itself so the pressurized cooking can begin. However, some people mistakenly start the timer as soon as they set the cooking program.

This shortens the pressurized cooking time and means the rice is undercooked. Be sure to follow the visual cues on the instant pot interface and wait until it indicates pressure cooking has started before starting the timer.

The pot should seal itself, the float valve should rise, or an icon will indicate pressurized cooking has begun. Starting the timer too early leads to crunchy, hard rice.

Incorrect Instant Pot Settings

Using the wrong instant pot settings for cooking rice can also produce underdone results. Be sure to select the right cooking function based on the type of rice you are making.

Most instant pots come with preset buttons or functions for cooking white rice, brown rice, porridges, or manual/pressure cook settings. Selecting the wrong one can lead to improper cook times and pressure levels.

Consult the rice package instructions or instant pot manual for guidelines on cook times and which functions work best for different rice types. Setting the incorrect function means the rice won’t cook long enough to soften fully.

Pre-Rinsing Rice in Instant Pot Before Cooking

While it’s important to rinse rice before cooking, you don’t want to rinse rice directly inside the inner pot of the instant pot. The water absorption can interfere with getting the correct rice-to-water ratio.

Always rinse rice in a mesh strainer or other separate container, then add the rinsed rice and measured water to the instant pot to cook. Pre-rinsing rice directly in the inner pot throws off moisture measurements.

Not Stirring Rice After Cooking

Giving rice a quick stir with a fork after cooking helps separate any grains that may have clumped together and ensures even moisture distribution. Neglecting this last stirring step means some grains may remain hard while others get too soft.

Be sure to fluff and stir rice after removing the lid and allowing the rice to rest. This evenly distributes moisture for the best texture.

Cooking Too Much Rice at Once

Trying to cook too large of a batch of rice in an instant pot can impair moisture absorption and distribution. Too much rice pressed together in the inner pot makes it hard for steam and liquid to circulate properly.

As a general rule, it’s best to avoid filling the inner pot more than halfway when cooking rice. Sticking to a 1:1 rice to water ratio also helps when cooking larger batches.

For big batches, it’s often better to cook rice in multiple smaller batches rather than one huge batch. This allows proper hydration and even cooking for tender rice grains.

Not Stirring After Adding Rice and Water to Pot

Be sure to give rice a quick stir after adding it and the water to the instant pot’s inner pot. This helps distribute grains evenly and separates any that are stuck together.

Neglecting this simple stirring step means some grains may end up pressed right up against each other or the bottom of the pot. Uneven contact with rice prevents even absorption of liquid.

Incorrect Water for Rice Variety

The type of water used can also impact rice texture when using an instant pot. Some varieties of rice are better suited for different types of water.

Long grain and basmati rice often turn out best when using distilled or purified water. The minerals in hard tap water can sometimes alter the texture.

Shorter grain rices like arborio for risotto can benefit from the extra starch present in hard water. The minerals help lock in “al dente” texture.

Try switching up the type of water if a certain rice variety consistently turns out too hard. Using the wrong type of water for the rice variety can prevent proper hydration.

Older Rice Results in Harder Texture

The age of the rice being cooked can also impact the end texture. Older rice has less moisture content and often requires more added water than fresher rice.

Try using a bit more water than the package directs if cooking with rice that has been stored for longer periods. Older rice needs help rehydrating and often benefits from an extra 1/4 cup water per cup of rice.

Inner Pot Has Dried Rice Stuck to It

Over time, it’s common for some dried rice grains or residue to get stuck on the bottom of the inner pot insert. These hardened pieces can interfere with even cooking and absorption of newly added rice.

Give the insert a good scrub with a non-abrasive sponge or brush to remove any pieces of stuck on rice debris. For stubborn deposits, try soaking the pot for 30 minutes in warm water before scrubbing.


Undercooked instant pot rice is usually easily avoidable with a few simple tweaks. Be sure to use the correct rice to water ratios for the type of rice variety, allow for proper pressure release time after cooking, stir rice before and after cooking, and follow any special instructions based on the age or type of grains used.

With the right techniques, your instant pot will deliver perfectly tender, fluffy rice every time. Don’t settle for crunchy, hard rice – try adjusting some of these common mistakes to get the best instant pot rice texture.