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Cooking Rice at High Altitude: How It Affects Rice Cooking and Quality


A vacation to your neighboring mountains or moving to a town located way above sea level can be an uplifting experience. Great views, fresh air, and a tranquil environment can be fun. However, there’s one only problem: cooking. 

You notice that your rice almost ends up undercooked and the baked goods you bake expand too much and dry out quicker. What happened? Did your cooking skills suddenly take a nosedive? 

Contrary to your worries, baking desserts and cooking rice at high altitude is actually the culprit.

Boiling Point of Water

Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius, but that’s when you’re boiling it at sea level. The boiling point of water, or any other liquid, is affected by the air pressure. 

When the internal vapor pressure of a liquid is equal to the atmospheric pressure, it boils or turns to vapor. However, when you gain altitude, the pressure lowers because there are fewer air molecules pressing against you.

A high altitude is defined as anything above 8,000 feet. The higher we ascend, the lower the air pressure becomes. Because there is so much less pressure, you don’t need as much heat to get vapor pressure over atmospheric pressure.

Does Rice Cook Differently at High Altitudes?

Because of the less air pressure at a higher elevation, water boils at a lower temperature than the expected 212°F/100°C. Because of this, the cooking liquid stays at that lower temperature for longer periods, which means dishes take longer to cook. 

This also means that the boiling point is lower, making evaporation quicker than what you’d like. This quick evaporation affects how your rice cooks.

Why Cooking Rice at Higher Altitudes is Difficult

At a high altitude location, using the normal 1:1 water to rice ratio will result in rice staying firm and uncooked even after all the water has been absorbed.

This could be annoying, particularly if you’re craving high-quality cooked rice with great consistency. You have to adjust recipes, baking time is extended, and a longer cook time is necessary.

Of course, you don’t need to change the actual recipe itself, such as the measurements of sugar, baking powder, or any ingredients the recipe calls for. The only thing you need to add is excess water and change either the stove or oven temperature.

How to Cook Rice at High Altitude

Rice is one of the world’s most important staple foods and the greatest thing about it is that it’s simple to prepare. If you reside or intend to visit places in higher elevations for tourism, you may have to deal with the difficulty of trying to cook rice.

White Rice

How Much Cups of Water Should I Use In Cooking Rice at High Altitude?

For every cup called in the recipe, add more water by roughly 1/8 to 1/4 cups. You may also need to use a large pot as you’ll use more water. The standard ratio is 1 cup water to 1 cup rice for long-grain white rice. When cooking at a high altitude, use a ratio of 1 cup rice to 1 7/8 to 2 cups liquid. 

When cooking at elevations between 3,000 and 5,000 feet, use the usual ratio of 2 cups more water to 1 cup for dried long-grain white rice. For heights over 5,000 feet, add more liquid by 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup, gradually increasing the quantity as you gain altitude.

Brown and other types of rice can be tricky to cook, even at SL, and it’s important to adjust the water just like when you’re cooking white rice. For brown rice, you use a 1 cup rice to 2 ¼  water ratio.

How Do You Adjust Cooking Time for High Altitudes?

A few more minutes won’t cut it, you’ll have to cook your rice for an additional tenth of the time. At elevations up to 5,000 feet, cook white rice for 20 minutes if it usually cooks at 15 and increase the time progressively as the altitude rises. Above that height, rice that cooks usually in 15 minutes will take 25 minutes or more to cook. 

How Long Does it Take to Cook Brown Rice at High Altitudes?

Since water is already at a rolling boil at higher altitudes, it’s important to avoid using high heat if you want fully cooked food and breads baked good. Lower heat means longer cooking times. 

Follow these cooking time guide below for brown and other types of rice:

  • Arborio – 30 minutes
  • White, short grain – 30 minutes
  • Parboiled – 25 minutes
  • Brown , long grain rice – 50 minutes
  • Brown, short grain rice – 55 minutes
  • Jasmine – 15 minutes
  • Basmati – 15 minutes
  • Wild rice – 50 minutes

Take note of the cooking times above, and add a tenth of the cooking time.


  • Ideally, rice should be cooked in a pot with a glass lid so that you can keep an eye on it without having to open the lid.
  • Make adjustments to the water used as necessary. If the rice is dry but not yet cooked, add 1-2 tablespoons of liquid, or simmer for a few minutes longer if there’s still some moisture left. If the water evaporates too soon, add extra water, and let the rice simmer longer.
  • While it’s tempting to cook your food faster, don’t increase the heat when cooking. For the rice to properly absorb the water, it has to be cooked at a lower temperature. If you boil at high heat, the rice will not receive steam and you’ll be left with dry, uncooked rice.
  • Be careful not to put in too much water! While higher altitudes have lower air pressure and can affect the cooking time of most recipes, you might still end up with mushy rice. Add only the necessary cups of water and add to the pot as the water boils, not before.

Cooking Rice at High Altitude Using a Pressure Cooker

One of the easiest ways to cook rice at a high altitude is to use a pressure cooker. Using this handy kitchen item can help you avoid virtually all of the issues that come with cooking at higher altitude.

This device prevents steam from escaping the lid below a specific temperature, causing its internal pressure and temperature to rise. As a result, the air pressure surrounding the unit is unimportant.

Pressure cookers, in fact, create much greater pressure than is normally at sea level. As a result, the food inside the device may cook at a higher temperature than the boiling point, typically 250°F/121°C, resulting in faster and more efficient cooking.

A rice cooker with pressure cooking technology has the same effect.

Whether you’re simply on vacation or you’re already starting your life anew, living at higher altitudes doesn’t have to make your culinary dream impossible to achieve.

Just remember two important tips: water boils at a lower heat and add more water as you boil. A little more experimenting and you’re good to go!

Hui Yin

Hui Yin moved from Hong Kong 🇭🇰 to the USA 🇺🇸 when she was just 8 years old. Now in her late 20's she enjoys writing and taking long walks in the park to burn off the copious amounts of rice she eats for dinner.

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