Thai Congee with Chicken Meatballs
This Thai Congee is made with juicy flavorful chicken meatballs, fragrant aromatics and herbs, and exploding with flavor! It’s easy to make with leftover cooked rice and super comforting and satisfying!
Cozy, warming, full of fragrant aromatics and herbs AND there’s meatballs and a thick, luscious rice congee involved? Sign me up! 🙋♀️
Friend’s allow me to introduce you to Thailand’s version of congee – jok.
What is jok?
Thai congee, known as jok in Thai, is a delicious and comforting rice porridge that hails from Thailand. While it’s typically eaten for breakfast, you’ll find it on the streets of Thailand all day long and it can be eaten for lunch or dinner too. Typically, it’s made with chicken or pork, often in the form of meatballs, or shrimp. It’s also topped with a cooked runny egg. Thai people often eat it when they’re in need of comfort food or when they feel a cold coming on.
My version of Thai congee is jazzed up with flavorful aromatics like shallots, garlic, chilies, lemongrass and makrut lime leaves and is full of juicy, flavorful chicken meatballs! Topped with fresh coriander, spring onion and fried shallots, it’s an incredibly tasty meal for lunch or dinner! 😍
I’ve also used cooked leftover Thai brown jasmine rice to save time and also make it more nutritious. However, you can absolutely use cooked Thai white jasmine rice or any other long grain rice that you prefer.
While I’ll admit it does take a few extra minutes to prepare the aromatics, this congee is pretty easy and straightforward to whip up. It’s the perfect filling and satisfying meal and super warming and comforting!
Why This Recipe Works
- Flavor-packed! Fresh aromatics like lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, garlic, shallots, and chilies infuses the congee with incredible flavors. It’s a flavor explosion in your mouth with every bite!
- Shorter cooking time. Using leftover cooked rice makes this quicker to make than using uncooked raw rice and making it completely from scratch.
- Juicy chicken meatballs! Cooking the meatballs briefly in the congee not only adds flavor to it but also results in tender and moist chicken meatballs.
- Eat it anytime of the day. Thai congee is one of those dishes that’ll hit the spot in your stomach regardless of if it’s eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
- Adjustable spice level. Tone down or amp up the heat factor by adjusting the number of chilies you use. Or simply use none for a non-spicy Thai rice porridge.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutes
For this recipe, the aromatics and seasoning sauces will be used for both the meatballs and the Thai congee. Below are some notes on a few of the ingredients.
- Ground Chicken: Or you can use lean ground pork or turkey to make the meatballs if you like.
- Long Grain Brown Jasmine Rice: I’ve used brown rice to make this Thai congee more nutritious. However, you can of course use white long grain Thai jasmine rice or other long grain rice.
- Sesame Oil: To infuse the chicken meatballs with toasted sesame aromas!
- Seasoning Sauces: Fish sauce and low sodium light soy sauce to add savory umami notes to the meatballs and congee. If using regular light soy sauce, use a little less and adjust the quantity to taste.
- Ground White Pepper: Using ground white pepper is common in Thai cooking, but you can substitute with ground black pepper in a pinch.
- Asian Red Shallots: Substitute with regular shallots or French shallots/eschalots.
- Chilies: I’ve used Thai Bird’s Eye red chilies and tiny (but fiery hot!) Prik Kee Nu green chilies here. You can use any small hot red and green chilies that are easily available to you. Adjust the quantity to taste depending on your heat level preference.
- Lemongrass Stalks: Look for this in an Asian supermarket or Thai grocery store. If unavailable, substitute with lemongrass paste, which can be found in most mainstream supermarkets in the fridge section.
- Makrut Lime Leaves: These fragrant leaves add a citrusy aroma. Find them in a Thai grocery store or substitute with dried makrut lime leaves or the ground version if unavailable.
- Coriander (Cilantro) Roots: This is the hairy root end of the coriander stem and it is often used in Thai cooking to add flavor. It has a different flavor from the leaves. If your coriander came with the roots already chopped off, use the stem parts instead.
- Water: I used water to build the congee/porridge. However, homemade chicken stock without salt can be used too. If using store-bought low sodium chicken stock, adjust soy sauce, fish sauce and kosher salt amounts to taste.
- Thai Chili Powder (optional): It’s made from a combination of chili powder, flakes, and seeds. Substitute with crushed red pepper flakes or feel free to leave this out for milder flavor.
- To Serve (optional toppings): I like to top my Thai congee with chopped fresh coriander (cilantro), spring onion (scallion/green onion), and store-bought fried shallots. You can also top off your bowl with julienned ginger, ground white pepper, fried garlic, and/or chili oil (homemade or store-bought).
Full ingredient list and amounts are in the recipe card below.
How to Make Thai Congee with Chicken Meatballs
1. Make the aromatics paste. Roughly chop the shallot, garlic, chiles and coriander roots. Using a mortar and pestle, pound them into a coarse paste. This helps release their oils to make their flavors more pronounced. (Note: If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, just finely chop the ingredients instead).
2. Make the chicken meatballs mixture. Combine the paste with the ground chicken and seasonings in a mixing bowl. Mix until the mixture has come together and is smooth. Set aside to allow it to develop flavor while you prepare the congee.
3. Prepare the congee ingredients. Roughly chop the aromatics and pound into a coarse paste. Finely mince the lemongrass and makrut lime leaves.
If your rice is chilled, microwave it for 1 minute on high until – this helps it absorb more liquid easily. Then add the rice to a blender jug along with a cup of water and blend briefly until a coarse texture, but not a smooth puree is achieved.
4. Sauté the aromatics. Use a Dutch oven or medium sized heavy bottomed pot and sauté the aromatics in a little oil.
5. Stir in the blended rice, water and seasonings.
6. Simmer. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the mixture is thick and smooth. Be sure to stir frequently once the congee starts to thicken after a few minutes to prevent it from sticking to the bottom.
7. Add the meatballs to the pot. Use a teaspoon to scoop up the chicken meatball mixture and another to shape and slide it into the pot. Repeat until all of the meatballs are in the congee. Cook them briefly until they are just cooked.
Serve! Ladle the Thai congee and chicken meatballs evenly into bowls. Top with your desired toppings and enjoy!
Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.
- Don’t over blend the rice. The congee will become too thin and watery so it’s best to blend just briefly (unless you do prefer your congee to be on the thinner side).
- Rinse out the blender jug with the remaining water before pouring it into the pot. This way, you’ll get all of the rice mixture out of the blender.
- Use a silicone spatula. A silicone or rubber spatula makes it easier to gently scrape the bottom of the pot to prevent sticking without damaging the material that the pot is made of.
- Switch off the heat when adding the meatballs to the congee. Any bubbling congee may splatter on your hands and burn as you plop the meatballs in. To avoid this, switch off the heat when adding the meatballs and turn it back on medium-low to cook them after all the meatball mixture is in the pot.
- Don’t overcook the meatballs. They will be perfectly cooked and tender after just 2-3 minutes of cooking in the hot porridge. Avoid overcooking so that you don’t end up with chewy and rubbery meatballs.
If meatballs are not your thing and you prefer shrimp, simply omit the meatball ingredients and add shrimp to the congee at the end. They only need to be cooked for 2-3 minutes.
Thai congee can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days in sealed airtight containers. Be sure to leave a little room at the top of the container as the congee will expand over time in the fridge. Add a splash of water to thin it to your desired consistency when ready to eat. Reheat in the microwave on high for 1-2 minutes or in a pot on the stovetop.
Once completely cooled, transfer the congee to sealed airtight containers and wrap each container in a sheet of aluminum foil for an extra layer of protection against freezer burn. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat in the microwave or in a pot on the stovetop with an extra splash of water if needed to thin it.
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Thai Congee with Chicken Meatballs
Made with juicy flavorful chicken meatballs, fragrant aromatics and herbs, and exploding with flavor! This Thai congee is easy to make with leftover cooked rice and super comforting and satisfying!
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 25
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 6 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Simmer
- Cuisine: Thai
For the Chicken Meatballs:
- 1 Asian Red Shallot – peeled, roughly chopped
- 1 large Garlic clove – peeled, roughly chopped
- 1 Red Chili (Thai Bird’s Eye or any other small hot red chili – note 1), to taste – destemmed, roughly chopped
- 1 – 2 Thai Prik Kee Nu Green Chilies (optional – note 1) – destemmed, roughly chopped
- 2 Coriander (Cilantro) Roots – roughly chopped (use 4 coriander stems if roots are unavailable)
- 260 grams / 9 ounces Ground Chicken – (or ground pork or turkey)
- ½ TSP ground White Pepper
- ½ TBLS Fish Sauce
- ½ TBLS Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
- ½ TSP Sesame Oil
For the Thai Congee:
- 1-inch piece Ginger – roughly chopped (about 2 tablespoons chopped)
- 2 Garlic cloves – peeled, roughly chopped
- 3 – 6 Red Chilies (Thai Bird’s Eye or any other small hot red chilies), to taste – destemmed, roughly chopped
- 2 Asian Red Shallots – peeled, roughly chopped
- 2 Lemongrass Stalks – outer tough layers removed, finely minced (substitute with 2 tablespoons lemongrass paste)
- 3 Makrut Lime Leaves (note 2) – destemmed, finely minced into a powder like texture (substitute ½ TSP ground dried makrut/kaffir lime leaf)
- 1 TBLS Canola Oil (or vegetable oil)
- 946ml / 4 cups Water (note 3)
- 3 cups / 390 grams cooked Long Grain Brown Jasmine Rice (or use white long grain Thai jasmine rice or other long grain rice)
- 1 TBLS Fish Sauce
- 1 TBLS Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
- ½ TSP Kosher Salt, to taste (use half the amount if using iodized table salt)
- ½ TSP Thai Chili Powder (optional – leave out for milder flavor), to taste
- To Serve (optional toppings): Chopped fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped spring onion (scallion/green onion), julienned ginger, ground white pepper, store-bought or homemade fried shallots or fried garlic, chili oil (homemade or store-bought)
For the Chicken Meatballs:
- Make the chicken meatball mixture: Roughly chop the shallot, garlic, red chili, prik kee nu green chiles (if using) and coriander roots. Using a mortar and pestle, pound into a coarse paste. (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, finely chop the ingredients instead). Place the ground chicken in a medium mixing bowl. Add the aromatics paste, ground white pepper, fish sauce, low sodium light soy sauce and sesame oil to the bowl and mix until combined well. Using a large spoon, scoop the mixture up and drop it so it slaps against the bowl. Repeat a few times until the chicken mixture texture is smooth and everything has come together. Set aside. (Note: You may also mix the meat mixture using your hands, which is the traditional way. If doing so, I recommend using disposable plastic gloves to avoid irritating your skin.)
For the Thai Congee:
- Prepare the ingredients: Roughly chop the ginger, garlic, red chilies and shallots. Using a mortar and pestle, pound into a coarse paste and set aside. Finely mince the lemongrass and makrut lime leaves. The makrut lime leaves should be like a fine powder. If your rice is chilled, microwave it for 1 minute on high until hot. (This will help it to absorb more liquid easily.)
- Blend the rice with water: Add the rice to a blender jug along with 1 cup (237ml) of water. Blend briefly, about 8-10 seconds until a coarse texture but not a smooth puree is achieved. (I normally blend for 5 seconds, then uncover and mix before blending for 2-3 seconds again. If you prefer a thinner congee consistency then blend until desired consistency is achieved). Set aside.
- Sauté the aromatics: Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a Dutch oven or medium sized heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the smashed aromatics paste along with the finely minced lemongrass and makrut lime leaves. Sauté using a silicone spatula (note 4) for 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add the blended rice, water and seasonings: Pour the blended rice mixture into the pot. Rinse out the blender jug with the remaining water and pour it into the pot too. Stir in the fish sauce, low sodium light soy sauce, kosher salt and Thai chili powder (if using). Turn the heat up and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently once the congee starts to thicken to prevent it from sticking to the bottom.
- Cook the meatballs: Switch off the heat to prevent splattering. Use a teaspoon to scoop up the chicken meatball mixture and another to shape and slide it into the pot. Repeat until all of the meatballs are in the congee. Turn the heat back on and set to medium-low. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the meatballs are just cooked. Taste and adjust seasonings by adding more fish sauce, soy sauce or kosher salt if needed. Switch off the heat.
- To Serve: Ladle the congee and meatballs evenly into bowls. Top with desired toppings and serve.
- Chilies. Feel free to use less or more of both the Bird’s Eye and prik kee nu chilies. Thai prik kee nu chilies are optional as they are not only fiery hot (and should be used with caution if you are not used to spicy foods) but can be difficult to track down outside of Asia. You can leave it out or use any other type of hot green chilies instead.
- Makrut Lime Leaves. These fragrant leaves add a citrusy aroma to the congee. Find them in a Thai grocery store or substitute with dried makrut like leaves or the ground version if unavailable.
- Water. While I’ve used water for this congee, a homemade chicken stock without salt can be used too. If using store-bought low sodium chicken stock, adjust soy sauce, fish sauce and kosher salt amounts to taste.
- Silicone Spatula. I recommend using a silicone or rubber spatula to cook the congee as it allows you to gently scrape the bottom of the pot to prevent sticking without damaging the material that the pot is made of.
- Storage and leftovers. Store leftover congee in airtight sealed containers in the fridge for 3-4 days. It will thicken as it sits in the fridge so be sure to leave a little room at the top of the container to accommodate for this. When ready to eat, add a splash of water to thin it to your desired consistency if needed. Reheat in the microwave on high for 1-2 minutes or in a pot on the stovetop.
- To freeze. Once completely cooled, transfer to sealed airtight containers and wrap each container in a sheet of aluminum foil for an extra layer of protection against freezer burn. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat in the microwave or in a pot on the stovetop with an extra splash of water if needed to thin it.
- Recipe inspired by Hot Thai Kitchen.
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 401
- Sugar: 6.2g
- Sodium: 1131.4mg
- Fat: 11.2g
- Saturated Fat: 2.3g
- Unsaturated Fat: 8.4g
- Trans Fat: 0.1g
- Carbohydrates: 50.7g
- Fiber: 4.4g
- Protein: 18.4g
- Cholesterol: 55.9mg
Keywords: Thai congee, Thai rice porridge, Thai jok
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