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What is Rice Cereal?

By Matthew F.
Updated May 16, 2024
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Rice cereal is a food with a primary ingredient of rice that is most often used as a baby food. It can be made of white or brown rice, mixed with other foods, and made hot or cold. It is fed to most children raised in the United States soon after formula or breast feeding. These cereals often contain extracted ingredients, and can be homemade or store bought from many popular companies. They can be made as a hot meal for more developed digestive systems as well, and are served as a popular type of cold breakfast cereal or puffed rice cereal.

Fortified with grains, vitamins, and iron, rice cereal is often used as the first semi-solid food in a baby’s diet. It is made of precooked and processed rice, often combined with milk or water into a pureed consistency. It can initially be added to baby formulas to add extra substance and density to the formula as the baby’s digestive system develops and they require higher energy foods. Most pediatricians suggest four to six months as a starting date for using rice cereal with an infant.

Many store-bought rice cereals available are made with extracted ingredients, such as soy oil or the fatty substance lecithin. These additional ingredients may not be received well by the system of a baby who is used to the natural ingredients of breast milk. The additives, though, are often similar to many used in baby formulas, and often do not present a problem for babies who have been fed with such formulas.

As a baby food, rice cereal can also easily be homemade. The rice, usually brown rice, is mixed with breast milk or water in a blender and pureed to a smooth consistency. The mixture can be boiled if using water, and usually stores well for up to one month. Homemade cereal can be mixed with extra breast milk or additional water to alter the consistency to the baby’s liking, or to a consistency compatible with the child’s digestive capabilities.

A type of rice cereal can also be made as a hot meal with fresh cooked or leftover rice, and heated in a saucepan. Often made with milk, margarine, and salt, other ingredients can be added for flavor, such as dates or raisins. Spices like cinnamon or brown sugar can be added to make the dish sweet as well. The rice will absorb the milk while cooking, and thickens in the process. Hot rice cereal can be served as a small, healthy meal any time of day.

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Discussion Comments
By Mykol — On Jun 28, 2012

When I am looking for a light, sweet snack or even a light meal, I like to make my own version of rice cereal. I will cook some brown rice and then sweeten it with some honey and cinnamon.

When the rice is still warm I add a little bit of vanilla almond milk and stir it all together. This has the perfect combination of sweetness and substance that keeps me full and satisfied.

Sometimes I will even add some raisins if I have them on hand. Not only does this taste good, but it is very nutritious as well. This is such a simple snack that most people never think of when they are wanting something to curb their appetite and satisfy their sweet tooth at the same time.

By julies — On Jun 28, 2012

I don't remember if I had rice cereal when I was a kid, but my two favorite ways of eating it now are in Rice Krispie treats and Chex Mix. Both of these use rice cereal to make a delicious snack.

There is something about the taste and crunchiness of it that makes it hard to put down. If I make a batch of bars using crisp rice cereal, they are gone within a couple of hours.

I don't think you get too old to enjoy a delicious, soft Rice Krispie treat. My family also loves Chex Mix at different times throughout the year. I use rice cereal mixed in with other types of cereal, nuts and pretzels for another snack that is hard to put down.

By andee — On Jun 27, 2012

There is a line of baby cereal called Happy Bellies rice cereal and I think the name is clever and true! What a difference it makes when a baby has something solid in their stomach when they get to a certain age.

I felt better making my own cereal and baby food for my kids. I would use brown rice and mix it in with some of my breast milk. This way they were getting the best of both.

I know a lot of kids will eat this cold or at room temperature, but my kids seemed to enjoy it most when it was warmed up a little bit. I don't think I would like cold rice cereal either, and never had any trouble getting them to eat it this way.

By LisaLou — On Jun 26, 2012

When I think of rice cereal I think of feeding it to my kids. With my first son, I was reluctant to feed him anything other than milk for the first year. He wasn't sleeping very well at night and my mom kept telling me I should give him some rice cereal before he went to bed.

I wish I had listened to my mom sooner. She had successfully raised three kids and I thought she didn't know what she was talking about! I got tired of getting up in the middle of the night so bought some Gerber rice cereal to try.

I added this slowly at first, but he really enjoyed it and he did sleep better with some more substance in his tummy. When my other kids came along I didn't hesitate to give them rice cereal when they were 5-6 months old.

For all of my kids, rice cereal was the first solid food they began eating.

By wavy58 — On Jun 26, 2012

@shell4life – I buy cold rice cereal, too, but I don't really like eating it for breakfast. I use it to make crisp rice treats.

Just about everyone has heard of these. You use either marshmallow crème or melted marshmallows to glue a bunch of rice cereal bits together, and you cook it in a rectangular pan.

Once it is done, everything is firm enough to cut into squares. It will remain gooey, so every time you take a bite, you have a string of marshmallow hanging from your mouth to the square.

Kids love these. I think they've been around for ages, too, because I remember having them as a little girl.

By shell4life — On Jun 25, 2012

I love eating cold rice cereal with blueberries and milk. Something about the crisp rice combined with firm blueberries is awesome.

The little bits of cereal are full of holes, so they soak up the milk quickly. This cereal probably gets soggy faster than any other type of breakfast cereal, because the bits are small and so perforated.

Blueberries are only good with certain types of cereal, and I have to say that I think they go best with rice cereal. They add a lot of nutritional value to your breakfast, too.

By OeKc05 — On Jun 25, 2012

My sister makes hot rice cereal for breakfast when I visit her. However, I've had to stop eating it. I get some serious rice cereal reflux when I do, and that is not pleasant.

While I'm eating it, I'm reminded of oatmeal. It doesn't taste bad, and it fills you up. However, my body just does not seem very receptive of it.

A few spoonfuls into the dish, I will feel it starting to come back up my esophagus. I have to stop and drink some water.

Other foods don't generally do this to me. I don't know what it is about rice cereal that my stomach just doesn't want to receive.

By lighth0se33 — On Jun 24, 2012

@ddljohn – My mother still makes that, but she just calls it “rice pudding.” I'd never heard it referred to as rice cereal until I read this article.

She adds brown sugar and raisins to the cereal and milk, along with vanilla and a dash of cinnamon. I like to let it get lukewarm or even cool before I eat it, because when it's hot, it will really scorch your tongue.

Once it cools, it has an egg-like consistency. I usually eat way too much of it, because I love the texture as well as the taste. It can make you feel very bloated if you don't control your portion size.

By SteamLouis — On Jun 24, 2012

I need advice from experienced moms! My son had his first rice cereal the other day. It's commercial rice cereal for infants. The packaging said to just mix with breast milk which I did. My son ate a little bit, but he didn't seem too pleased. I think the cereal came out too grainy for him.

Do you think I should cook the rice cereal first? The packaging doesn't say I need to but I feel that it might be better. And has anyone cooked rice cereal with breast milk? Should I cook it with less than required amount of water first and then add the breast milk?

I'm so confused, waiting for your suggestions!

By serenesurface — On Jun 23, 2012

@dfoster85, @ElizaBennett-- I know some doctors don't like infants having rice cereal. But as long as the baby is old enough to have it and the cereal is natural and of good quality, I don't see why not.

Some babies do need the extra nutrition in their diet and I think rice cereal helps prepare them for more complex foods that they will start having soon. It's also a good way to satisfy little ones that get hungry too often.

My grand-daughter, for example, was a hungry one when she was an infant. She used to want to be fed every two hours! When she was five months, we started giving her rice baby cereal. It really helped to fill her up and she wasn't getting hungry as often.

By ddljohn — On Jun 22, 2012

My mom never gave me rice cereal as an infant, but she used to make rice cereal pudding often when I was a child.

The pudding is made by boiling some white rice in water and then adding that to boiling milk. Sugar is added to the milk to sweeten it and rice flour can be added to make the consistency even thicker. Then you just let it cool in the fridge and eat it! It's really delicious and almost like a meal.

I'm newly married and planning to have kids soon. If I make this pudding with only rice flour and leave out the sugar, I think it would be a good rice cereal for infants.

By ElizaBennett — On Jun 22, 2012

@dfoster85 - You are lucky to have a pediatrician who knows his stuff! Some of them will still recommend putting rice cereal in a very young baby's bottle. (I was pretty shocked, but there was a woman at my mother-baby group who had heard this.)

My babies weren't huge fans, either, but after I made sure they weren't allergic, I did not feed them the rice baby cereal just plain. I like to make a lot of my own baby food and the problem is that sometimes it comes out watery. So I would mix in some organic brown rice cereal to thicken it up a bit. (I checked the ingredients very carefully -- I didn't want anything in it but rice and vitamins and minerals!)

Some people think that it's important for breastfed babies to eat iron-fortified cereal (you can also get baby oatmeal, which mine liked better) because they are not drinking iron-fortified formula. But other experts think that as long as mom is getting plenty of iron, baby will do fine. My pediatrician checked my babies' iron levels, so I knew they were doing fine.

By dfoster85 — On Jun 21, 2012

Neither of my babies seemed to like the infant rice cereal! I tried pumping some breast milk to mix with the cereal, like the package recommends, but I just couldn't get them to eat much of it. I dutifully tried it for a few days to make sure they weren't allergic, then I moved on fruits and vegetables. They liked that a lot better!

My mother kept telling me that they should have rice cereal starting at just a couple of months because both my babies were pukey -- that is, they had a little reflux -- and I guess they used to say that the rice cereal would settle their tummies. But my pediatrician said absolutely not! He said that giving them rice cereal or any other baby food too early can actually make them more likely to have allergies and digestive problems.

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