Everything You Need To Know About Lugaw

Here are all the essential lugaw tips and recipes you need.

IMAGE Riell Santos

Lugaw is comfort in a bowl: this flavorful Filipino rice porridge is commonly served to those who are feeling under the weather, or anyone who just wants a warm, hearty meal when it's cold. It's a comfort food dish that is not only easy to make; it also makes big batches that can be shared by many.

What is Lugaw?

Lugaw is a Filipino porridge made with glutinous or long-grain rice cooked in water or stock. It is usually topped with chopped green onions and toasted garlic and can be served with a hard-boiled egg. Lugaw can refer to the simplest way of preparing Filipino rice porridge; but it's also the blanket term for other kinds of lugaw like goto and arroz caldo.

lugaw or congee with egg, chicken, and ginger slices in a light blue bowl
Lugaw can be a blanket term for Filipino rice porridge, of which there are several variations.
Photo by Shutterstock
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Aside from chopped onions and toasted garlic, lugaw can also be topped with meat like pork or chicken. Its different variations may also use more specific parts; for example, goto is topped with pork or beef tripe and innards while arroz caldo is usually made with chicken.

The savory, hearty lugaw is a dish as old as... well, not time, but it is certainly one of the Philippines' earliest documented dishes. Records of lugaw or as the Spanish spelled it, "logao" can be found in the 1613 Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala (which translates to "1613 Vocabulary of the Tagalog Language"), and here it is defined as "rice mixed with milk or water or of both (porridge)."

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How to Cook Lugaw

chicken lugaw in a wooden bowl
Learning how to cook lugaw is easy!
Photo by Majoy Siason
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One of the reasons why lugaw is such a popular dish in the Philippines is because of how versatile it is. As rice is one of the staples of Filipino food, lugaw ingredients are not only easily accessible to Filipinos; they are also relatively cheap and very familiar to any Filipino cook.

To make a thicker, chewier lugaw, you may use malagkit or glutinous rice; you can also make lugaw with long-grain rice. To cook lugaw, it's important to first rinse the bigas or uncooked rice (whichever kind you're using). Once the water runs clear, drain and set it aside. Then, in a pot over medium-high heat, add in minced ginger, onion, and garlic. Saute until the onions are translucent, and then add in some patis or fish sauce. Add in the rinsed rice and saute all the ingredients together. Then, add water or stock, let it come to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer. Stir occasionally to avoid burning lugaw at the bottom of the pot. Simmer until the rice is soft and cooked and the mixture has thickened. This should take 30-40 minutes, depending on how much lugaw you're cooking.

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Yummy Editor Tip: If you don't have the time or tools to cook lugaw on a stove, you can also cook lugaw with your rice cooker!

How to Serve Lugaw

lugaw topped with beef caldereta in a black bowl
You can get creative with your toppings, like this lugaw with beef caldereta.
Photo by Lilen Uy

Lugaw's soft texture and velvety consistency makes it such an easy food to digest, which is why aside from being a great cold-weather comfort food, it is also commonly served to sick people. In Filipino culture, lugaw is also one of the first semi-solid foods given to babies; to start, the lugaw is usually made with a thinner, almost milk-like consistency and then it is gradually made thicker and with more rice. 

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Because of how easy it is to prepare and its relatively cheap ingredients, lugaw is also commonly sold in lugawan, which are stalls or restaurants that specialize in selling lugaw. Lugaw is can be served with a hard-boiled egg, but the versatility of its flavor also allows it to be paired with different toppings, like chicharon, and other fried or braised meats. Lugaw is most popularly paired with tokwa't baboy, which is a Filipino appetizer or side dish made with deep-fried tofu cubes and pork belly, tossed in a spiced soy-vinegar sauce.

Lugaw Recipes

If you know how to cook rice, then it will be easy to learn how to cook lugaw! Conversely, if you've never cooked with rice, learning how to cook lugaw can also give you an appreciation of how easily rice can be used in different recipes.

Here is a classic Lugaw with Egg Recipe, and here you can watch how to make lugaw with egg!

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lugaw topped with toasted garlic, chopped onions, and egg
Lugaw with egg is a classic pairing!
Photo by Mark Jesalva

Lugaw Recipe Variations

Once you've mastered the basic lugaw recipe, you can play around with other flavors, meats, and spices with these other lugaw recipes:

• Chicken Lugaw Recipe

• Spiced Pork Lugaw Recipe

• Red Rice Lugaw Recipe

Regional Lugaw Recipe Variations

1 Lelut Mais (Lugaw na Mais) - Pampanga

lelut mais or lugaw na mais in turquoise ramekins
This Kapampangan version of a sweet lugaw is best paired with turon.
Photo by
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Lelut mais is a sweet version of lugaw with roots in Pampanga. Instead of stock, it is made with gata or coconut milk and is topped with corn. It is usually served with turon or fried banana spring rolls.

Try our Lelut Mais Recipe.

2 Bulalugaw (Bulalo lugaw) - Tagaytay

bulalo lugaw or bulalugaw topped with bone marrow in a ceramic pot
Bulalo meets lugaw in this creative comfort food mash-up!
Photo by Majoy Siason
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Bulalugaw is a more recent lugaw variation: it is a mash-up of lugaw and the popular Filipino beef soup bulalo. Tagaytay is known for its bulalo, which is why it comes as no surprise that this marriage of bulalo and lugaw was popularized by a Tagaytay-based restaurant!

Try our Bulalugaw Recipe.

Other Kinds of Lugaw

As mentioned above, lugaw can also refer to the wide variety of rice porridge dishes in the Philippines. Here are the other lugaw dishes you can make, with a short explainer of how they're different from the classic lugaw:

Arroz Caldo

arroz caldo topped with toasted garlic and chopped green onions
Arroz caldo is a filling and flavorful Filipino comfort food.
Photo by Riell Santos
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When the Spanish occupied the Philippines, they began calling lugaw by a different name: arroz caldo. While the arroz caldo and lugaw share a lot of similarities, arroz caldo has some ingredients that make it distinct from lugaw: it is usually served with the addition of shredded chicken and is tinted yellow by infusing it with kasubha or safflower.

Here are some arroz caldo recipes to try:

• Arroz Caldo Recipe

• Chicken Arroz Caldo Recipe (You can also watch how to make chicken arroz caldo here)

• Arroz Caldo with Beef Caldereta Recipe

Congee

congee topped with sesame oil in a white porcelain bowl
Congee is usually served with a side of century eggs.
Photo by Miguel Nacianceno | Food Preparation by Myke "Tatung" Sarthou of Chef Tatung's | Prop Styling by Liezl Yap
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Technically, congee can be the English word for lugaw! While lugaw and congee are similarly defined as rice porridge or gruel, lugaw refers to the Filipino style of making rice porridge while congee is a broader term for Asian rice porridge. In general, congee has a lighter flavor as it doesn't normally use fish sauce and onions, but has more intensely-flavored toppings that amp up its overall taste.

Here are some congee recipes to try:

• Congee Recipe

• Fish Congee Recipe

• Spicy Pork Congee Recipe

• Chicken Adobo Congee Recipe

Goto

goto topped with beef tripe in a bowl
Goto is usually topped with beef tripe and innards.
Photo by Riell Santos
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Goto comes from the Chinese word "gu-tu", which means "cow stomach": a reference to the toppings of this savory and beefy version of lugaw! Unlike lugaw, which has a milder taste from being cooked with water or chicken broth, goto features beef tripe and innards, and is cooked in a beef broth that adds a deeper and stronger flavor to the dish.

Here are some goto recipes to try:

• Goto Recipe

• Chicken Goto Recipe

• Batangas Goto Recipe (Here it is in Filipino)

Tips For Making the Best Lugaw

lugaw or congee topped with toasted garlic, chopped onions, sliced hard boiled eggs and century eggs
We won't stop you if you like both regular, hard-boiled eggs and century eggs with your lugaw!
Photo by Shutterstock
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1 Use stock to cook the rice.

While it's perfectly acceptable to use water to cook lugaw (you will get enough flavor from the sauteed aromatics anyway), one way to infuse more flavor to your lugaw is by using chicken stock. Chicken stock has a mild enough flavor that goes well with almost anything, but if desired, you can also use pork, beef, or even seafood stock! Making stock from scratch is easy, but if you don't have the time, you can also substitute this with chicken powder or bouillon cubes.

2 Eat it with different toppings and side dishes.

It's not such a big stretch to say lugaw is like cooked rice: it's a carbohydrate-filled dish that goes well with many side dishes or ulam (viands)! Whereas we would recommend masarsa or saucy dishes to pair with hot rice, since lugaw is already soupy, why not pair it with fried food? Tokwa't baboy is the most common pairing for lugaw, while chicharon is a great topping not only for lugaw but is also a staple for goto variants like the Batangas-style goto. You can also have fried chicken, kikiam, or even fried seafood like calamares on the side; any crunchy side dish will create a great contrast with the soft and velvety lugaw!

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3 Adjust the thickness with stock or water.

Different strains of rice will absorb moisture at different rates, so when you're cooking lugaw, it's important to keep a close watch over it. This prevents two potential mistakes when cooking lugaw: first, you will be able to stir it occasionally and avoid the bottom from burning; second, you can add stock or water gradually, and gain more control over how thick or thin you'd like your lugaw to be.

Lugaw Storage Tips

flat lay of chicken goto with chopped green onions, pepper, and tofu on the side
Lugaw can be served with condiments and toppings, but store them separately when refrigerating!
Photo by Majoy Siason
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1 Lugaw is best served fresh.

Don't get us wrong: lugaw can definitely be reheated! However, unlike other Filipino food like adobo or sinigang, whose flavors intensify the longer you store them in the refrigerator, lugaw can lose its freshness the more times it's reheated. Because it is made with mild-flavored ingredients and stock, lugaw is best consumed right after it's cooked.

2 If you need to store it in the refrigerator, separate the toppings.

This tip pertains especially to crispy toppings like chicharon, or fresh ones like chopped green onions. For crispy toppings, storing them together with the lugaw will inevitably make them soggy as they will absorb the moisture form the lugaw. On the other hand, chopped green onions are fresh ingredients that can spoil easily, so it's better to store them separately if you have leftover lugaw. You can also store lugaw in the freezer for longer storage, but be careful of how long you keep it especially if you've added vegetables or meat to your recipe.

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3 You may need to adjust the thickness again when you reheat lugaw.

Depending on the kind of rice you've used to make lugaw, you may need to add more water to it when you reheat. Sometimes, the rice grains can still continue to absorb moisture, so when you store lugaw it can become thicker than when it was freshly cooked. To fix it, simply add more stock (if you have it on hand) or water, and then season to taste.

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