The Donabe Basics


Lately we’ve been getting a lot of inquiries about the donabes we have in the shop, the top question being how to “season” your donabe? The first thing you’re going to need to do when you get your brand new donabe is season it. Iga Mono donabes are made from very porous clay and naturally come with hairline cracks and tiny holes. Seasoning your donabe basically means to seal all those cracks and holes in order to get your pot prepped for cooking. You do this by boiling rice into mushy porridge and the process takes a few hours. For a step-by-step tutorial check out our friend Michael’s video here at Kyoto Foodie.

The second question we’ve been getting is, what can you cook in a donabe? So I thought I’d direct those of you who are wondering in the right direction and if you’re new to clay pot cooking, share a few starter recipes. Today I will focus on the Kamado-san donabe which is ideal for rice or any type of grain based dishes as the special clay makes any grain extra fluffy. These dishes can get quite elaborate, like delicious crab rice and black bean rice, but below are the absolute fundamentals… Plain White Rice, Brown Rice and one of our favorite side dishes, Lemon Dill Quinoa. 


White Rice

Ingredients: 3 cups long grain or short grain rice, 600 ml water


– Place 3 cups of the rinsed and drained rice grains in the kamado-san donabe. 

– Leave to soak in 600 ml of water for about 15 minutes.

– Use both lids included to close the donabe (with vent holes perpendicular to eachother).

– Turn stovetop to medium-high heat and cook for 15 minutes. Cook for an additional 5 minutes to obtain rice with crispy edges. You’ll know when the rice is ready when steam begins to bubble up.

– Let stand for 20 minutes.

– Fluff rice with chopsticks or spoon before serving.


Brown Rice

Ingredients: 3 cups long grain or short grain rice, 900ml water, dash of salt 


Note: Brown rice should be cooked in advance to account for longer soaking times. Adding salt helps balance the natural bitterness of brown rice. 

– In a separate bowl, soak 3 cups of brown rice, the water and a dash of salt for about 8-10 hours.

– After soaking, transfer the rice and water into the donabe. Cook on medium heat for 35 minutes covered with both lids (steam holes aligned perpendicular). For softer brown rice with crispy edges, cook for an additional 15 minutes.

– Let stand for 30 minutes.

 – Fluff rice with chopsticks or spoon before serving.


Lemon Dill Quinoa

Ingredients: 1 cup quinoa, 2 cup water, half cup chopped fresh dill, 1 lemon, tablespoon oil, dash of salt


Note: Quinoa, “the Super Grain of the future”, is so easy to cook and a great nutrient rich alternative to basic rice. This recipe is a tasty side dish to curries and stews.

– In a fine mesh strainer, rinse the quinoa while stirring vigorously and drain all water. 

– While the donabe is on the stovetop, turn heat to high, heat one tablespoon of oil, add quinoa and stir for a couple minutes. 

– Reduce heat to medium, add water and salt, stir and cover with both lids (steam holes perpendicular).

– Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Approximately 12 to 15 minutes. 

– Let rest while covered for 10 minutes.

– Uncover the donabe, stir in chopped dill and squeeze in one fresh lemon (approximately 3 tablespoons).

– Let stand for 5 minutes uncovered and fluff with a fork before serving.


Hope these basic recipes help get you started with this super fun and healthy way of cooking! If you’re in the NYC area, check out one of our favourite Japanese restaurants, Kyo-Ya, in East Village. They specialize in donabe style cuisine and can give you an idea of all the tasty donabe style dishes available out there.

Written by Angélique Chmielewski

Angélique Chmielewski

September 13, 2014

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