Glutinous rice is the main rice eaten in Laos, Northern Thailand, and the northeast Thai Isan region. In Lao, Thai and Isan, glutinous rice is khao niao : "khao" means rice, and "niao" means sticky. It is cooked by soaking for several hours and then steaming in a bamboo pot or huad. After that, it should be turned out on a clean surface and kneaded with a wooden paddle: this results in rice balls that will stick to themselves but not to fingers. The large rice ball is kept in a small basket made of bamboo or kratip . The rice is sticky but dry, rather than wet and gummy like non-glutinous varieties. The fingers of the right hand are used to eat it by wadding the rice. Two of the most popular dishes are kai yang or grilled chicken, and som tam or tam mak hung in Thai eastern dialect , better known in the West by the standard Thai name som tam).

The northern Thais consume glutinous rice as part of their main diet, as do the Laotians. Some of the older Thais prefer glutinous rice to other rice varieties. Lao people also use toasted glutinous rice (khao kua) to add a nut like flavor to many dishes. It is used as the basis for the brewing of satho an alcoholic beverage also known as "Thai rice wine".

Khao niao is also eaten with desserts. Khao niao moon is Khao niao steamed with coconut milk that can be served with ripened mango or durian. And khao niao kluai is banana (kluai) and khao niao steamed together, usually with coconut milk.