Lugaw is traditionally made by boiling glutinous rice (Tagalog: malagkit; Visayan: pilit). Regular white rice may also be used if boiled with excess water. The basic version is sparsely spiced, usually only using salt, garlic, and ginger; or alternatively, sugar. Heartier versions are cooked in a chicken, fish, pork, or beef broth. It is regarded as a comforting and easy-to-digest food, typically prepared for breakfast and during cold and rainy weather. It is also commonly served to people who are sick or bedridden, and to very young children and the elderly.
Lugaw is usually eaten hot or warm, since the gruel congeals if left to cool. It can be reheated by adding a little bit of water. Dessert versions, however, can be eaten cold or even partly frozen.
Lugaw can be paired or augmented with numerous other dishes and ingredients.
Most savory versions of lugaw are derived from or influenced by Chinese-stylecongee, introduced by Chinese-Filipino migrants. It has diverged over the centuries to use Filipino ingredients and suit the local tastes. Filipino savory lugaw are typically thicker than other Asian congees because they use glutinous rice. They are traditionally served with calamansi, soy sauce (toyo), or fish sauce (patis) as condiments Savory lugaw are usually paired with meat or seafood dishes. The most common being tokwa't baboy (cubed tofu and pork).