Nutrient paste dispenser

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Nutrient paste dispenser

Nutrient paste dispenser

A machine that synthesizes edible nutrient paste from organic feedstocks placed in adjacent hoppers. It consumes less ingredients and time than any other meal production method - but nobody likes eating nutrient paste. Accepts raw food, but not rough plant matter like hay.

Base Stats

Market Value
340 Silver [Note]


3 ˣ 4
Cover Effectiveness
Blocks Wind
Terrain Affordance
-200 W


Required Research
Nutrient paste
Skill Required
Construction 5
Work To Make
2,200 ticks (36.67 secs)
Resources to make
Steel 125 + Component 3
Deconstruct yield
Steel 62 - 63 + Component 1 - 2
Destroy yield
Steel 31 - 32 + Component 0 - 1

The nutrient paste dispenser is an electrical device that converts raw food placed in an adjacent hopper into nutrient paste meals; the machine accepts all food except hay. The meals are produced on demand, when a colonist or prisoner uses the machine. No work bills or tasks can be performed at the machine, and no skills are necessary to use it. Animals cannot use the machine, but will eat the produced meals if they are fed to them by other means.

It can be constructed with Steel 125 Steel, Component 3 Components in 2,200 ticks (36.67 secs) once Nutrient Paste has been researched.

  • NB: A NPD cannot be uninstalled, only deconstructed, at the usual loss of half the material.


  • Note: There is a minor bug with hopper placement and usage - see Hopper for details before placing/using hoppers for your NPD.

The paste dispenser will be used automatically if it is accessible, has at least 10 food in the hopper(s), and is powered up. At least one hopper needs to be attached to the dispenser, and the hopper(s) must be filled with sufficient raw food (10) to produce at least one meal. All food except hay is usable by the machine, but only raw food can actually be delivered to the hoppers directly.

Hoppers act like stockpile zones, and are configured in the same way. Colonists will deliver food to the hopper as a hauling task, just like supplying storage zones with items. To ensure that your hoppers are full, make sure their settings for Priority are higher than other food storage zones.

Since a single hopper can only hold one type of food at a time, it is strongly recommended to have multiple hoppers, and at least 2, to provide the "minimum 10" foodstuff for a meal. The NPD has no problem pulling different foods from different hoppers to make a single meal, and will automatically pull first from whichever food is closest to spoiling, eliminating that management headache. This also means that, with a hungry population, even a full stack of 75 meat in an unrefrigerated hopper will probably be consumed before it spoils, and will certainly be consumed before longer-lasting vegetable foodstuffs.

Pawns will always prefer a more tasty food, so unless their Food Restriction is specifically assigned to "Paste" (located at the top of a colonist's Health tab), they will only use the dispenser if no better option is available. If assigned to that work task, Colonists will access the dispenser in order to produce food to be fed to prisoners or patients (if no better food is available).

It is possible to manually manipulate a pawn into producing as many meals as there are sufficient ingredients for, for storage or later consumption (see below).

It is also possible to force food on top of a hopper by taking it to a pawn's inventory and then manually dropping it in front of the hopper (the hopper needs to be directly south of the pawn). This allows for reprocessing meals (removing any ingredient penalties), as well as producing meals out of kibble (which will not carry the usual kibble penalty). This can safely be considered an exploit of game mechanics, as it is probably not intended for the dispenser to even process these types of food at all.


Hoppers can be placed anywhere along all 4 sides except the interaction spot (front center), so a maximum of 13 hoppers could be attached, or less if walls connect orthogonally to the NPD. When planning the placement of your NPD, include room for your desired number of hoppers and some access to them so they can be easily loaded.

The paste dispenser acts like a wall that will separate rooms. Usually one will put either one side or the back inside a refrigerated zone, so the raw ingredients will not spoil. The 3x4 dimensions of the device easily allow for a connected dividing wall to allow for refrigerated and non-refrigerated hoppers on the same machine.


If the front end of the machine is inside a prison cell, only prisoners will be allowed to use it, just like with food that is stored in the prison cell. This is indicated by the front of the machine turning from green to yellow/orange, similar to how beds change color. If the front of the machine is yellow, it is reserved for prisoner use; a dispenser cannot serve both colonists and prisoners.

If you want to feed nutrient paste to prisoners but wish to avoid building a dedicated paste dispenser for the prison room, your colonist(s) with "Warden" selected in the Work menu will retrieve a (single) nutrient paste meal from the colonists' dispenser and deliver it to a hungry prisoner, repeating as often as necessary. The manual production exploit (described below) can also be used to pre-produce paste meals for a stockpile, either nearby or within the prison cells or barracks.


The nutrient paste dispenser is helpful, but not necessary for survival, unless the colony is in an extremely unforgiving environment, such as an ice sheet.

It is by far the most efficient way to prepare raw food in the game, increasing the nutritional value of its raw inputs by 200%. The nutrient paste dispenser never causes food poisoning, and will always instantly produce food on demand, as long as raw ingredients are available.

Building a paste dispenser early on will speed up colony development substantially. This is because it not only makes a cook unnecessary, it also uses the raw food far more efficiently than cooking does. Therefore, far fewer work hours will be required to produce the raw food (from hunting animals or growing plants). Also, early colonies often struggle with food poisoning, especially if no competent cook is available. This, too, is completely avoided if a dispenser is used exclusively.

However, consuming a nutrient paste meal gives your colonist an “Ate awful meal” bad thought, reducing mood by -4 (this is still better than the -7 mood "Ate raw food" thought). Compared to preparing fine meals for your colonists at all times, you will incur a net -9 mood penalty if you only serve nutrient paste; this is a substantial drawback of the dispenser. Especially at higher difficulties it might not be practical to use only nutrient paste for an entire campaign (this depends on how well colonist mood is managed in other areas).

If colonists have bedrooms and a dining room with decent Beauty and Comfort scores, then that can be enough to offset the nutrient paste debuff in most cases, although that will require colonists with good Art and Construction ratings, in order to produce quality sculptures and furniture. For colonists with unusually high break thresholds, this strategy can also still present a minor risk, due to stress from raids and injuries, and occasional psychic drones and other incidental stacking debuffs. Colonists with the Ascetic, Optimist, Steadfast, or Tough traits are a better match for nutrient paste, since they either have constant mood buffs of their own to mitigate the -4, or they have lower break thresholds which allow them to cope with lower mood scores overall.

In addition to the mood debuff, the game sets nutrient paste at the lowest possible food selection priority for colonists. This means that manual creation of a nutrient paste only food policy is necessary, and if nutrient paste is their only option, colonists will also allow their food bar to become almost completely empty before automatically going to the dispenser. It also makes the carrying of survival meals to prevent remote starvation much more difficult, since colonists will eat their carried survival meals in preference to using the dispenser, even while they are at home.

Despite the above disadvantages, nutrient paste has four very powerful advantages, which are enough to make it still worthwhile.

  1. As mentioned above, it has the highest nutritional value increase in the game.
  2. Food production is both fully automated and instant. There is no time delay as with the production of other meals, and there is also no need for a full time cook. Set your haulers to keep the hoppers full, and you're good to go.
  3. Nutrient paste has no dependency on any raw input type. It does not need one meat and vegetable input, as do the non-simple meals or pemmican. This allows you to be very opportunistic, and use whatever you have available. A big batch of meat from a megasloth hunt can go straight into the dispenser, or you can monocrop rice.
  4. There is no risk of food poisoning - this is otherwise only possible with meals purchased from traders or by forcing your pawns to eat kibble.

In any case, having a paste dispenser as a backup food source is highly recommended for most colonies. Ensuring sufficient food supplies gets more and more difficult in a growing colony, and the food supply chain is easily interrupted. A paste dispenser helps tremendously in these situations, as it can be stocked with slow spoiling food, and the only event that always disables it is the Solar Flare; it is therefore a very reliable food source.

The paste dispenser also makes it a lot easier to keep animals that need to be fed by the colonists (such as dogs and grazing animals off the growing season). Feeding animals with paste requires some occasional micro-management to create meal reserves, since animals cannot trigger the dispenser themselves.

Be aware that converting human or insect meat to a nutrient paste meal does not mask its origins. Doing so results in all appropriate bad thoughts hitting at once.

Manually producing meals

Using the paste dispenser is an automatic task that cannot be explicitely triggered. It is still possible to make a pawn produce as many meals as you want, until the machine runs out of raw food to process.

You need at least one pawn to be hungry enough to demand a meal. This will happen at least once per day, per pawn.

Forcing the pawn to create meals exploits the fact that a pawn stops their current action when they are drafted. We also need to keep the colonist away from any food, so they will be forced to keep producing new meals at the paste dispenser.

Method 1: using a special zone restriction (recommended)

The following method uses a 1-tile zone restriction that is placed in the middle of the dispenser. This is the easiest method for producing more than one stack of meals at a time. In detail:

  1. Create a new area that covers exactly 1 tile in the center of the main body of the nutrient paste dispenser (as shown in the screenshot). The exact location of this area matters, in order for the pawn to be able to path to the paste dispenser.
  2. When one of your colonists (it does not matter which one) becomes hungry, and is about to eat a meal, pause the game and restrict the pawn to the area created in step one. You might also have to draft and undraft the colonist so he will stop the current action. The pawn will now be unable to do anything except produce meals at the paste dispenser, due to the zone restriction he is now under. He will even be unable to grab meals that are right on top of him, including the ones he produces from the machine!
  3. Wait for the colonist to walk up to the paste dispenser and draw a meal from the machine. Pause the game again at this point.
  4. To start mass producing meals, simply draft and undraft the pawn as many times as desired. Each cycle will instantly procure another meal from the dispenser, using up some of the resources from the hoppers. The meal is not consumed by the colonist, because drafting him will make him drop the meal on the floor, where it will be out of reach (due to the zone restriction). You can hold down the draft hotkey to rapidly mass produce meals.
  5. When you are finished, simply undraft the pawn a final time and remove the zone restriction from him. Done.

The entire process will require no in-game time, since the game is paused all the way.


  • If you wait a little to long with pausing the game, after the pawn has produced a meal, they will move away from the dispenser and consume the meal (ignoring the zone restriction). This is not a problem: simply draft and undraft the pawn, they will drop the meal on the ground and you can resume again at step 3 above.
  • Pawns may prefer to eat meals that are already made, and not use the paste dispenser in those situations, depending on several factors that are difficult to control. If you want to protect your bulk-produced meals from colonists, you have to forbid the stacks or exclude the colonists from the area they are stored in. Domesticated animals will not eat from forbidden stacks, so an exclusion zone has to be used to reserve the food for animals.
  • Many pawns want to eat after getting up in the morning. This makes it easier to watch for hungry pawns if you plan to mass produce some meals.

Now you can have as many nutrient paste meals as your heart desires! Enough to take with you on cold journeys! Enough to make an emergency food stockpile! Enough to use as animal fodder!

Method 2: manually forbidding stacks (casual use)

If you do not want to deal with zone restrictions, you proceed as in method 1, but then you have to forbid any new meal stacks that are created, before continuing to cycle the drafting. This method is a little inconvenient if you want to produce more than a single stack of meals, or if you repeat the process regularly (eg. to produce animal food).

Version history

  • Beta 19/ 1.0 - Now tinted orange when they can be used by prisoners.