Food Safety Tip: How Long Does Cooked Rice Last?

Have you ever wondered just how long can you keep that extra take-out rice in the fridge? Can cooked rice be frozen and kept longer? I’ve got the answers to those burning questions and more to help maximize that rice shelf life.
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  • Rice is a truly versatile food that can be eaten so many different ways. You can pair it with Chinese food, eat it with cheesy sauces, or go sweet and cook it up into a dessert - and there are so many more options. But how many times have we had leftover cooked rice, put it in the refrigerator, then found it behind the milk a week later and wondered if it was still good?

    I’ve got some details below that will help you know just how long you can keep that cooked rice, and when it may be better to store it in the freezer instead of the fridge. I’ve also included a few more details on different types of rice storage times for uncooked rice too - and even thrown in a recipe or two to help you use up that leftover cooked rice.
  • So..... How long does cooked rice last?

  • All types of rice have a similar shelf life once cooked. Cooked rice lasts for 4 to 6 days refrigerated, and lasts more than 6 months frozen. Note that you should refrigerate rice within 2 hours of cooking, since bacteria can grow rapidly at temperatures between 40F and 140F.

    If you’ve left the cooked rice out for a long time at room temperature, you should throw it away.

    For uncooked rice, nearly all can be stored indefinitely, except for brown rice, due to its higher oil content. Uncooked brown rice can be kept in the pantry 3-6 months, in the refrigerator for up to 12 months, and in the freezer for up to 18 months.

    There are several ways that you can maximize the shelf life of your cooked rice to make sure you get every dollar’s worth from your grocery budget and ensure it is stored safety for reuse.
  • Cooked Rice Storage Tips

  • You want to use air tight containers. This may seem obvious, but if you just threw some plastic wrap or tinfoil over the rice, it may not be airtight and may not last as long as you think before drying out.

    Freeze in airtight containers or storage bags. If you’ve cooked up a bunch of rice, and don’t think it will get eaten in the next 4-6 days, you can freeze it to extend the shelf life up to about 6 months (or indefinitely if your freezer keeps it at 0F or less). TIP: If you know about what portion sizes you’ll be using in the future, package in freezer storage bags according to those amounts for easy dinners in the future.
  • How to tell if your rice has gone bad

  • You should never taste it if it smells or looks funny. The best way to know if it is safe to eat is the smell and the visual - has it changed color from white to kind of a pinkish hue? If it smells bad or looks strange, don’t eat that rice.
  • Best ways to reheat cooked rice without it being dry

  • If you’re doing it on the stove:
    Add 2 tablespoons of liquid (water or broth) per each cup of cooked rice. Cover and heat about 5 minutes.

    If you’re doing it in the microwave:
    Add 2 tablespoons of liquid (water or broth) per each cup of cooked rice. Microwave on high power for about 1 minute per cup of rice. If you’re reheating from frozen, then give it 2 minutes per cup of rice.
  • What Exciting Things Can I Cook with Left-Over Rice?

  • Somehow when rice is first cooked and comes steaming to the table, it looks much more delicious than when we open the fridge a few days later and see it sitting stuck together in a storage container. Too may times, it just doesn’t look appetizing enough and we shove it to the back, only to throw it out later.

    Well there are some excellent recipes out there that can revive your enthusiasm for that rice, even after it’s been in the fridge for a few days or the freezer for a few months. I’ve shared a few of the best I’ve found below.
  • Fried Rice

  • This is my absolute favorite use for left-over cooked rice, and actually many cooks say that it makes a better fried rice than freshly made. I just love fried rice, both hot and cold and can eat it just about any time of day.

    Ingredients:

    
2 tablespoons minced ginger

    1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

    1 cup diced carrots

    1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, defrosted

    1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas, defrosted

    1/2 cup chopped scallions

    2 tablespoons grapeseed, canola, or peanut or vegetable oil

    4 cups cold cooked rice
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    1 large egg, beaten 

    1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, almonds, peanuts, or cashews

    2 tablespoons minced cilantro (optional)

    Equipment:

    A 14-inch flat-bottom carbon steel wok

    A fish spatula or other thin, flexible spatula for stir frying

    Secret to great stir fry - cut all the ingredients to a uniform size.

    You can get the full recipe, with excellent step by step instructions here: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-fried-rice-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-171785
  • Coconut Milk Brown Rice Pudding

  • If you like your rice sweet and puddin’ style - this is a great recipe from Kathy Patalsky at babble.com for repurposing cooked brown rice into a delicious dessert.

    Ingredients:

    3 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
    1 cup coconut milk (light or full fat) — for a lighter pudding sub with non-dairy
    1/2 cup non-dairy milk (use more for a thinner pudding)
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp ginger
    1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    2 Tbsp raisins or another dried fruit (optional)
    2-3 Tbsp agave or maple syrup
    1 tsp vegan butter

    Drizzle over top: 1-2 Tbsp coconut or non-dairy milk. And chia caramel

    Directions:

    1. Heat a soup pout to medium high.
    2. Add all ingredients to pot. Stir continuously and bring to a boil.
    3. Turn heat to medium and continue to simmer until most of the coconut milk has been absorbed. Add more liquid if you like a softer rice pudding with more hydrated rice.
    4. Allow to cool 2-5 minutes before serving. This will allow the pudding to firm up and cool a bit.
    5. Serve with chia caramel and cinnamon over top.
  • Ham and Rice Croquettes

  • These really caught my eye as a delicious treat that you could serve up as a side with dinner or just have them as a finger food while everyone’s watching the big game. They also have kid friendly flavors, so everyone is happy. This recipe by Maggie Ruggiero comes to us from epicurious.com

    Ingredients:

    2 cups cooked white rice, cool
    3/4 cup finely chopped cooked ham (about 1/4 pound)
    1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
    2 large eggs, divided
    1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
    3 cups vegetable oil

    Equipment:

    Deep-fat thermometer

    Directions:

    Stir together rice, ham, cheese, 1 egg, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Put remaining egg (lightly beaten) and bread crumbs in separate shallow bowls.

    Heat 1 to 1 1/2 inches oil to 350°F in a 10-inch skillet over high heat. Meanwhile, dampen your hands and form 1/4-cup amounts of rice mixture into 2 1/2-inch cakes. Lightly coat with egg, then with bread crumbs. Fry croquettes in 2 batches, turning once or twice, until golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes per batch.
  • Closing Thoughts

  • If you safely store cooked rice, it can be used for days, weeks, and even months later. Just follow the guidelines on using air tight containers and not leaving it out to collect bacteria too long before you put it in the refrigerator or freezer. If you’re unsure if it’s still safe to eat after it’s been stored, check the smell and appearance of the rice and if either is off, it’s better to throw it out and be safe than be sorry.

    With cooked rice being so versatile and reheating in just minutes on the stovetop or in the microwave, it makes an excellent food to cook up on the weekend in a big batch that you can then store in the freezer according to your recipe sizes and pull out as needed for a jumpstart on lunch or dinner. I know it makes my life much easier when I can pre-plan meals and have part of the cooking already done ahead of time.

    If you have any great recipes that use cooked rice, please feel free to share them here - we would all love to see them!

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