How can I reuse or recycle leftover cooked rice?

Cooked riceDespite eating rice multiple times a week, John and I have a bit of a mental block when it comes to actually making the amount we need. We usually play it safe and over-estimate, thinking we can have it with leftovers or use it to make fried rice or the like the next day. Given we both eat lunch at home a lot these days, we’re pretty good at using it up but sometimes it accidentally gets left out of the fridge overnight – or forgotten about in the fridge for a couple of days.

I’ve heard some horror stories about cooked rice being a great home for bacteria so we’re always cautious about using it after a couple of days or if it’s been left out of the fridge but it seems such a shame to just bin it. Because of the bacteria thing, I think the non-culinary re-use might be limited but anyone got any suggestions or at least ways of disposing of it more usefully that flinging it in the bin?

And anyone got any good leftover rice recipes for using it up when it is still in edible condition, that aren’t just rice pudding or a misc fried rice dish?

Best Suggestions

  • Reduce: Only cook as much as you need – find a cup or bowl that’s a perfect portion size and use that to measure it out each time.
  • Reuse: Store cooked rice in the fridge and use it to bulk out soups, stuff peppers and other veg, or to make fried rice. See more of our favourite recipes
  • Recycle: Plain cooked rice can be composted or put in a wormery. Avoid composting if you’ve cooked it with fats or sauces though as that might attract unwanted vermin.
  • See the comments below for more suggestions and ideas

(Photo by lazysheep1)

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43 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle leftover cooked rice?”

  1. Keep it in a tupperware box in the fridge and eat it for dinner the next day. Thats possible for any foods you have left over.

  2. dancing girl says:

    Yes cooked rice can be dangerous when it is left at room temperature for too long.
    My class has just examined some agar plates innoculated with cooked rice in health science classes at university. The cooked rice tested had been left at room temperature for 1 day. When the plates were examined growth of bacillus cereus was found. This bacteria’s spores can survive the cooking process and will germinate on cooling to room temperature. The toxins formed can either cause diarrhoea or vomiting. These toxins survive further cooking processes.

    Try to eat fridge stored rice within a day. Never eat cooked rice that has been stored at room temperture for a while. Keep an eye on your local sushi shop as sometimes I wonder about how long the product has been sitting there in questionable coolers. They never seem very cold to me. I try not too think about it too much because I love Japanese food!

    • James Martin says:

      I understand. However, was the rice water salted? Most food storage recommendations do not account for acidity or pH in general. Many foods can be preserved without refrigeration for varying lengths of time by the addition, most commonly, of salt or vinegar. Any answers out there?

  3. dancing girl says:

    Only just thought of this! A good way to use day old fridge rice is to add it to your vegie soup as a yummy filler. Makes a thin soup thick and hearty.

  4. adam f says:

    i make sourdough bread and all the leftover rice and other grains go into it. delicious.

    i wonder if brown rice is as bad to leave out – with it’s husk it seems a bit less exposed. then again it actually has nutritional value which bacteria appreciate too.

  5. shawnboy says:

    I totally agree with adding it to soup as an extender , its also great in meatloaf, compost it, reheat w/ a little additional water and add some tex mex spices to it and put in tortillas w/veggies and beans yum !!If your into home brewing ad it as an adjunct grain , also freeze
    any leftovers and when you have enough make sake

  6. rita says:

    Cooked rice can be put out for the birds but be careful about putting too much out as it could attract pigeons and vermin.

  7. jeni Q says:

    Recycle this and other vegetable scraps with a worm composting bin. Easy!

  8. Regina says:

    Make fried rice!

    * 1 green onion
    * 2 large eggs
    * 1 teaspoon salt
    * Pepper to taste
    * 4 tablespoons oil
    * 4 cups cold cooked rice
    * 1 – 2 tablespoons soy sauce

    Wash and finely chop the green onion. Lightly beat the eggs with the salt and pepper.

    Heat a frying pan and add 2 tablespoons oil.
    Add the rice. Stir-fry for a few minutes, using a wooden spoon to break it apart. Add the eggs. Cook, stirring, until they are only lightly scrambled.

    Stir in the soy sauce as desired.
    Stir in the green onion. Serve hot.

  9. Anonymous energy conservation nutter says:


    Mix the leftover rice with some milk, an egg, some raisins, a bit of cinnamon, and suger to taste. (Quantities depend on how much rice you have.)

    Bake it in the oven till it sets. (It’s like a baked custard) You could probably do it in the microwave and save some energy.

    Eat hot or cold. Keeps well in the fridge.

    But DO NOT fire up the oven just for one pudding. Save the leftover rice until the next time you have the oven on.

  10. Erika says:

    Agreed w/ Regina — leftover rice (especially if stored in the ‘fridge) makes EXCELLENT fried rice. :))

  11. Chris says:

    You can add a bunch of water to your cooked rice and cook it again, then you can add things like left over chicken, spinach, eggs, really whatever is laying around the fridge and you can make a nice porridge that is especially warming in these cold months. It can make an excellent breakfast or dinner.

  12. Joan says:

    Cool any leftover rice quickly by rinsing with cold water . Drain well then keep in fridge for 3 days and use for any of the above meal suggestions or freeze instead (don’t keep in fridge first though!). It can be heated from frozen in microwave or frie, if you stir to make sure it is all properly heated. I often cook double the amount cause if you put rice into boiling water, simmer for about 10 mins then turn off the heat leaving lid on you get perfectly cooked rice and it saves energy too.

  13. Scott says:

    Let it dry out a bit, then put it in a blender and grind it into flour. Mix smoothly in cold water, then simmer until thick. Makes a good all-purpose paste, especially for joining porous materials like cardboard.

    Instead of grinding, you can just cook it until mushy, let it sit overnight, and press it through a cloth.

  14. Anonymous energy conservation nutter says:

    That sounds like the start of a recipe for Saki. Just add a bit of yeast or stale, mouldy bread, some interesting water, and let’er ferment. You could probably do it in the toilet bowl. If it goes off, just flush it away.

    If this doesn’t appeal, just spread the muck on your walls, texturize with a broom or rake for an interesting new designer finish. If you cook some carrots or peas with it, you don’t even need to paint it.

    The possibilities as a caulking compound are endless.

    D’ya think we’re onto something here?

  15. Sack36 says:

    Not many of the suggestions had to do with rice that has already hit its limit but I have one. Spread it sparcely on a cookie sheet and let it dry in an oven set on low until it is completely dry. Seal it in a plastic bag, removing as much air as possible. Sew a pouch from a soft thin fabric like brushed cotton. Keep the rice packet in the freezer and when your eyes are tired or you feel strain, pull out the packet, put it in the pouch and place on your face. It feels wonderful!

    You can also use it as a hot pad by nukeing the dried rice (not in the plastic) to heat it up, place in the pouch and place on an ouch.

  16. molliewobbles says:

    Sounds odd but: Rice and yogurt!
    It is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. Even if my stomach is killing me, I can always eat this. I would suggest heating up the rice a bit before mixing with the yogurt because it can get a weird consistency in the fridge.

  17. flopsy says:

    Hubby and I only eat brown rice, but use it for everything we use white rice for (in cooking). If you have a baked ham bone (even with a little meat on it is better), throw it in the crock pot (I freeze our baked ham bones and use them within a couple months). Add a little chopped onion and a quart of canned tomatoes (I say quart because we always can our own tomatoes during the summer) and some water. Let this simmer in the crock pot most all day. Then within a couple hours of dinner, add the leftover rice and a small potato or two that you have peeled and cut into small chunks. Season to taste (salt and pepper). We have named this Granny King Soup because hubby’s grandmother made this. I always make homemade biscuits to serve with this hearty soup.

  18. Pat says:

    i make a beef tomato soup with rice, you could make the soup and add the cooked rice right before serving

  19. Eva says:

    Use it to stuff peppers! Just mix it with you favorite spices and cheeses and stuff it into a pepper and cook it in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

    Concerning storing cooked rice… My friends from Singapore cook large amounts of rice once a week, put it in the fridge and then use it for stir fries and that sort of stuff all week. They survive.

  20. sarahjane says:

    Our cold frame was too cold and damp to be successful last year. Overwinter the compost in it has gone green on top. Can we use/compost it?

  21. Sally says:

    Rice is so cheap, I think it’s best to just bin it.

    It’s not worth eating something loaded with bad bacteria. Is it any wonder so many now have IBS and bloating guts.

    You are what you eat!

  22. Monique says:

    You can find tons of dog treat recipies on the web and create some dog biscuits with the leftover rice… or give them to someone else who has a dog. They don’t have to be cute bone-shaped masterpieces… the dog will NOT care!

  23. Cipollina says:

    Make a traditional Norwegian dessert: Whip some real cream with a little sugar, mix in the rice, and eat with raspberry sauce.

  24. Shorty says:

    Mashed up, it makes a nice paste for gingerbread houses.

  25. Adam says:

    Take it to a wedding ,and then hurl it at people as cheap confetti or even better maybe bag it in freezer bags freeze it and thaw it out when you want to eat it

  26. Maude says:

    Use it to replace the crust in a quiche. It sure is different but a good healthy alternative.

  27. Use the leftovers like they do in China and make boles out of dry rice

  28. MarrsGirs says:

    Uh oh. I just ate 1 week old plain rice in my fridge. I just put some water in and nuke it for a minute and it makes it tender. I woudnt usually do this but now I’m paranoid I’m in for an afternoon of intestinal distress. Well, at least I made it to age 41, although I would have preferred something better for my last meal darn it.

  29. Jeri says:

    all fantastic ideas, soup, rice pudding, compost, freeze in individual container save for lunches. As for eating left over rice that has been sitting out on the counter overnight… I say one night is okay and you can eat it. My chinese mother in law has been doing this for 65 years and I have been doing it for 35. It has never made me sick One night is okay but not two. I reuse any two left overs for dog food. My dogs love it. One day left out can be made intorice milk. Check on line for those.

  30. vanessa says:

    i cook brown rice . can i use the drained cooked water

  31. Shannan says:

    I cook large batches of rice frequently (our household only has two people), but then I freeze it in one serving batches. T

    They make great grab-and-go work lunches with a can of tuna or salad and dressing. The rice is usually defrosted by lunchtime and just need a quick spin in the microwave to restore to normal.

  32. Saskia says:

    re: the food poisoning issue – although it is true that rice can give you nasty food poisoning if it is allowed to sit at room temperature, it does get a slightly unfair bad rap as it’s not just rice that can cause this type of food poisoning! The bacteria in question (bacillus cereus) is also found in other starchy foods, salads, casseroles, sauces, soups etc. There are several very sad cases reported in the medical literature as being caused by foods other than rice, such as the family who came down with severe poisoning after eating a pasta salad that had been taken to a picnic; they refrigerated the leftovers & ate them a couple of days later, sadly resulting in the death of one child. In the majority of cases, thankfully, the food poisoning only consists of a bout of vomiting or diarrhoea that passes fairly quickly, but the small risk of fatal complications is not worth taking.

    Bacillus cereus is a particular problem because it isn’t killed by reheating (even if you seriously nuke it!); cases of poisoning have become particularly associated with rice because people have often cooked it in advance and left it unrefrigerated, sometimes reheating & cooling the same batch of rice more than once. All sorts of myths have developed around what is and isn’t safe about rice, such as the idea that it shouldn’t ever be reheated (the reheating isn’t the issue, it is only relevant insofar as it is important to remember that reheating won’t kill the bacteria; however reheating to over 70C will kill many other bacteria that could be present, so it’s probably better to reheat than not, as long as you don’t allow it to cool again), but the main point is that it shouldn’t be left sitting around at room temperature or kept warm for a long time. Cooled quickly and kept in the fridge it will keep a few days, or it can be frozen and reheated as necessary.

  33. snigface says:

    you can dry the rice out in an oven and use it for baking beans; store in an airtight container and you can use it over and over.

  34. Arshad Farooqui says:

    Cooked can be turn into hot Biryani with meat, chicken or vegetables and Madras Curry powder. I bet becteria do not like hot spices or hot curries. It does not mean that you can keep Biryani unrefregrator for more than one day, otherwise Biryani will have be sour or I can will cause food poisoning especially in hot countries.

  35. jai says:

    We have rice dishes atleast 3 or 4 times a week. you could make tomato rice – tomatoes onions chilli powder(depends on how you like )salt cook with little oil ginger garlic till it becomes a paste. fantastic.
    or yogurt rice- oil some seasoning like curry leaves crushed ginger 1 green chilli sliced switch off add yogurt and rice. yuuuuum!!!!

  36. mkay says:

    Use a cheese sauce add to your liking add some mixed veggies of your choice (peas, carrots, or corn for example) might want to add a little of your favorite spices (opt.)

  37. jareczk says:

    lmfao @ tummy filler comment that’s cute

  38. Here in the Philippines, we wash the rice 2 to 3 times before we cook it. Even if left over rice becomes a little bit spoiled, we just wash it again as much as possible with water and cook it as fried rice.. I usually cook it again using leftover cooking oil(leaves the flavor of the last thing you cooked) and salt. Still tasty and edible. Just try to finish and eat all of it as soon as possible tough.. Hope this helps.

  39. husain jamali says:

    how can we reuse large amount of cookedrice after complite our reliogeous food cermony

  40. Julii says:

    My husband and I did the Super Supper Saver class, yertasdey and the Slow Cooked Italian Chicken was part of the 12 dinners you make. We got home and put this in the crockpot and away we went (typical Saturday running around). Had this over rice and was totally blown away at how good this was. My biggest excitement that there is food in the freezer that can be ready to go and if they all taste like the Chicken, I am going to be in good shape! Less stress, and more lb shedding! I recommend that everyone gets a chance to meet Susan and her husband Mike! Take a class you won’t regret it!


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