Rice is an affordable, versatile staple in any kitchen. Depending on the type, rice can provide many nutrients, such as B vitamins and magnesium, as well as fiber and antioxidants. You can use it as part of any meal, from breakfast through dinner, and even for dessert (rice pudding, anyone?).
The only bummer about rice is how long it can take to make. Sometimes when you’re whipping together dinner, you don’t have 30 spare minutes to boil and steam rice. But can you freeze cooked rice and then quickly thaw it to use whenever it’s needed? It’s a great question that could solve this common timing issue.
Can You Freeze Cooked Rice?
The short answer is that yes, you can freeze cooked rice, although there are some considerations to bear in mind to make sure the rice is safe to eat. The shelf life of cooked rice is virtually the same for any variety, be it white, brown, black, red, yellow or some other type. Once cooked, you can safely store rice in the refrigerator for three to four days without losing flavor, texture or quality. However, keeping it in the freezer extends the shelf life of cooked rice, giving you about two months to use it once it’s in the freezer.
Whether you use a rice cooker, an Instant Pot or just a pan on the stovetop, rice is one of the easiest foods to make in large batches. If you are making some anyway, it only makes sense to prepare extra, divvy it up and freeze it to use later. Then, when you have a busy day or forget to take something out for dinner, you can grab some frozen cooked rice, doctor it up a bit and have a satisfying meal in no time.
You can freeze any type of cooked rice, such as traditional white rice, jasmine rice, whole grain brown rice or any combination of rice and grains, such as rice and quinoa. However, some experts have found that certain types of rice, such as arborio rice, sushi rice and bomba rice freeze best. You can even freeze rice mixed with other ingredients, such as meat or vegetables, for super simple weeknight freezer meals.
How Best To Freeze Rice
When you have extra rice, you want to get it into the freezer as quickly as you can. You should freeze cooked rice right away because rice contains potentially harmful spore-forming bacteria called Bacillus cereus. Cooking rice kills the bacteria, but the spores remain, and the bacteria can regenerate if the rice is left out or refrigerated for long periods. These bacteria spores can lead to food poisoning.
Here are the simple steps to storing cooked rice in the freezer:
- To begin, spread the cooked rice in an even layer on a baking sheet.
- Next, use a fork to fluff it a bit after spreading it all out.
- Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator and allow the rice to cool completely.
- Measure the cooled rice into freezer-safe storage bags. To save space, you can flatten the bags of rice a little, which makes it easier to stack them or stand several upright together.
- Label each baggie with the date, the amount of rice and the type of rice if you plan to freeze different varieties. This makes it easier when you need a specific amount or kind of rice for a recipe.
- Pop the bags into the freezer.
Alternatively, you could freeze a large bag filled with rice and break off a chunk when needed.
How Do You Use Frozen Cooked Rice?
When you’re ready to use the rice, you can defrost it in the fridge or on a countertop. You can also use the following method to heat it in the microwave:
- Break the frozen rice into chunks and place it in a microwave-safe bowl.
- Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap or a microwave-safe lid.
- Cook on high heat for 2 minutes and check the rice. If it is still slightly frozen, heat in 30-second increments until thawed (if adding to a dish) or hot (if using right away).
- Fluff with a fork.
You can also add frozen rice directly to dishes before cooking, especially those with liquid, such as soups, sauces or casseroles.
Can You Freeze Uncooked Rice?
You can also freeze uncooked rice, but why might you want to? Uncooked rice is shelf-stable, and you can safely store it at room temperature for a long time. However, it does have a shelf life. When stored at room temperature, white rice is typically good for up to two years, and brown rice is good for three to six months from the date it was manufactured.
Freezing uncooked rice prolongs its shelf life considerably. If you have a large amount of it that you might not use before it turns rancid, popping it into the freezer can buy you more time. Except for brown rice, which you should consume within 18 months, frozen, uncooked rice can last for years in the freezer.
It is always wise to discard any rice, whether cooked or uncooked and frozen, refrigerated or stored in the pantry, that shows signs of mold growth, bugs, or changes in smell, taste or texture.