There’s an old saying that everyone knows – ‘waste not, want not’ – and it’s only natural to wonder if that applies to your cooked rice. Well, the good news is that it certainly does, but your mileage is going to vary quite a bit based on how you decide to store it.
Today, we’re going to go over the various options at your disposal, so that you can know how long to realistically expect your cooked rice to stay good in each scenario. We’ll cover how long it can stay in the pot, the refrigerator vs. your freezer, and we’ll even consider fun options like vacuum sealing so that you’ll have all the facts you need to store your cooked rice as long as possible.
How long does cooked rice last? Read on and we’ll tell you all about it!
Bottom Line Upfront
The record for longest-lasting cooked rice would be vacuum-sealed leftovers. These can last anywhere from 2 to 3 years if you put them in the freezer, and about 1 – 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Second place goes to cooked rice that has been frozen in a plastic container, which may last up to a month, and third place goes to standard refrigeration. Per the USA Rice Federation, set storage limits in the refrigerator for leftover rice or rice dishes should only be 3 to 5 days.
Making your rice last — Expected times by scenarios
When you are storing your cooked rice leftovers, the first factor to consider is the type of rice.
White rice, as well as basmati and jasmine, will last the longest, while brown rice has a marginally shorter time, likely due to the bran content of the kernel. For example, refrigerated white rice may last anywhere from 3 to 6 days in the refrigerator, while brown rice is only recommended for 2 to 4 days of storage before you should throw it out.
Aside from the rice type, how you store it makes an enormous difference, so let’s explore the different methods so that you have a rough estimate of how long your rice will stay edible and safe to eat.
How long does cooked rice last in the refrigerator?
Assuming that you remove your rice from the pot and move it into a sealable plastic container, then you should be able to store it in the refrigerator for anywhere from 3 – 6 days. That’s a wide bit of variance, but you need to consider that it factors in the time it takes you to get it out of the pot (bacteria starts to develop in the first hour or two and can quickly multiply) and also the temperature of your refrigerator.
While the cold inside won’t kill bacteria, it does slow its growth, so to get the longest amount of storage time in your refrigerator, it’s best to immediately refrigerate what you don’t eat for the best results.
How long does cooked rice last in the freezer?
While you’ve probably heard that you can freeze cooked rice for up to 6 months if you’ve ever done it then you’ve definitely noticed something important – it doesn’t taste very good. While it probably won’t poison you, cooked rice that is stored this long in your fridge will definitely suffer from it.
Keep in mind that there is a lot of water soaked up in there and it’s going to crystallize into ice, so the flavor is definitely going to take a hit with prolonged storage.
That said, you CAN store it for about a month in an airtight container in your freezer and it will still taste good, and a lot of people like to simply pre-prepare rice servings or entire rice-centric meals, freeze them for a week in airtight containers, and thus have a completely controlled and carefully measured intake of calories.
Even without the dietary perks, freezing rice or rice meals in this way is also an excellent way to save time when preparing lunch for work. The easiest way to do this is to simply do a large ‘batch cook’ on a Sunday (or another day you’re off) and then store the rice or the rice and toppings in containers.
Mark the date on them, and when you’re in a hurry in the morning to go to work, you can skip making lunch and just grab the one you’ve prepared in advance this way. Just watch those dates – 1 month is the recommended maximum if you want your ‘instant lunches’ to be yummy ones once you warm them in the microwave at work!
How long does rice last in a rice cooker in the ‘keep warm’ setting?
If you have a rice cooker at home, then you have a lot of leeway as to when you need to eat that rice.
A good cooker will have a keep warm setting that is about 150 degrees Fahrenheit, which should keep the bacteria at bay. While it’s only recommended that you use this setting for around 5 hours, usually 8 to 10 hours is perfectly fine.
For best results, however, you need to rinse your rice before you cook it. This will help reduce the starch content, which in turn will let you keep it in your cooker for long periods with the ‘keep warm’ setting.
Without rinsing it, the high starch content in the rice will make it stickier and eventually, it will even get to be a bit on the gooey side — yuck! So, just be sure to rinse it before cooking and this will be minimized, at which point 8 to 10 hours in the cooker shouldn’t be a big deal!
How long will cooked rice last in my crockpot?
With a crockpot, your rice will stay warm and yummy, but it is not recommended that you keep it in there for more than 2 to 3 hours at the most.
The reason for this has to do with the temperature ranges and how the crockpot actually cooks. Depending on your crockpot, the low setting will typically be between 170 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is appreciably warmer than a rice cooker.
The steam inside will also be working in conjunction with the heat so that after 2 to 3 hours your rice is going to start getting mushy. If it does, then don’t worry — just look up some quick ‘crockpot rice pudding’ recipes and you can salvage 100% of that rice and who knows?
You might just start immediately slow-cooking your rice every time, just to have that delicious rice dessert waiting for you in the crockpot for later!
How long will cooked rice last in my pot?
In the pot itself, rice can start going bad within anywhere from 1 to 4 hours.
The biggest factor is the temperature inside the pot. At 140 or higher, bacteria have trouble getting a foothold, but within a temperature range of 40 to 139 bacteria are definitely going to make an appearance.
What’s worse is that at a temperature of just 86 degrees Fahrenheit, any bacteria culturing in your rice can DOUBLE itself. As such, it’s really best to get in the habit of leaving your rice in the pot for no longer than 2 hours.
At 3 to 4 hours, you might be okay if the pot retains heat well, but it’s really better to stick to ‘no more than 2’ to avoid getting an upset tummy or worse!
Can cooked rice last longer vacuum sealed?
The absolute longest storage time comes from vacuum sealing your rice and if you don’t have a vacuum sealer at home, they really are pretty amazing. A good example is this Anova Culinary Precision Vacuum Sealer Pro, which lets you easily vacuum seal your meals and when it’s time to prepare them, you just heat water to boiling, toss it in the bag, and it’s quickly cooked to the perfect temperature and tastes like it did when you sealed it.
The really cool part is that the meals will taste yummy when vacuum sealed and stored in your freezer for up to 3 years! That’s because the vacuum sealing process is going to take out all of the areas and you’ll be left with a tightly wrapped parcel that isn’t going to be able to develop ice crystals while it’s storing your food safely away.
If you choose to stick it in the refrigerator, however, it is only recommended that you leave it there for 1 to 2 weeks. The reason why there is such a time disparity when refrigerating, rather than freezing, has to do with the bacteria factor.
While frozen, those bacteria can’t really get up to their usual mischief, but if you are sealing up snacks and just putting them in the refrigerator, the bacteria can still do a little damage – it’s just at a much slower rate.
Either way, this is the longest storage method that you may employ and it comes highly recommended. Vacuum sealers can help you to store all kinds of goodies, from meals for yourself to creating instant side dishes, or you can even make and seal your own dog treats to sell or simply delight your dog and save you a small fortune.
Just a little something to consider adding to your kitchen arsenal – you definitely won’t regret it!
Before we go, we’ve collected a few frequently asked questions to help ensure a more comprehensive coverage on the subject. We apologize in advance if you have a question that’s not on this list, but with a little luck, these questions and answers should help to fill in any gaps in our coverage today.
Let’s take a look and see!
Should I let the rice cool before putting it in the fridge?
You don’t have to, but it’s really best to take it out of the pot and move it into smaller, individual containers, rather than relocating this pot itself. The reason for this is that the pot will retain heat longer and the rice takes more time to cool, which gives bacteria inside a larger window to work its mischief.
By moving the rice to individual containers, it will cool more quickly, and this will let you store it more efficiently by minimizing the time the bacteria has to work in its ideal temperature range of 40 – 139 degrees Fahrenheit.
Is it OK to eat rice that was left out overnight?
As long as you’ve stored it in an airtight container and you didn’t cook it with too much water (usually you’ll smell it if you did and the storage wasn’t airtight!), then you should be able to eat rice that has been stored overnight. While we don’t really recommend it, in most cases it should be okay, but you really should reheat it thoroughly just to be on the safe side.
Is it safe to reheat cooked rice?
Yes, as long as it has had a chance to cool down all the way and provided that you only reheat it ONCE, then it should be perfectly safe. While you could conceivably reheat it 2 or 3 times, the problem with this is that the expansion and contraction of the rice based on heat and cold will likely result in broken-up bits of rice that don’t taste nearly as good as they did when you stored them.
With only one reheating, however, your rice should still be quite yummy and definitely fit for consumption.
Is it safe to reheat rice in the microwave?
Yes, microwaving your rice is a great way to cook it both quickly and thoroughly, but you need to make sure that you do it in a covered plastic container and you’ll want to add a tablespoon of water for good measure.
This will help to keep you from getting dry rice, as that water will quickly heat and steam your rice back to a hot, delicious state.
The Longevity of cooked rice – The Conclusion!
So, there you have it! The absolute best storage method for cooked rice is going to be vacuum sealing, with regular freezing in an airtight container being the next best option. For the most part, the biggest dangers in the equation are the bacteria factor and also the flavor variables, such as ice crystals that can form from freezing your cooked rice.
Provided that you go with our recommendations, your cooked rice should be perfectly safe and still taste delicious, just don’t forget that brown rice lasts slightly less long and that you shouldn’t reheat your stored, cooked rice more than once.
As long as you keep these things in mind, then your rice should still be just as delicious as it was when you first cooked it – with just a very mild hit to the texture unless you went ‘all the way’ by vacuum sealing those leftovers!
Even if you didn’t, however, it should still be quite yummy!