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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

How to Fix Crunchy Rice



Cooking rice can be a little frustrating from time to time.

Sometimes you’ve measured your water perfectly and you’re cooking up a big batch, only to take it off the heat and find out it’s crunchy! Whether this is from undercooking or overcooking, the good news is that you have plenty of options to get your rice back in gear to whip up a tasty meal.

Today, we’ll explore some of the best ways to get this done and also go into some of the questions that we get the most on the subject of crunchy rice, if you’re ready, then let’s get started on how to fix crunchy rice to get your meal back on the track to deliciousness!

Bottom Line Up Front

If it’s undercooked, the easiest thing to do is to check the water and make sure no rice is sticking, so that you can continue the cook. If it’s a little scorched, bread on top of the rice can help decontaminate the scorched taste from your rice, or you could upgrade your rice by using recipes like rice cakes or sizzling rice soup where that crunchy, crispy rice is actually a better fit!

Fixing crunchy rice — Is it under or overcooked?

Rice cooker with hard rice
Rice cooker with hard rice.

How we proceed is going to depend on the reason why your rice is crunchy. If it’s undercooked, then we’ll simply move that cooking along with 1 of 3 methods that we’ll share today.

If it’s overcooked, then we have a few tricks that you can try to salvage the taste and some recipes that you can use to simply make the best of overcooked, crunchy rice!

What to do if the rice is crunchy from being undercooked

A white bowl of white rice on a white background
A white bowl of white rice on a white background.

Crunchy, undercooked rice or rice that is soft on the outside, but chewy inside, can put a frown on your face.

Thankfully, it’s easy to fix – you just need to continue cooking it. How you go about that is up to you, but we’ll list the 3 most common methods below.

Add water or broth and simply keep cooking

Sometimes you just need to keep cooking the rice, so the first step is to check how much water you have in there by parting the rice on the side with a wooden spoon and scraping across for good measure. Sometimes the water can be pooled on the side, while the middle is at risk for browning – a wooden spoon makes it easy to check!

If it needs water, I usually start with ¼ cup of boiled water, followed by stirring to help distribute it at the bottom, then cover and let it heat on low. Since the water is already boiled, it should soon simmer and finish cooking your rice.

You can add more water – use your best judgment – but I usually go with ¼ so that there’s less risk of it getting mushy.

You can bake it if you’re worried

If the rice is a mix of crunchy and chewy bits and you’re worried about burning it if you try to continue cooking in a pot, then you could always go with baking it. The nice thing about this is that it’s easier to monitor because of the way that you do it.

The trick is to preheat your oven to 350, and while it’s heating up, spread out your rice inside a glass cooking dish. Don’t pat it down – if it’s too compacted then you might accidentally bake rice cakes – just add it and distribute it roughly even across the glass bottom.

After that, usually, you can just bake it for about 10 minutes, or if you’re worried, then you can check it every 5 to see if it has properly softened. If you accidentally brown the top in the process, then don’t panic – you can always sprinkle some cheese on top and melt it in a couple of minutes for a nice rice upgrade.

Use the microwave to evenly cook the rice

The easiest way to soften up your rice efficiently and quickly is going to the microwave. All you’re going to need is a microwave-safe bowl with a cover and I usually add a splash or two of water, depending on the dryness of the rice.

After that, microwave it for about 2 minutes so that it’s heated enough to steam inside, and let it sit for a few minutes more before checking the tenderness. If it’s not yet tender, you can repeat the process.

Just make sure that there’s a little water in there so that the rice is being steamed or it could end up very dry.

What to do if the rice is crunchy from being overcooked

White rice being picked up with chopsticks
White rice being picked up with chopsticks.

Every now and again, your water boils off almost completely, and you end up with scorching or some browning of your rice.

If it’s minimal, it’s not always a bad thing – crunchy, browned rice is a delicacy in many cultures. The browning of the rice actually makes it taste a little nutty and the extra crunch is nice sometimes.

That said, if you’ve overcooked your rice a little on the bottom and you don’t like having those crunchy bits, you could always scrape them off the bottom with a wooden spoon If the rest of the rice is cooked properly, then brown rice usually won’t affect the flavor – that’s generally only a problem with scorched rice.

If it is indeed scorched, then putting a piece of bread on top of the rice will generally help to minimize the ‘flavor contamination’, as the bread will soak most of it up.

When your rice ends up a little overcooked, it’s also a good excuse to have a little fun with your dish and simply ‘switch rails’ to make something different where the brown, crispy rice is not going to be such a culinary contrast. Simply put – we’re going to ‘fix’ the problem of crispy rice by going all the way with it!

Let’s look at 2 recipes that you can use to turn that crunchy rice into an asset!

Making Crispy Rice Cakes

Dry rice and rice crispies
Dry rice and rice crispies.

Kim Severson shared a fantastic recipe with the New York Times for making pan-fried rice cakes and once you learn it, then you can try changing up the flavors for some amazing personalized snacks and novel meals.


  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ⅓ cup green onion (chopped)
  • 1 cup sharp white Cheddar (grated)
  • 1 cup zucchini (chopped fine)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups of cooked rice(just mix the brown bits in)
  • 2 eggs (beat lightly)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp mint (chopped)


  1. Put all of your ingredients, except for your butter, into a large mixing bowl and mix it up well with a large spoon.
  2. On medium-high, heat your butter in a skillet until it starts foaming up, and then put a spoonful or two of your mixture onto the buttery pan.
  3. Pat it down a little with a spatula and heat until golden brown on both sides, which will typically be about 3 minutes per side.
  4. Keep adding butter to repeat until you’ve used up all of your mixes. Protip: Garlic fans, leave out the mint, but try this with garlic butter – yum!

Why not try making sizzling rice soup?

Rice soup in a white bowl
Rice soup in a white bowl.

Another recipe where you can repurpose crisped brown or even slightly scorched rice into something yummy and consistent comes from Bill at The Woks of Life and it’s called ‘Sizzling Rice Soup’. Take a look and see what you think – it’s mighty tempting and you’ll get to use your Wok!


For your rice:

  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice (just mix the crispy bits throughout)
  • vegetable oil

For your soup:

  • 0.7 ounces small shiitake mushrooms (use dried)
  • 1/2 cup snow peas (stripped and halved)
  • 1/2 cup whole straw mushrooms (canned)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup carrots (sliced thin)
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 cup napa cabbage (cut into 1″ pcs))
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 cups baby bok choy (remove leaves and stems, but keep the leaves, and cut your bok choy into 1″ pcs.)
  • 2 oz Virginia ham (sliced thin)
  • 2 oz chicken breast (sliced thin)
  • 2 oz fresh sea scallops (quarter them)
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp water
  • 4 oz peeled, deveined shrimp
  • 8 cups pork and chicken stock


  1. Line a cooking pan with parchment, spreading your rice evenly across, and go ahead and add your salt. You’ll want to let it sit overnight before pan-frying when making your soup, but if you are in a hurry then you can toast it right away at 325 degrees for about 15 – 20 minutes – it just won’t be as fluffy as it would if you waited overnight (but still tasty).
  2. Hydrate your mushrooms with an overnight soak in a cup of room-temperature water, or you can give it a 2-hour soak in boiling water to hydrate them right away. Trim off any tough bits and slice thin, but save your water.
  3. Marinate your chicken in a mix of 1 tsp cornstarch, 1 ½ tsp oyster sauce, and 1 tbsp of water. Put it aside for now.
  4. On high heat, boil up 6 cups of water in your wok, and add your chicken in. Cook gently until opaque – usually about 45 seconds to a minute. Remove the chicken again to put aside and we may continue.
  5. Add your shrimp and scallops in now, cooking them for the same amount of time until they are opaque. Remove the shrimp and scallops, pour out the water, and clean your wok for the next step.
  6. Set your stove to medium heat, put your clean wok in place, and add 2 tsp of veggie oil. Add in your carrots, garlic, and mushrooms, and stir-fry them until the carrots get nice and soft. This will usually take a minute to a minute and a half at most.
  7. Add in your cabbage and bok choy, stir-frying for about a minute, before adding in your pork and chicken stock. Add in that mushroom water next (watch out for sediment, leave that in the glass!). Bring this to a simmer and add in your mushrooms and ham.
  8. Once your soup is back to a steady simmer, if you didn’t toast your rice in the oven, then we want to heat up a pot that is half full of frying oil at a temperature of 350 degrees. We’ll be using this shortly to cook up the sizzling rice..
  9. Go ahead and add your shrimp, chicken, and scallops to your soup, and cook it for a minute before you add your leafy Bok choy bits and your snow peas.
  10. Bring it all to a nice simmer, adding in your salt, white pepper, and your sesame oil and if you want to add some additional, custom-seasoning, then go ahead and do that now!
  11. Pour your soup into a large bowl, move it to your serving table, and we’re ready to fry the rice. With the hot oil, it should take about 30 seconds to crisp up the rice. Divide it up into 3 batches to make it easier to manage.
  12. As each batch crisps to perfection, remove it from the oil and move it into your soup, where it will bring the trademark sizzle. Once all the batches are transferred, your soup is ready to serve!


Before we conclude, we like to add some frequently asked questions just in case we’ve missed something important. Here are some of the most common and we hope that they’ll be helpful.

Why is my fried rice slimy and crunchy?

Starch and overcooking – When rice is heavy on starch, then you tend to get a bit of a ‘goo’ effect when cooking it sometimes. You’ll find this a lot with American white rice, which has added nutrients and a higher volume of starch than other types.

The solution is to get in the habit of rinsing your rice in advance, by means of a strainer and water from the sink. While this reduces the nutrients that have been added, it will keep the starch from making a gooey mess of your fried rice.

As far as overcooking, just stir it more while browning it – it takes a little practice but quickly becomes intuitive.

How do you fix crunchy rice in jambalaya?

If your Jambalaya rice keeps getting crunchy, it’s usually one of two things. Either you need a little more water or you need to turn down the heat a little.

Remember – just bring it to a boil, cover it, and switch it to LOW. Anything else is going to add a little crunch, if you’re looking, or a little scorch if you’re not!

Is slightly undercooked crunchy rice OK?

While the odds are good that you’ll be okay, this is not a good habit to get into.

Undercooked rice can become a host to a kind of bacteria known as bacillus cereus. This can cause food poisoning if you are unlucky, so if the rice tastes undercooked then you should ALWAYS finish cooking it.

Why does my fried rice always come out crunchy?

Make sure when you are cooking the rice that all of the grains are completely submerged and stir it often to help reduce the chance of sticking. More often than not, grains end up stuck to the side where the heat crisps them up almost instantly.

Keep a close eye out for that, stir frequently, and always make sure that you are using the amount of water specified for your recipe.


In today’s article, we’ve talked about how to fix crunchy rice and it all depends on whether it’s undercooked or overcooked. With undercooked rice, a microwave oven can quickly steam it to perfection, or you could bake it or continue cooking in your instant pot once you’ve checked the water volume.

For overcooked rice, you can salvage the flavor by soaking up scorched molecules with a piece of bread on top or have a little fun with it, by trying a brown or scorched rice recipe.

So, the next time that you end up with a bit of crunchy rice, don’t panic! Have a little fun with it and you never know – that crunchy rice might lead to a new favorite dish that’s a real keeper!


Kitchn; “How to fix undercooked rice

NY Times; “Rice Cake Recipe

Reddit; “Is fried rice supposed to have a crunch to it?”

Mashed; “The Real Reason your rice is dry and crunchy

Asian-Recipe; “7 ways to fix undercooked rice

Kitchen Professor author
About the Author: David McLemore

David learned to cook at an early age after his mother told him that he couldn't live on pizza forever, Dave uses his modest kitchen skills to recreate sorely-missed recipes from home and to occasionally make new favorite ones from places he is visiting.

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