How to Reheat Rice

Rice is one of the world's most widely consumed staples. It's cheap and filling—versatile and delicious. From Italian risotto to Japanese sushi to easy rice and beans, there's virtually no limit to what you can do with a fresh pot of rice.

rice in takeout container
Photo by Rachel Johnson
| Credit: Rachel Johnson

Still, cooked rice is finickier than you might expect. Rice can get hard and dry if it is left in the fridge for too long, or if it is reheated improperly. When stored carelessly, rice is also an easy host for bacteria that causes food poisoning. We tested the best ways to reheat rice, from reimagining it into a fried rice dish to a quick steam in the microwave. Read on for tips on how to safely reheat your rice back to fluffy, satisfying perfection.

Steam on Stove

When storing rice, the more airtight your container is, the better it will retain its texture. But after a few days in the fridge, there's no way around it: your rice will start to dry out. Our first reheating method led us to the stove, using the least amount of added liquid and a wide, flat skillet with enough surface area for even heating.

Start by taking your rice leftovers out of the fridge and letting them sit for 10-30 minutes, or until it reaches room temperature. Be sure to only do this with the rice you want to consume immediately, as cooling and reheating rice too many times can promote bacteria growth.

Start by placing the leftover rice in a large skillet over low heat and add a splash of water or vegetable stock. Cover with a well-fitting lid and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up any clumps. This method involving gentle heat and an introduction of moisture will result in light, fluffy rice, just as it was the day before.

Steam in Microwave

The microwave is the easiest and perhaps the most mess-free way to reheat rice. It's a great solution for a warm office lunch and for quickly tackling small portions. However, the microwave also tends to over-dry out food, and isn't the best option overall for flavor and texture. To make the most out of your microwave, remember: you should be using it to steam the rice, not zap out the remaining moisture.

Then, place the rice in an even layer on a microwave-safe plate. Sprinkle the rice with some water and cover it with a damp paper towel. (We recommend using 1-2 tablespoons of water for each cup of rice.) Heat for 30 second intervals on medium heat, fluffing the rice in between. Continue for about two minutes, or until the rice is thoroughly reheated.

Revive in the Oven

The oven is a great resource for when you're reheating rice for large groups of people. For this method, we took the same principles of the skillet and microwave methods and opted for a large, shallow baking dish to gently capture heat. To reheat rice in the oven, start by spreading the rice out in an even layer in a shallow dish. Add a splash of water vegetable stock to the pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for about 20 minutes at 300°F, or until the rice has been thoroughly reheated. Turn the oven off until ready to serve - the residual heat will keep the rice warm enough to serve.

Repurpose It

Still haven't able to revive your rice's fluffy texture? Don't worry—here's how to repurpose your rice so you won't even notice.

  • Add leftover rice to a finished soup to quickly reheat it and add more starch to a meal. Chicken wild rice soup, for example, is a healthy and pleasant addition to a chilly afternoon.
  • Rice can also be repurposed as a dessert. Add a little milk, sugar, and vanilla to your rice to transform it into a creamy rice pudding.
  • Make a simple stir fry: Heat a generous amount of vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok. For an easy vegetable stir fry, chop desired vegetables (carrots, snow peas, onions, etc) into small, even pieces and add to the skillet. Once your vegetables are cooked, stir in the cold rice and flavor with soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili sauce (to taste).

Set Up for Success: Store Your Rice Properly

If you're planning on using rice for leftovers, start by storing them properly.

When cooked rice is left at room temperature, dormant spores called bacillus cereus can awaken, producing bacteria that cause food poisoning. Avoid this by minimizing the warm, damp conditions that awaken the bacteria.

Store your rice in airtight container, and place it in the refrigerator after letting some of the steam escape. Don't leave rice out for more than an hour or two after cooking it.

With these measures in place, you can count on your rice lasting 4-6 days in the refrigerator. Note that the type of rice you cooked may influence how long it lasts without spoiling—white rice, for example, lasts longer than brown rice.

You can also freeze your rice if you want to use it for an extended period. To do this, place fresh, hot rice in an airtight container. To make meal prep easy and avoid waste, pre-portion your rice out before putting it in the freezer. (You can do this easily using a series of freezer bags.)

Squeeze out any extra oxygen to help prevent the rice from getting freezer burn, and to keep the moisture locked in. Storing fresh rice in the freezer will keep it good for up to one month. That leaves you plenty of time to brainstorm rice dishes, and to enjoy!

Check out our collection of Rice Recipes.