How Long Leftover Rice Will Keep in the Fridge (and Ways to Use it Up)

leftover rice and beans burrito
Photo Credit: Amelia Rampe / Kitchn

February 11, 2021

Carrie Havranek

Maybe you leftover rice after a night of Chinese takeout. Or maybe you like to make a bit pot of rice in the beginning of the week so you don’t have to make rice multiple times a week. Whatever the reason, it’s not uncommon to find yourself with leftover rice in the fridge. It’s also not uncommon to forget how long that rice has been there or to wonder, Is this rice still good?

Here’s how long leftover rice is good for, plus how to know if it’s gone bad and what to do with that leftover rice so it doesn’t spoil in the first place!

How long does leftover rice last in the fridge?

According to FoodSafety.gov, cooked rice, if stored properly, is good for 4 to 6 days. Celeste Perez, certified holistic nutritionist and founder of WellFed, takes a more conservative approach, however: “Leftover plain rice can keep about 3 to 4 days,” she says. “If you’d like for it to keep longer, put it in the freezer in an airtight container as soon as it’s cooked.”

And that’s for plain rice. “If your rice has additional flavors and ingredients, it may keep for less time.”

How do you know if your rice has gone bad?

If you can’t remember how old your rice is, “use your nose and your eyes to notice texture and scent changes,” Perez says. “Bad leftovers usually have a smell to it, just a touch of sourness. Otherwise, it should smell like freshly cooked rice!”

When in doubt, throw it out: The warm, moist environment is an ideal breeding ground for Bacillus cereus, a bacteria that can lead to food-related illness.

fried rice
Photo Credit: Gimme Some Oven

What should you do with leftover rice?

If you’ve got some on hand, here are some ideas about how to deal with it.

  • Freeze it. Portion it out and freeze it in zip-top bags. When you’re ready to use it, defrost it in the fridge. Or, if you’re making soup or chili, toss it right in the pot.
  • Turn it into fried rice. Fried rice is one of the easiest and most satisfying meals, endlessly versatile, and here to use up whatever you have lying about in the fridge or freezer. We love classic peas and carrots with scrambled eggs and a dash of soy sauce or coconut amino acids.
  • Make rice and beans. Reheat that leftover rice with beans, some seasonings, and chopped fresh herbs and you’ve got rice and beans for lunch or dinner. Add some sliced avocado or a bit of cheese, if you like. Or meal prep these super-simple rice-and-bean burritos.
  • Use it to bulk up veggie burgers. You could buy our favorite veggie burgers or you could make your own. And leftover rice is a great way to give those homemade patties some heft.