Many of us make a pot of rice for a meal, and think, “Oh, I’ll make just the right amount for this dinner.” I’d like to make a case for intentional leftover rice.
A large pot of rice has so many potential uses all week long, you’ll be glad to have it on hand.
What Kind of Rice to Make?
There are a lot of rice varieties to choose from: white rice, brown rice, basmati, jasmine, even wild rice (which is actually a grass, but let’s not nitpick). Most well-stocked supermarkets carry quite a range of choices.
For your big pot of rice, pick a type that you like best. The good news is that week to week you can keep changing up the type of rice you cook—Brown basmati this week! Long grain white the next!—so that your dishes take on slightly different personalities and flavors.
Ways to Make Rice
Make your rice using whatever method you prefer. Here are two good ones!
How to Store the Rice
If you are making rice with the intention of storing it for future use, it’s a good move to cool it down quickly, so it doesn’t get clumpy, sticky and too soft sitting in a pot.
An easy way to do this is to spread it out on a rimmed baking sheet, either sprayed with nonstick spray, or lined with parchment paper. Then transfer it to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. (You can also freeze rice for up to two months.)
Best Ways to Reheat Rice
Some of the recipe suggestions start with cold rice straight from the fridge, and some call for it to be reheated.
The best way to reheat cold rice on the stovetop is to put it and some water (about 2 tablespoons per cup) in a pot. Heat it, covered, over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until it is hot throughout.
To heat cooked rice in the microwave, put it in a microwave-safe dish or shallow bowl, drizzle over a couple of tablespoons of water per cup, cover it with a damp paper towel and microwave it for about 20 seconds per cup until hot. (This isn’t an exact science, mostly because microwave oven strengths vary.)
If you are microwaving a larger amount of rice, you may want to give it a stir midway through cooking.
If you want to freeze leftover rice and then reheat it, check out the instructions here.
Ways to Use a Pot of Rice All Week Long
So this Sunday, make a big pot of rice, and then see how many ways you can put it in play over the coming week.
Here are my five favorite ways to use up a pot of rice -- what are yours?
1. Fried Rice
This is the single best use of leftover rice that I know of. The greatest part about it is that not only can you start with rice cold from the fridge, you should!
Reheating it first would just make the grains stick together more, and for this dish you actually want the grains to stay separated, so that they can absorb all of those great seasonings, and mingle nicely with whatever else you are featuring in your fried rice.
2. Rice Salads
Pasta salads tend to hog the spotlight a bit, but many other grains can anchor a good room temperature salad, and rice is a terrific choice.
Make sure to cut whatever you are incorporating into your rice salad into fairly small pieces so they can blend with the rice easily. And do make sure to bring the rice to room temperature before serving, which will provide the best overall taste and texture.
Taste before serving to see if you need to adjust the seasonings as the rice absorbs whatever dressing you’ve used.
- Curry Rice Salad
- Wild Rice Salad with Cranberries and Pecans
- Vegetable and Brown Rice Salad with Honey Lemon Dressing (The Mom 100)
3. Rice Bowls
Hot (or sometimes room temperature) rice in a bowl is a waiting to be base for all kinds of toppings. Bowl food is definitely the way many of us are happily eating these days, and you can match the type of rice you choose to the toppings and cuisine.
Jasmine and basmati are great choices for Asian rice bowls (though regular brown and white do just fine!), and the more traditional types are good paired up with Mexican or Tex Mex toppings (but there is a Texmati rice—kind of a cross between a long grain white and basmati, so it’s nutty and aromatic—available, so have at that!).
4. Soups with Rice
Rice can be used as is in soups, where they lend a bit of bulk and a nice toothsome-ness. It can also be blended into pureed soups, which thickens the soup and lends delicate flavor.
Sometimes a recipe calls for cooking raw rice directly in the soup, but you can still use your premade rice. Just reduce the amount of liquid by a cup or two (since the cooked rice won’t absorb much liquid) and just add the cooked rice towards the end, since it will only need to be cooked long enough to reheat. Besides, too much time in the pot might cause it to get mushy.
5. Re-heat and re-serve your rice on the side!
Of course the most obvious use for leftover rice is to just heat it and serve it again with a new main course. See above for reheating directions, and then use it as a base or a side dish for a brand new dinner later in the week! So many dishes are great paired with rice—it’s one of my big go-to starches for everything. See below for just three examples!
- Thai Green Curry with Chicken
- Salsa Verde Chicken Bake
- Chicken, Broccoli and Sugar Snap Pea Stir Fry (from my blog The Mom 100)