5 Reasons I Always Cook Extra Rice (and You Should, Too)

updated Feb 14, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

I grew up in a Chinese household where we had rice for dinner every single night. As a kid, I was given the task of opening up the rice cooker and fluffing the steaming, freshly-cooked rice with chopsticks before scooping it out into bowls. Since rice was cooked everyday, that also meant that leftover rice piled up in the refrigerator.

But since rice is both filling and relatively neutral in flavor, it’s a leftover that’s basically a culinary blank canvas that you can take in many delicious directions. This chameleon can work as an ingredient in both savory (stir fries, omelets) and sweet (puddings) dishes.

That’s one of the reasons it doesn’t hurt to regularly keep some leftover rice on hand like my family did. Cooking rice in a rice cooker or on the stove is basically a hands-off task, so making a little more requires zero extra effort on your part.

Here are five reasons why you should add an extra scoop of rice to the pot the next time it’s on the dinner menu.

Credit: Kelli Foster

1. You can make rice pudding in minutes.

When you need a quick, comforting dessert that comes together quickly with kitchen staples, rice pudding is a universal favorite. Having precooked rice means that rice pudding can be ready in less than 15 minutes. All you need are some milk (non-dairy works great), sugar, vanilla, salt, and whatever you want to customize it with. You can even make rice pudding in a mug in the microwave!

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2. It freezes really well.

If you don’t want to use it in the next day or two, your leftover rice can be easily packed into serving-sized bags and frozen. It’s great to have stashed away for making quick rice bowls among other things. Just make sure to cool the rice fully and freeze it quickly to minimize bacteria growth, and make sure to reheat it thoroughly. If you freeze it flat in freezer bags, it’s easier to store and defrosts quickly.

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Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Leftover rice makes the best fried rice.

Warm, freshly cooked rice tends to clump together and turn mushy when fried. Cold pre-cooked rice, however, works much better. Since the grains have had a chance to cool and dry out a bit, they separate into chewy individual grains, which is what you want. Make a few extra cups of rice, stash it in the fridge, and add whatever cooked meats and veggies you have lying around for a tasty fried rice that makes good use of leftovers.

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4. Rice can bulk up other dishes.

Even if you only have a cup or two of leftover rice, it’s worth saving to bulk up future meals. Stuff it into bell peppers, add it to a soup, or use it to bind meatballs together for a gluten-free alternative to breadcrumbs. (Yep, rice is gluten-free — even glutinous rice.)

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Credit: Jenny Huang

5. Leftover rice makes a delicious breakfast.

That’s right, you read it here. Rice is actually a common ingredient in breakfast foods in other countries, and it’s high time it made an appearance on the breakfast table here. Reinvent leftover rice into savory, crisp waffles, or set it with some eggs for the ultimate frittata that will keep you full until lunch.

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What do you like to do with leftover rice?