5 Extra-Easy Dinners That Start with 2 Cups of Leftover Rice
Whenever I cook a pot of rice, I always make extra — and I highly encourage you to do the same. Cooked rice is one of the most versatile leftovers to have in your fridge, and it’s a total time-saver on weeknights. The recipes below transform two cups of leftover cooked rice into smart, simple, and satisfying dinners, all of which rely on pantry staples and are endlessly adaptable to whatever you’ve got on hand.
5 Snapshot Recipes That Start with Leftover Rice
- The rice: Each recipe starts with two cups of leftover cooked rice from the refrigerator, and there’s no need to heat it up in advance of making any of the recipes. While any variety of rice will work, I prefer white or brown.
- Other kitchen staples: Each of these recipes uses a combination of pantry staples and smart shortcuts, and they all clock in at less than 10 ingredients in addition to the rice.
- Serving size: Each recipe serves 4.
1. Pork Fried Rice
Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add 2 large eggs, gently scramble with a rubber spatula until just softly set, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl or plate and set aside.
Add 1 diced small yellow onion, 8 ounces ground pork, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper to the pan and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until the pork is cooked through and the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.
Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and let heat for a few seconds. Add 2 cups cold cooked rice, 1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots, and 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari. Stir-fry until the rice is heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Return eggs to the pan. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil.
Get the recipe: 15-Minute Pork Fried Rice
2. Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add 1 diced medium yellow onion, 3 diced medium celery stalks, 2 medium peeled and diced carrots, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes.
Pour in 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken, 2 cups cooked rice, and 1 cup half-and-half. Simmer until chicken and rice are warmed through, 3 to 4 minutes more.
Get the recipe: 30-Minute Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup
3. Mushroom Rice Pilaf
Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 2 diced medium shallots and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add 8 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms release their liquid, about 8 minutes. Add 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Cook until broth is reduced by half, about 1 minute. Stir in 2 cups cooked rice and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.
Get the recipe: Mushroom Rice Pilaf
4. Spanish-Style Chicken and Rice Skillet
Cut 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes and pat dry with paper towels. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken in an even layer and cook, turning occasionally, until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add 1 diced medium yellow onion, 1 diced small red bell pepper, and 2 minced garlic cloves to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons tomato paste and 1 teaspoon ground cumin, stir to coat the vegetables, and cook until darkened in color, about 2 minutes.
Stir in 2 cups cooked rice and 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth, and return the chicken to the pan. Cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Serve with lime wedges.
Get the recipe: Spanish-Style Chicken and Rice Skillet
5. Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito
Heat oven to 350ºF. Stack 4 (10-inch) flour tortillas on a microwave-safe plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave until soft and pliable, about 30 seconds.
Using 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese, 1 cup refried beans, and 2 cups cooked rice, assemble each burrito as follows: Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese across each tortilla just below the center. Top evenly with 1/4 cup refried beans, followed by 1/2 cup rice. Roll burrito up tightly by folding the sides over the filling, then rolling from the bottom up.
Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until heated through and lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Get the recipe: 20-Minute Bean and Rice Burrito