How to: Freeze Rice

Rice is a poor man’s best friend. It’s inexpensive, filling, a blank slate for flavor, and can be added to almost any meal to bulk it out. But guess what? When I come home after a long day at work and I’m hungry, like now, I don’t always want to take the time to make rice.

That’s where a having a freezer stash of cooked rice comes in handy. Frozen cooked rice reheats quickly in the microwave and makes getting dinner on the table (or just into your belly) twice as fast. Plus, if you live alone and often want just one serving of rice at a time, this trick solves that problem. Use your frozen rice for a quick stir fry or fried rice, to soak up the sauce from a yummy stew, or as a bed for some beans, salsa, and cheese. The possibilities for fast meals are endless.

There isn’t much to freezing rice, so this is more of a “Why to: Freeze Rice” rather than “How to: Freeze Rice,” but, you know, consistency. I’m also going to provide some resources below for help with cooking rice for those who haven’t mastered it yet (and you definitely should master it at some point).

So, let’s go.

How to: Freeze Rice

Freeze Rice 

Step 1: Cook lots of rice.

The next time you cook rice for a recipe, cook double with the intent of freezing half. Or, cook a big pot on the weekend and freeze it for use later in the week (or weeks to come).

Step 2: Cool that rice.

It’s important to let the rice cool completely in the refrigerator before freezing. This will help keep the granules separate instead of in one big, sticky clump. I usually put the rice in a container and refrigerate over night, and then divide and freeze the next day.

Step 3: Divide and freeze.

It’s a good idea to freeze the rice in portions that you would normally use for one or two meals. I freeze my rice in two cup portions, which will supply me with two meals worth of rice. If you have a family of four, you may consider freezing in 4-6 cup portions, so that you can just thaw the amount needed for one dinner.

I like to freeze in quart sized freezer bags, and gallon sized for larger portions. I find that their minimal shape helps me fit more in the freezer. Resealable plastic containers (like this) are also great because they’re reusable and many are BPA free.

Step 4: Reheat that rice.

To reheat the rice, I simply tear away the freezer bag and dump the rice in a bowl, or open up the resealable plastic container and microwave until it’s heated through. I like to place a lid loosely over top of whatever container I’m using while reheating to help keep moisture in. And, as always with microwaving, it’s a good idea to stir a couple times in the middle of reheating to make sure everything heats evenly.

I know some people don’t like to use microwaves, but I haven’t experimented with other methods of reheating frozen rice yet. If you routinely freeze and reheat your rice using another method, please share with the rest of us in the comments below!

Help with Cooking Rice

I thought about doing a step by step rice cooking tutorial, but so many others have already done so and done such a good job of it. There are two main methods of cooking rice on a stove top. The immersion method (let the water boil before adding the rice) and the steaming method (add rice and water to pot, then bring to a boil). I prefer the steam method, but they both work great.

I’ve found that the single most important factor when cooking rice is using a good pot with a thick bottom. When I use my thinner pots it sticks or burns to the bottom every time. When I use my heavy pots I get perfect, fluffy rice. The thicker pots distribute the heat better and will simply give you better results. I’ve had a set like this for the past ten years, and they’re fantastic.

Rice Cookers

And, of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using a rice cooker. They make perfect rice every time, aren’t very expensive, and you’ll definitely get a lot of use out of it! So, if you haven’t been able to master cooking rice on the stove, give some thought to investing in a rice cooker. Check out how inexpensive these small, medium, and extra large rice cookers are!

Plus, according to thekitchn.com, you can do a LOT more than just cook rice in one of those things… Sounds like a small apartment dweller’s best friend!

So there you have it! Rice! What’s not to love! :D

P.S. I wasn’t paid to promote any of those products. Those are my honest recommendations. 

 

53 Comments

  1. Lucy S says:

    I second the rice cooker as a best friend idea! We got an Aroma one at our reception and it not only cooks rice great, but is also a steamer and slow cooker! It’s about half the size of my other slow cooker so when fridge is full I don’t have to worry about storing leftover cp amounts :) AND it has up to a 10 hour timer(ok maybe 8…, i usually only use for 6 so dont remember for sure)

  2. Freezing rice is great! When I freeze rice, I half fill plastic containers. Then when I have leftovers (like curry) I just add the curry to the top half and let the whole lot defrost in the fridge at work. Come lunch time, I can reheat and eat.

  3. I had a roommate from India in university who taught me to make good rice – always use lots of water. I’m an immersion gal: bring lots of water to a boil so that the rice can “swim”. Boil uncovered until done, and then drain the starch away.
    I have never frozen rice, but it would be SUCH a timesaver! I need to give this a try.

  4. dona dee says:

    What do you say about using this same freezing method for quinoa?

  5. I always mean to freeze rice, especially brown rice, since it takes so long! I actually never tried it but I will definitely try it this weekend! :)

  6. I’d recommend avoiding cheap rice cookers like the plague. Rice cookers are something you buy if you want to have rice often, and cheap rice cookers are only sufficient if you have rice rarely. They cook white rice adequately, but often have trouble with brown or sushi rice and almost always have terrible non-stick vessels with coating that breaks down after a few short months of regular use.

    As an Asian-American, my desire for rice is limitless so I saved up for a few months to buy a fuzzy logic rice cooker. I’d personally recommend Zojirushi rice cookers, which you can easily buy on Amazon. The 3-cup model I got retails for about $120, but I managed to get a “Like New” used piece for $80. Panasonic fuzzy logic cookers regularly sell under $100 as well. They cook just about any rice perfectly with a vast array of built-in settings, and the bowl is sturdy and is easily cleaned without a dishwasher.

    • Thank you for the suggestions. I’ve used a couple of rice cookers purchased second hand at thrift stores, and always struggled with them. I promised myself I would invest in a quality piece next time!

      • I bought a $37 rice cooker at Target and it’s one of the best appliances I own. My trick is to follow the measurements on the bag of rice rather than the cooker instructions.

  7. Valerie says:

    I’m half Korean and I eat tons of rice. This is just one of those time savers that my mom taught me that is just amazing. I live alone so I freeze them in individuals portions that I can pop into the microwave for a few minutes. I only have to cook rice once in a while and I don’t waste money throwing away rice that I don’t eat soon enough in my rice cooker. :D

  8. Margaret says:

    All the reasons you cited for cooking and freezing rice go double, even triple for brown rice. It’s a great side dish, but not weeknight-friendly if you’re at all pressed for time. The last time I cooked up a 5 lb bag of it and froze it in portions, I was pleasantly surprised to find that several of my kids started *asking* for it, because they preferred brown to the white stuff. Who knew? :)

  9. Sarah says:

    I actually keep my uncooked rice in the freezer because I bought the 10kg bag and was worried about bugs getting in before I could use it all. I think I’ll try freezing cooked brown rice though cause it takes so long to cook, and doesn’t last as long in the pantry.

    On another note my fiance bought me this amazing contraption one day:
    http://www.tefal.com.au/All+Products/Cooking+Appliances/Multi+cookers/Products/8+in+1+Rice+Cooker/8+in+1+Rice+Cooker.htm

    I use it nearly every night, perfect rice every time and I use it as a slow cooker and many other things too!

  10. I just froze rice for the first time this weekend! I did it a little differently though. I spread the cooled rice on a baking sheet, and one it had frozen, I threw it all into one container. I was able to scoop some out today for dinner (the individual grains of rice didn’t clump together because of how I’d frozen them, so it was like scooping uncooked rice). Definitely a handy freezer item!

  11. Annette says:

    I freeze rice and whenever I cook beans or pulses I freeze them too. That way I have the convenience of canned beans, lentils, etc without the added cost and sodium.

  12. I freeze more than just rice! I freeze very small batches of all kinds of grains; quinoa, barley, and wheat berries for example; as well as white, brown, wild, and black rice. Which makes preparing a batch of multigrain pilaf on the fly very easy. Just combine and reheat!

    • I almost forgot! If you are not a fan of microwaving you should steam it. I often put my frozen grains in a colander or muslin bag and toss it in my bamboo steamer. Steaming is a great way to reheat everything!

  13. Dunja says:

    What about the legend that re-heated rice gives you food poisoning? I regularly freeze and re-heat rice, and I never had any problems. Ever. Good thing that you promote this on your website too, so more people will hopefully refrain from chucking rice just because they are scared for no reason whatsoever.

    • That probably comes from the fact that food poisoning from Bacillus cereus is pretty common with rice. BUT this only happens if you don’t cool down your cooked rice in an appropriate amount of time. Just like any cooked food, you need to refrigerate it and get it down below 40 degrees within 2 hours so that the bacteria doesn’t have time to proliferate and start producing toxins. B.cereus poisoning is common when people cook a big pot of rice and then just leave it out and eat off of it, so the “reheating” issue was probably from people who reheated rice that had been left out. :) (even then, the poisoning isn’t guaranteed, just more likely).

      • Sara says:

        I’m going to add on that B. cereus, the bacteria so strongly associated with rice produces endospores.

        Water boils at 100° C, which is almost, but not exactly hot, enough to kill B. cereus spores consistently. So you have rice with most of the bacteria cooked away, but some spores left. Those spores will germinate over time in temperatures a bit warmer than a fridge and cooler than most ‘hot holding’ (10-50 C, 50-130 F). Those germinated spores, now regular bacteria, produce toxins during bacterial growth.

        Some of those toxins are resistant to heat and low pH, which is why simply reheating them isn’t good enough.

        If you cook rice and get it cool fast, and then freeze it quickly, you won’t produce an environment where many bacteria germinate fast enough to be a threat.

        There are some strains (one strain?) that grow in colder environments, but I’ve seen it written that growth is inhibited under 4°C, so the freezer should still be safe (and those are less typical…plus freezing freezes the water making it unavailable)

  14. Great tips, I am actually venturing into making the “freezer” burritos. I started yesterday by prepping the beans and making some tortilla’s. Today though I am making the Spanish rice to put in them and there will most likely be left overs. Thanks for all the tips. Your whole website has been a great help for me. BTW:: how do you add a picture to this comments section?

  15. I cook brown (and other) rice in the oven…perfect every time, and I can just throw it in next to whatever else I’m roasting/baking. I usually make about ten cups at a time and freeze the leftovers.

  16. My parents did this when i grew up, but they would wrap individual portions in saran wrap and nuke till hot (before leeching plastics was as big of a deal). Nowadays, I do a similar thing: I wait for the rice to cool a bit, burrito it up in saran wrap and put in freezer. Sometimes it’s hard to get the wrap off the rice before nuking it, but if you throw it in there for 30 seconds or so it will start melting the rice enough to pull the wrap off. Then you can transfer the rice to a bowl and cover with wrap to keep it moist while you nuke it.

  17. Thought you might be interested in one other method for cooking rice that my dad taught me (and that I use as my fool-proof go-to): Drizzle oil (your choice–olive, canola, etc) in the bottom of a skillet. Turn your burner to medium-high. Pour in the amount of rice that you want (say, 1 cup) and saute the rice in the oil until you can tell it’s lightly toasting (it gives off a slightly sweet smell and turns a dryer white to light tan). Immediately pour in the water (2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice). Wait for the water to boil and then reduce the heat to low and cover so that the water is just simmering. 1 cup of white rice usually cooks in 10-15 minutes using this method. You can tell the rice is done when the water has been absorbed and by tasting a bit for doneness. If you want really sticky rice, this isn’t as helpful, but if you want a more Mediterranean or Indian style of rice, I recommend it.

  18. John William Volock says:

    Just wanted to say rather than a dedicated rice cooker, you can use an electric vegetable steamer to make rice… I use mine for it all the time (an Oster one that was under $40 new) and then use it to reheat the frozen portions. Steamers are great at reheating frozen stuff without drying it out

  19. Mary says:

    Before I had a microwave, a friend told me that if I wanted to reheat refrigerated rice quickly to boil the kettle, put the rice in a strainer, and pour the boiled water over the rice, over a bowl. I’m sure you could use this same method with frozen rice, except perhaps, immerse the rice in the boiling water,then strain.

    • great tip! i came on the comments specifically to ask for ways to reheat frozen rice sans microwave — my itty bitty studio kitchen has no space for one! any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

      • Di Adra Rose says:

        This is exactly how I reheat mine for camping. I freeze it so it is prepped and as an extra “cold pack” in the cooler. We throw the bag in a colander that is set in a bigger bowl. Pour the boiling water over it and cover with a plate. We just let it go til it’s warm. Then just lift the colander out and dish it right out of the baggy. :)

  20. Judy says:

    NEVER heat or cook in a plastic container UNLESS it specifies it is Microwave safe & even then I would use glass… You mention some plastic being BPA free, but no plastic is really safe to cook or heat to serving temperature in. Plastic gives off gases as it heats (even if you don’t smell it) and that absorbs into your food. Cancer anyone??? Funny how people are so concerned about the BPA thing, but will heat/cook something in plastic & sometimes even have a melty ring in the container, but they still do it & eat out of it every day. :-(

    Be safe: use glass…

  21. Mrs. Smith says:

    I have a food saver. Would you reheat rice by putting it in a container or boil the frozen rice, bag and all, in water?

    • I would probably just still put it into a container to reheat, although I don’t have a food saver and am not really familiar with the bags.

  22. Lauren says:

    Love this idea! Thanks! I’m thinking I need a bigger freezer…

    A note on reheating: you can reheat in a rice cooker. You usually add a bit of water and put it on the “warm” setting. Each rice cooker will have specific instructions on this in the booklet. Takes a bit more time than a microwave, but much less time than cooking it from beginning to end.

  23. My favorite way to make foolproof rice is just to bake it. I put equal parts liquid and rice (usually 2 cups of each) into an 8×8 baking dish, then cover it tightly with foil. Put it in a non-preheated oven at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes (about 50-55 min for brown rice). Don’t open the oven at all until the time is up. When it’s done, just fluff it with a fork. No scorching, and it cooks evenly though.

  24. Jennifer says:

    I reheat frozen rice in a small skillet on low. Add a little water and a lid and it comes out great with no effort.

  25. I loved my rice cooker, but after 18 years it finally gave out. I’m currently saving for a more expensive one with a stainless steel insert. In the meantime, there is no way I’m going to stand over a pan waiting for my rice to cook. So, I have been cooking it in the oven (glass baking dish covered with foil) and the crockpot. Just use 2 cups water to every cup rice (you may need a bit more water for the oven method) and cook until done. We also don’t have a microwave, so I reheat rice by adding a bit of water and reheating in the oven (covered pan), or stir frying it with a bit of oil.

  26. Beth Cooper says:

    I let mine thaw over night and then put it in a baking dish covered with a lid on 350 while I get the other stuff ready. The top might be a little dry but once I stir it, it’s okay!

  27. Shawn Marie Rivera says:

    When you cook rice (white or brown) do you cook it plain, freeze it, reheat, then season it, or do you season it while it’s cooking. We eat a lot of rice in our family and we like to mix it up with different flavor rice we like.

    • You can do it either way :) I like to freeze it plain so that I can use it in a number of different dishes with different flavors. It’s like a blank canvas!

  28. Melissa S. says:

    I freeze rice sometimes, I usually use the microwave to reheat, but I’ve also put it in a skillet depending on what else I’m making.

  29. Hana says:

    What about freezing creamed rice? I use this really healthy creamed rice recipe, so I cook a medium pot and eat it over the next few days. But, I’d find it less time consuming if I could cook a big batch and freeze it, but how well would that work?

    • Hmm. I’ve not sure because I’ve never made creamed rice before. :) Next time you make a pot, try freezing one portion and see how it works out.

  30. Ciara says:

    Re cooling rice quickly for freezing, when it’s cooked transfer it to a sieve ( do this over the sink if there’s still water in the pot). Rinse the rice under cold water – cools instantly and is fridge / freezer-ready much sooner.

  31. Shari says:

    I differ on how to cook rice on the stove. For as long as I can remember my mom has used a 10″ or 12″ straight sided skillet with a lid, and she uses what’s called the pilaf method. Heat a couple teaspoons oil in the pan, add the rice, and toss to coat for 1-2 minutes until it smells nutty. Then add the liquid and cook until done. I’ve never had a problem with it this way.

  32. Shari says:

    Another thing: The best way to cook brown rice is in the microwave. I use 1 cup rice and 2 1/3 cups liquid. Put in 2-quart glass or plastic bowl with whatever seasonings you like. Start on high power for 5 minutes. Decrease to 50% power and cook 20 minutes or until done, adding 5-minute increments as needed at 50% power.

  33. Elizabeth says:

    Gosh, I just googled “can rice be frozen?” and was linked to this site. What a wonderful array of helpful information!! I’ve read every word of every comment on this topic and just want to say thank you.

    • Cathy says:

      @Elizabeth – I just did the same thing! Lots of good info in the comments section. I like the idea of spreading the rice out on a baking tray, freezing, then putting into a bag or container. I do this with partially cooked potatoes and berries.
      I also make small burritos with leftover beans/rice/meat/cheese/whatever you have on hand. I warm the tortillas, roll up the burrito, cool them down and then put in a freezer bag or other container. Pull one out when needed, wrap in a paper towel, and microwave for a minute, flip, microwave 1 more minute.

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