I don’t know about you, but rice is a staple side dish in my house. Not only does it taste great with almost everything, but thanks to my Instant Pot, it’s easy to prepare a large amount of rice in mere minutes! It doesn’t matter how hard I try to make the right amount, though, because we always end up with leftover rice after everyone leaves the dinner table. So how do you reheat rice?
Luckily, there are many great ways to reheat or reuse all of that leftover rice the next day!
Rules About Reheating Rice
Some people believe you shouldn’t reheat certain foods like rice. While you can definitely eat leftover rice, you need to follow certain guidelines.
Many leftover foods can grow bacteria, especially if they sit out for a while before going into the fridge or if they aren’t stored in tightly sealed containers. While most of these bacterias vanish with heat, rice can grow a specific bacteria called Bacillus cereus that isn’t always killed during the cooking process.
I’m not an expert, but I’ve read that, to avoid bacteria growth, you should make sure to refrigerate or freeze your leftover rice within an hour of cooking it and store it in an air-tight container. Also, let out as much steam as possible before sealing the lid and don’t wait more than four days to reheat your leftover rice if you refrigerate it (or within two months of freezing it).
About Our Reheating Test
Obviously there are tons of sites that provide information on how to reheat certain foods. However, I actually compared directions from several of these sites and ran several tests to make sure we provided the best suggestions on reheating rice using each of these methods. For each test, I was working with 1 cup of leftover rice from my local Chinese restaurant that sat in my fridge for 2 days before reuse. I used everyday items from my kitchen to reheat. While I feel confident in my recommendations, keep in mind that not all ovens and microwaves heat the same way, so results may vary.
Stove Top Reheating
Best For: Small Amounts of Rice
Total Time Required: 15 minutes
If you’ve ever tried reheating rice, then you’ve probably noticed how hard it is to heat the rice without completely drying it out. However, when you cover a pan and cook the rice over low to medium heat, you end up with warm, sticky rice that tastes almost as good as it did the first time you ate it.
How To Reheat Rice on the Stove
- Place the amount of rice you’d like to reheat into a pot. Make sure the pot is large enough to fit all of the rice and leave room for stirring.
- Break up any large chunks of rice. (This will allow for even reheating.)
- Add 2 tablespoons of water per 1 cup of rice.
- Place the pot on the stovetop and set burner to medium heat, then cover the pot.
- Cook over medium heat for approximately 15 minutes or until your rice is hot. For best results, stir every 3-5 minutes and remove from heat once the rice is cooked all the way through.
- Spoon rice into a bowl or onto a plate and eat up!
What Not To Do
- Don’t skip adding the water! In fact, if you notice at any point during the cooking process that your rice seems dry, don’t hesitate to add another splash of water.
- Don’t leave the pot uncovered as this allows moisture to escape.
- Don’t turn the burner on high to “save time.” You may end up burning the rice if you aren’t careful, so just stick to medium heat and wait patiently.
Overall, I thought this method did the best job reheating the rice evenly while also maintaining moisture. I loved how the rice still felt “sticky” and didn’t taste dried out or stale. My only caveat with this method is the limitations based on your cookware. If you want to reheat rice for the whole family, this method will not only take longer, but may prove impossible if you don’t have a large pot.
Best For: Large Amounts of Rice
Total Time Required: 20-30 minutes
Although I really enjoyed the results of the stovetop method, several cooking sites suggested reheating your rice in the oven. This method was definitely news to me, so I obviously had to try it.
How To Reheat Rice in the Oven
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and grab an oven-safe baking dish. Treat the bottom of the dish with a light amount of cooking spray or butter (to prevent rice from sticking).
- Place your rice into the oven-safe baking dish and spread evenly through the dish, breaking apart any clumps of rice as you do so.
- Add 2 tablespoons of water to the baking dish for every 1 cup of rice you added, then cover the dish with aluminum foil
- Once oven is preheated, place the dish on the middle rack and heat for approximately 20 minutes.
- Once the timer goes off, pull out the dish using an oven mitt. Check the rice and, if not heated throughout, place back into the oven for 5 minute intervals until heated.
- Spoon the rice onto your plate and enjoy!
What Not To Do
- Don’t forget to coat the dish before adding the rice. Trust me, the rice will stick if you don’t, and it’s a mess to clean up the dish after.
- Don’t skip the aluminum foil because it helps trap the moisture, which you want when reheating rice.
Honestly, this rice didn’t taste much different than the stovetop version. I didn’t like all the dishes and waiting around for it, though. Personally, I don’t think this is the best option for reheating single servings of rice, but I can definitely see the benefits of oven reheating if you’re warming up several cups of rice for the family.
Let’s be real: Sometimes you don’t have the time or available equipment to reheat your rice on the stovetop or in the oven. In those cases, you can turn to America’s favorite household appliance — the microwave. While this method may not give you moist, sticky rice that tastes just like it did last night, you will get rice that passes the test for acceptable eats in just a couple of minutes.
How To Reheat Rice in the Microwave
- Place the rice into a shallow bowl or on a microwave-safe plate.
- Drizzle 2 tablespoons of water over the food for every 1 cup of rice you’re reheating.
- Place the rice into the microwave and cover with a damp paper towel.
- Heat rice on high heat for approximately 1 minute for each 1 cup of rice in the bowl, stirring at least once during the heating process.
- Carefully remove the bowl or plate from the microwave and enjoy!
What Not To Do
- Don’t skip the damp paper towel! The damp paper towel creates steam, which helps the rice stay moist.
- Don’t heat for multiple minutes without stirring. Doing so will give you rice that isn’t evenly heated.
Although this rice definitely turned out slightly dry, it wasn’t terrible. Also, this method took just over a minute for the amount of rice I heated, which is great if you’re reheating on a quick lunch break.
Alternative Ways To Reuse Leftover Rice
Sometimes leftovers never taste the same, and that’s okay. If you’re like me and hate to waste food, though, you may want to try one of these alternative suggestions to repurpose your leftover rice.
Create a Stir Fry
This is a great way to reheat rice if you don’t mind adding additional ingredients like eggs, meat and veggies. To make stir fry rice, carefully heat a tablespoon of oil in a large wok or skillet over high heat. Then, add the rice and move it around the pan so you break apart chunks and the oil coats each grain. Cook the rice until it’s heated throughout, (approximately 3-5 minutes), then add in your other ingredients, stir until everything is heated and mixed together, and enjoy!
Make a Soup
If you want to go a completely different route with your rice, you can throw it into a soup to add some starch. For example, you can make a recipe like this Chicken & Rice Soup or even this Tex-Mex Black Bean Soup. Regardless of what kind of soup you choose, leftover rice fits in well and helps you save time.
Our Final Thoughts on Reheating Rice
While nothing beats fresh steamed rice, some of these methods come pretty close! Whether you’re reheating rice for the whole family or just warming up some leftover Chinese takeout, you can avoid dried out, flavorless rice if you simply follow the steps in these three great reheating methods. And, if all else fails, leftover rice will taste great in your next soup, so don’t throw it out!