The “intentional leftover” is key to my whole cooking world. I never make just enough chicken for a meal, or just enough steak, or just enough quinoa, or just enough rice. Leftover rice is an amazing springboard for the next meal. It can bulk up a soup, become the base of a salad, or give you a little inspiration to use up other odds and ends in the fridge (fried rice, yes, please!). Extra rice has so many potential uses all week long, and with these recipes, you’ll never wonder what to do with leftover rice!
Most of these recipes can work with white rice, brown rice, basmati, jasmine, and even wild rice (which is actually a grass, but let’s not split grains here).
There are a lot of varieties of rice on the market, and most well-stocked supermarkets carry quite a range of choices and brands. Pick a type that you like best. And the next time, you can choose a different rice option so that your leftover rice dishes keep feeling fresh and new.
Cooling and Storing 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 and 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 it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Rice can also be frozen in an airtight container or freezer-proof zipper-top bag for up to 4 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight. For some recipes, like stir-fried rice or soups, you can use the rice straight from the freezer.
A very flexible recipe meant to get you poking around in your fridge and pantry, and a perfect way to use up leftover chicken and rice. I used celery, zucchini, and red onions, plus some parsley and lemon zest.
Cooked brown rice turns into a versatile grain side with just the addition of minced onion, parsley, and basil, plus some olive oil (and, yes, salt and pepper). Takes 5 minutes to pull together and goes with so many different meals.
This healthy vegetable-packed stir-fried rice recipe is highly adaptable, allowing you to use whatever rice or vegetables are at hand. Leave out the eggs if you want a vegan dish, and use tamari to make it gluten-free.
A slightly sweet, slightly tangy honey lemon dressing finishes this flexible rice salad. Feel free to change up the vegetables (and herbs) according to what is in season, and whatever you have on hand. Just keep thinking about color and texture, and whatever you add will be fine.
Fragrant and comforting, warm and healing, this is the soup to make on a cold night or when someone needs a pick-me-up. If you add precooked rice to the soup, reduce the amount of broth to about 6 cups. You can use white rice, arborio, or another short grain rice, jasmine, Texmati, or any other aromatic rice of your choosing. Wild rice would also be lovely.In this version, I used asparagus and peas, which get added toward the end as they cook quickly. Little pieces of broccoli, sugar snap peas, or sliced string beans would also be good choices.
The sweet-tart chewy cranberries are a great foil for the slightly smoky, nutty flavor of wild rice. The addition of scallion, orange, and balsamic vinegar make it feel very sophisticated, but it really couldn’t be easier to make. A perfect fall or holiday side dish.
This bisque-like soup is pretty and lush, and gives carrots their due respect. It's also amazingly inexpensive to make. If you want to use leftover rice instead of cooking the rice in the soup, just reduce the amount of liquid by ½cup or so and add in Just add in ½ cup cooked rice instead of the ¼ cup uncooked. Skip the bacon if you want this to be a vegetarian soup.
Stir-fried rice is the best thing that can happen to leftover rice, and this version includes little nuggets of crisp-tender pink shrimp mixed with colorful vegetables. And the rice can be added to the pan straight from the fridge! Vary up the vegetables according to what you have on hand — a great way to use up leftover vegetables as well!
One of my favorite ways to give a frittata more substance and heft is to add ½ cup cooked rice to the beaten eggs. This one, with ribbons of fresh chard, is pretty and makes a terrific brunch or lunch.
So many gorgeous colors and textures in every forkful! Sweet potatoes, red onions, scallions, bell pepper (though, as always, substitutions are permitted, even encouraged!). And, the vinaigrette brightens up all of the earthiness of this salad. Perfect for the holidays, but frankly also a delicious fall vegetarian/vegan dinner all on its own.
Another great twist on fried rice featuring Korean flavors. You can use brown or white rice in this recipe, and — as with all fried rice recipes! — swap in different vegetables, and adjust the seasonings to your liking. Top with a fried egg, and you have a full meal.
This pantry-friendly soup includes ingredients you might well have in your kitchen at this very moment: canned tomatoes, broth, carrots, onion, celery, and garlic. Use any kind of leftover cooked rice instead of the orzo in this comforting soup.
This creamy Greek lemon soup is chunky with chicken, and you can definitely swap in rice for the orzo (which is a commonly made version in Greece as well). Just use the same amount (2 ½ cups) of cooked white rice in place of the orzo pasta. Adjust the amount of lemon juice and herbs to your taste.
Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.