10 yummy ways to use leftover rice

cooked rice
CC BY 2.0 Charles Haynes

One can never have too much rice!

I’ll never forget the surprise on my aunt’s face when she asked 11-year-old me what food I would take with me to a desert island. I said “white rice.” It wasn’t the answer she was expecting, but I meant it, and would say the same thing today. I can’t get enough of rice, especially basmati. I could eat it by the bowlful, every single day, with my slightly odd yet favorite combination of butter and tamari drizzled lightly over top.

I make rice at least three times a week to accompany vegetarian curries, Brazilian feijão, grilled vegetables, and tofu stir-fries. It’s the perfect family food – cheap, filling, and nutritious – and my kids gobble it up. I make a big batch every time (2 cups of rice) because leftover rice always gets used. It’s one of those convenient ingredients that can create a last-minute meal when there’s little else in the fridge.

All this is to say, do not fear leftover rice! Here are some ideas for putting it to delicious use.

Make a rice bowl: A quick savory meal is a bowl of reheated rice (I stick it in the microwave) topped with an oily fried egg (pour in all the oil!), a scoop of kimchi, some thinly sliced scallions, and a dash of soy sauce. Other tasty toppings include smoked herring or sardines, tahini sauce, steamed vegetables, and fried tofu.

Turn it into pudding: Put equal parts cooked rice and milk in a pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes until it has a pudding-like consistency. Add some sugar or honey, a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, or a spoonful of cocoa powder.

Add to burritos: Rice has a marvelous ability to bulk up many a main course. It’s particularly great in bean or beef burrito filling. No need to preheat; just stir it into whatever hot filling you’ve prepared.

Fry it: A dish that my uncle, born in Vietnam, always made on Sundays after church – fried rice with golden threads. My version (and I do not know how authentic it is) involves sautéing onions and garlic in a generous amount of oil till golden, then adding cold rice. Fry and stir constantly, then add fish sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil to taste. Top with thin strips of fried egg, peanuts, chopped scallions, and tomato wedges.

Toss it in a soup: Rice gives substance to soup and blends into whatever flavors you’re putting in the pot, be it Japanese miso soup, Indian mulligatawny soup, Mexican tortilla soup, Greek egg-lemon soup, or plain old American vegetable soup.

Turn it into pie crust: Add some cheese and egg whites, and you’ve got yourself a yummy gluten-free pie crust for a quiche. Who knew? Check out this recipe from PureWow.

Make rice buns: This stellar tip comes via The Kitchn. By squishing cooked white rice into a thin patty, brushing with soy sauce, and searing on a hot oiled pan, you can make a bun that will sandwich anything.

Make arancini: Arancini are an Italian classic, known in English as risotto balls. Leftover risotto is never as good as fresh, but it makes decadent deep-fried balls of tastiness. Here’s a recipe for spinach and cheese-filled arancini. Make it a full meal by adding a spicy tomato sauce.

Waffle it: I must admit, I have not yet tried ‘waffling’ my leftover rice – perhaps because it barely lasts long enough – but I am definitely going to do this. Use a waffle maker to get a super crispy exterior and soft, chewy center. Using cold, slightly dried-out rice will give the best results. My mouth is drooling at the thought of this recipe – kimchi fried rice waffles.

Freeze it: Last but not least, if you have too much rice and don’t know what to do with it, stick it in the freezer. It’s best to portion it out ahead of time, but it’s quick to thaw and can be dumped, still frozen, into a cooking pot.

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