Use It Up–Cooked Rice
Use It Up posts are intended not as recipes, but as suggestions and idea generators for specific leftovers. Follow the Use It Up tag in the sidebar for more.
Rice is a frequent leftover in our house. We’ve cut back the amount we cook, but even then, we end up with extra. An online search will turn up ideas for leftover rice–some more labour-intensive than others–but here are a few basics that I use regularly.
But first, one important note–handle cooked rice with care. This is something I learned in a safe food handling course that surprised me. Cooked rice can contain spores of a dangerous bacterium which can multiply quickly if the rice is left at room temperature for too long. You need to cool cooked rice within one hour–but sooner is better–in shallow dishes in the fridge to ensure the cooling happens quickly and evenly. Read more here.
This is a very quick and simple way to use up cooked rice and leftover cooked vegetables, like green beans or broccoli.
- Chop the cooked vegetables, if you have any. Chop any other uncooked vegetables you might want to add to this dish, like a bit of sweet pepper or a few mushrooms.
- Heat a bit of sesame oil over medium heat in a frying pan large enough to accommodate all the rice and vegetables. Add the uncooked vegetables and stir-fry for a minute or two until they start to get tender. Add the cooked vegetables next. Stir to combine everything, then add the rice and a couple of dashes of soy sauce. Turn up the heat and stir-fry until well combined and the rice is starting to turn a little golden. (Make sure the dish is hot, i.e. 165F.)
- Serve as-is or garnished with sliced green onion or toasted sesame seeds.
Cooked rice keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days if it is stored properly. It makes a good base for lunch or, if there is enough, another side dish at supper. Reheat thoroughly in the microwave with a bit of water and a lid to create some steam. Toss with a bit of soy sauce for flavour, or leave it plain.
I’ve also used cooked rice unheated, tossed with avocado pieces and a little soy sauce. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it has a bit of a sushi vibe that I like. Add some pickled ginger for an even more sushi-like experience.
Like most starches, cooked rice can be used in salads with a dressing and vegetables. You can search online for rice salad recipes, or just improvise with whatever bottled dressings you have in your fridge. Toss a little dressing with the rice and some chopped vegetables–peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, and onion. You can also add other leftovers like canned beans, cooked corn, or fresh herbs, depending on how they mix with your dressing.
Cooked rice freezes very well. Cool it thoroughly in the fridge and then put it in freezer bags until you need it again. You can thaw it in the microwave but that can create hot spots and cause uneven thawing. I prefer to take it out the night before and let it thaw in the fridge.