Does Rice Go Bad?

Rice is a staple in many households these days. It’s easy to prepare, and uncooked lasts for quite some time. But does rice go bad?

Well, it depends on how you store it. And since cooking rice takes quite some time, many people decide to cook it in bulk and refrigerate or freeze it. That prompts another set of questions, such as how long does cooked rice last in the fridge, or when you should put it into the refrigerator after cooking.

In this article, we will go through storage methods, shelf life, and signs of spoilage for both uncooked and cooked white rice. Read on!

A cup of cooked and a cup of uncooked rice
Image used under Creative Commons from Rowan Peter

How to Store Rice

Storing uncooked white rice isn’t exactly rocket science. Put it into a cool and dry area, like the pantry, and you’re good to go. After opening the package, transfer the rice into an airtight container or freezer bag.

Tip

The most important thing about storing rice is that it stays dry and contaminant- and bug-free.

Storing rice in the fridge or even in the freezer is also an option. If you choose to go with the fridge, transfer the rice into an airtight container or resealable bag first. When it comes to the freezer, freezer bags are preferred. Make sure to remove as much air from the bag as possible before sealing. That will help prevent freezer burn.

Once you have cooked the rice, there are two options for storing it.

If you want to consume it within a few days, chuck it into the fridge and make sure it’s sealed tightly. Of course, leave it on the counter for at least 15-20 minutes to let it cool down a bit before doing so. You don’t want to put into the fridge food that’s piping hot. Freezing is the way to go for long-term storage.

Sesame rice in a black bowl
(credit: Mgg Vitchakorn)

Can You Freeze Rice?

As mentioned, you can freeze cooked rice and it freezes very well. Also, the process is very straightforward and doesn’t take much time. Here’s how to freeze cooked rice:

  1. Divide the rice into meal-sized portions.
  2. Let the rice cool down to about room temperature.
  3. Transfer the grains into freezer bags. Remove excess air from the bags and seal them. Add labels with names and dates if you like.
  4. Throw the freezer bags into the freezer.

Freezer bags are the best choice for freezing rice for the long term. If you plan on leaving the rice in the freezer for only a week or two, meal prep containers are a perfectly fine option too.

Cooked white rice
Cooked white rice

When it comes to defrosting and reheating frozen rice, there are a few options:

  • Microwave. First, defrost the frozen rice on low power and using small time increments. Once defrosted, increase the power. Add a tablespoon or two of water if the rice is dry.
  • Non-stick pan. Start with low heat to let it thaw, then turn it on higher to reheat.
  • Refrigerator. Thaw the rice overnight, cook it the next day.
White rice, mushrooms, and sauce
White rice, mushrooms, and sauce

How Long Does Rice Last

Uncooked white rice, unlike brown rice, has an indefinite shelf life if stored properly. Don’t believe me? Just check Uncle Ben’s FAQs.

Tip

As long as there aren’t any signs spoilage (listed below), your white rice should be perfectly safe to eat.

Cooked white rice lasts about 4 to 6 days in the fridge. Sometimes it can last a week or even day or two longer, but that’s just pushing your luck.

As a rule of thumb, if you plan to store cooked rice for longer than five days, throw it into the freezer. This way you will be sure that it’s safe to eat when you need it. While cooked rice can be stored in the freezer indefinitely, it’s suggested to eat it within 4 – 6 months for the best quality.

White rice
White rice

If you ever wondered how long does cooked rice lasts at room temperature, there isn’t a straightforward answer. As mentioned earlier, you should transfer cooked rice into the fridge after it cools down a bit.

If the food stays in danger zone temperature for a period longer than about two hours, the risk of foodborne illness increases significantly. That means eating rice that was 4 hours at room temperature might make you sick. The longer the rice is left out, the bigger the possibility of it making you sick.

Tip

If you left out a bowl of cooked rice for a day or two, get rid of it. If it was out for 3 hours, feel free to take your chances.

 PantryFridgeFreezer
White rice (uncooked)IndefinitelyIndefinitelyIndefinitely
White rice (cooked) 3 – 6 days6 months

Please note that storage dates for cooked rice are approximate.

Skillet of fried rice
(credit: Annie Spratt)

How to Tell if Rice has Gone Bad

When it comes to uncooked rice, you will know it’s bad when you see it. If there are any signs of mold, changes in color or there are some bugs in the package, throw it away. If the rice smells funny, that might mean it caught some smells from other foods, and it still might be safe to eat. But, just to be safe, throw it out anyway.

Eating rice that smells like some other food is hardly enjoyable. Plus, more often than not, if uncooked rice smells bad, there’s something wrong with it. If there are any signs that water got into the package, throw it out as well.

Pantry bug hole in a plastic package
Pantry bug hole in a plastic package

As for cooked rice, signs of spoilage are pretty clear. Funny (or off) smell is the first sign of cooked rice being spoiled. Slimy texture is another. Of course, if there are any discolorations or signs of mold on top of the rice, throw it away immediately.

Tip

If there’s anything wrong with the rice and you’re googling to learn if it is still okay to eat it, it most likely isn’t. Cut your losses and throw it away.