How to Reheat Leftover Rice

Just a little water and heat can help you bring your rice back to life

bowl of rice in microwave Photo: Perry Santanachote/Consumer Reports

I once saw a dinner host throw all the leftover rice away and nearly lost my dang mind. It was ingrained in me at a young age that wasting rice—any food for that matter, but especially rice—was sacrilege.​​ 

My gracious host explained to me that leftover rice doesn’t reheat well so there’s no point in keeping it. I responded with an IRL 🤦🏻‍♀️ and jumped right into a lesson on how to reheat leftover rice in the microwave so that it’s just as good as it was fresh. I was never invited back (apparently, imparting unsolicited wisdom is rude?) but I hope you all take these tips to heart and never waste another grain of rice again.

Read on for how to store rice and how to reheat it using a microwave or stovetop.

Storing Cooked Rice

Cooled cooked rice should be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to five days or frozen for up to six months.

More on Rice

A quick science break on what happens when rice goes cold:
The word of the day is “retrogradation,” and it takes place when cooked rice is refrigerated. The rice’s starch cells collapse, squeezing out moisture and causing a realignment of starch molecules that results in the texture changing from soft and tender to hard and chewy. There’s no way to prevent retrogradation, but it can be easily reversed by reheating the rice.

Rice Reheating Methods

To make the rice fluffy and soft again, you need to add moisture in the form of steam, which is water + heat. Sprinkle each cup of cold rice with 1 to 2 teaspoons of water (less for stickier types of rice and more for drier types of rice) and follow the instructions below for your heat source of choice.

Reheating Rice in the Microwave

Place the rice in a rice microwave-safe dish, breaking up any large clumps, sprinkle with water, and microwave on high heat for 1 to 3 minutes (depending on the amount of rice). Double the time for frozen rice. Alternatively, skip the sprinkle of water and cover your bowl of rice with a wet paper towel instead.

You may have seen a viral TikTok video that featured an ice cube tucked into a mound of rice before it’s reheated in the microwave. I gave it a go and do not recommend this method. Frozen water needs to melt before it can reach its gaseous state, a slow and unnecessary extra step. By the time the rice was heated through, the ice was just a quarter of the way melted (because microwaves heat food from the outside in). The melted water pooled at the bottom of the plate, not yet hot enough to turn to steam, which resulted in wet rice.

Reheating Rice on the Stovetop

Place the rice in a shallow saucepan, breaking up any large clumps, sprinkle with water, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and heat on low until the rice is warmed through, about 5 minutes.

Headshot of Perry Santanachote, editor with the Home editorial team at Consumer Reports

Perry Santanachote

I cover the intersection of people, products, and sustainability, and try to provide humorous but useful advice for everyday living. I love to dive deep into how things work, and debunking myths might be my favorite pastime. But what I aim to be above all else is a guiding voice while you're shopping, telling you what's a value, what's a ripoff, and what's just right for you and your family.