Cooking rice takes time. While cooking white rice takes about 25 minutes and 45 minutes for brown rice. Some days, there’s not enough time to wait for the rice to cook. We just want to put together a quick meal and relax in the evening. Because of that, we often choose quick and not so healthy meals instead of something nutritious that takes more time to prepare. Fortunately, freezing cooked grains is a thing and can be a real lifesaver. Enter freezing cooked rice.

Cooking big batches of rice takes exactly as much time as cooking a meal-size portion. You can take advantage of that fact and cook a bigger batch on a weekend and freeze the leftovers. This way you’ll have cooked rice on weeknights ready in a few minutes. If you’re interested in freezing cooked rice, read on.

Small bowl of rice

How to Freeze Cooked Rice

Let’s start by cooking the rice of your choice (white, brown, wild, basmati). Once that’s done, there are only 4 steps to freeze the cooked grain: cooling down, portioning, packaging, and throwing it into the freezer. Let’s look at each step in detail:

  1. Cooling down rice. Spread the rice thin onto a baking tray or a few plates so it cools down quickly. If the rice is sticking to the surface, run the tray under running water (so it’s slightly wet) beforehand. That should prevent sticking. After 10 to 30 minutes (depending on how thinly the rice was spread on the container) the rice should be quite cold. If it’s still a bit warm, you can transfer the tray or plates into the fridge for 10 to 20 minutes to make sure it’s cold.
    Cooling down brown rice
  2. Portioning. Portioning the cooked rice well is really helpful when defrosting it. Think about how you will use the rice in the future and portion it based on that. If you’re not sure how much rice you will need at a time, you can always divide the batch into 1- or 2- cup portions.
    Portioning brown rice to bags

    Freezing rice in freezer bags is the most popular method

    Portioning brown rice to food containers

    Freezing in food containers as a part of meal prep routine is another option

  3. Packaging. Each portion should go into its own freezer bag. Use your hands to spread the rice evenly in the bag so it forms a thin layer. Thin and even layers have two main advantages. First, the cooked grains are easier to reheat evenly even in a microwave. Second, if the serving portion is too small, you can defrost another layer easily. Once the freezer bags are prepared, label them with the name, amount and date for future reference.
    Spreading rice evenly
  4. Throw the rice into the freezer
Meal prep container with brown rice

Meal prep container with cooked brown rice and roasted veggies

How to Defrost Frozen Cooked Rice

Here are a few options when it comes to defrosting cooked rice:

  • Microwave. The fastest, albeit not the healthiest option is to microwave the rice. Microwave it in one-minute increments and make sure to leave a glass of water into the microwave when reheating. This helps keep the reheated rice moist.
  • Frying pan. You can get the frozen rice ready in just a few minutes by reheating it on the stove. Pour the rice onto the pan then warm the grains up over low heat. Add a tablespoon of water (or more if needed) and let the rice defrost and heat up. Once the clumps of rice start breaking down, give the grains a stir every now and then for even cooking. If you have frozen cooked rice with some sauce, there’s no need to add the water.
  • Add it directly to the meal you’re preparing. If it’s a meal that’s cooked in some way (soups, stir-fries), you can add the frozen rice directly to it. A stir-fry with frozen shredded chicken with bbq sauce is a good example. Make sure to add a few minutes of cooking time to account for defrosting and cooking the rice.

Thawing rice in the fridge is not recommended. Slow defrosting could make the cooked rice mushy.

How to Use Frozen Rice

The texture of frozen and defrosted rice is almost the same as the texture of freshly cooked rice. Because of that, you can use defrosted and reheated rice pretty much the same way as you would with freshly cooked rice. You can use the rice for soups, stir-fries, casseroles, rice bowls. You can also add some sauce and protein and enjoy the reheated rice.