27 Smart Recipes to Give New Life to Leftover Rice

From new twists on fried rice to speedy rice pudding (and everything in between).

September 10, 2019

Leftover rice is a burden. A small one, I'll grant you, but one that weighs on me nonetheless. As someone who regularly measures out rice in whatever vessel is closest to my arm (juice glass, coffee cup, ramekin, etc.), and then simply adds in double the amount of water, I rarely make the exact amount that I'll need for a given recipe. As a result, I am often left with excess rice, which I shuttle into a tupperware, stick in the fridge, and promptly forget about until it is a hard, dry lump that I toss in shame.

This nags at me. Well-cooked rice is a beautiful, versatile gift; one that has just as much potential on day two (or three) as it does freshly cooked from the pot. Thankfully, these 27 leftover rice recipes are here to give new life to your supply, whether it's with a cardamom-infused rice pudding, a spicy burrito, or a pseudo-quiche. And let's not forget fried rice of all stripes (psst—you don't even need a recipe!).

There's a whole leftover rice world out there, and baby, it's way bigger than just dousing those grains in soy sauce and calling it a day. In fact, these recipes just might give you reason to make extra rice on purpose in the future.

Note: Some of these recipes have to be tweaked a bit to accommodate already-cooked rice; skip the rice-cooking step and reduce the liquid to make them leftover-friendly.

Our Best Leftover Rice Recipes

1. Kimchi Fried Rice With Nori

The ingredient list for the most flavorful kimchi fried rice is surprisingly short. The main ingredient here? Day-old leftover rice, of course.

2. Chile-Roasted Chicken & Sweet Potatoes With Cilantro Rice

Cilantro rice is an aromatic bed for roast chicken—together, a great meal for a crowd.

3. Tomato-Kale Quiche in Cheesy Rice Crust

A creative use for leftover rice, the cheesy crust in this quiche is easily the best part of the dish.

4-8. Five Fried Rice Ideas You'll Love

Whether you're adding ginger, vegetables, or kimchi to your leftover rice, fried rice is always a reliable dinner option.

9. How to Make Fried Rice Without a Recipe

Or hey, maybe you're a rebel—clean out your pantry and make fried rice without a recipe.

10. Wild Rice Veggie Sliders with Herbed Ricotta

"I used Minnesota wild rice in this recipe as an ode to the wonderfully chilly state," writes recipe author Shelly, "but also because of wild rice’s nutty flavor and nutritional benefits (it has even more fiber than brown rice). For the binding agent, I forgo an egg for a sweet and savory paste made from dates and tahini, which complements the rice perfectly."

11. Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt

"During my time living in Israel, my favorite place for upscale-ish dining was an unassuming neighborhood joint that put modern spins on traditional dishes," says recipe author Rivka. "Their take on mujaddara was actually pretty traditional—jasmine rice, lentils, loads of caramelized onions—but they topped it all with a cumin-spiked spiced yogurt that was out of this world. I've tried to replicate it here. I've also substituted puy lentils for the traditional green lentils, as they hold their shape better. One last note: I've found that mujaddara improves with age, as the flavors blend together."

12. Sephardic Megedarra with Garlicky Brown Rice Pilaf

"Megedarra is a Middle Eastern staple of savory rice and lentils," creamtea writes. "My version is based on a recipe by Gilda Angel from her book, Sephardic Holiday Cooking, and my standard garlicky brown rice pilaf is based on a Brazilian way of preparing rice I learned from my babysitter years ago. Instead of brown lentils, I use French green or black beluga lentils since I like their flavor and firmness. A tangle of sauteed onions and shallots, a dollop of yogurt, and some minced scallions garnish the dish. It can be cooked as a meatless main dish, or served as a side."

Note: For this recipe, skip the rice step and swap out with leftover brown rice.

13. Crispy Brown Rice "Kabbouleh"

With all the wonder of a great paella, tahdig, or bibimbap, this "kabbouleh" has those crispy bits that make leftover rice especially delicious.

14. Onigiri

Onigiri are a great way to use up leftover rice—perfect for kids' and adults' lunchboxes alike.

15. Fully Loaded Burrito

Add heft to a burrito filling with—you guessed it—leftover rice.

16. Forbidden Rice Salad

Another lunch option and use for that leftover rice sitting in the back of your fridge.

17-20. Rice Pudding, 4 Ways

Did someone say rice pudding? The sweetest, creamiest, and arguably most comforting way to use up leftover rice is by making this time-classic dessert.

21. Or You Can Go Your Own Way

We know you've got the leftover rice. All you need next is something creamy, a little stirring, and whatever add-ons you'd like.

"Go crazy; anything from dried fruits, citrus rind, spices (cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger), chocolate pieces, coconut flakes, chopped nuts, and/or a big spoonful or two of Nutella will taste great," says Hillary Reeves. "Fresh fruits can work too: a mashed banana or fresh berries taste great as long as it’s eaten sooner rather than later. For a firmer fruit, like apples, perhaps soften chopped fruit over medium heat with some butter and brown sugar. Play with what you can dig out of your pantry and fridge. I’ve made a tasty matcha rice pudding and other times have steeped some spare herbal tea bags in the milk as I cook mine."

22. Chipotle Tomato Egg Skillet

Leftover rice finds its way into this hearty, flavorsome one-pan meal.

23-26. Rice Soup for Days

Whether it's the "risotto-ish cure" of Marcella Hazan's Rice & Smothered Cabbage Soup or the spritzy situation of Easy, Lemony Chicken & Rice Soup With Dill, there's comfort to be had when rice and soup are involved.

27. Boosted Jook

"Jook, a Chinese rice soup also known as congee, is one of the first foods I turn to when I feel my immune system could use a little boost," says recipe author vvvanessa. "Simmered with fresh ginger, which adds flavor and curative properties, this jook can take on a range of textures, from very broth-y to quite thick; you can control the amount of water you add to get the consistency you like ... I like mine on the thicker side, like oatmeal, but kind of soupy."

What's your favorite way to use up leftover rice? Or you of the "drown it in soy sauce and microwave" preference? Tell us below!
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Candice October 22, 2017
All great ideas for reducing food waste in the kitchen! Thank-you!
Annada R. October 18, 2017
A very popular breakfast item made from leftover white rice in western India is "fodnicha bhaat". It's nothing but leftover rice treated with tempered oil with minimal spices like red chile powder, lime juice and salt. You can saute some raw peanuts in the oil for some pizzazz. This rice is so delicious that sometimes rice is made extra the previous night.
Catherine L. October 18, 2017
I will DEFINITELY be trying that. Love the idea of frying raw peanuts in the oil with the rice for texture.
HalfPint October 18, 2017
Leftover rice freezes and thaws very well. I freeze single serving sizes and then nuke it for ~2 mins. Hot comforting rice in no time at all.

Another use for leftover rice: rice buns. There's a Korean/Japanese fusion restaurant called Koja Kitchen in my area that makes these burgers. They mold rice into patties (using something similar to a burger patty mold), fry each side until crispy and slightly golden, then fill it with beef bulgogi, coconut-braised pork, or teriyaki chicken. It's tasty and filling meal.
HalfPint October 18, 2017
Here's what it looks like:
Catherine L. October 18, 2017
Yum! So sort of like the ramen burger but with rice? I'm in.

Also, great tip about freezing rice! I never thought to do that (does the texture suffer?) but I will try it ASAP.
HalfPint October 18, 2017
Freezing rice: no detriment to texture as far as I can tell. I do tend to consume the frozen rice within a month.
Anne13 September 11, 2019
If you freeze it on a cookie sheet the grains don't get packed down and it's a lot easier to break off the amount you need later. If I'm really thinking ahead I put it in a freezer bag first and then freeze on a cookie sheet so I get a nice flat package that stacks well in the freezer.