Leftover Facts: How Long Can Cooked Rice Sit Out?

how long can cooked rice sit out

Rice is a staple ingredient in many dishes, mostly due to its versatility, as it goes great with all types of meats and veggies. Most importantly, it makes a great leftover dish that retains its taste and consistency for a long time. However, you need to store it correctly if you want to enjoy its full potential.

So, how long can cooked rice sit out? And what are the best ways to store it to preserve its taste and keep it from spoiling? Read on to find out!

How Long Can Cooked Rice Sit Out of the Refrigerator?


Generally speaking, you can leave cooked rice out of the fridge for about two hours at room temperature. After that, the chances of bacteria forming and multiplying in the rice increase exponentially.

Rice can often contain spores of Bacillus cereus, one of the most common foodborne pathogens. The tricky thing about this microorganism is that it can survive boiling temperatures and remain in the rice even after cooking.

So, if you leave the rice to cool slowly outside the fridge, these spores can multiply rapidly. Though they are not dangerous in small amounts, the bacteria can cause food poisoning if there’s a lot of it. Thus, it is best not to leave rice out for longer than two hours.

Aside from the formation of bacteria, leaving rice to sit unrefrigerated puts it at risk of drying or absorbing other aromas. So, the rice may become poisonous, dry, and have a different taste if you leave it out for longer than a few hours.

Can You Eat Cooked Rice If You Leave It Out All Night?

Cooked Rice

You should never eat cooked rice after leaving it out of your fridge for an entire night. After such a long time, bacteria and other microorganisms will grow at an alarming rate, making the food dangerous for consumption.

However, matters are different if you refrigerate the rice. Storing it in an air-tight container and leaving it in the fridge makes it safe for consumption even after a whole night.

How Long Can Cooked Rice Last in Your Fridge?


If you put cooked rice in the fridge inside an air-tight container, it can last for as long as seven days. The low temperature of the refrigerator will prevent bacterial growth. In addition, it will keep the rice moist and prevent it from absorbing any other aromas floating in the air. Thus, when you take out the rice, it will still have a good consistency and be tasty

It is of utmost importance to let the rice cool fully before putting it in the fridge. That way, you will ensure it doesn’t get soggy and stays fresh longer.

If you’re thinking about freezing your rice, you should know that it can last for up to 3 months if stored correctly. However, cooks don’t recommend freezing rice, as the temperature can decrease its overall consistency and quality. Still, if you have to freeze it, make sure you use zip-lock bags.

Storing and Heating Cooked Rice: 4 Tips


1. Speed Up the Cooling Process

Since rice takes quite a bit to cool naturally, you can help speed up the process so that it doesn’t have to stay out for long. All you need to do is spread it over a tray or baking sheet in a thin layer. That should make the cooling process at least three times faster.

2. Containers Are Important

If you want your rice to be both delicious and safe for consumption for days, you need to store it in an air-tight container or box. Never leave it on a plate or bowl without a lid, as that will lead to condensation and allow microbes to breed uncontrollably.

As far as freezing goes, you can also use air-tight containers. But if those are too big to fit in your freezer, you can use zip-lock bags. They will keep the rice safe and prevent any bacteria from growing.

3. Reheating

Once you take the rice out of the fridge or freezer, you should never put it back in again. In other words, cooked rice can only be reheated once. Otherwise, you risk getting food poisoning. Plus, the rice will not taste good at all, as the sudden temperature changes will make it soggy.

You can use any method to reheat your cooked rice, including your stove, microwave, and oven. To make your dish taste and look better, you can add some oil, a bit of butter, as well as any seasoning you like. Alternatively, you can just add a bit of water to help heat it up without changing the taste.

No matter which heating method you use, you should always heat the rice until it is piping hot. That way, it will taste better, and you will kill most microorganisms that may be present in the leftovers.

4. Trust Your Instincts

It goes without saying that you should not eat your leftover rice if it is discolored or has a foul smell. Sometimes, leftovers can go bad even if you store them exactly right, and that is not your fault.

So, always sniff and take a small bite first. If all is well, you can eat it normally. But if there’s even a little bit of strange aroma or smell present, throw it away to avoid food poisoning.

Gretchen Walker
Gretchen is a homemaker by day and writer by night. She takes a keen interest in life as it unfolds around her and spends her free time observing people go about their everyday affairs.