Rice is one of those incredibly versatile pantry essentials that you can make in bulk and then freeze for later use in a quick meal during the week. It keeps well in the fridge and freezer, and there are an endless number of ways that it can be used once thawed—from rice bowls and salads to stir-fry dishes.
Here are eight of the tastiest reasons to keep cooked rice in your fridge at all times.
Rice bowls are a great go-to for a quick, healthy meal in the middle of a busy day. With avocado and a fried egg on top, the dish becomes a delicious, protein-filled energy booster. We like to simply heat our rice in a savory sauté of olive oil or coconut oil, mushrooms, asparagus, green onion, garlic, sea salt, and black pepper.
Along with rice, something else we tend to keep in the freezer is leftover bolognese or marinara sauce. After a long day, a lazy leftover meal sounds heavenly. So we thaw the sauce in a pan and add our cooked rice to it. We top our impromptu Italian feast with a little freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Like linguini bolognese or spaghetti marinara... only with rice!
Frozen vegetables are a great thing to always have on hand. We find that even when we think there is nothing to eat in the pantry, we can still throw together a stir-fry with frozen veggies and whatever we have left over in the fridge. We often start with shrimp or chicken (leftover or not) and add some chopped onions and garlic.
Stir-fries also make a great leftover lunch. So if you make extra with that in mind, you're already one step ahead when you start your day.
Casseroles often get a bad reputation as being boring and bland. However, there's something so warm and comforting about coming home after a long day, throwing some rice in a pan, topping it with whatever veggies you have on hand, and adding a bit of cheese and some chicken.
Casseroles with a rice base have similar ingredients to a stir-fry and require about the same amount of minimal attention, yet they yield something wonderfully different. Check out Cooking Light's take on a nutritious and rich casserole that makes great use of leftover rice.
In Rome and Central Italy, there is a popular snack called supplì (rice croquettes) that is served at many bars. Basically, the rice (when cool and sticky) is rolled into an oblong ball and coated with flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs. It's then fried in olive oil and served hot.
If you're looking for a recipe for this lip-smacking appetizer, head on over to Due Spaghetti for a really tasty version. This popular variation consists of prosciutto and mozzarella being stuffed inside the croquettes and is called supplì al telefono. It gets its name from the threads of cheese that stretch like telephone wires after you take a bite. Mangia!
Rice is a great fiber-filled addition to a hearty salad. We like to toss our rice in a vinaigrette or yogurt sauce (Greek yogurt with lemon juice) with fresh herbs (parsley or basil) and chopped cucumber, olives, tomatoes, onion, and a crumbled soft cheese like feta or blue. Sometimes we'll even throw in shredded chicken or leftover barbecued fish.
For another option, Kim of Kim's Cravings serves up a hearty and nutritious veggie-based rice dish that is a clone of Starbucks' popular offering.
We love to fill our kitchen with the aromas of herbs and spices. The saffron, rosemary, and sweet paprika in this Spanish paella permeate both the air and the rice in a sublime way.
Paella is traditionally made with a short-grain white rice, such as bomba, but we find that we can bring out the wonderful flavors of this dish using any type of rice we have on hand. For a simple paella, check out Mahatma Rice's creation.
Bring some Cajun spice to your leftovers with a simple jambalaya. Start your dish by sautéing celery, peppers, and onions. From there, you can make it as traditional or creative as you'd like. The traditional dish usually has smoked sausage with other meats and seafood added in.
The final touch is to add rice, along with seasonings and broth. Since your rice is already cooked, you can cut the time this dish usually takes in half! Just serve your jambalaya shortly after the broth reduces—or slowly simmer it on low to allow the flavors to meld.
Check out Bon Appétit's version of ham and sausage jambalaya that could easily be adapted to use leftover rice.
Rice is a versatile and inexpensive item that can be made once and used in a multitude of creative ways throughout the week. If you've got leftover, precooked rice, dinner or lunch is that much closer to being ready.
Have any favorite dishes you like to make with your cooked rice? Let us know in the comments below!