Can You Freeze Cooked Rice?

For busy folks, finding time in the day to eat lunch can be a challenge. Not to mention the time it takes to prep the meals or think up options that you'll actually want to eat throughout the week. Even the most delicious and nutritious smoothie will get old, no matter how genius or time saving it is, and you can only eat so many sad frozen burritos before opting for carryout.

Far too often, meal prep means eating the same thing over and over again. But if you prep the base of your dish instead of the whole meal, you open yourself up to a much wider variety of dishes that are easily at your disposal. Enter frozen cooked rice. While a batch of cooked rice won't last you a week in the fridge, portioned into single servings and frozen, your rice can safely and deliciously become part of a last-minute meal for up to six months. With a little effort, whatever proteins and sauces you have on hand — plus the two frozen veggies that are protein powerhouses — can become a nourishing and satisfying lunch in just a few minutes. Meal-prepping frozen rice will never leave you bored, so it's much less likely to end up in the trash.

How to freeze cooked rice for easy meal prep

There are a few different ways to go about freezing cooked rice for meal prep, and the method that's best for you will depend on your space, schedule, and individual priorities. First, simply prepare rice according to package directions and allow it to cool slightly. Then, you'll have to choose the storage method that works best for you.

If you've got lots of space in your freezer and a sizable collection of freezer-safe containers, you can portion cooked rice into those and freeze until you're ready to use them. If you're looking for an option that takes up less space in your freezer but doesn't require much time, you can also portion cooked rice into individual plastic bags or wrap them with plastic wrap, then freeze. But if you have the time to take one extra step, you can save freezer space and unnecessary plastic waste by flash-freezing your rice. Simply form prepared rice into serving-sized balls, then freeze them for one to two hours on a parchment-lined baking tray. Once frozen, you can place all rice into a single container or bag and grab individual servings as needed.

How to safely use frozen rice

When you're ready to eat your frozen rice, just cover it with a damp paper towel, sprinkle with water, or pop an ice cube on top, then microwave for two to three minutes until warm. The added moisture will steam the rice, giving it a bit of hydration as it heats. This ensures you don't end up with hard or dry rice, even after it's been in the freezer for days, weeks, or months!

If you intend to bring frozen rice to work or school as part of a meal, be sure to keep it cool until mealtime by storing it with an ice pack or in a refrigerator. While frozen rice is perfectly safe, rice left at room temperature for extended periods is highly susceptible to the bacteria Bacillus cereus, which can cause food poisoning (via The NHS). To make sure your meal is safe to eat, ensure it isn't left out longer than necessary, and never leave frozen rice out at room temperature to thaw. The microwave is your friend here, quickly taking your rice from frozen to hot in a few minutes and fully avoiding the temperature danger zone.