Updated date:

Loving Leftovers: How to Use Up Leftover Rice


Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

bowl of white rice

bowl of white rice

My grandparents immigrated to this country in the late 1800s—a new century full of optimism and promise. But then there were two World Wars, a Great Depression, and a pandemic that took thousands of those who should have been the strongest. This was the era in which my parents were raised; hardship and loss formed their values and shaped their regard for people and possessions. Life in this 21st century seems so far removed.

But my siblings and I are a product of that previous generation—we were brought up to use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. Dad drove a used car, the house was old, we handed down clothing (and even toys), and food was never wasted. That’s the way I was raised and the thinking I use in my own kitchen even 60+ years later.

This is my eighth article in a regular first-day-of-the-month series on using leftovers in a thoughtful, frugal, and tasty way. The first seven installments focused on:

  1. Leftover mashed potatoes
  2. Meatloaf
  3. Stale bread
  4. Too much zucchini
  5. Barbecue meats
  6. Spaghetti
  7. Ham

Today we're going to look for innovative ways of using leftover rice.

Foolproof Rice (in the Oven)

Before we create the perfect use of rice leftovers, don't we need to have the perfect rice? Just in case you don't (or wonder if there is something better than the recipe you have in your file), here is my recipe for perfect rice.


  • 1 1/2 cups white rice (long- or medium-grain)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place rice in a colander and rinse under cold running water to wash away exterior starch and any surface dust. Drain well.
  2. Heat the butter in a Dutch oven; add the rice and stir to coat. Cook for about 2 minutes or until rice is translucent. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cover and bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest covered, about 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Stovetop Rice

If you prefer to cook your rice on the stovetop (or want to use short-grain or brown rice), here's a handy chart to help you.

Type of RiceRatio of Rice to WaterMinutes to Cook

Long-grain white

1 cup / 2 cups


Short-grain white (aka sushi)

1 cup / 1.25 cups


Brown rice

1 cup / 1.75 cups


Now, let's look at some innovative ways of using up those leftovers.




Arancini (the word means "orange" in Italian) can be a small one-bite appetizer, or as large as an orange. They are so much a part of southern Italy that they are sold by vendors on street corners.

According to the blog GrandVoyageItaly:

...the arancino has been a part of traditional Southern Italian cuisine for several centuries. In the Campania region, the arancino was first introduced into the Kingdom of Naples by the Aragones who called them, simply, palle di riso (rice balls). It seems that the term arancina was first coined in Sicily, where several regions and provinces claim to be the homeland of the dish. There are even those who claim that Milan’s signature dish of Saffron Risotto is nothing more than a poorly executed arancina that fell apart on a plate–the Milanese, of course, don’t agree.

This recipe for arancini from the blog JustATaste is the best one I've found.

Chinese-style fried rice

Chinese-style fried rice

Chinese-Style Fried Rice

Chinese-style fried rice. It's what you always ask for when dining in an Asian restaurant, or grabbing take-out. But have you ever tried to make it at home? How did that work out for you? If anything like my first attempt (or second, or third) it was pretty disappointing.

Ali (GimmeSomeOven) has the magic solution (actually there are several keys to the castle, and she has found them all). Her fried rice recipe is what you've been craving, and now you can make it at home.

Mexican fried rice

Mexican fried rice

Mexican Fried Rice

What's that you say? You're not in the mood for Chinese food? What about "Mexican" fried rice? All the flavors you love an expect in Mexican rice plus the texture of Chinese stir-fry create this wonderful fusion dish your whole family will enjoy. Thanks to the blog PremeditatedLeftovers (what a great name!) for this recipe.

rice pudding

rice pudding

Rice Pudding

Years ago I made rice pudding for my girls. It's such a sweet, warm bowl of comfort on a cold evening. I like it just "as is", but my two little ones always wanted to add a few chocolate chips or a swirl of raspberry jam.

Somehow in the move from our old house to the farmhouse, the family favorite recipe got lost. This one by CreationsByKara is what I (and my children) remember.

rice balls

rice balls

Rice Balls

Holly is, in her words "...the chief editor, photographer, writer, recipe developer, cook, CEO & COO, and/or any other title you can think of", behind the blog BeyondKimchee. She is a proud full-time housewife who likes to cook and feed—and feed well she does.

Now, these rice balls are not anything like the arancini in the first recipe. These are made from sticky sushi rice, combined with sauteed shiitake mushrooms and cooked bacon (who doesn't love bacon?) and formed into balls that are perfect as an appetizer or wrapped in lettuce leaves for a light lunch.

© 2018 Linda Lum


Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on January 02, 2019:

Mary, I love rice pudding, but it takes 15 hours to fly to where you are, so I fear I'll be too late.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on January 02, 2019:

I just made some rice tonight to have with sweet and sour pork. Since I am the only one eating, I have leftover rice. You must have been psychic to know I would need inspiration.

Like the others, I foresee a bowl of rice pudding in my future.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on January 02, 2019:

Shauna, it's not easy to make rice for 1 (but then, that's why we have leftovers, right?) Treat yourself to some rice pudding, you deserve it. You are many things, but lazy is not one of them.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on January 02, 2019:

I haven't had rice pudding in forever! I grew up on it, so why haven't I ever made it myself? Hmmmm.

Good options for using leftover rice, Linda. I really don't eat much rice, with the exception of Near East rice mixes. Guess I'm just lazy!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on January 02, 2019:

Ooh Eric, it seems like forever since I've made paella and I have absolutely no excuse for my actions (or lack thereof). Thanks for the reminder. Enjoy your day.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on January 02, 2019:

Linda the Mistress of the kitchen is back on a work schedule so after days of fantastic Pho' dishes that were to die for the domain is mine once again.

We are off to the Basket ball courts next to the grocers. This leftover rice dish will be served one spicey and the other every good thing to eat. Yes we eat two small servings, unless if I nail it, two large servings. I am leaning to Paella but let see what is fresh.

You bring such good things into my home. Muchas Gracias from the border.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on January 01, 2019:

Manatita, I am glad to know that you are safely home.

manatita44 from london on January 01, 2019:

Yes, you told that story before. Good to know that it shaped and moulded your journey to some extent.

You are the queen of leftovers. We needed you in Germany last night. Back home now. Peace.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on January 01, 2019:

Good morning and Happy New Year to you Pamela.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 01, 2019:

Linda, I think your way of cooking rice sounds delicious and I will try it. I am going to check out the Chinese fried rice as well. Another helpful article to begin 2019. Happy New Year!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 31, 2018:

Flourish, I think that rice pudding in the morning is a good way to start the New Year. Thanks for stopping by. Happy New Year to you my dear.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 31, 2018:

Eric, there are tears in my eyes that Gabe appreciates me. My love to him and to you.

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 31, 2018:

My mother makes rice pudding but I haven’t had it in forever. Now you have me thinking about it. I like both the fried rice ideas and the rice balls. Will definitely be experimenting with these! Happy New Year!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 31, 2018:

Dear Aunt Linda, i liked your story. Thank You.///

Yes you were are the reading for the day. But keep in mind he and I eat a lot of leftover rice at least 4 days a week.

Peace be upon you as we create new rice recipes.

(The first part really is his)

Related Articles