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Loving Leftovers: How to Use up Leftover Rice

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

Leftover rice? Try one of these easy-to-follow recipes.

Leftover rice? Try one of these easy-to-follow recipes.

How to Use Leftovers

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.

Leftover Rice Recipes

This is my eighth article in a regular first-day-of-the-month series on using leftovers in a thoughtful, frugal, and tasty way. Today we're going to look for innovative ways of using leftover rice.

Recipes in This Article

  • Foolproof Rice (in the Oven)
  • Arancini
  • Chinese-Style Fried Rice
  • Mexican Fried Rice
  • Rice Pudding
  • Rice Balls

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 of 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 the 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 and 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's 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