How Long Does Rice Last in the Fridge?

Updated: May 19, 2024

How long does rice last in the fridge after it's cooked? The shelf life is much shorter than you think.

Leftover rice is one of life’s simple pleasures. It’s ideal for making fried rice and easy to incorporate into other rice recipes, like stuffed peppers and rice pudding. Like any cooked food you’re saving for another day, an expiration date looms. How long does rice last in the fridge before going bad? Not as long as you’d hope.

How long does cooked rice last in the fridge?

According to the National Health Service (the publicly funded healthcare system in England), cooked rice has a surprisingly short shelf life: It should be reheated and eaten within one day.

Why is the shelf life so much shorter than other refrigerated foods? The answer has to do with a specific bacteria you don’t even realize could be lurking, which causes something called “fried rice syndrome.”

Bacillus cereus, a spore-forming bacteria, is commonly found in the environment and can contaminate food, including uncooked rice. “B. cereus spores, and some of the six toxins they produce, can survive cooking,” explains Vanessa Coffman, PhD, program director at Stop Foodborne Illness. “These toxins are a real danger to human health.”

The FDA estimates that there are 63,400 illnesses linked to B. cereus in the United States each year. Most people who become ill from a B. cereus toxin will have a mild, upset stomach, with symptoms that resolve in 24 hours. For those who are immunocompromised, however, consuming the bacteria, spores or toxins can be deadly.

The key to prevention? Refrigerate cooked rice immediately.

“B. cereus multiplies and thrives at room (and body) temperature, meaning the longer cooked rice is left unrefrigerated, the more likely it is unsafe to eat,” says Coffman. “To help protect yourself and those you are cooking for, serve rice as soon as it has been cooked. If storing cooked rice, cool it within one hour and do not keep cooked rice in the fridge for more than one day.”

Freezing rice is another option, but again, you must do so immediately after cooking. Freezing food actually helps stop bacteria growth from forming, so this may be an even better choice than refrigeration.

How to Tell If Rice Has Gone Bad

Since you can’t see or smell B. cereus, assume that rice has gone bad if you haven’t refrigerated it within one hour of cooking or if it’s been in the fridge for more than 24 hours.

If you keep the rice around longer, you may eventually notice mold develop. But you should use or toss rice long before that happens!

How to Reheat Rice

“When reheating rice, make sure it is steaming hot all the way through,” says Coffman. “A better option, when possible, is to make a fresh batch of rice with each meal.”

Consider rice a one-time-reheat food—don’t keep reheating the same rice over and over. Either use up those leftovers once within 24 hours or cut your losses and make a fresh batch. (Yes, even if you made the most perfectly fluffy rice ever, sniffle.)

To reheat rice, add a little water to leftover white or brown rice, cover it and place it in the microwave. Aim for the rice to reheat to a temperature of 165°F.