Can you eat rice left out overnight?

In this brief article, we are going to answer the question “Can you eat rice left out overnight?” and we will also list methods to identify spoiled rice. 

No, you cannot eat rice left out overnight. It may cause poisoning because of harmful bacteria present in it. Rice should not be left out at room temperature longer than 2 hours. Beyond that, the bacteria might become active and start forming toxic substances in rice.

So, leaving cooked rice overnight carries a risk of causing food poisoning and it is in your best interest to store rice properly if you want to keep it for later consumption.

Uncooked rice contains spores of a type of bacteria called bacillus cereus, and they may survive cooking. They have the potential to become active and grow into bacteria if given the right temperature. So, it is recommended to eat freshly cooked rice or to refrigerate it as soon as they get cold. 

However, many people might have told you that they ate left out rice and nothing happened. This might be because the temperature was not suitable for the spores to grow and the temperature at which rice was left was cold.

Remember that spores can grow at room temperature, and it also depends on the type of rice and how thoroughly they were cooked. Therefore, caution must be practiced, and rice left out overnight must be avoided, as it has the potential to make you sick.

How to tell if cooked rice isn’t safe to eat?

There are different signs that can tell if the rice has gone bad. We all have experienced spoiled rice and can tell by the smell of it, but there may be no apparent signs of mold growth or unusual smell initially. 

Some of the signs that can tell if the rice has gone bad:

It Is Hard and Dry

After cooking, rice might be soft and chewy, but the most obvious sign of rice becoming stale or bad is that it becomes hard and dry.

It Has an Unusual Smell

The smell is the most important factor when telling if food is fresh or not. We mostly judge the freshness or staleness of any food by smelling them and if they smell bad, it is a sign that it must be thrown away.

If rice smells upon reheating, it is mostly a sign of it going bad.

It Wasn’t Stored Properly

Storing food in an appropriate environment and temperature saves it from bacteria in the environment and can keep it fresh. It is necessary to not leave out food items in the open as they can easily get spoiled. Storing properly is the best way to make them last longer.

Cooked rice should never be left at room temperature because the moisture in the surroundings can give an optimal environment for bacteria to grow.

It Has Been Cooled and Reheated Multiple Times

The best practice is to not reheat and cool the rice often. Although many foods remain edible after repeating this process, there is a limit on it. 

It is recommended that rice must not be reheated and cooled not more than 1 time. Always try to cook the amount of rice that you would be able to consume one time.

But if you are left with extra rice, you can freeze it for later use. Defrosting and heating rice properly makes it edible. However, try to do so in small batches so that things don’t get messy for you.

How to safely store cooked rice?

Make sure the rice is cooked thoroughly and afterwards cooled and stored in a proper way. The best way is to not leave rice out long after it has been cooled. Refrigeration is the method to store rice properly without the risk of spoiling rice due to bad temperatures. 

You should take the following measures in order to safely store rice:

  • After cooking rice, don’t leave them out for longer than 2 hours
  • Refrigerate leftover rice in a tight container within 2 hours of cooking it,
  • Don’t leave rice at room temperature, since doing so provides bacteria the optimal temperature range to grow.
  • Don’t refrigerate longer than 5-6 days
  • Don’t reheat repeatedly
  • Freeze rice that you want to use later.

Can you safely reheat frozen rice?

Yes, you can safely reheat frozen rice as you can reheat refrigerated rice. You can use an oven, saucepan or microwave to thaw rice. Make sure to reheat rice at a temperature of 165°F or above to make sure they are properly heated. 

You can also reheat frozen rice directly on a pan without thawing it in a microwave. Simply place frozen rice on a pan and sprinkle water on them to make them soft and melt. Heat at low flame. 

Other FAQs about Rice that you may be interested in.

How much rice is a serving?

How do you know when Rice goes bad?


In this brief guide, we answered the question “Can you eat rice left out overnight?” and discussed various methods to identify spoiled rice.