How to preserve rice

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question, “how to preserve rice” and discuss the different methods of preserving rice.

How to preserve rice

According to FAO statistics, 755,473,800.00 tonnes of paddy rice were produced in 2019. If we examine the production share of paddy rice by region (average, 1994–2019) we see that Asia produced 90.6% followed, at a great distance, by the Americas (5.2%), Africa (3.5%), Europe (0.6%), and Oceania (0.1%). Within the Asian region, China is the main producer with almost 200,000,000.00 tonnes followed by India with almost 150,000,000.00 tonnes and Indonesia with about 50,000,000.00 tonnes (1).

Rice can be preserved by :

  • Raw rice: Utilizing proper storage conditions. Storing in a closed container, away from pests.
  • Rice flour: Utilizing proper storage conditions. Storing in an air-tight container away from pests.
  • Cooked rice: Refrigerating and freezing.

Rice varieties and dishes

Rice is a common crop in Asia with over 6000 varieties. The most common varieties of rice include red rice, brown rice and Basmati.

Rice grains are generally brown. When the husk is removed by milling, they are known as white rice.

Rice is a nutrient-filled grain that can be prepared in a multitude of ways. Many Asian cuisines include rice in their daily diet and some cuisines use rice as their staple food. Some world-famous rice dishes include Sushi from Japan, Risotto from Italy, Nasi Goreng from Indonesia, Paella from Spain and Biryani from India.

Shelf-life of rice

Rice is one of the best foods for long term storage.

  • Raw white rice can be stored for 25-30 years under the proper storage conditions (3). 
  • Raw brown rice has a shelf-life of about 6 months under the proper storage conditions. Since the husk of brown rice retains moisture and attracts microbes, it spoils faster (2).
  • Cooked rice: Cooked rice will stay fresh in a fridge for about 36 days. Cooked rice can also be frozen for up to 6 months, according to the USDA.

The brown rice has a short shelf life due to the presence of high lipid percentage in the bran layer resulting in quality deterioration due to lipid oxidation. Moreover, microbial load was observed higher in brown rice in contrast to white rice due to the lipid rich bran layer which is susceptible to microbial attack (2). 

Preserving raw rice

Storage conditions such as moisture, temperature, and atmospheric conditions influence the rice quality. Controlled stored conditions are required to enhance the shelf life of rice for reducing the oxidation acceleration. The packaging of rice in modified atmospheric conditions such as carbon dioxide flushing and under vacuum slows down the quality deterioration in rice (2).

Raw rice is very shelf-stable and is one of the best goods for long term storage. Raw rice is preserved for the longest time by (2,3):

  • Inspecting rice before storage: Raw rice must always be inspected to make sure it is free from insects. Storing rice infested with insects will only shorten the shelf-life.
  • Storing away from dust, contaminants and insects: Raw rice is very prone to infestation by termites and bugs. Raw rice must be kept in a closed, pest-free container in a cool, dark place. 
  • Storing at the optimum conditions: The best temperature for storing raw rice is 40°F or below. 
  • Storing in oxygen-free containers: Rice has the longest shelf-life when stored in oxygen-free containers. Rice can be preserved for up to 30 years when stored in an oxygen-free container at a cool temperature.

Preserving cooked rice

Cooked rice must be either refrigerated or frozen to preserve it. Cooked rice has a high moisture content which will encourage the growth of microbes. So it is necessary to refrigerate or freeze cooked rice as soon as it reaches room temperature.

Refrigerating cooked rice: Cooked rice can be refrigerated for up to 4 to 63 days, according to the USDA. Cooked rice must be refrigerated in a zip-lock bag with the air squeezed out or in an air-tight container. Being exposed to air will make the cooked rice hard and chewy.


Freezing cooked rice: Cooked rice can be frozen for up to 6 months. Cooked rice must be frozen either in a ziplock bag or in an air-tight container.

How to eat frozen cooked rice

Frozen cooked rice can be directly added to dishes such as stews and risottos. Frozen rice can also be thawed and eaten on its own in the main dish such as rice and curry or fried rice.

Thawing of the foods is an important process when the term «food safety» is taken into account. Incorrect thawing of high-risk foods will enable the growth of harmful microorganisms. It is known that safety risk increases if the foods involved are not processed in some way such as by cooking but rather are consumed as are as ready to eat items. It is advised that frozen foods should be thawed in the refrigerator, put under cold running water, or in the microwave oven (5).

To thaw frozen rice:

  • Remove from the freezer and transfer to a suitable container for reheating.
  • Sprinkle some water on the top of the rice. The rice grains will be stuck together and dried and the water will allow them to loosen up.
  • Place the container on a stovetop at medium heat.
  • Stir the grains without mashing.
  • The rice can also be reheated in a microwave at medium power. Make sure to stir the rice every 30 seconds.

Preserving rice-flour

Flours have lower shelf stability than their respective grain forms due to the increased surface area available for moisture adsorption and other deteriorative changes often influenced by storage time and environmental conditions. Flours will have decreased shelf life when stored in high moisture and high oxygen environments and at higher temperatures (5).

Rice is easily ground into flour which is then used in recipes such as string-hoppers and hoppers. 

Rice flour must be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

To make rice flour :

  • Wash raw rice.
  • Soak rice in water.
  • Let the rice air dry.
  • Grind the dried rice into fine flour.

Rice flour can also be made from roasted rice.

The detailed method of preparing rice flour can be found here.

How to identify if the rice has gone bad

  • Raw rice: Most common method of spoilage for raw rice is pest infestation. If any insects such as bugs and termites are visible, it means that the rice is unsuitable for cooking and must be discarded. Raw rice may also discolor when it is spoiled. Brown rice may suffer lipid oxidation, which leads to the formation of off-odors.
  • Cooked rice: Cooked rice will smell foul and feel sticky to the touch when it’s gone bad. Rice,once cooked, is perishable. The spoilage of boiled rice is found to be associated with the presence of Gram-positive CoccoBacilli. At room temperatures, rice becomes inedible after 29 h due to the development of off-flavors and off-odors (6).

Other FAQs about Rice that you may be interested in.

What can I substitute for cilantro in rice?

How Much Brown Rice is per Person

How long does rice last in the fridge?

Can you live off beans and rice?


In this brief guide, we answered the question, “how to preserve rice” and discussed the different methods of preserving rice. We also discussed the different rice varieties and dishes and how to identify if the rice has gone bad.


  1. Carcea, Marina. Value of wholegrain rice in a healthy human nutrition. Agriculture, 2021, 11, 720.
  2. Mir, Shabir Ahmad, et al. A review on nutritional properties, shelf life, health aspects, and consumption of brown rice in comparison with white rice. Cereal Chem, 2020, 97, 895-903.
  3. Nummer, B and Darrington J. Storing white rice. Utah State University.
  4. Ergönül, Bülent. Consumer awareness and perception to food safety: A consumer analysis. Food control, 2013, 32, 461-471.
  5. Ojo, O. G., et al. Moisture-based shelf life estimation of ambient-stored grain flours. FUTA J Res Sci, 2017, 13, 473-482.
  6. Waduwawara, S., and P. M. Manage. Spoilage after cooking of some rice varieties commonly consumed in Sri Lanka. Vidyodaya J of Sci, 2009, 3.