The world loves rice, I mean seriously loves it. In the 2020/2021 crop year, about 504.3 million metric tons of rice were consumed around the world. But this is probably no surprise, right? Rice is a staple food in cuisines all around the world. You’ll find it in Latin America all the way to Asia, where it’s perhaps the most famous. As a matter of fact it’s believed that China is where domesticated rice originated.
Of course, the reason rice is so widespread is that it’s just really great! It’s a cheap and versatile food that packs a lot of energy.
With that said, it’s extremely likely that you have some rice in your pantry right now. It’s a perfect staple food and it always pays to have some to hand. It can be stored for a long time and it’s quick and easy to make as well.
But what if you want to store rice for a really long time? Can you freeze raw rice? Yes, you absolutely can! It’s a great way to make the already long shelf life of rice even longer. As I’ll explain in a little bit, it can protect it from little outside invaders as well.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about properly storing rice for long periods of time.
How Long Does Rice Last?
First of all, yes you can certainly freeze raw rice.
Raw rice can last a long time, whether you freeze it or not. This is one of the reasons why it’s such a great food. Even if you don’t have access to a freezer or refrigerator, it can last a long time.
How long exactly? Well, it depends on the type of rice and how it’s stored. The shelf life depends on whether it’s brown rice or “other”.
What do I mean by “other”? This label includes all the types of rice that aren’t brown rice. So it means white rice, wild rice, arborio rice, jasmine rice, and basmati rice. For these types of rice, the storage type is pretty much indefinite whether you store it in the pantry, fridge, or freezer if they are free from contaminants.
It’s a different story for brown rice, however. Brown rice can be stored in the pantry for 3-6 months, in the fridge for 6-12 months, and in the freezer for up to 18 months. The reason that the shelf-life of brown rice is much, much shorter than the other types of rice is because of its higher oil content.
The main problem when it comes to rice, both white and brown varieties, is not the lifespan of rice itself but the contaminants. High moisture, dust, and insects can all cause rice to go bad. So if it’s kept protected from these outside elements you can keep your rice for a very long time.
How to Safely Store Rice
As I’ve mentioned, the most important thing to prolong the lifespan of rice is to keep it free from contaminants and the pesky little invaders that like to feed and lay their eggs in your rice.
The main culprits of rice destruction are high moisture and heat that allows bacteria to spread or mold to form and thus destroying rice. So keeping it cool and dry is important to protect it against mold and bacteria.
The other, and more disgusting, culprit of rice going bad is bugs. There are a variety of pantry pests that you have to worry about. The two most common pests are Indian meal moth and the biggest rice pest of them all – the rice weevil.
So, to keep your rice safe from these things that can destroy it, you should make sure that you store it correctly. It can be difficult to prevent bugs in your rice – particularly the weevil – as the eggs may have already been in your rice when you bought it. Or, they may already be in your home and then they get into your rice after you bring it home.
To prevent the eggs from hatching into full weevils, put the rice in the freezer for a week before you store it in the pantry. You do this because the below-zero temperatures will kill the eggs.
How to Protect Rice from Weevils
If you froze the rice for a week and then stored it in your pantry but you come to find that they have invaded, there are some things that you can do to prevent them from destroying your product as well.
- Make sure to use airtight containers and make sure that they are properly sealed. You can buy special vacuum sealed containers but even just glass, metal, or plastic containers will work fine assuming that you seal them completely.
- Place some bay leaves in the same container as the rice to prevent bugs.
- Regularly clean pantry cracks, crevices, and shelves.
- Place small bags of black pepper or chili flakes around the pantry which may repel weevils.
- Wipe shelves with white vinegar.
- Inspect all grains upon purchase to prevent contamination of your other goods in your pantry.
Best Storage Conditions for Rice
In addition to these methods, to prevent mold and bacteria you’ll need to keep the rice in the right conditions. The temperature, moisture, and sunlight are all things you need to watch out for. By storing rice in vacuum-sealed pouches you can best prevent the degradation of the rice.
Regarding the temperature, the rice should be stored between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. So if you’re storing it in your home, provided you live in a cool place or you have air conditioning it shouldn’t be a problem. If you live in a hot or hot and humid area, though, it’d be best to store it either in the freezer or in the fridge. It should be kept away from sunlight if possible as this raises the temperature of the rice and can have a negative impact.
Putting rice in mylar bags is also a great way to store large amounts of rice for a long time. You can keep rice in good shape pretty much indefinitely. All you need to do is fill the mylar bags with the desired amount of rice, put oxygen absorbers in each bag (3-5 100cc oxygen absorbers per kilo of rice), seal the bags, put the bags into a container, and then keep it in a cool and dry place.
However, if you’ll be using it quickly, say in a matter of days or weeks, it’s fine if the temperature and humidity are higher. But if you want to be extra safe, the best way to store rice is in the fridge or freezer.
Can You Freeze Uncooked Rice?
Yes! You can definitely freeze raw or uncooked rice. That is actually the best way to not only extend the shelf life of rice but it’s also a great way to keep bugs out too.
By freezing uncooked rice you can keep it good for pretty much as long as your freezer works! Or longer, depending on how good (or bad) your freezer is. Since bugs are one rice’s biggest enemies, it’s the best way to protect against them. This is because the bugs nor the eggs can survive the cold temperatures of the freezer. Additionally, your freezer should be bug-free and a safe place to store the rice.
How to Freeze Raw Rice
Not only is rice easy to cook, but it’s also super easy to freeze and store. It’s even easier to do this if it’s still in an unopened package – which I recommend especially if you’ll be storing for a long time. If it’s unopened, you simply need to put the package in the freezer.
Before putting it in the freezer though I like to give it a quick wipe with a disinfectant wipe just to keep the freezer as clean as possible.
If you’ve already opened the rice or you want to freeze it in certain amounts or portions for later use then you’ll need to add a couple more steps. This is how you freeze raw rice:
- Pour the desired amount of rice into an airtight container or sealable bag. Plastic containers, jars, and Ziploc bags all work. But the best are vacuum-sealed bags if you have them. Make sure the bag or container is completely dry before putting the rice in.
- Squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible if you’re using a bag. Make sure that the container or jar is sealed tightly if you’re using one.
- Label the container or bag with the date. This is more important for brown rice as it actually has a more definitive date it should be used by. If you have multiple types of rice in the freezer it’s helpful to also note which type of rice it is as well. When you make a risotto, you’ll be unpleasantly surprised if you accidentally use jasmine rice!
- If you’re using freezer bags, lay them out horizontally when you freeze them. This can help with the defrosting as well as being space-saving.
How to Defrost Frozen Uncooked Rice
The only thing easier than freezing uncooked rice is defrosting it. This is because you really don’t have to defrost it at all. If you want, you can put the frozen rice directly into the hot water or however you plan on cooking it.
However, if you have the time you may want to leave it out on the counter to thaw. This is only because adding frozen rice may negatively affect what you are cooking by quickly reducing the temperature.
How Long Does Cooked Rice Last?
Unfortunately, cooked rice is not nearly as hardy as uncooked rice. It’s actually quite fragile and can spoil quickly, acting as a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
Cooked rice needs to be promptly stored in the fridge and can only last for about 4-7 days. You can easily tell if the rice has gone bad by the appearance of mold, a putrid smell, or a slimy texture. Brown rice again also doesn’t last as long after it’s been cooked either. It lasts only about 4-5 days in the fridge.
Can You Freeze Cooked Rice?
Of course. Freezing cooked rice is the best way to store it if you think that you may not eat it before it goes rancid. It’s better to be safe rather than to have food waste as well. It can last quite a long time as well. It can still be good from 6-8 months in the freezer. For the best quality, you should freeze it as soon as possible but you should also let it cool properly before storing it in the freezer.
Freezing cooked rice is a great way to reduce meal prep time and to also reduce the amount of food waste!