Whilst meal prepping rice can save you time, it has its downsides. As long as you are aware of the pitfalls, you can safely meal prep rice without a problem.
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Is rice good or bad for meal prep?
Rice that hasn’t been prepared properly is bad all round because it can make you ill.
A bacteria called bacillus cereus lives on uncooked rice. The cooking process doesn’t kill the bacteria, but if the rice is left to sit at room temperature for too long, the bacteria can release toxins that could give you food poisoning if consumed.
You may be wondering how to ensure that your cooked rice doesn’t become a breeding ground for nasties.
- Either eat your cooked rice immediately OR refrigerate it immediately.
- Make sure your pre-cooked rice is thoroughly heated in the microwave.
How to meal prep rice
To make sure your rice is safe to eat whenever you are ready to heat it, first prepare it safely.
Wash your rice several times until the water becomes clearer. The first wash will make the water quite cloudy. It’s the cloudiness that you want to reduce because then your rice will be less sticky when it is cooked. Washing rice also removes chemicals such as pesticides that might be present.
Add water. The amount of water you add depends on how you cook it and the type of rice. For the absorption method, add 1 to 1 1/2 times water. For example, for one cup of rice add 1 1/2 cups of water. For brown rice, add 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice.
Cook the rice.
For cooking brown rice, check out my guide to doing it using the ‘pasta’ method. It works every time, no guesswork is needed – How To Cook Brown Rice Quickly (no fuss guide).
Method 1: The ‘Absorption Method’. This is my favorite way to cook rice. Simply add water, clamp on a lid and then boil until all the water is absorbed by the rice. Then leave the rice in the pan with the lid on for 10 minutes and then fluff it up with a fork.
Method 2: In a rice cooker. A rice cooker makes cooking rice pretty much a no-brainer, which is what you need when you have 101 things to do! You can just fill it and then leave it to do its job. At the end of cooking, it should keep your rice at a safe temperature until you are ready to use it.
Is it safe to meal prep rice for a week?
According to the NHS website, cooked rice should not be left in the refrigerator for longer than 24 hours.
From personal experience, I have found it is possible to leave rice safely in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. We have never had food poisoning from rice.
So it is entirely your call. If you have a compromised immune system then I would definitely stick to the 24-hour rule.
If you need to store your cooked rice for longer, consider freezing it instead. Freezing has the added benefit of preventing it from hardening which can happen in the refrigerator.
- Calculate how many portions you will need.
- Cook the rice, either on the stovetop or in the rice cooker.
- Cool quickly.
- Divide up into portions for each day of the week.
- Freeze portions that you need to last longer than 3 days
How to meal prep rice without it getting hard
A problem I’ve heard reported a lot is rice becoming hard when you refrigerate it. The answer in most cases is to freeze your rice instead.
- Don’t let the rice cool. Put it in a container and freeze immediately.
- Cooked rice can be frozen for up to one month. Don’t forget to label it.
- Re-heat your rice directly from frozen (do not thaw first) in the microwave on full power for a couple of minutes or more depending on the portion size.
How much rice should I make for meal prep?
Generally, you will want to allow for about 1 cup of cooked rice per person. For white rice, 1 cup of raw rice will give you 3 cups of cooked rice. Brown rice will give you 2 cups of cooked rice per 1 cup of raw rice.
As an example, if you were to prepare rice ahead for 5 meals you would need to cook 2 1/2 cups of brown rice and about 1.5 cups of white rice.
How to meal prep rice for the freezer
If you are worried about keeping the rice in the refrigerator or your rice becoming hard, then freezing is the way to go.
- Cook your rice as normal.
- Divide into portions.
- Pop into the freezer.
Rice can keep for about one month in the freezer. Don’t forget to label your frozen items.
Meal prep rice alternatives
Now if meal-prepping rice freaks you out with all this talk of food poisoning, you have two choices.
- Don’t bother meal prepping rice at all. If you are planning to have the rice at dinner time when you will be home, cook it when you need to eat and consume it immediately. Rice cooks pretty quickly (especially white rice, brown rice takes longer). To save time you could have it washed and ready to switch on when you get home.
- Choose a meal prep rice substitute.
Here are some ideas you might want to consider instead of rice:
Frequently asked questions
Is it safe to cook rice in a rice cooker?
It is totally safe to cook rice in a rice cooker instead of on the stove. If you cook on the stove, you need to watch it otherwise it could overcook or boil over. When you cook rice in a rice cooker, you can safely leave it unattended.
Can I freeze rice?
Yes, you can freeze cooked rice for one month.
Can I eat rice cold?
You can safely eat your rice cold if you store it in the fridge.
If you are meal prepping your rice to take to work, and you don’t have a fridge, make sure you store it in an insulated lunch box.