rice shelf life

Rice Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

Rice is one of the most important sources of carbohydrates. It is not only a staple in Asian and African kitchens but also a popular food item anywhere else in the world.

Similar to other grains, rice also comes in different cultivars. Depending on the dishes, sometimes you need basmati or long-grain rice—another time, you need short-grain rice for making sushi.

Keeping a pack of white rice or jasmine rice never fails for Thai curry. Brown rice is also a healthy option for regular use. So, you have some opened packs of rice at the same time. It’s been a few months untouched, and you start to worry. Does rice go bad?

Another time, you cooked more rice than you need for one serving. How long can you keep cooked rice in the refrigerator?

Either way, keep reading if you’ve been in a similar situation. You’re about to find useful information on the shelf life of rice, its storage methods, and common signs of rice going bad. If that’s what you need, read on!

How To Store Rice

If you are not a regular rice eater, you are probably overwhelmed with the countless varieties of rice. In short, rice can be grouped into short-, medium-, and long-grain types.

Short-grain rice is usually for sushi, pudding, or salad. Medium-grain includes arborio rice for risotto and Bomba or Valencia rice for paella. Meanwhile, long-grain rice is probably the most common to find in the market, including jasmine rice and basmati rice.

See more: Basmati vs Jasmine Rice Differences

Aside from these different cultivars, we also often see white, brown, black, mixed, and wild rice. Regular or organic rice is also widely available.

Dry Uncooked Rice

Luckily, when it comes to storing dry, uncooked rice, the storage guidelines are similar regardless of the variety.

The crucial part of storing uncooked rice is to keep it dry and prevent moisture build-up. With an unopened package, keep it as it is in a cool, dry spot, away from heat and lights.

Similar to other dry goods (such as flour, quinoa, or pasta), your pantry is a top choice. But, a kitchen cupboard or cabinet is also an excellent spot, mainly for frequent use.

Once opened, close the package tightly or transfer the remaining rice into a sealed container. Store it in similar conditions like unopened packages. Alternatively, keep it in one big container together with other dry goods.

Cooked Rice

In Asian households, it is very common to cook and store rice in a rice cooker. It stays fresh for at least a day.

But, if you don’t have a rice cooker, don’t worry. You can refrigerate cooked rice or leftovers in a sealed airtight container. Let it cool down before placing it into the container. Using a shallow container is recommended for a quick cooling process. 

Can You Freeze Cooked Rice?

In case you cooked too much rice or prefer to cook in bulk, you can freeze rice to prolong the shelf life.

To freeze cooked rice, let it cool down before transferring it into a freezer-safe container or a freezer bag. Consider dividing the rice into a portion size or serving for easing up during thawing.

How To Tell If Rice Has Gone Bad or Spoiled

Let’s start off with uncooked rice. As usual, inspection begins with the package. Before purchasing, make sure that the container is in perfect condition. A small hole in the packaging gives access for bugs or insects to enter.

Beware if the package is damp or wet. The rice won’t be as perfect as it used to be. If you see a noticeable change in colors, signs of molds, or insects, better stop using the rice.

With cooked rice, it is easier to spot if it has gone off. Always check visual signs, smell, and taste. You won’t miss an indication if the rice is spoiled.

Slimy texture, funny odor, and molds growth are apparent symptoms that rice is no longer fit for consumption. If nothing seems suspicious, but the taste is off or disappointing, it’s also better to discard any leftovers.

If you have kept cooked rice too long in the fridge, say longer than a week, it’s also better to throw it out.

There are also last-minute rice alternatives you can use if you run out of it.

How Long Does Rice Last?

Raw, uncooked rice has a considerable shelf life. In general, rice has an indefinite shelf life, but its best quality stays for at least 2 years, as suggested by Mahatma Rice and Uncle Ben’s.

Mixed and seasoned rice also tends to have a shorter life since the addition of spices makes it less durable compared to pure rice. It is usually best for up to 18 months.

Like other packaged products, a “best before” or “best by” date is stamped on the label. Respect this date for your purchase and consumption.

After opening, rice may slightly drop in quality due to exposure to moisture. It is best to use within a year.

Once cooked, rice only stays for a few days in the refrigerator. Freezing rice is your best option to prolong its shelf life for up to half a year.

Uncooked rice (unopened)2 years, or best by + 6 months to 1 year
Uncooked rice (opened)1 year
Mixed, seasoned rice (unopened)18 months, or best by + 6 months
Cooked rice3 to 5 days6 months

This table is a general estimate. The actual shelf life depends on the preparation method and storage conditions. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to spend extra minutes checking spoilage signs.


Is it okay to eat expired rice?

Generally, raw uncooked rice remains safe after its expiration date, as long as it is properly stored. Expect a slight change in quality, such as texture and flavor.

To make sure, always check for spoilage signs before cooking. If you’re in doubt, it’s always better to discard it.

Does rice go bad if left out?

Cooked rice should always be kept chilled to avoid bacterial spoilage. Cooked rice is prone to contamination by Bacillus cereus. This foodborne pathogen quickly multiplies at room temperature. It forms spores and toxins that are heat resistant.

The longer rice is left out at room temperature, the more time is given for bacteria to produce toxins, which makes rice unsafe to eat.

Can I get food poisoning from rice?

Cooked rice is a perishable food item. If not eaten immediately, the rice should be kept in the fridge to prevent bacterial spoilage, particularly from Bacillus cereus. Without proper refrigeration, cooked rice can cause food poisoning.

Therefore, don’t consume rice if it’s too long in the fridge. When reheating rice, make sure it is piping hot all the way through.

Final Thoughts

Rice is the primary source of carbohydrate for many people. Keeping some varieties of rice always works well for a wide array of dishes. Sadly, rice can also go off. Cooked rice is more prone to spoilage.

Raw, uncooked rice has a long shelf life, subject to proper storage. Keep it dry and prevent the infestation of pantry bugs.

With cooked rice or leftover rice dishes, always keep it refrigerated. Consider freezing it if you don’t plan to eat it within a few days. To reheat rice safely, make sure it is thoroughly heated. If any spoilage symptoms are spotted, stop using it to prevent foodborne disease.

Up Next: How long does pasta last?

rice goes bad

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