Wednesday, March 20, 2024

How to Repurpose Leftover and/Or Imperfect Rice

In general I'm not a picky eater. I am willing to eat most foods, no matter how weird... but one of those few foods I'm actually picky about is rice. It needs to be made perfectly or I really can't tolerate eating it. Of course, rice happens to be one of those foods that even many good cooks can't cook properly. And even though I know how to cook rice just fine, from time to time I get a batch that just flops for whatever reason.

I hate to waste food. So if rice flops, I try to see if there are ways to salvage it and use it in a dish that will mask the imperfections. Here are some ways I've found to repurpose botched rice.

How to Repurpose Leftover and/Or Imperfect Rice

Dried Out Rice

But before I get into what to do with botched rice, I wanted to discuss bringing dried out rice back to life. I often have rice that dries out, either from being left uncovered, or it can dry out and lightly brown at the edges or bottom  of the pan because I baked or left it on a warming plate too long. Maybe some of you don't mind crispy/dried rice (I know Persians eat something called tahdig which has crispy rice at the bottom, but I'm not sure how different or similar that is and if they'd actually want to eat rice that ends up like this) but in my family we're not fans. However, this happens on a regular enough basis in my house (oops) that I've needed to find a way to use that up. 

I put the rice with the dried bits in a microwavable bowl along with a little water, cover it, and microwave it. This steams the rice and softens up the hard bits and it is back to being virtually indistinguishable from fresh rice, other than a light golden color on the parts that had been crisped up. 

Alternatively, you can put this rice in fried rice, and the dried rice will rehydrate with some of the sauce. 

You can also use the rice in any of the ways that also work for ruined rice... but it doesn't work in reverse- only dried out rice can be revived that way, but otherwise yucky rice will still be yucky after doing those.

How Rice Fails and How To Fix It

Rice is quite finicky. It needs to be cooked with the exact correct ratio of rice to water and the exact right length of time. If you don't give it enough water or if you don't cook it for long enough or you had it on the wrong heat and the water boiled off too soon or if you forgot to cover it and the water evaporated... you'll end up with rice with hard bits in it. I cannot tolerate rice like that. I'd almost rather eat nothing than eat that.

Sometimes, if you're lucky, you can add a little more water to the pot and cook it a bit longer on a low heat and the rice will cook up properly. Sometimes (honestly, often) that doesn't work. But this is the first thing to try doing if your rice has hard bits in it. Add boiling water and simmer (immediately after the rice is made, later won't work nearly as well) until it is all absorbed. If this works, then great, you can use it as you would regular rice. If not, move on to the next options.

If you have too much liquid in your pot and you give it "enough" time... your rice will become mushy and gluey and somewhat pasty, depending on how much extra liquid there was in it and if you gave it enough time to all absorb .

There are solutions to this. No, there's no way to make it into "normal rice" as you could with the dried out rice, or sometimes with rice that has hard bits. But what you can do is use rice in recipes that disguise the rice, or that are meant to have mushy rice anyhow.

Hide The Rice

Mushy rice can be hidden in a variety of different dishes. All you need to do is make it a smaller percentage of a larger dish and it will usually just add some moisture but not be so noticeable, or at least its mushiness won't be, if you make sure to mix it up well so there are no chunks of rice. Examples are in:

  • Ground beef. Some people stretch their ground beef and/or make it more moist by mixing it with bread crumbs. Mix your ground beef with some of your mushy rice. You can then use it in a variety of ways. 
    • Meatballs. Use at least 2-3 times more ground meat than you do rice, and you might want to include a binder like an egg or ground flax seed.
    • Kofta kebabs. Same ratio as you would with meatballs.
    • Stuffed veggies. For this you can even do half meat, half rice. Stuffed peppers, stuffed zucchini, stuffed cabbage, you name it. Just make sure to add enough seasoning so the rice doesn't dilute the flavor.
    • Meat sauce. I haven't actually tried this (to be honest) but this is next on my list. Mix it with your ground beef before sauteing it up and using it in bolognese, chili, etc...

  • Muffins. See this detailed post for information on how to do that best, and in general, repurpose leftovers for muffins. 

  • Veggie patties. Mix veggies and rice and a little bit of binder such as egg and/or flour and make some great veggie patties.

  • Tuna or salmon patties. Mix your (canned) tuna or salmon with rice, onion, and a binder such as eggs and/or flour before frying them up.

  • Falafel? I haven't tried this but I'm very tempted. Falafel balls are often made with bread crumbs in them- why not try with some leftover mushy rice?

Don't Hide The Rice- Make It The Star

There are some dishes that are rice based that you specifically want mushy rice for them. In fact, when I have leftover rice that came out perfectly, I do sometimes specifically cook them up with more water so that I have mushy rice to use for these recipes. The top one is the one we do most frequently:
  • Rice pudding/porridge. There are so many ways to make this, but I tend to just cook up the rice in water and/or sometimes with milk until it starts falling apart, then add sugar and cinnamin and then temper some eggs (doesn't need to be perfect) then add them in. I also sometimes add desicated coconut, chopped apples, raisins, etc... 

  • Congee. The perfect Chinese savory rice porridge.

  • Tomato rice soup. Cook up some tomato paste and water with seasonings like basil, oregano, onion, garlic, then add your rice until it starts falling apart.

  • Avgolemono soup- Greek egg lemon and rice soup. You can use my recipe and then add the rice while cooking instead of after.

  • Stew. Any stew recipe that calls for barley can use leftover rice, just add it later in the cooking process than you would barley because your rice is already cooked.

  • Dosas. These Indian crepes are made with raw rice and legumes usually, but you can make them with cooked rice with the legumes, just add a little bit of some type of flour to bind it because the starch in your rice is already cooked so it won't bind. (This recipe for dosas with leftover rice uses a lot of semolina but I'm sure you can play around with it and use lentil flour instead of the semolina to make it gluten free.)

  • Luchi. This Indian deep fried flatbread is usually made specifically without rice, but you can also make them with leftover rice

  • Cookies. I have not tried this, but if you google it, there are recipes out there using leftover rice as a base such as this with brown rice. I wonder if these quinoa cookies made with cooked quinoa would also work well with cooked rice. 

  • Crackers? There are recipes for crackers made from leftover rice but I've made them and found them really hard to eat, they did not have the right texture and made my teeth hurt, but you might have a different experience. 
There are even more ways you can use up leftover rice or repurpose rice that came out yucky. There's pretty much no reason you should ever need to throw away rice unless it spoils. Yesterday's leftovers make a terrific meal today. In fact, my kids like rice porridge so much that I've actually went and cooked rice so that I'd be able to then re-cook it into porridge for them.

Anyone else not able to tolerate rice that comes out badly? If so, what do you do when your rice doesn't come out properly? What are your favorite things to do with flopped rice, or non flopped rice leftovers?

1 comment:

  1. That's amazing Penny. I thought And I thought I did a good job by using rice in porridge and making patties! But those are quite a lot ideas, so thank you. Oh, and I also make rice milk every so often, but that's about it. The thing though is that rice has become very expensive where we live (like more than doubled) so we don't have it a lot. It's more like a once in a while treat for us, and our staple food is pasta anyway. But it's always good to learn a few new things to avoid wasting foods.


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