Most grocery stores carry precooked rice, either frozen or in single use containers on the shelf. While these products are convenient, they are also expensive. It is possible to cook and freeze rice and pasta at home while saving money in the process.
When preparing rice or pasta for a meal, make extra to freeze for later use. This method works with brown and white rice and most types of pastas. Frozen cooked rice or pasta can be incorporated into leftovers, batch cooking or slow cooker meals. Cooking once but eating twice is a way to maximize time spent prepping meals.
How to Freeze Rice
- Cook rice according to package directions. While hot, spread rice evenly on a baking sheet or in shallow freezer containers.
- Let rice cool about 20 minutes. If using a baking sheet, scoop rice into freezer-safe plastic bags or freezer containers.
- Label each bag or container with the date, type and amount of rice. If freezer bags are used, remove the air, press so contents lay flat for easier storage and seal. Place rice in freezer.
Rice Cooking Tips:
- Uncooked rice may contain the spores of the bacteria, Bacillus cereus. This microorganism can be harmful when cooked rice isn't handled properly. If rice is left standing at room temperatures for too long, the bacteria can multiply to amounts that can make people sick. It is important to handle rice properly when cooking, cooling and reheating.
- If refrigerating leftover rice instead of freezing, place the rice in shallow containers that are no more than 3 inches deep. Put the rice into the refrigerator for quick cooling. Once cooled, cover the container. Enjoy reheated leftovers of cooked rice for 3-4 days.
- Frozen rice is best if used within 2 months.
Reheating Frozen Rice in the Microwave
- Rice will freeze as a solid block. Break rice into chunks and place in a microwave-safe bowl.
- Cover bowl with a microwave-safe lid or with plastic wrap. Microwave on ‘High’ just until hot. Time will vary depending on amount of rice and microwave wattage.
- Carefully, remove the lid or plastic wrap. Fluff with a fork.
- When reheated, frozen rice tends to dry out quickly. Use immediately to avoid this issue. Reheating frozen rice with a tablespoon or two of water or with added vegetables will help provide moisture.
How to Freeze Pasta
- Cook pasta al dente (slightly undercooked). Drain water.
- Mix in a small amount of oil to keep the pasta from sticking together.
- Cool pasta before placing in a freezer-safe plastic bag or freezer container to avoid condensation.
Freezing Pasta Tips:
- If freezing multiple servings of pasta, scoop pasta into freezer-safe plastic bags or containers. Eliminate as much air as possible before sealing. Label with date, type, and amount of pasta. Place in freezer.
- For single servings of pasta, portion out about ½ cup of cooked pasta at a time onto a baking sheet. Freeze for about 15-20 minutes until it is hard enough to pick up and bunches do not fall apart. Once frozen, transfer to freezer-safe plastic bags or containers. Label with date, type, and amount of pasta. Place in freezer.
- Frozen pasta is best if used within 6 months.
Reheating Frozen Pasta
- Bring water to a rolling boil in a pan on the stovetop. Drop pasta in boiling water.
- Heat only until pasta is hot. Thin pasta will heat faster than thick pasta. Most all pasta will be reheated in less than 5 minutes.
- Smaller amounts of pasta can be thawed and heated in a microwave. Frozen pasta can also be thawed overnight in the refrigerator.
Quickest Way to Use Frozen Rice and Pasta
Frozen rice and pasta can be added directly to dishes. This method works best when adding to soups or stews. The pasta or rice will defrost and heat when submerged in the liquid.
Canning Rice and Pasta is Not Recommended
It is not safe to add rice or pasta to any home canned product (i.e.: soup). The starch interferes with heat getting evenly transferred to the center of the jar allowing bacteria to survive. Don’t be fooled by posts and websites that give directions to can with pasta and rice. Always look for a research-tested recipe from a reliable source for canning. Reliable sources include Nebraska Extension, the National Center for Home Food Preservation, or Cooperative Extension websites from other states.
This newsletter has been peer-reviewed.