How Long Does Rice Last, Anyway?

Raw rice doesn’t last indefinitely and your cooked rice needs to be thrown out sooner than you think. We’re here to explain.

Published Sept. 30, 2022.

Here at ATK, were big fans of rice—whether were topping it with spiced cauliflower or Trader Joes shiitake mushroom chicken, turning it into a Shrimp Risotto, or making a Crispy Rice Salad.

Weve reviewed rice cookers (spoiler: we love them) and have tasted everything from basmati to brown rice, long-grain white rice to sushi rice. Dan Souza even dedicated an entire episode of What’s Eating Dan? to it.

But there are times when we might buy in bulk and that bag of rice sits in our pantry for a long time. Or we notice the leftover fried rice that's been sitting in our fridge for a few days longer than we planned.

Needless to say, we go through a lot of rice. 

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How do know when it’s time to toss it? We spoke with Alexis Peterson, quality systems engineer at Lundberg Family Farms in California, to find out the answers.

How Long Does Raw Rice Last?

“With proper storage, raw rice is stable for at least one year,” Peterson explained. Rather than an expiration date, rice has a “best before” date. Consume your rice before that date for the freshest, most flavorful result.

While it might be safe to eat rice after the “best before” date, cooking and eating it after that day may result in rice that “may not cook, smell, or taste quite right,” adds Peterson.

What’s the Best Way to Store Raw Rice?

Store raw rice in a dark, cool (ideally, below 55 degrees Fahrenheit), pest-free location. The refrigerator is a great option. “Moisture and contaminants could cause deterioration,” says Peterson, so store rice in an airtight container. Storing raw rice in the freezer can also extend the shelf life by a few months.

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How Long Does Cooked Rice Last?

Cooked rice lasts no longer than three to four days in the refrigerator. If your rice smells funny or looks slimy, do not eat it and throw it away. 

According to my colleagues at Cook’s Illustrated, all brown and white rice contains a spore-forming bacteria called Bacillus cereus. These bacterial spores are not killed off during cooking, but are actually converted into potentially harmful live bacteria while the rice cools after cooking.

As the rice sits at room temperature for a few hours (or even if it's stored for too long in the refrigerator), the amount of bacteria will grow.

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What’s the Best Way to Store Cooked Rice? 

Cool the rice as rapidly as possible to below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, suggests the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Rice should not sit at room temperature for more than one hour before being eaten or refrigerated. 

When reheating rice, be sure it reaches at least 165 degrees—use an instant-read thermometer to take its temp.

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