How to reheat leftover rice so it’s fluffy

Anything that involves takeout Chinese food is a Parent Hack in my book (or blog, as the case may be). Thanks, Mary.

I don't know if this counts as a "parent" hack, per se, but I'm a parent, and I eat a lot of carryout Chinese, so here's my hack. Normally when I try to reheat leftover rice from Chinese carryout, it comes out as dry as it went in. Not very appetizing. Instead, put the rice in a bowl or dish, put a little water at the bottom, cover with Press'n Seal or cling film, and put in the microwave for about 2 minutes. The rice will come out soft and fluffy.

Another way to revive leftover rice: add it to the top of a pot of freshly-cooked rice. The steam from the cooked rice will soften the leftover stuff. Or, add it to chicken stock (Chicken and Rice Soup), fry it up with a scrambled egg and a little chopped scallion (Fried Rice), or mix with heated black beans, some shredded cheese and a little salsa and roll into a tortilla (Burritos).

Get updates from Asha.

I'll email you when I have new writing, events, or news to share. This isn't an automated newsletter -- it's a personal note from me. Low-frequency (I respect your attention & inbox), privacy always, unsubscribe any time.

*indicates required


  1. says

    I am Indian and it seems like we eat rice every day. So we have a lot of experience with old rice. My tip is very similar to the one in the article, minus the press n seal. Put the rice in a drainer/strainer, make sure the holes are small enough so the rice won’t go through. Then run water through the drainer, so that every grain of rice is wet. Put it in the microwave for about 3 minutes and you have fresh rice.

  2. Chris says

    Cough cough, I don’t want to be an alarmist, but isn’t it a huge no-no to microwave using cling film? I have read on health sites and have heard all over the parenting mags that incredibly toxic, carcinogenic stuff emits from the film and coats your food when you nuke it. Deadly, not just “a little bit not good”. Is this just an urban myth? Anyone?

  3. Jakob says

    One more suggestion…

    Place a few teaspoons of water over rice in a takeout box and microwave the whole thing. I think Ted’s idea would be more effective, but this is the ‘lazy’ way.

    If it’s in a bowl, microwave it with a damp paper over it.

  4. Parent Hacks Editor says

    Hey, everyone! Meet my mom: Roz! (See comment above.) Pretty cool that she reads Parent Hacks AND Snopes, wouldn’t you say?

  5. says

    Ooooo, thanks for this, just did some chinese reheating yesterday actually ;). BTW, I use my tupperware-ish lids to cover things in the microwave….

  6. says

    Instead of a little water over the rice, I put a little olive oil over it. Having said that, though, I like Ted’s idea and plan on trying it next time (with water, not oil!).

  7. caitlin says

    My kid’s favorite food is rice and her favorite way to eat it is day old , crunchy and dried up. Yuck.

  8. Christian says

    I still wouldn’t use plastic. Ever taste water from a plastic bottle that has been sitting out all day in the sun? That is what I can imagine happens to the food microwaved with plastic. I personally use wax paper and a bit of water. After it is done cooking I add smart balance to give it taste and cool it down a bit.

  9. Mat says

    I’m probably wrong but I always thought that reheating rice was a no no because of bacteria in the rice or something.

  10. Jill says

    I grew up adding a slice of butter and a sprinkle of sugar to leftover rice, then warming it up. Comfort food, mmmmm

  11. Sandy says

    I used to add water to the rice and cover with a tuperware lid. That works except on those days when I added too much water and ended up with watery rice on the bottom. Now, instead, I wet a paper towel and lay it over the bowl of rice. It does nto have to be dripping wet but more than just a little damp. It works great!!

  12. Brian says

    Keep the rice cold! Put it in a bowl and pour some milk over it. Sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar to taste and you’ve got a great breakfast.

  13. says

    While I wouldn’t do it with leftovers from a Chinese meal, I always save leftover brown rice from dinner in a sealed container in the refrigerator and pour it into pancake or waffle mix to give it a little more fiber. It works very well and adds a little nutritional oompn to a pancake or waffle.

  14. says

    I’m with Jill & Brian. Warmed up leftover rice with a small dab of butter, sprinkle of cinnamon & sugar, and a few raisins was a breakfast staple in our house when I was a kid. Serve with half a piece of whole wheat toast and you’ve got some serious good eats!