Something I always seem to have leftovers of is rice. I’m apparently incapable of only making the actual amount of rice we need for two people, so I always end up with more than a few servings! Most times, I’ll simply serve the rice as a side for a meal later on in the week. But every now and then, it’s nice to get creative and create entirely new meals from our mountains of leftover rice.
Here are a few tried and true ways I use up leftover rice without being boring or repetitive (though I haven’t tried one of the ideas I’ve mentioned personally).
1. Stuffed Peppers
Stuffed peppers are my favorite way to use leftover rice! The base of my stuffed pepper filling is usually leftover rice, ½ lb of ground beef and a cooked bag of beans I pull out of the freezer. If you’re willing to improvise with your filling mixture, you can make your stuffed peppers even less expensive by using any leftover meats from earlier in the week like sausage, chicken, etc. and by including vegetables that need to be used quickly.
2. Add into Soups
Add leftover rice into your homemade soup recipes. It’s an easy way to bulk up a soup inexpensively. And you can usually use rice in place of pasta in recipes that call for noodles. I typically use leftover rice in my chicken noodle soup recipe (this recipe made it into my $27 Challenge). And while pasta is inexpensive, I consider leftover rice to be the more frugal choice since uncooked pasta can be used almost indefinitely, but the clock is ticking on using up cooked rice!
3. Burrito Bowl
I recently had my first burrito bowl and I was hooked! But I have to admit, the “burrito bowl” craze is a bit funny since it’s the most basic frugal meal – rice and beans – with some flavorful (and equally inexpensive) additions like guacamole and salsa. Burrito bowls are a great end-of-week meal since it gives you an opportunity to serve any fitting leftovers all at once buffet style and let each family member choose what they’d like to add to their bowl.
4. Fried Rice
You can make this classic takeout food inexpensively at home using leftover rice, veggies and an egg! This is so inexpensive to make, it actually worked its way into my 2014 $27 Challenge. If you’re on a super tight budget (or trying to delay grocery shopping 😉 ) you can make this a complete meal by mixing in one or two pieces of cooked chicken breast, and depending on how much rice you use, it can feed quite a few people! The best part is that leftover rice (i.e. cold rice) is best for making fried rice, so it won’t actually feel like leftovers!
In my opinion, the best casseroles are the ones that happen unplanned rather than something you purposely put on the menu. This allows you to use up any ingredients you have on hand (hint: leftovers!). This isn’t an exact science, but in a rice casserole I’ll usually include leftover rice + cream of (something) soup + shredded cheese + vegetable/meat. The meat is an “if we have it on hand” sort of thing, but we can’t do without the veggies since they’re the stars of the show! An easy and versatile rice casserole that comes to mind is cheesy broccoli rice. I also recently saw this video from Blissful and Domestic where she shares how she made a taco casserole almost entirely from leftovers!
6. Rice Pudding
I will give two warnings before I recommend this – I haven’t personally tried this and – Use very clean, not-touched-anything-hearty rice (because rice pudding with a hint of tacos doesn’t sound very appealing!) If none of these meal ideas sound appealing to you, try making a frugal dessert by using your leftover rice to make rice pudding. Here’s a recipe using less than two cups of cooked rice.
7. Freeze it for later!
If you are tired of eating rice and none of the ideas above appeal to you, freeze it for later! You are bound to need rice soon enough and since it’s already cooked and frozen, it’ll make an easy microwavable side dish in the weeks to come! I actually haven’t covered this how-to yet, but here’s an easy tutorial for freezing rice.