How to Salvage Your Leftover Rice

Bye-bye, hard, dry leftovers. Hello, sushi-ready sticky rice.

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By Heath Goldman for Food Network Kitchen

Maybe you ordered takeout last night and it came with too many cartons of rice. Maybe you got ambitious and whipped up a big batch yourself. Whatever the case, you have some leftover rice on your hands. And it's not fluffy, ready-to-eat rice. It's hard and cold and pretty underwhelming.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could turn the hard, unappetizing grains into dinner? We're here to help.

But first things first, the variety of leftover rice will make a big difference. Short-grain rice varieties, like sushi rice, short-grain brown rice or Arborio are typically used to make sticky rice. They’re chock-full of a sticky starch called amylopectin that causes the grains to clump together when you cook them.

Medium- and long-grain varieties of rice, like basmati and jasminem don’t clump together as much when they cook and therefore aren’t usually used for sticky rice. Do you get where we’re going with this? If your leftover rice is a short-grain variety, you’ll be able to turn it into sticky rice much more effectively than if your leftovers are long grain.

What if you’re not sure what type of leftover rice is stashed in the fridge? Here’s a quick way to tell. If the length of each grain is just a hair longer than the width (so the grain practically appears circular), it’s a short grain. If each grain looks distinctly long and thin, it’s a medium- or long-grain variety. Typically, the rice that comes with your Chinese takeout is long-grain rice.

To reheat long-grain rice so that it’s light and fluffy, transfer it to a heat-safe bowl, add a couple tablespoons of water and fluff the rice with a fork to break up any big clumps. Cover the bowl with a damp paper towel and microwave it on high for several minutes until the rice is heated through.

But what if you're looking for sushi-ready sticky rice? Great news: You can pretty much have sushi-counter-worthy grains once again with our favorite at-home technique.

Once you’ve determined that your rice is suitable to be turned into sticky rice, follow these easy steps. First, add the rice to a medium saucepan and spread it out into an even, flat layer. Fill up the saucepan with enough water to just cover the rice and add 1 tablespoon of rice flour. Adding a bit of flour back into the mix is important to help it clump together. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of the water is absorbed. The rice will look a bit like risotto.

Remove the saucepan from the heat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the rice into a fine mesh strainer and stir it around a bit to drain off as much starchy liquid as possible. Transfer your creation to a bowl and cover the surface lightly with plastic wrap. Voilà, you’ve got sticky rice.

At this point, you can also choose to add a few classic sushi rice seasonings if you’d like. For every 2 cups of sushi rice, stir together 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt in a small heat-proof bowl. Microwave on high for 30 to 45 seconds so the sugar dissolves and then fold the mixture into the sticky rice.

The sticky rice’s texture will be best if you use it immediately. Below, a few quick ideas on how to put it to work.

Behold, the most-elevated Philadelphia roll you’ve ever encountered. Veggie cream cheese gets rolled up with thinly sliced smoked salmon. Naturally, the roll is pressed into everything bagel seasoning and served with soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi paste.


If you’re not in a rolling mood, blanket your sticky rice in tasty sushi-grade marinated tuna, plus tons of fun toppings like sliced English cucumber and toasted sesame seeds.

PSA: veggie rolls don’t have to be boring. Step up your game by including blanched asparagus spears, red onion, plum tomato and avocado.

If “homemade sushi” connotes “super complicated” to you, this 15-minute recipe is here to change your mind. Made with just 7 ingredients, it’s totally doable on a weeknight — provided you’ve got a sushi mat.

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