Rice is a staple food worldwide, especially in Asian, African, and Latin American countries.
Though some prefer to eat their rice while it’s fresh and hot, you may find that some recipes, such as rice salad or sushi, call for cold rice.
Nevertheless, you may wonder whether it’s safe to eat cold rice.
This article reviews the facts.
Cold rice has a higher resistant starch content than freshly cooked rice (
One study in 15 healthy adults found that eating cooked white rice that had been cooled for 24 hours at 39°F (4°C) and then reheated significantly reduced blood sugar levels after the meal, compared with the control group (
Additionally, a study in rats who were fed retrograded rice powder determined that it considerably improved blood cholesterol levels and gut health, compared with a control group (
Nevertheless, though these findings seem promising, further human studies are needed to confirm these effects.
Eating cold or reheated rice may help increase your resistant starch intake, which may improve your blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Thus, cold rice may still be contaminated even after being cooked at high temperatures.
Pathogenic or disease-causing bacteria, such as Bacillus cereus, grow rapidly at temperatures between 40–140°F (4–60°C) — a range that’s known as the danger zone (16).
Therefore, if you let your rice cool by leaving it at room temperature, the spores will germinate, quickly multiplying and producing the toxins that make you sick (17).
While anyone who consumes contaminated rice may get food poisoning, those with compromised or weak immune systems, such as children, older adults, or pregnant women, may have a higher risk of infection (10).
Eating cold rice increases your risk of food poisoning from Bacillus cereus, a bacterium that survives cooking and may cause abdominal cramps, diarrhea, or vomiting.
Since cooking doesn’t eliminate Bacillus cereus spores, some believe that you should treat cooked rice similarly to how you would treat any perishable food.
- To refrigerate freshly cooked rice, cool it within 1 hour by dividing it into several shallow containers. To speed up the process, place the containers in an ice or cold water bath.
- To refrigerate leftovers, place them in airtight containers. Avoid stacking them to allow enough airflow around them and ensure rapid cooling.
- Leftover rice should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. If so, it’s best to throw it away.
- Make sure to refrigerate the rice under 41ºF (5ºC) to prevent the formation of spores.
- You can keep your rice refrigerated for up to 3–4 days.
Following these cooling and storing instructions allows you to prevent any spores from germinating.
To enjoy your serving of cold rice, make sure to eat it while it’s still cold instead of allowing it to reach room temperature.
If you prefer to reheat your rice, make sure it is steaming hot or verify that the temperature has reached 165ºF (74ºC) with a food thermometer.
Properly cooling and storing rice helps reduce your risk of food poisoning.
Cold rice is safe to eat as long as you handle it properly.
In fact, it may improve your gut health, as well as your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, due to its higher resistant starch content.
To reduce your risk of food poisoning, make sure to cool the rice within 1 hour of cooking and keep it properly refrigerated before eating it.