Rice is the number two most consumed staple in the world. Its versatility and inherent long shelf life are a large part of why this is the case. For building my own emergency food supply, I wanted to know precisely how long rice lasts. So, I did some extensive research and decided to share my findings here.
If kept in an airtight container in the pantry (77° F), uncooked white rice will last up to 5 years, while uncooked brown rice will last up to 6 months. In the fridge (40° F), white rice can last up to 10 years and brown rice up to 1 year. Sealed cooked rice will last 4-6 days in the fridge.
For long-term storage, shelf life can be extended if steps are taken to remove and keep oxygen away from the rice. If stored in vacuum-sealed containers with oxygen absorbers, white rice can be preserved for up to 30 years in the fridge or a root cellar (40° F) and 20 years in the pantry (77° F).
How long rice lasts:
|Type||Pantry (77° F)||Fridge or Root Cellar (40° F)||Freezer (0° F)|
|White Rice, Airtight Container||Up to 5 years||Up to 10 years||N/A|
|White Rice, Vacuum-Sealed||Up to 10 years||Up to 30 years||N/A|
|Cooked White Rice||Up to 2 hrs||Up to 6 days||Up to 6 months|
|Brown Rice, Airtight Container||Up to 6 months||Up to 1 year||N/A|
|Brown Rice, Vacuum-Sealed||Up to 1 year||Up to 2 years||N/A|
|Cooked Brown Rice||Up to 2 hrs||Up to 4 days||Up to 6 months|
As you can see, the shelf life of rice is dependent mainly on storage methods and temperature. Based on this knowledge, let’s dive deeper into how long rice lasts and discuss optimal storage methods.
How Long Will Uncooked Rice Last?
While most forms of rice will last almost indefinitely, brown rice is the exception. The reason for the truncated lifespan is down to the bran (also known as the germ, or the plant embryo) on the outer shell of the grain. The bran also has a high oil content, which can turn rancid, helping account for the shorter duration. White rice has the bran removed, which is why it lasts longer.
Temperature is the most significant component in the shelf life of raw, or uncooked rice. For most users, storing rice at room temperature is sufficient to give enough time to use it before it is spoiled. That is because rice kept at room temperature will typically last from 6 months to several years, depending on the rice type. For those seeking elongated shelf lives, rice tends to do best at very cool but not freezing temperatures.
- Pantry (77 °F and 25 °C):
Most pantries are held at room temperature, away from direct sunlight and high humidity. Such conditions make this an excellent place to store your rice. White rice will typically last 5 years, while brown rice has the shortest shelf life, lasting only 3-6 months. The reason for this short lifespan is down to the fast degradation rate of the bran. Helpfully, white, wild, jasmine, basmati, and arborio rice all last years at this temperature. Such an extensive lifespan is the reason it is sold at this temperature in stores.
- Fridge or Root Cellar (Below 40 °F or 4 °C):
The decrease in temperature compared to the pantry assists in slowing down the degradation process. Brown Rice will last up to a year in the fridge or root cellar. All other rice types will last up to 10 years at that temperature, in optimal storage conditions. However, vacuum sealing with oxygen absorbers, like these found on Amazon, can extend this to up to 30 years.
- Freezer (Below 5 °F or -15 °C):
While anecdotal evidence suggests that storing rice in the freezer is close to making rice last indefinitely, the science says something different. Recent studies indicate that 40 or slightly below (but not freezing) is the optimal temperature to store dry foods.
How Long Will Cooked Rice Last?
The shelf life of cooked rice is far shorter than that of raw or uncooked rice, due to its increased water content. Water is essential for allowing bacteria and fungi to grow, both of which work rapidly to degrade and spoil your food. Like uncooked rice, the longevity of cooked rice depends on the temperature it is held at.
- Kitchen Counter (77 °F and 25 °C):
Rice of any type that remains at room temperature will only last a couple of hours before it is unsafe for eating. In these 120 minutes, bacteria will have multiplied to the point that where you will likely suffer ill effects from eating the rice. These effects can range from a mild stomach ache to contracting a foodborne illness. The severity of the consequences depends on how contaminated the rice has become during that time.
- Fridge (Below 40 °F or 4 °C):
In the refrigerator, that’s set to below 40 °F, most cooked rice will last between 3-6 days before it spoils. As with every other condition, cooked brown rice is the exception and will spoil quicker, generally within 2-4 days. Fast and constant refrigeration is the key to getting as many storage days as possible. The longer the rice is left at room temperature before refrigeration, the shorter its lifespan will be. After all, the cooler temperature slows down the bacterial and fungi growth rate, and that’s the goal of preserving rice.
- Freezer (Below 5 °F or -15 °C):
Cooked rice (except brown) will last close to indefinitely when frozen. Last, in this instance, means that it will not spoil at the hand of microorganisms as the freezing temperatures suspend this process. However, there will be significant losses in rice edibility following a frozen timespan of 3-6 months. The texture of the rice will be mushy upon thawing, and the nutritional content will diminish over time. Brown rice can last up to 18 months in the freezer before it spoils. However, it too will suffer from texture and nutritional loss long before then.
How To Properly Store Rice
Proper storage of rice is the only way to prolong its shelf life and ensure you are not losing this essential food group to degradation and bacteria. Whether you have raw or cooked rice, they equally need proper care to be safe for consumption.
Best Way To Store Raw Rice
Regardless of the type of rice you choose to store (brown, whole grain, white, etc.), you will want to do so in a cool, dry environment. At room temperature, rice will last for years and will last nearly a decade in the refrigerator. By the way, I recommend bulk white rice, like this kind, for long term storage.
To prevent bugs or the humid air affecting your rice quality, an advisable extra step would be to put it inside an airtight container, rather than leave it in its original packing (typically plastic). An airtight container is almost essential if you plan on storing your rice for several years. Such long-term storage would apply when your rice is bought in bulk, for example.
As I discuss in my article about how to store rice and beans for the long term, using vacuum-sealed mylar bags along with a couple of oxygen absorbers are the best way to maximize the shelf life of any dry good. If you want to go this route, please check out my article on the subject for more details.
If you are aiming for very long storage, i.e., decades, the best thing to do is to store your rice in the fridge or a root cellar at about 40 °F. No further special equipment or consideration is needed, just an airtight, dry container. The extra cold temperature help pause the degradation fungi in the rice, keeping it preserved and ready to eat a generation later. Such extreme storage might be considered for survivalists that have a bunker.
Best Way To Store Cooked Rice
As soon as your cooked rice reaches room temperature, put it in the fridge. You can even put it away before it reaches room temperature, though not when it is boiling hot, i.e., just out of the rice cooker. There are some concerns that it can raise the temperature of the fridge too much.
However, that is a debatable consequence of refrigerating hot food. What is unquestionable is if cooked rice at room temperature for 2 hours or more, it will no longer be safe to eat, as microscopic bacteria will have flourished and multiplied to an unsafe level. Always store your rice in a sealed container, away from moisture.
You can store cooked rice in the freezer. However, the texture of the rice will change during the freeze-thaw cycle. Consequently, frozen cooked rice should be reserved for nothing more than cooked dishes. That is, dishes with the rice incorporated, rather than freezing rice as a side dish. Make sure you use freezer-safe dishes to avoid freezer burn.
How To Tell If Rice Has Gone Bad?
While timelines are excellent guidelines for ensuring food safety, it is always good to know what changes to detect to ascertain if your rice has expired. That way, you can be sure you are not consuming rice that will cause you any physical harm. Here are four fundamental things to be on the lookout for whether your rice is raw or cooked:
- Sour Odor
If your rice ever smells pungent, then it is rotten and should be thrown away. A foul-smelling odor is caused by bacterial growth, which breaks down the components of the food. Some of the aromas are caused by the microorganisms eating the food, while other elements of it are due to the chemicals this degradation produces.
- Texture Changes
When the rice starts to degrade, it will change from being either the hard grain of raw rice or the soft fluffy texture of cooked rice. Instead, the uncooked grain can become crumbly, dry, and even tough. Cooked rice can also dry out, or it can take on a slimy texture. Any alteration in composition away from the norm is an indication that the rice has begun to spoil.
If you find any evidence of pests in your rice, throw it away. While it may be hard to do this with a large quantity of rice, it is always better to be safe than sorry. If bugs you can see get into your rice, it is reasonable to assume that many organisms you can’t see are there. This applies to raw or cooked rice.
If your rice shows any signs of mold, discard it. Mold is the spores of fungi, and removing them does not eliminate the fungi from your food. The fungi are almost certainly throughout your rice at this point, and consuming it will give you nausea and an upset stomach. If you have a mold allergy, be careful not to inhale the spores as this may cause a reaction.
Rice is a significant component in the diet for most of the world’s population. Its popularity is garnered from its ubiquity, abundance, affordability, and taste. Proper storage of this staple is paramount to food safety.
Uncooked rice (except brown) can be stored almost indefinitely under the proper conditions. Just remember that brown rice has a much shorter shelf life, so white rice is far superior if you are looking to build an emergency supply. Remember to always check your stored rice for signs of spoilage before eating. These indicators include sour odors, abnormal textures, bugs, and signs of mold.
If you are looking for long term storage solutions, I highly recommend My Patriot Supply. Their prices are reasonable and you can have peace of mind that the food is stored properly.
Or, if you want to go the DIY route I wrote an in-depth article on how to store rice and beans for long term storage. Be sure to check it out.
Why Does Brown Rice Take Longer To Cook?
If you’ve ever waited for brown rice to cook, you’ll have noticed that it takes longer than any other kind of rice, sometimes three times as long. The reason is due to the out bran coating on brown rice. It takes longer for water to penetrate through its germ coating (the bran) into the grain itself before it starts to cook.
If you want to speed up the cooking time, soak your brown rice in water before boiling. Soaking will saturate the grain with water, shortening the cooking time by more than half.
Can You Live Off Of Rice Alone?
Many preppers wonder if rice alone will be a sufficient diet should an apocalypse come. Of course, others may wonder if you can live off of rice due to its abundance and relatively low economic requirements.
Alas, rice isn’t a complete food and will not keep you healthy for long. It doesn’t contain sufficient protein, and many essential minerals and vitamins (such as vitamin C) are not supplied by rice, regardless of which type you consume. A healthy person starting eating only rice would begin to feel the adverse effects on their health by the end of the first month after following this restrictive diet.
Should Rice Be Rinsed Before I Cook It?
It is good practice to wash your rice before cooking it if you like your grains separate and non-sticky. The washing process removes any broken rice pieces created during the refinement process and any starch on the rice’s surface. By removing both of these contaminants, your cooked rice will be fluffier, with fewer clumps.
Of course, if you are hoping for a bowl of sticky rice, you can skip the washing step. While the final texture may differ, the flavor and nutritional content are not noticeably different whether the rice is washed or not.