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How To Fix Rice That Is Too Mushy (And Prevent It)

You can fix rice that is too mushy by washing it and heating it in the oven. Alternatively, you should allow the rice to cool and fluff it up after it has finished cooking. You can avoid the issue in the future by washing your rice thoroughly before you start cooking it. 

In this article, I’ll walk you through why your rice is mushy or even sticky and what you can do to fix it. I’ll also help you understand how to avoid the issue in the future and walk you through a way to use the mushy rice if you can’t salvage it.

A bowl of rice with chopsticks

Why Is My Rice Too Mushy?

Your rice is too mushy because the rice grains were not rinsed off before cooking. If the rice isn’t rinsed before it is cooked, the starch is not washed away and cooks along with the grains. It is this starch that makes rice mushy and sticky. 

Think of starch like a balloon. When exposed to water, it absorbs water, similar to how a balloon takes in air and “blows up.” This process is known as blooming or starch gelatinization. It happens with each rice grain in your rice–unless the starch is first washed away.

When the starch blooms, the rice grains become bigger because of the water absorbed by their starch. This causes them to get closer together and ultimately stick together, leaving you with rice that isn’t meant to be sticky sticking together. 

There are different levels of starch gelatinization that happen, depending on how much starch your rice has in it when cooked. The stickier the rice, the more starch it had prior to cooking.

If your rice turns out to be exceedingly mushy, there’s little you can do to fix it. Far too much starch has bloomed to simply be able to wash it away, and you should instead use your rice for other purposes (which I’ll discuss below). However, if it’s only a little sticky, it’s not beyond saving.

How To Fix Mushy Rice

There are two ways to fix mushy rice: rinsing it (yes, you can do it after cooking as well) and resting it. 

1. Resting The Rice

If you feel like your rice is a little too mushy, you should first try resting and fluffing it. If this solution works, there’s no need to move on to the next step, which is washing your rice.

Resting your rice is precisely what it sounds like: letting your rice sit undisturbed after it’s finished cooking. Ideally, you should allow it to rest anywhere between 15–20 minutes. However, depending on your preference, you can give it as much as 30 minutes to cool down fully.

Once it’s rested, use a fork to gently fluff up the rice. This helps the excess moisture redistribute from the center to the sides of the dish, from where it can evaporate easily. While starchy rice is the primary reason behind mushy rice, excess water doesn’t help the matter, and allowing the excess moisture to evaporate reduces the risk of a gummy result.

2. Washing Your Rice

Ideally, your rice should be washed before it’s cooked. However, if you’ve already cooked it and it’s too sticky or mushy for your liking, you can also wash it after cooking. 

Uncooked rice being rinsed in a sink

The process is relatively easy:

  1. Gather everything you need: the mushy rice, cold water, a colander, and a baking sheet for your oven. Let the rice cool a bit before you try it. You’ll need to use your fingers for this, and the last thing you want is to be burnt in the process.
  2. Once the rice is cool, spread it in the colander. Depending on how much rice you’ve made and the size of your colander, you may have to repeat this process several times. 
  3. Run the rice under cold water. While the cold water is running through the rice and colander, separate out the grains with your fingers. This helps remove some of the excess starch that has bloomed during the cooking process.
  4. Once you’ve finished rinsing the rice, allow the water to run off through the colander. 
  5. Once there’s no more water running through the colander, transfer your rice to the baking sheet. Place the sheet in the oven and dry out the rice at about 350°F (176.67°C) for about 10–15 minutes. Remove it from the oven before it gets crispy.

3. Use It for Something Else

As mentioned above, if your rice is excessively mushy, it can’t be saved–there’s far too much starch to rinse off. 

Keep in mind that most folks are probably okay with rice that’s a bit mushy. After all, it’s perfectly fine to eat. However, if you happen to be cooking for particular people expecting fluffy white rice you’ll need to start over.

That said, it doesn’t mean you should discard mushy rice. You can still use it for numerous other recipes, including my personal favorite, rice pudding.

To make rice pudding, all you need to do is:

  1. Combine almost equal parts of milk and cold, mushy rice and heat over medium heat. 
  2. Keep stirring, and add in salt until the combination is thick and creamy. 
  3. Add in a little more milk, sugar, a beaten egg, and raisins (optional). Continue cooking until the egg is ready.
  4. Your rice pudding is ready. Depending on your flavor preference, you can add in butter, vanilla, and cinnamon, or any other flavorings you choose.

How To Avoid Sticky Rice

The best way to avoid your rice turning out sticky is to wash it before you cook it. The process is simple:

  1. Gather what you need: a large bowl, a sieve, and the rice you plan on cooking.
  2. Place the rice in the bowl and run it under cold water. Use your hands to mix up the rice, separating out the grains.
  3. The water should turn white, hazy, and cloudy–this is a good sign, as it shows the starch is entering the water.
  4. Once you’re done rinsing the rice, run it through the sieve to filter out the water.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until the water you sieve out of the rice is clear and no longer white and cloudy.

How Do You Fix Overwatered Rice?

One of the most common problems when cooking rice is using too much water. Most people don’t realize that they’ve used too much water until the rice is cooked and is mushy.

If the rice isn’t too mushy, you can fix it by letting the water in the pan evaporate. Then, use a sieve or colander to drain out the excess water, and dry the rice further by baking it.

You can bake it in your oven by following the instructions mentioned above.

Overwatered rice is relatively similar to sticky rice, so if there is too much water in the rice and you can’t dry it, you can fix it by turning it into rice pudding using the recipe mentioned above.

Can You Fix Overcooked Rice?

If your rice is overcooked, you’ve likely burnt the bottom layer of the rice. While this section of the rice cannot be salvaged, you can save the rest of the rice.

To fix overcooked rice:

  • Using oven mitts, take the saucepan off the flame
  • Run only the outside of the saucepan under cold water
  • Use a wooden spoon to remove the unburnt rice and transfer it to another container.

Running the hot saucepan under cold water prevents the overcooked rice from continuing to cook. If you did not stop it from cooking, the rest of the rice would turn bitter and unpleasant to the taste, even if it did not burn.

Final Thoughts

While rice is easy to cook incorrectly, it’s also relatively forgiving. Following the steps above will allow you to save–or at least repurpose–your mushy or overly sticky rice so that none goes to waste.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

For more, don’t miss How to Fix Salty Rice | 9 Simple Solutions.