Use Leftover Rice to Make a Warm, Comforting Salad

Use Leftover Rice to Make a Warm, Comforting Salad

As versatile as rice can be, sometimes it’s hard to decide what to do with the leftovers. Since rice freezes so well, a few times a year I’m faced with a serious collection of small white rice containers. (They’re gentle reminders of my love of the Chinese restaurant on the block.) This is an excellent way to put them to use. Whether you have leftover rice or you make a fresh batch just for this, warm rice salad is the quickest comfort food I’ve thought of to-date (and it will help you clean out your fridge).

Since rice is prized for its neutral, aromatic flavors, and belly-filling qualities, it’s easy to match with other foods. It’s as neutral as iceberg. Take a quick inventory of the half-eaten ingredients you have, as well as any herbs or veggies that maybe only have a day or two left before they enter the “questionable” stage of life. Use the rice as a base and build your salad.

How to use leftover rice in a salad

If you’re starting with cold or frozen rice, reheat it first. Some folks like the texture of cold rice, but I’m not about that life. As with pasta or oatmeal, the starches in rice set when the temperature drops and the texture becomes waxy and hard. You don’t have to make the rice screaming-hot, but do give it a blast in the microwave for a minute or so, to bring back that soft texture.

Chop up any other ingredients that you’d like in your salad. I do an imprecise ratio of half rice and half “other stuff.” You could take the meat off of leftover barbecue chicken, use leftover roasted Brussels sprouts, chop up the tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden, or use the half avocado you forgot to eat this morning.

I use a rough ratio of equal parts rice and “other stuff”.Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

I gave my rice a greek salad treatment. I put chopped cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, jalapeño stuffed olives, feta, and parsley in a large bowl. Then I added the warm rice, and tossed it all together. The last thing, of course, is a flavorful dressing, so I made a quick one with olive oil, lemon, and yogurt. Use a little more dressing than you think. Rice is relatively bland, so the dressing makes every bite shine. Plus this grain loves to absorb liquids, so if there are any leftovers this salad will soak up the extra dressing. It tastes even better the next day.

Warm Rice Salad with Greek Energy


For the salad

  • 1 ½ to 2 cups cooked rice, warmed (loosely fluffed, not packed)
  • ½ cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup chopped cucumbers
  • ⅓ cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • ⅓ cup jalapeno stuffed olives, halved
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

For the dressing

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ lemon’s juice (about 2 tablespoons)
  • ½ teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon greek yogurt

Add all of the salad ingredients to a large bowl and gently toss. Depending on the type of rice you’re using, it might have some clumps, that’s totally fine. Whisk all of the dressing ingredients in a measuring cup or small bowl until the honey and salt have dissolved. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss thoroughly. Enjoy immediately.

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