Turn Your Leftover Rice Into The Perfect Fall Soup

In the fall — perhaps not the exact date the calendar rolls over to September, but at whatever point the weather starts cooling down — we often experience a desire for heartier foods as our bodies respond to an ancient urge to fortify ourselves against hard times to come. While soup can help to warm us up on a chilly day, it's not always the most filling fare unless you bulk up your bowl with a hefty dose of starch. One of the easiest ways to do this, and it works with both pre-made and from-scratch soups, is by stirring in some of that rice you have left from last night's Chinese takeout.

The great thing about rice is that it can work well in just about any kind of soup, whether it be meat or vegetable-based. Chicken and rice soup is a classic, but vegetable rice soup is also good. Rice can even work as an add-in for tomato soup or clam chowder even if it may be a bit less expected in such soups. For a quintessential fall warmer-upper, though, nothing beats pumpkin soup with rice. Try making it with a hint of ginger or a sprinkling of curry powder to add a little spice. Coconut milk, too, is an ingredient that pairs nicely with pumpkin, while adding lime juice to your soup can help offset some of the starchiness from the rice.

Be careful not to use rice that's too old, though

While a warm bowl of soup on a leaf-strewn table makes for a charming fall image, you won't feel warm and fuzzy if that soup results in a foodborne illness, which may be what happens if you use cooked rice that's been improperly stored or has passed its prime. The problem with leftover rice is that it can be dangerous to consume if you let it sit too long as it could host a foodborne pathogen called Bacillus cereus. This type of bacteria can begin to pose a threat once it multiplies to toxic levels, which occurs when rice is kept at temperatures between 40 F and 140 F.

What this means is that once rice is cooked (or delivered), it needs to be refrigerated ASAP. Even once it's in the fridge, though, it's best not to let it linger there too long. The USDA says that rice can be kept in the refrigerator for no longer than 6 days, but Drexel University food science professor Rosemary Trout tells Bon Appétit that she thinks this estimate is on the over-generous side. "With opening and closing of home refrigerators all day," she points out, "it's possible that the rice will be above 40 F at least part of the time." To stay on the safe side, plan on re-purposing rice within 2 or 3 days. As a further precaution, microwave it to 165 F before stirring it into your soup.