Signs Your Cooked Rice Has Gone Bad

Uncooked rice is one of those long-lasting pantry staples that you can count on when you're all out of fresh groceries. Cooked rice? Not so much. According to Still Tasty, cooked rice lasts about 4 to 6 days in the fridge when it's in a covered airtight container or a resealable plastic bag. But even uncooked rice won't last forever, and it's not always obvious when rice is past its prime. Does It Go Bad helpfully notes that bugs, mold, and changes in color are signs that you should not eat your uncooked rice. If your cooked rice smells weird or feels slimy, that also belongs in the trash and not in your mouth.

The Kitchn identifies another cue that your rice might be spoiled: it's become hard and dry. The longer cooked rice sits in the fridge, the drier it gets. If it sits for more than a few days, it may even become really crunchy, meaning it's reached the end of its shelf life. 

What happens when you eat spoiled rice?

If you ignore the signs and eat that week-old rice anyway, you could be risking food poisoning. The United Kingdom's National Health Service warns that reheating rice can cause food poisoning. Rice can contain spores of bacteria that could cause diarrhea and vomiting. "The longer cooked rice is left at room temperature," NHS advises, "the more likely it is that the bacteria or toxins could make the rice unsafe to eat."

NHS also suggests that you serve rice immediately after cooking it, that you refrigerate it within an hour of cooking, that you make sure your rice is "steaming hot all the way through" after reheating, and that you never reheat rice more than once. One study even found that eating 5-day-old rice, in extreme cases, could potentially be deadly (via ScienceAlert). That doesn't mean that eating rice that's more than a few days old is definitely going to kill you, but it does mean that you should exercise caution, pay attention to the signs, and be sure to store and heat your rice properly.