Cooking a pot of rice often leads to leftovers. Ditto for ordering takeout. On top of that, planning quick, easy, and healthy meals can be a challenge from week to week.
The solution? What I call “assembled meals.” Assembled meals require little to no cooking and can be pulled together with leftovers and a variety of items that are easily kept on hand.
Your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry likely offer the building blocks of a great meal that can be customized based on preferences and cravings – and in this case make good use of leftover rice!
Grab your leftover rice. If it seems a bit dry, “refresh” it with a tablespoon or two of water, cover with a damp paper towel, and gently reheat in the microwave. Alternatively, use the guide for Perfectly Cooked Rice to make a fresh batch.
Rice and wraps are a staple food in many cultures. Here are some new ways to wrap and roll!
- Mexican-style burrito – start with a tortilla and fill with any type of cooked rice (Cilantro Lime Rice pairs beautifully), black beans, chopped tomatoes or salsa, and red onions. Think to this concept, when you’ve made Healthy Refried Beans, Salsa Verde, and/or Easy One Avocado Guacamole, or when you have store bought alternatives on hand. Look to the Pork Carnitas Burrito Bowls and Easy Chicken Burrito Bowls for flavor and ingredient ideas without the tortilla.
- Greek-style wrap – use a large pita bread or pocket and fill with rice, fresh dill, feta, olives, cucumbers, and tomato. For added protein, use leftover chicken (Grilled Chicken Kabobs or the Greek Chicken Meatballs perhaps?). Dress with Tzatziki, or the Absolutely Famous Greek Dressing and Marinade, or similar store-bought options, even plain Greek yogurt.
- Thai–style wrap – Start with a large lettuce leaf, and top with rice, bell peppers, carrots, sesame seeds, cabbage, and scallions. Drizzle on soy sauce or sesame oil for a flavor punch. Simply sautéed ground beef or sliced Honey Lime Chicken would be a perfect add-on. Or, top these Asian Chicken Wraps with rice for a more filling meal.
How About Rice For Breakfast?
Move over, oatmeal! While rice may not be the first food to cross our minds in the morning, billions of people around the world start their day with this nourishing grain. Here are some ways to try it:
- Combine leftover cooked rice with a milk of choice. Since the rice is already cooked, it won’t soak up the milk like oatmeal does. Add just enough to reach the preferred consistency. Heat in the microwave or on the stove. This can also be enjoyed cold.
- For a balanced satisfying meal with extra flavor add toppings such as: fruit (fresh, frozen, canned, or dried), nuts and seeds, sweeteners like honey and maple syrup, and/or spices such as cinnamon, ginger, pumpkin or apple pie spice, cardamom, or nutmeg.
- Enjoy a quick fried rice (stay with me here, eggs can be involved). This savory breakfast could be as simple as leftover rice and veggies. Or, to add more pizazz, stir in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and ginger. Round out the meal by mixing in scrambled eggs or topping with a fried egg. Feel free to use this recipe for Chicken Fried Rice as a loose guide – and feel free to enjoy for lunch or dinner as well.
Add Variety To Salads
If salads seem less satisfying when made at home, jazz them up with leftover rice!
- A scoop of rice mixed into crispy salad veggies makes salads more fun and filling. Top with a ready-to-eat protein, such as cooked chicken, hard-boiled eggs, or meatballs for an even more satiating meal.
- You may have all (or some) the ingredients needs for a Southwestern Rice Salad, which is nutrient-dense and easy to put together ahead of time. Great for barbecues, picnics, and weeknight meals. Don’t have kale? Use leaf lettuce instead. Or use regular potatoes instead of sweet potatoes. Feel free to sub ingredients in and out depending on what you have available.
- Top salads with a freezer-friendly burger. For a plant-based option, this Sweet Potato & Black Bean Veggie Burger can be made ahead of time and frozen until ready to assemble. Use leftover rice as a substitute for the quinoa, as it works perfectly.
- For crave-worthy flavor, drizzle your salad with on dressing, seasonings, or even a dip. Here are some of my favorites: Favorite Balsamic Dressing, Favorite Peanut Dressing, and Greeked-Out Gorgonzola Dressing.
These assembled meals and recipes are certainly not the only ways to use leftover rice, but perhaps they will inspire you to experiment, and discover new and deliciously effortless combinations. You may find yourself making a little too much rice on purpose from now on!