Making fried rice is smart. Making a crispy rice salad is smarter.
When making a pot of rice, it’s always done with leftovers in mind in my kitchen—that is, doubling or tripling the serving size for a future fried rice meal. As one of the hall-of-fame no-recipe recipes, fried rice has about a thousand (and realistically even more) different offshoots and variations. But thinking outside of the fried rice canon is where things get even more interesting.
Enter crispy rice salad, which transforms those grains of rice into a toasty, textural salad garnish to contrast with whatever enters the salad bowl—snappy greens, a jammy soft-boiled egg, or crisp slivers of radish. There’s no single way to achieve golden clusters of crunchy grains, so you can dry them out in the oven before frying them in oil to maximize their texture, or simply fry it all just like a pancake before breaking them up into bite-size chunks later.
Garlic rice, which is effectively fried-rice-adjacent, is a simple way to revive day-old grains, and a Filipino breakfast essential. But you could even take it a step further and give your Spam musubi an extra punch of warm allium flavor by spooning and pressing some into your mold.
Aside from the golden promise of shimmering oil and a skillet, allowing leftover rice to warm through in a soup is a low-effort, high-reward endeavor. Ochazuke is an easy path to a quick-simmered soup topped with an array of salty, crunchy, and herby toppings that can evoke the comfort of chicken soup or congee, while a simmering pan full of stock, rice, gouda, and leeks can be eaten as such or thickened over time for something more in the risotto realm.
While most rice pudding recipes start with uncooked rice, leftover grains can still absorb enough cream for a tender, custardy bite—and will even shorten the cooking time altogether. And since there’s no risk of eating undercooked rice here, you can taste as you go until everything is to your liking.
Even when they’re not on the ingredients list, a handful of day-old grains can add a more solid structure to most any fritter that’s bound by eggs, bread crumbs, or starchy flours. Similarly, when slid into a frittata, you’ll be rewarded with both silky baked eggs and a bronzed and crispy rice layer.
Push Your Leftover Rice to the Limit:
- We could always use more fried rice ideas.
- While it originally calls for cooked quinoa, a ½ cup of leftover rice is an easy swap in Sheldon Simeon’s recipe for blistered shishitos with furikake-ranch dressing.
- If you have green tea and leftover rice, you’re just minutes away from a comforting bowl of ochazuke.
- Allison Robicelli’s soupy leek rice doesn’t explicitly call for leftover rice, but the recipe is easygoing and riffable by design.
- Level up your Spam musubi with a layer of garlic rice.
- Somehow, fried rice gets even more appealing when formed into a pancake.