I Left Rice Out Overnight: Is It Still Safe To Eat?

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Rice in a bowl in dark background with a text "left rice out overnight"

Rice is easy to cook ahead of time. Keep cooked rice in your fridge for an easy addition to any meal. But what if you forgot to put it away and left it out overnight? Is your rice still safe to eat?

If you left rice out overnight, it’s no longer safe. Rice left out for more than two hours starts to grow bacteria. Throw away all the rice and thoroughly clean the pot. Eating contaminated rice can cause food poisoning. 

Is Rice Safe To Eat If I Leave It Out Overnight?

No, rice is not safe to eat if you leave it out overnight. If rice spends more than two hours at room temperature, bacteria grow. The longer rice sits out, the more bacteria it contains. 

Rice contains a specific kind of bacteria called Bacillus cereus. This bacteria contaminates rice after two hours at room temperature. 

How Should I Store My Cooked Rice?

To keep your rice safe to eat later, chill and store it in the fridge within two hours of cooking. Keep your rice warm for a maximum of two hours on the stove or in a rice cooker. Then, transfer it to a sheet pan to cool it quickly

Cooked brown rice in a sheet pan with a logo of fooducopia in the lower right side of the image.

Once cool, I place it in a zip-top bag and store it in the fridge. I always store my rice below 40 °F to stop the growth of bacteria. I make sure to ear leftover rice within six days. Or, I store it in the freezer for up to three months. 

Brown rice in a sheet pan with zip lock hanged on the side with a logo of fooducopia in the lower right side of the image.

How Common Is Bacillus Cereus in Rice?

Bacillus cereus is very common in all varieties of rice. This bacteria thrives between 39 and 140 °F. It’s found in rice, pasta, couscous, and other cereal products. 

Bacillus cereus is present in soil, plants, and animals. There’s no way to see the bacteria without a microscope. You can’t wash it off with water; some spores may remain even after cooking your rice.  

The only way to stop most Bacillus cereus spores is to heat food above 145 °F. But, once the food cools and drops below 145°, dormant Bacillus cereus spores can start to grow again. 

Eating food with active Bacillus cereus spores can cause food poisoning. Symptoms of food poisoning include

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach upset
  • Vomiting

Most of the time, food poisoning symptoms go away on their own. But, if they don’t clear up within 24 hours, contact your doctor. 

Can I Eat Fried Rice Left Out Overnight?

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No, it’s not safe to eat fried rice left out overnight. Bacillus cereus grows in fried rice as well as plain rice. Food poisoning caused by fried rice is so common that it’s known as “fried rice syndrome”. Even if you store fried rice properly, eating leftovers comes with the risk of fried rice syndrome. 

To reduce the risks of fried rice syndrome:

  • Eat rice as soon as possible after cooking. 
  • Chill cooked rice as quickly as possible, no more than two hours after cooking.
  • Reheat leftovers above 165 °F to kill any bacteria.

Does Uncooked Rice Go Bad If Left Out?

Uncooked rice lasts for years if stored properly. Keep your uncooked rice fresh in an airtight container or zip-top bag. White rice will stay fresh for two years, while brown rice will last six months. 

Final Thoughts

Rice left out overnight isn’t safe to eat. After two hours, Bacillus cereus spores start to grow. Chill cooked rice as soon as possible to protect yourself from food poisoning. Reheat it to at least 165 °F to kill any remaining bacteria.

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