How to Store Rice for a Long Time

Chris Thompson Chris Thompson  |  Updated: November 29, 2021
How to Store Rice for a Long Time

Whether you don’t have time to go shopping or there is a calamity that leaves you on survival mode, rice is one food that you can count on. Rice is also one of the easiest foods to prepare, and you can eat it at any given time of day along with your favorite dishes from different parts of the world.

One good thing about rice is its long shelf life. If you store it correctly, it can last for decades in your pantry. But the real challenge is how to store rice long-term.

If you want to learn how to preserve rice for a long time and know the shelf life of different types of rice, please read on…

Is White Rice an Excellent Survival Food?

White rice is an exceptional source of food that can be stored for a very long time. If stored correctly, different types of white rice can last for over 30 years and keep your family fed during the hard times.

How to Store Rice for a Long Time

Over the last few centuries, rice has been used for survival by different cultures. Therefore it is a unique option for an emergency food pantry. Here is why:

  • White rice is an excellent source of complex carbohydrate
  • It is affordable
  • If appropriately stored, it can last for over 30 years
  • It is easy to find
  • It is a filling comfort food
  • It feeds over half the world’s population
  • It has a long track record of being used as a staple food

Why Is Rice the Best Food for Storing Long-Term?

Rice is the best option for long-term storage because it is satiating and affordable. This highly nutritious meal is excellent for your physical and mental health. Rice may not have what most superfoods have, but it can give you everything you need to remain healthy. Plus, most superfoods are pretty costly and have a concise shelf life.

White Rice Storage

So if you’re working with a tight budget, then you should purchase rice instead of other superfoods. After all, it has the following health benefits:

  • It can increase your energy levels
  • It normalizes your bowel movement
  • It can reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in your system
  • It lowers the risk of stroke and heart attack
  • It optimizes the transportation of oxygen in your body through your bloodstreams

Therefore, if you always avoid grains because of celiac illnesses or gluten sensitivity, then fear not! Rice is an exceptional grain that is absolutely gluten-free. This means that you can eat as much rice as you need without getting:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Excess gas
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea

Another reason why it’s the best option for long-term storage is that it is very easy to prepare.

Well, can you boil water? Then you can cook it like a professional. If you don’t have the time to boil water, you can cook it using your microwave. If you have a rice cooker, then you can easily enjoy a delicious bowl of steamed rice.

Are All Kinds of Rice Ideal for Long-Term Storage?

There are several rice varieties, but not all are the same in terms of shelf life. Some types of rice can last longer than others; for example, white rice lasts longer than brown. Therefore, they are the best option for long-term storage.

brown,rice in a bag

Brown rice has a husk that is filled with natural oils. These natural oils tend to go bad after 18 months, regardless of how you store them.

Thus, brown rice is ideal for short-term storage only. Wild rice also lasts longer than brown and black rice when stored properly.

How Long Does Rice Last?

The shelf life of the different types varies, with the white rice lasting longer than the other kinds of rice. White rice varieties like Basmati, Arborio, Jasmine, and long-grain can last the longest when properly stored. White rice can last for over 30 years in an oxygen-free container or freezer and five years in the store packaging.

On the other hand, brown rice and purple/black rice can last for one and a half years in the freezer or in an oxygen-free container. Brown and black rice can last for a maximum of 6 months in the store packaging.

Another type of rice that is ideal for long-term storage is wild rice. Wild rice can last for over 30 years in the freezer or an oxygen-free container.

It’s worthwhile to note that wild rice is also the only type of rice that can last for over a decade in-store packaging.

But if you’re not careful, your stored rice may be infested by rice bugs. After all, most rice comes with weevil eggs that can hatch under suitable conditions.

What Are Rice Bugs?

weevil on rice

You may not notice them, but most likely, the rice you have just purchased has insect eggs. The eggs may belong to weevils or moths, and when left in the pantry for a long time, they can hatch and grow into adults. Adult weevils can lay more eggs resulting in a severe bug infestation.

Fortunately, rice weevils are safe, and they can even introduce some nutrients to your meal. So eating pest-infested food may not be harmful to your health. But most folks don’t like the idea of consuming insects, so they end up throwing the infested rice away.

How Can You Kill Rice Bugs and Their Eggs?

As aforementioned, rice comes with bugs; in fact, the flour in the pantry also came with bug eggs. So, before storing them, make sure all the eggs are dead. Fortunately, there are methods you can use to kill these bugs and their eggs, and some of the most effective ones include:

  • Freezing the rice for three days before storing it: freezing the rice will kill the eggs before hatching. It will also destroy the grown weevils, larvae, and pupae if they are already present in the rice.
  • Hermetically seal the rice and put it in an oxygen absorber: this method is unique since it gives you additional years while killing the bugs. Airtight containers with no oxygen can also help you kill the eggs within 2 weeks.

What Is the Shelf Life of Instant Rice?

Instant Rice in a Box

Instant rice is a type of rice that has been precooked and is microwave-ready. Some instant rice products are dehydrated so that they can cook faster when you finally get to boil them.

The shelf life of instant rice is about two years. The best place to store them is in a cool and dry place like the cupboard or pantry. Remember, instant rice can also be consumed by household pests, so you should ensure that the packaging is not torn.

Instant rice tends to have lots of artificial preservatives that help them last longer than cooked rice. So, if you’re a health-conscious individual, then you should stay away from instant rice. The sodium added in instant rice to make them taste better is not suitable for your kidneys or heart.

How Long Does Cooked Rice Last?

If stored in the fridge, then cooked rice can last for only 7 days. If left on the counter, then it should be consumed within a few hours. Otherwise, it will go bad.

Cooked rice is full of moisture that can promote the growth of bacillus cereus which is naturally found in rice. The toxins produced by these bacteria can cause food poisoning and vomiting. Therefore, you should put it in an airtight container and store it in the freezer. Otherwise, it will become soggy and start producing a foul smell.

Best Methods for Storing Rice

Like all the other dry staple foods, this can also go bad, especially when subjected to light, heat, oxygen, or moisture. But for rice, moisture is its main problem, mainly since it acts like a sponge. If stored in a place with high humidity, it will absorb moisture and become moldy within a few days.

Light, heat, and oxygen can also make whole grains go bad. Heat, light, and oxygen can make the healthy oils in rice rancid very fast. This is why white rice can get spoiled when exposed to high temperatures. Therefore, the best storage method should help eradicate all these factors for the rice to last longer.

But most importantly, never store rice in its store packaging. Remember, if the rice is infested, then the packaging is not safe.

To keep the rice bugs away, you can try the following storage methods:

Airtight Containers

Most foods are usually kept in airtight containers to prevent them from going bad. Airtight containers also protect the foods from the pests that are normally attracted to them. But rice should never be stored in an airtight container as it can shorten its shelf life. The main issue with airtight jars is that they make the rice sweat, leaving it moist. Remember, nothing can attract mold into the jar than moisture. So if you use airtight containers, make sure you keep the moisture it creates away from the rice.

The main benefit of airtight jars is that they can keep the rice bugs away. And if the eggs hatch, they won’t leave and infest the other foods stored in the pantry.

Using an airtight container is cheaper than the other storing methods, but you will need some oxygen-absorbing packets. The plastic or glass used to make these containers allows light to pass through, so you will have to keep them in a dark place.

Small jars like mason jars can come in handy when storing rice as they can only store a small amount of rice before being vacuum sealed.

When working with a mason jar, remember to make a note of the following:

  • To make the storing process worth your time, you should purchase a huge bag of rice.
  • Assuming that each bag of rice comes with bug eggs, make sure you kill the bugs first. So, you should either use oxygen absorbers or freeze the rice for 3 days to kill the eggs and bugs.
  • Pour the rice in some clean mason jars.
  • Add an oxygen absorber in all the jars and place the lids on them.
  • Seal the jars using a food saver that has a jar attachment
  • After sealing the jars, you can store them in a dry, cool place

Freezer

Just like the other food items, you can also stash your rice in the freezer to prevent it from going bad. In fact, this is one of the solutions to deal with rice bugs and their eggs. The only problem is you really cannot store huge amounts of raw rice in a normal freezer, and you may need an industrial-purpose freezer.

Another benefit of a freezer is that you can use the store packaging if it fits perfectly in your freezer. If the store packaging is too big, you can pour some rice into freezer-safe containers and store them.

The freezer can help keep your white rice fresh for over 30 years, but it’s not the best option. Why? Because you have to consider what happens in case of a power outage. If the freezer shuts down, condensation can build up inside, and the rice will absorb the moisture. There’s also the possibility that your freezer could also stop working or maintain the correct environment for storing the rice.

Cooked rice can also be stored in the freezer for a week if it’s stored correctly. But before freezing cooked rice, you should ensure that it’s at room temperature. If you put hot rice in the freezer, it will collect moisture while cooling down, and this will make it go bad faster.

Vacuum Sealing

Even though it’s not the best option for storing white rice, vacuum sealing can give white rice a shelf life of about four years.

The main problem with this method is that most vacuum-sealer bags aren’t airtight. Therefore, they will allow moisture and air to flow into the bag. Plus, white rice can last longer in a standard storage container, so you won’t be gaining much with vacuum sealing.

On the other hand, brown rice can benefit a lot from vacuum sealing as it can increase its shelf life to over two years. Brown rice is susceptible to oxygenation, which can damage it, so vacuum sealing it can improve its shelf life.

Remember, rice has sharp edges that can easily damage the vacuum sealer bag. So you should consider lining the vacuum-sealer bags before adding the rice.

Container With an Oxygen Absorber

Most folks prefer getting vast amounts of rice at once and storing them. After all, purchasing small portions of rice now and then can be pretty costly and time-consuming. However, leaving the rice in the store packaging is not the best long-term storage idea; you may need some huge containers.

Large containers are great if you have more than enough space to store them. But if you are worried about pest infestation, then you should opt for small containers. With small containers, only a small batch of the rice will be ruined by the bugs.

To put it simply, using a container with an oxygen absorber is the simplest long-term storing method on the planet. All you have to do is get a clean container like a food-grade bucket or jar, and you are good to go.

You can even add oxygen absorber packets to the container, and your food will be safe. The oxygen absorber packet will prevent oxidation and make it possible for your rice to last longer. Plus, without oxygen, the bugs will die, and the eggs won’t hatch.

Unfortunately, the seals on recycled jars, plastic containers, and buckets are not reliable. These seals will eventually start leaking in air and moisture. Another problem with using huge plastic jars is that you will be exposing huge amounts of rice to the elements. Because of this, you may have to add a new oxygen absorber packet every time you open your container.

Mylar Bag With an Oxygen Absorber

This is by far the best option for long-term storage for both brown and white rice. Mylar bags can help create a barrier between the rice and elements. When oxygen absorbers are added into the bags, it can guarantee rice shelf life of over 30 years.

Sealing them after adding rice is relatively easy; all you need is an ordinary iron. Since these bags are metallic and impermeable, your rice will be protected from insects, light, and oxidation.

Mylar bags are ideal for folks who love storing their food in small portions. So, you can place the bags in a food-grade bucket and enjoy your rice for the next few years.

Remember, food-grade buckets expose a considerable amount of rice to the elements, but with Mylar bags, your rice will be safe. Plus, they can come in handy when you don’t have a cool and dark place to store the rice.

If you’re working with a large amount of rice, then you can keep your Mylar bags in a big plastic container.

FAQs

Can I store cooked rice long-term?

Yes, but this depends on the type of rice you have and your storage method. For example, white rice can last for over 30 years if stored in Mylar bags or four years in airtight containers.

On the other hand, brown rice can last eight months in airtight containers and five years in Mylar bags. Therefore, your storage method really matters when it comes to the shelf life of your rice.

Does white rice last longer than instant rice?

Yes, white rice lasts longer than instant rice that has been stored properly. White rice can last for over three decades, while instant rice can last for only two years. So make sure you store your instant rice in a dry and cool area for it to last longer.

Note that pests can also infest instant rice.

Why can’t I store brown rice long-term?

Unlike white rice, brown rice comes with an outer husk rich in fatty acids and oil. These oils tend to oxidize with time, so you can’t store brown rice long-term. The best you can do is store it in Mylar bags for about five years. But if exposed to light and oxygen, it will undergo oxidation and get spoiled.

What is the best way to store Basmati rice long-term?

The best method for storing uncooked Basmati rice in your pantry is in oxygen-free containers. You can also store them in Mylar bags and add oxygen absorbers to keep your rice safe. Remember, just like other foods, make sure you store them in a dry and cool place. Plus, packaged basmati for storing for over 30 years is available.

Can storing rice with bay leaves keep the bugs away?

Yes, bay leaves are the best solution for protecting the rice that is in rotation from bugs. Remember, containers are not genuinely bug-free or airtight. So, after removing the rice you want to cook, you can add an air absorber packet and bay leaves before sealing the container.

How can you store rice in warehouses?

Generally, the bags should be stacked on top of a ground structure or on pallets to prevent the rice from absorbing moisture. The rice should also not be stacked on rice husk as keeping bugs away from rice husks can be very hard. Stacking them in bags of rice husks can result in the bugs migrating to the bags of rice and damaging your staple food.

Conclusion

Generally, the different types of rice have varying shelf lives. Some grains like white rice can last for over 30 years, while brown rice can last for only 5 years. But for them to last this long, you have to master how to store rice long term. Remember, rice can be damaged by light, oxidation, moisture, and rice bugs. So the best storage solution should eradicate all these factors while making it easy for you to remove some rice when you want to cook. The best storage method that guarantees you 30 years is using a Mylar bag with an oxygen absorber.

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