Your guide to the food and culture of the tropics


Leftover Rice? Eat for a Week with these Recipes

Rice is the staple food of choice in tropical countries; in fact, over half of the world’s population relies on this simple grain for sustenance, and reasons abound. Rice is an incredibly filling carb, cheap to buy, easy to cook, and would have to be the most versatile ‘base carb’ in existence.

Considering the fact that rice requires massive amounts of water (2,500lt for a kilo!) and arduous labor to harvest, cultures where rice is a staple have developed an ingenious knack for reusing cooked rice. Because let’s face it: it’s nearly impossible to ever cook precisely the amount of rice needed for one specific meal.

But fear not…and waste not!

Here are some of my favorite tropical recipes using leftover rice (one for every day of the week) and one simple tip to keep your rice healthy and happy, for longer.

How to best store cooked leftover rice

Ideally, rice should only ever be at either boiling hot or refrigerated cold. For best storage, cool your rice immediately after cooking by plunging it in a bowl of iced water (or run under a cold water tap), place in an airtight container and store in the fridge (for use the next day) or divided in single serving portions and frozen (for use later in the week). Frozen rice can be stored for a whole month and, in fact, I would personally recommend you freeze it after cooking even if you intend to use it the next day. The moisture will freeze into each grain and the rice will be plumper and juicier. You can use frozen rice straight out of the freezer; it will thaw and warm as you cook and not release any slushy water.

Now to the yummy bit!

Delicious, easy, healthy and fast tropical themed recipes that make best use of leftover rice. Cook one dish…and feast for a week!

Recipes for Leftover Rice

leftover rice, Nasi goreng, Fried Rice, Rice, Leftovers, Egg, Southeast Asia

Nasi goreng

Nasi goreng

Fried rice is ubiquitous in Southeast Asia and often eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The versatility of this dish means that rules don’t exist. Without meaning to offend cultural sensitivities (Indonesians can be particularly picky about their nasi goreng, for example) it’s safe to say there is (almost) nothing you can’t throw into the pan. A great way to use up leftover vegetables and meats, nasi goreng would have to be one of the most loved meals to emerge from the land of the tropics in Asia.

Nasi Goreng
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 red chili peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped raw vegetable of your choice (pepper, leek, cabbage, green beans, etc)
  • 2 tbsp. peanut oil
  • 1 tsp. dried shrimp paste
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup freshly chopped coriander
  • 1 peeled and sliced cucumber
  1. Heat the peanut oil in a large frying pan and fry the two eggs, sunny side up. Remove and set aside
  2. Add the shrimp paste, sugar, and chilies to the pan and fry for 1 minute
  3. Add the cooked rice and cook for 6 minutes or so, until rice has heated through. Continue to stir and break up any rice clumps
  4. Add the garlic, onion, and vegetables, stirring and mixing everything thoroughly. Cook for 3 minutes
  5. Add the sweet soy and cook for 2 more minutes
  6. Remove from heat and serve in bowls, topped with a fried egg, coriander, and cucumber slices

Congee, Rice, Rice pudding, Asia, TropicsGourmet, leftover rice

Congee (By Mr.choppers (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)


When Asians aren’t eating fried rice for breakfast…they’re eating congee. A thick and filling rice porridge that, apparently, is exceptionally good if feeling a bit under the weather.


  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • ½ liter of water
  • 1 tsp ginger, cut into thin strips
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 red chili, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. Pickled bamboo shoots, finely chopped
  • 200grm cooked pork (bacon is also sensational in this recipe)
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • White pepper to taste
  1. Bring the water to a fast boil in a heavy-based saucepan
  2. Add the cooked rice to the water and simmer for about 20 minutes. The idea is to have a very overcooked rice porridge in the end. The water should be very starchy and the rice grain all but disintegrated. Keep adding more water to achieve the right consistency
  3. Done! Stir the white pepper into the congee and pour in separate bowls. Traditionally, congee is served with all the main ingredients separately in little side plates. So simply divide the remaining ingredients into four servings, top each up each bowl, and serve


leftover rice, Rice, Southeast Asia, Arroz con leche, Rice Pudding, Tropics, Tropical, TropicsGourmet

Arroz con leche

From Southeast Asia to South and Central America, here’s a sweet delight that’s as addictive as they come.


Arroz con Leche
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 tbsp. honey or Maple Syrup (or sweetened condensed milk for a naughty treat)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Pinch of cardamom
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 drops vanilla essence
  • 2 bananas, roughly chopped
  1. Place the rice in a heavy-set saucepan and cover completely with the milk. Bring to boil
  2. Lower heat immediately to a simmer and add all over ingredients, except the bananas, as you continuously stir
  3. Sweetness is very subjective, so taste and adjust with honey until your desired sweet taste is achieved. Continue to simmer for about 15 minutes
  4. Pour the arroz con leche into bowls, top with chopped bananas or any fruit, berry and nut mix you love


Rice, Zucchini, Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed Zucchini (Photo: Flickr Scott Brenner)


Rice and meat-stuffed zucchini

From Morocco to Turkey and all the delightful Mediterranean countries in between: rice and mince-stuffed veggies are the bomb!

Rice and Meat-Stuffed Zucchini
  • 4 zucchinis, halved and with the flesh scooped out (set aside)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 200gr lean beef or lamb mince
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat oil in a deep frying pan and sizzle the garlic, onion for 5 minutes
  2. Add the mince and brown for 5 minutes only. Remove pan from heat and transfer contents in a large bowl
  3. Add the rice, allspice, salt and pepper, and mix well to combine
  4. Stuff the zucchini halves with rice and mince mixture and set aside
  5. In a large, deep set frypan, mix the tomatoes with the chicken broth and bring to a quick boil. Lower the heat to a minimum, carefully line the pan with the zucchini boats, cover with a lid and cook very gently for about 45 minutes, or until zucchini is cooked through
  6. To serve, dish out the zucchini, top with one ladle of sauce and a squeeze of the lemon


Omelette, Rice, Spinach, Mushroom, Breakfast, Tropics, Tropical, TropicsGourmet

Rice, Spinach, and Mushroom Omelette


Mushroom & spinach rice omelet

A slight variation of the Japanese omurice, this veggie and rice omelet is the perfect Sunday brunch dish. Toast need not apply.

Mushroom & Spinach Rice Omelet
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups spinach leaves, washed and shredded
  • 500gm mushroom, sliced
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Ketchup
  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, add onion, garlic and mushrooms for 3 minutes
  2. Add spinach and rice, and stir until spinach has wilted
  3. Add the salt and pepper to the beaten eggs, and pour evenly over mushroom and spinach mix
  4. Cover with a lid and cook until firm (about 5 minutes)
  5. Either fold the omelet in the pan or transfer skillet to a grill and cook until top has browned nicely. Serve with ketchup


Veggie Burger, Rice, Burger

Veggie Burger


Mexican rice veggie burgers

Think of it like a falafel burger but much, much juicier…and with a delectable taste of the American tropics.

Mexican rice veggie burgers
  • 2 cups cooked rice, thawed and separated
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1 diced onion
  • 5 minced garlic cloves
  • ½ grated carrot
  • 1 diced red pepper
  • ½ cup corn kernels
  • 1 cup spicy Mexican red beans
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp. mustard
  • Pinch cumin
  • Pinch oregano
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  1. Place all the ingredients except the olive oil in a large bowl and mix thoroughly until well combined. The more the Mexican beans break up, the better. Place the burger mix in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours
  2. Shape the mix into juicy fat burgers
  3. Heat up the olive oil in the skillet on high heat, searing the burgers on all sides until nice and brown
  4. Serve as you wish! With a salad, in between sesame seed buns topped with sour cream or just on their own


(By rovingI - flickr, CC BY 2.0,

(By rovingI – flickr, CC BY 2.0,


Coconut, shrimp and pineapple rice

Want a dish that’ll transport your taste buds to a tropical island paradise? This is it.

Coconut, shrimp and pineapple rice
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 large shallot, roughly chopped
  • 200gm asparagus, roughly chopped
  • 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
  • ½kg shrimp, deshelled and deveined
  • 1 cup pineapple pieces
  • 1 fresh lime, cut in half
  • 1 cup freshly chopped coriander
  1. Place the coconut milk in saucepan and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat, add rice and simmer for about 10 minutes until rice has heated through and is slightly overcooked. Remove from heat and cover with a lid until the rice has absorbed the milk completely
  2. Heat the sesame oil in a skillet, add the shallot, asparagus and pepper and stir fry for 3-4 minutes or until the asparagus is tender
  3. Add the shrimp and pineapple and cook for 2-3 minutes until the shrimp is done
  4. Squeeze lime juice in the shrimp mix, stir in coriander, and remove from heat
  5. Fluff up the rice with a fork and ladle into bowls, divide the shrimp mixture evenly between the bowls and devour immediately!





Written by

Laura Pattara is a modern nomad who’s been vagabonding around the world, non-stop, for the past 11 years. She’s tour guided overland trips through South America and Africa, travelled independently through the Middle East and is now, along with her partner in love and travel, riding a motorbike from Germany to Australia. Laura moonlights as a freelance travel writer and, between adventures, loves sharing her travel ramblings on her personal website:Laura's Travel Tales