Your once-freshly cooked rice may turn cold and clumpy after a night in the fridge, but don’t give up on it! It’s easy to turn those leftovers into a irresistible treat dubbed “crispy rice.” This dish involves pressing cooked rice into slices, then reheating until it’s golden brown before topping it with various ingredients like salmon or fresh herbs. The result: crunchy on the outside, yet fluffy on the inside rice that’s perfect as a side or bite-sized snack. Ready to create this delicious dish and never have to throw away leftover rice again? Keep reading to learn how to make crispy rice and five topping ideas that take it to the next level.
How crispy rice is made
Traditionally, crispy rice is made by packing seasoned, cooked rice into a rectangular dish and then chilling it. Once firm, the block of rice is cut into slices and pan-fried in oil until it’s crunchy. This version of crispy rice is tasty and a staple at the world-renowned Japanese restaurant called Nobu, where it’s topped with avocado and spicy tuna. But, you can re-create this pricey menu item at home for much less using leftover rice and your favorite ingredients. (Click through to discover why cooking rice in the oven is our go-to method for achieving fluffy grains every time.)
The key to perfect homemade crispy rice
Restaurant-style crispy rice is typically made using sushi rice for two reasons. First, the short grains create a chewy interior and crunchy exterior for the crispy rice. Also, sushi rice is flavored with salt, sugar and rice vinegar for perfectly balanced hints of sweetness and sourness.
No sushi rice on hand? No problem! My Nguyen, blogger and founder at My Healthy Dish, says other varieties like jasmine or basmati work just fine. However, to nail that signature restaurant flavor, she suggests mixing the cooked rice “with a little rice vinegar, sugar and salt” beforehand. Then, you can proceed with using the grains in your desired crispy rice recipe.
Unusual health benefits of crispy rice
Rice that’s been cooked and then cooled contains an unusual kind of fiber known as resistant starch that resists digestion in the small intestine. The fact that resistant starch flows through the small intestine without modification has a huge impact on your microbiome, or the healthy bacteria living in your digestive tract. When resistant starch enters the large intestine, it’s fermented by your gut microbes into short-chain fatty acids, like acetate, butyrate, and propionate that support gut and microbiome wellbeing. Butyrate, in particular, has been shown to have a positive effect on the gut by dialing down inflammation and helping to prevent colon cancer. Additionally, butyrate impacts all-body processes, helping to reduce LDL cholesterol levels and improve insulin function. Insulin, of course, plays a critical role in metabolism and weight loss. Both rice and potatoes have very little resistant starch until they’re cooked and cooled — so using leftover rice to create crispy rice means you’re getting a nice dose of healthy resistant starch. (Click through to learn more about how potatoes can speed weight loss.)
2 easy crispy rice recipes
Whipping up crispy rice is simple, even if you’re short on time. Try either of the two recipes below and see how it quickly becomes one of your mealtime staples! (Click through to see some surprising foods you can make with a waffle iron.)
Traditional Crispy Rice
- 1 to 2 cups leftover cooked rice
- 1 heaping Tbs. rice vinegar, if needed
- Pinch of granulated sugar, if needed
- Pinch of salt, if needed
- 1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
- Vegetable or avocado oil
- Toppings like sliced salmon, avocado, wasabi
- Soy sauce, for dipping (optional)
- Active time: 30 mins
- Total time: 1 hr, 30 mins
- Yield: 12 crispy rice squares
- If using plain, long-grain rice varieties: Place rice into bowl and mix with rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Set aside.
- Line small baking dish with plastic wrap. Pack rice into dish and cover with overhanging parts of plastic wrap. Freeze for 45 minutes.
- Take rice out of freezer and lightly dust both sides of rice block with flour. Cut rice into equal sections, 12 if possible.
- Pour enough oil in large skillet to just cover surface and heat over medium heat. Fry 5 to 6 rice squares at a time on all sides until crispy, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer rice to wire rack set over baking sheet and cool 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining rice squares.
- Top with slices of salmon and avocado alongside dab of wasabi. Serve crispy rice squares with soy sauce. Enjoy!
Speedy Air-Fryer Crispy Rice
- 3 cups leftover cooked rice
- 1½ heaping Tbs. rice vinegar, if needed
- Pinch of granulated sugar, if needed
- 2 Tbs. vegetable oil + more greasing
- 2 Tbs. regular or low-sodium soy sauce
- Chili flakes (optional)
- Chopped scallions (optional)
- Active time: 5 mins
- Total time: 20 mins
- Yield: 3 to 4 servings
- If using plain, long-grain rice varieties: Place rice into bowl and mix with rice vinegar and sugar. Set aside. (Note: No salt is needed since soy sauce will be added later.)
- Preheat air fryer to 375°F. Grease air fryer tray with thin coating of oil; set aside.
- In bowl, mix rice with oil and soy sauce until grains are fully coated. Spoon rice onto tray, spreading and patting into even layer.
- Place rice into air fryer and cook for 12 minutes, or until rice is golden brown on top.
- Remove from appliance and cool about 3 minutes before cutting into even-sized squares or rectangles. Sprinkle with chili flakes and scallions (if desired) and serve.
5 ways to flavor crunchy rice
Plain crispy rice gets even tastier when you top it with one or more of these ingredients!
1. Drizzle your favorite condiments on top of the crispy rice.
Make your crispy rice flavorful by adding dashes of soy sauce for saltiness, hot sauce for spiciness or squeezable mayonnaise for tang. (Click through to learn how a unique condiment like Japanese mayonnaise gives crispy rice an extra savory kick.)
2. Sprinkle the rice with fresh herbs.
For a burst of fresh and earthy flavors in each bite, garnish the crunchy rice with chopped cilantro, parsley or chives. Feel free to be generous with the herbs as they complement the taste of almost any additional topping.
3. Top the dish with protein.
Crispy rice squares can be made more filling by topping each one with half of a hard-boiled egg, a slice of cooked salmon or shredded chicken. Cooked shrimp is another delicious topping option that’s easy to warm up using our guide on how to reheat shrimp.
4. Add a creamy element to the rice.
The rich, velvety consistency of ingredients like sliced avocado and plain yogurt nicely contrast the rice’s crunchy exterior. All you need is a small amount of your preferred creamy topping before your crispy rice is ready to enjoy.
5. Place more crunchy ingredients on top.
Can’t get enough crunch? Well, a sprinkle of sesame seeds or slices of cucumbers are perfect for satisfying those texture cravings while adding a mild flavor to the dish!
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