How to Store Rice For The Long Term


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Last Updated: March 10, 2021

Rice is considered a non-perishable food and, in theory, can last years in your pantry.  However, if you don’t store it properly, rice will eventually go bad.  Here’s what you need to know about rice shelf life and storage methods which will keep rice from spoiling for years or even decades.

Does Rice Go Bad?

Like with all dry staples, rice will go bad if it is subjected to moisture, oxygen, heat, or light.  Moisture is particularly problematic as rice acts like a sponge. If you store the rice in a high-humidity area, the rice will absorb moisture from the air and can eventually get moldy.

Oxygen, heat and light are also very problematic for whole-grain rice; they will make the healthy oils in the rice start to go rancid fairly quickly.  This is why brown rice has a much shorter shelf life than white rice.  Even white rice can go bad though, especially in high temperatures.

How Long Can Rice Last?

White rice will generally last for 4-5 years stored in the pantry, even after the “best by” date.

Brown rice will generally last at around 6 months past its best-by date. However, if you don’t take precautions, your rice storage could easily become infested by insects.

Proper storage methods will prevent infestations and allow rice to last 25+ years.

What Are Rice Bugs?

rice weevil

You can’t see them on the rice, but it’s likely there are insect eggs on the rice when you buy it.  The culprits are usually moths or weevils.

If you let the rice sit in your pantry long enough, the eggs will hatch and develop into adults.  Those adults go on to lay more eggs and suddenly you’ve got a massive infestation in your pantry.

Rice weevils are actually safe to eat and even add some extra nutrients.  However, a lot of people are grossed out by the idea of eating insects and end up throwing away all the infested rice.

To keep your rice stockpile safe, it’s best to take steps to prevent rice bugs, such as freezing or microwaving the rice before storage.

Read: how to prevent insects in your food storage.

Best Way to Store Rice

It’s not recommended to store rice in the plastic packaging it came in; there’s simply too much risk of insect infestation or damage from the elements.  Instead, use one of these methods to store your rice safely.

Method 1: Air-Tight Containers

Shelf Life: 4 years (white rice), 6-8 months (brown rice)

The main reason to store rice in air-tight containers rather than the packaging it came in is to prevent insect infestations. If insects hatch inside the container, at least they won’t be able to escape and infest the rest of your pantry. You should still take steps to kill any insect eggs though, such as by freezing or microwaving the rice first.

Keep the rice containers in a cool, dark place.  Heat is especially damaging to brown rice; reducing temperature can double shelf life.


Method 2: Freezer

Shelf Life: Indefinitely (white rice), 2 years (brown rice)

White rice will last indefinitely in the freezer.   I could not find one scholarly article which actually researched the shelf life of uncooked brown rice in the freezer.  Most websites put the shelf life at 2 years but offer no evidence of where this recommendation comes from.

Regardless, putting grains in the freezer isn’t the best solution for long-term storage.  If a power outage occurs, condensation will quickly build up in the freezer and the rice will absorb this quickly, resulting in spoilage.


Method 3: Vacuum Sealing

Shelf Life: 4+ years (white rice), up to 2 years (brown rice)

Vacuum sealing isn’t the best storage method for white rice.  The main issue is that vacuum-sealer bags are not air-tight; they will eventually allow air and moisture through.  Since white rice can already last a long time in basic storage containers, you aren’t really gaining anything by vacuum-sealing.

With brown rice though, vacuum sealing does help a bit.  This is because brown rice is more susceptible to damage from oxygenation, so removing air by vacuum sealing does help extend shelf life.

Note that rice is very pointy and can stab through vacuum sealer bags.  Consider lining the vacuum sealer bags first so the rice doesn’t poke holes in them.


Method 4: Containers with Oxygen Absorbers

Shelf Life: 5+ years (white rice), 1+ year (brown rice)

One of the simplest ways to store rice is to put it in clean containers, such as jars or food-grade buckets. If you take the extra step of adding an oxygen absorber packet to the container, the food will be protected from spoilage due to oxidation and last much longer.  Without oxygen, insect eggs won’t be able to hatch.

Unfortunately, the seal on buckets, plastic containers and recycled jars isn’t the best. They will eventually start to leak air.  You’ll also need to add new oxygen absorbers each time you open the container.

Read more about using oxygen absorbers for long-term food storage.


Method 5: Mylar Bags with Oxygen Absorbers

Shelf Life: 30+ years (white rice), 2-5 years (brown rice)

Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers is by far the best long-term storage method for dry staples like rice.

To use, you put rice in the Mylar bags with oxygen absorber packets and then seal the bags closed.  Because Mylar is impermeable and metallic, the rice will be protected against damage from oxidation, light and insects.

Brown rice will still eventually go bad because of its high oil content but white rice can last over 30 years like this.

Read more about how to store rice in Mylar bags

Leave a comment

  1. I vacuum sealed brown rice into two large batches for freezer storage. I intend on pulling each one out as needed and placing the rice from the vacuum sealed bag into a air tight store bought container and storing the container in the refrigerator for use over about a 4-6 month timeframe. Is this okay?

    Reply
    • Yes, that should work great. I personally don’t have enough room in my refrigerator. So, I just take it directly from the freezer when I want to use it (it is repackaged into family-size portions so I use exactly 1 bag).

      Reply
  2. When using the mylar bag and oxygen absorber method, is it still ok to not use a vacuum sealer ? Physically pushing the air out and then putting the absorber in is enough ? Thanks

    Reply
  3. When freezing I like to have 4-6 serving packages to eliminate waste and re-freezing. For bulk pantry storage I use a “flip” bucket so rotation is easier.

    Reply
  4. I’m mew to long term food storage so forgive what may have answered before, but do I need to freeze white rice to kill any potential insect eggs before sealing in mylar bags with O2 absorbers?

    Reply
    • I generally find dry canning to be not worth the time or effort — especially since you can only store a small amount of rice in a jar anyway and jars will easily break during most common disasters. I personally live somewhere with occassional earthquakes and flooding; none of my long-term preps are in glass.

      Reply
  5. i have some precooked and dried rice that was stored in 100 gram sachels with oxygen absorber for a long period .it was made in 1996 it rehydrates ok and tastes ok will it be ok to eat . there is a large volume of it

    Reply
  6. Hi, Most people on other websites are saying brown rice in even in Mylar Bags with Oxygen Absorbers wont’ last more then 9 months. Do you have a resource to store brown rice for 2+ years?

    Reply
    • Mylar with oxygen absorbers is still the best way to go. But there is no guaranteed shelf life. With anythign that contains lots of oils (like other whole grains, nuts, seeds…) the key is keeping the temperature low. In hot weather, the oils will go rancid much faster. They don’t go bad at a specific date either. It’s a gradual process. At 9 months they might taste funky but still be “edible” by some people’s standards.

      Reply
  7. How about the different Types of white rice? (i.e. White, Jasmine, Basmati)
    Is there a better or is this just a preference?
    Thank you
    Jay

    Reply
    • Vacuum sealer bags aren’t actually air-tight. They will slowly let some air through. So, using oxygen absorbers will help keep them fresh longer but Mylar is the way to go for long-term storage.

      Reply
  8. What about placing rice in a sealed container and filling with CO2 … such as in an old beer keg? Is there something about the CO2 that will affect the rice long term, or will replacing O2 with CO2 stop spoilage?

    Reply
    • Some people use a method called “nitrogen purging” to push out all of the oxygen from a container. However, it’s fairly complicated to do. Oxygen absorbers are much cheaper and easier and thus (IMO) a better option for most people.

      Reply
  9. Is it overkill to vacuum seal rice beans pasta, and then add this tight package to a Mylar bag with o2 absorbers and heat seal the Mylar?

    Reply
    • Yes, it’s overkill. 🙂 It’s actually not a great idea to vacuum seal foods before putting them in Myla with O2. The vacuum sealer bags might keep the O2 absorbers from reaching the food and doing their job. Keep in mind that a lot of the oxygen in beans is actually INSIDE the beans so you want the O2 absorbers getting this oxygen and not just the oxygen around the food.

      Reply
  10. How is it that storing in a container with oxygen absorbers extends the shelf life of rice longer than vacuum sealing? A container with oxygen absorbers is not vacuum sealed in the first place so I don’t see how the oxygen absorber could make that much of a difference. You say the vacuum sealed bags will leak air eventually. Will the storage containers not do the same?

    Reply

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