Can you compost rice

Can You Compost Rice for Sustainable Leftovers?

Rice is a staple in many homes, so it’s no surprise that the question, “can you compost rice?” may pop into people’s minds. Since it’s one of the most popular grains worldwide, cooked and uncooked rice waste is prevalent in many homes. Studies show that in 2020/2021, we consumed 504 million metric tons of rice globally1.

In many parts of the world, composting is an ideal way to get rid of organic matter. Creating a compost heap provides nutrients to the soil and plants.

Even with the knowledge of composting, sometimes it can be tricky to identify what and what not to add to a compost bin. If you’re unsure what to do with cooked or uncooked rice leftovers, this article will guide you. 

Is Rice Compostable?

compost heap
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A simple search of “can you compost rice?” will direct you to several pages with different answers to this question. Although rice is an organic material, the process of composting rice is not as straightforward as many other materials. 

However, to answer the question, yes, you can add rice to your home compost. Rice will break down in a compost heap and add nutrients to the soil. The process of composting leftover rice is, however, a bit tricky. 

You need to put many factors in place before adding uncooked or cooked rice to your compost bin. One such factor is the type of compost set-up, and another is your composting knowledge level. It’s important to be cautious about what you add to your finished compost.

Rice composting problems to avoid

Certain materials can attract rodents and add harmful bacteria to your compost piles. Adding cooked or uncooked rice to your compost bin can cause such effects without caution. 

When it comes to building a traditional compost bin, you need to follow specific rules to prevent unwanted pests. Also, the last thing you want is for your compost pile to become a breeding ground for undesirable bacteria.

Furthermore, harmful bacteria can leach into your growing foods if you have garden or backyard compost. All of these will only cause more harm to your compost pile. 

As a rule of thumb, avoid adding certain types of cooked rice to your compost pile. For instance, fried rice often contains ingredients like meat and oils that can attract unwanted visitors. Such ingredients can also prevent the healthy growth of your compost.

On the other hand, white rice is plain and can make good organic matter in your compost pile. If you’re just starting or curious about adding rice to your compost bin, you'll find answers here. First, let’s examine why composting rice can be tricky. 

Why Adding Rice to Your Compost Pile Is A Tricky One

Although composting cooked rice and uncooked rice is possible, it requires certain best practices. You should consider certain factors if you eat rice a lot and want to add this green material to your compost. 

Before adding rice to your compost pile, consider whether it’s cooked rice or uncooked rice. The reason for this consideration is that raw rice and cooked rice require slightly different practices. As a result, knowing how to add each type to your compost pile will ensure it doesn’t attract rodents. Although you can add rice to your compost pile, you should avoid adding large quantities to your compost. 

Let’s examine the challenges of composting cooked and uncooked rice. Understanding the potential drawbacks will help you approach composting intentionally if you wish to add rice to your compost pile. 

Can You Compost Cooked Rice?

Bowl plain white rice - can you compost it?
Photo by Chanhee Lee on Unsplash

The simple answer is that you can add cooked rice to your compost pile. Your leftover rice is a suitable item that you can add to your compost. Like other kitchen waste, rice adds nutrients to the soil once combined with other kitchen scraps.

In many homes, especially large families, food scraps are a challenge. This includes stale leftover rice. As a result, people consider what to do with scraps and leftovers. Through composting in the garden, for instance, you can convert such waste into useful material. 

When you add cooked rice to a compost pile, it’ll most likely decompose quickly. However, you need to either be an experienced composter or someone with adequate knowledge to tackle this properly. 

Although composting rice is possible, you need to consider some challenges you might encounter. Cooked rice tends to clump together. The heaviness and stickiness affect oxygen flow if you add this in large amounts to your compost bin.

Naturally, oxygen is essential to composting as it supports healthy compost. In cases where people add large amounts of rice to their compost, it can prevent airflow and cause anaerobic conditions. Also, this creates foul odors. 

Although some bacteria support composting, harmful bacteria cause more harm than good. If you don’t take caution, cooked rice can also introduce bad bacteria to your compost if you don't take caution. Later in this article, you’ll discover how to prevent harmful bacteria and unwelcome visitors like pests when you add rice to the compost.

Can You Compost Uncooked Rice?

Apart from cooked rice, you might have leftovers of uncooked rice. If you’ve asked yourself: “can uncooked rice be composted?” the answer is yes. You can compost uncooked rice. 

Although composting uncooked rice doesn’t pose the possible problem of bad bacteria, it still has its challenges.

One of these challenges is that uncooked rice can attract pests and rodents. So, if you’re into garden composting, rodents and insects can pose a threat to your compost material.

These pests can dig up your compost and hinder its healthy growth. Not only this, but pests can also destroy your plants. You can apply certain practices and tips to avoid attracting pests to ensure a healthy pile. 

Best Conditions For Rice Composting

Whether you’re composting cooked, uncooked, or white or brown rice, you should follow certain best practices. The truth is that not everyone has suitable conditions for rice composting.

Before throwing your leftover food in your compost pile, consider whether these conditions are in place. You should also pay attention to these factors if you have garden compost. 

Choose a Hot Compost Pile

Hot compost provides the environment to quickly break down organic waste and food scraps. Naturally, hot compost will break down materials faster than traditional cold compost.

Adding rice to a hot compost pile is the best way to prevent some possible problems. For instance, the hot temperature can kill any unhelpful bacteria that might be building up.

Also, adding rice to a hot pile can drive away any unwanted vermin. Hot composting is ideal for rice with temperatures of up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. However, because uncooked rice lacks moisture, you either need to soak it first or ensure your hot compost is moist enough.

Place Rice in a Worm Bin

Another way to safely add food or rice waste to your pile is by choosing a worm bin or starting a worm farm. If wondering what do worms eat? Well, worms love rice and will easily eat it. As they feed on the food, they help prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria that can affect your pile. 

Generally, stick with plain rice and avoid spices and meat that can affect the quality of your heap. If your rice has sauce on it, make sure to rinse it out before adding it to the pile. Sauces can release pungent odors, and worms may not be able to digest spicy foods.

Add your rice in tiny amounts to avoid excess uneaten food. You can then add more rice over several days, avoiding too much cooked rice at once. And in time, the worms will work their magic leaving, producing a high-nutrient natural fertilizer, an excellent compost material.

Use a Covered Bin

Open garden composts often attract pests. This is detrimental to the success of your heap as pests destroy it in search of food. To avoid this, you can add rice in a closed compost bin to prevent attacks from pests. 

A closed rodent-proof bin is an excellent alternative if you can’t create hot compost or access a worm bin. As the name suggests, this product will keep rodents out while keeping any odor in. The best option is for you to get an elevated enclosed bin. This keeps it off the ground and away from the walls. This way, you’re sure that the pests will stay away. 

Send Scraps to Municipal Compost Systems

In the event that you have none of these systems in place, you can send your waste to your city’s compost program. First, you have to find out if your city or town has a system in place for compost. If it does, then you can begin to include your rice in the bins the city provides for compost. Advanced systems allow the city’s facilities to have the necessary conditions to break down organic materials properly. 

Tips For Successfully Composting Rice

Below are some additional tips to ensure you start composting rice successfully.

  • Spread the grains: You should remember that rice clumps can affect air and oxygen flow. When adding uncooked rice, spread your grains throughout the heap or piles to provide room for proper decomposition. Additionally, layer the rice amongst green and brown materials to ensure the right balance. This also helps to prevent unwanted bacteria from forming and aid the decomposition process. Apart from preventing bacteria, it makes it more difficult for pests to locate the rice when distributing the grains. 
  • Turn the compost often: Another important tip is to turn your compost frequently. Regular turning prevents clumps from forming. As a result, it aids circulation, which speeds up decomposition. Regular turning also infuses oxygen, spreads moisture, and helps prevent a smelly compost pile.
  • Add hydrated white lime: This white powder comes from treating calcium oxide with water. Adding hydrated white lime to your compost provides several benefits. It neutralizes acids and speeds up the process by which the rice decomposes. As a bonus, it also repels pests from your compost. 


If you wondered how to safely and properly add rice to the compost, you know that rice can be composted and how to approach it.

Rice is a grain and staple food that people widely consume all around the globe. As a result, this leads to significant amounts of waste and leftovers. Properly composting your leftovers enriches the soil while diverting materials from landfills.

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Shahbandeh, M. (2021, April 22). Total Rice Consumption Worldwide from 2008/2009 to 2020/2021. Statista

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