Chef Mike Isabella knows.

By Elyse Inamine
Updated June 29, 2017

“Is this a Quick Fire Challenge?” Mike Isabella asks when I request tips on what to do with leftover rice.

The Top Chef alum feigns panic when asked to dream up dishes à la the show’s competition format, he's actually quite prepared for this cooking prompt. After traveling throughout Spain and Morocco in preparation for Arroz, his upcoming Spanish restaurant set to debut in D.C. next year, Isabella certainly knows what to do with rice.

“When you think of Spanish cuisine, you think tapas,” Isabella explains. “I wanted a single ingredient-fixed concept.” At the new spot, he'll throw the grains into Valencia-style soups and paella.

Here, the star chef's tips on how to use leftover rice at home.


“Roll them up into fritters,” Isabella says. He suggests seasoning the rice with fragrant saffron and adding a little spice in the form of piquillo peppers. Roll thos ingredients into the room-temperature grains, then lightly fry until crisp and golden in a few inches of neutral oil at 350 degrees. And if your deepest, darkest fear is deep-frying, you can always oven-fry—just follow this recipe.


Isabella swings central European with this tip. “I like to stuff rice into cabbage,” he says. Mixed with meat, like pork, it lends a bit of lightness and bounce to sauced-up cabbage pillows like these.


Break down hard grains by cooking them down in a flavorful broth, the congee way. “It gets creamy from all the starch in the rice,” Isabella says. He enjoys slipping fresh shellfish into the warmed soupy mix, but you can also throw in salmon.

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