I’ll admit, when I first found Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice packs, I was in love. I’ve used them consistently for years. You know what I’m talking about, right? The microwaveable frozen brown rice packs that take 3 minutes to make and come 3 to a box? I just keep them in the freezer and use them when I find myself too short on time to make rice on the stove or in the Instant Pot (which seems to happen quite frequently). I mean, they really are quite convenient and they have no junk ingredients. It’s literally just frozen brown rice. It’s not just Trader Joe’s anymore either. Safeway brands and other major grocers have their own version of the frozen brown and white rice packs.
What’s not to love? Well, there is one small thing that isn’t great about frozen brown rice packs from the store: price.
When you do the math on how much each little 2 cup rice packet is costing you, you may still say it’s worth it because they’re so convenient, but you might just change your tune when you see how easy and low-cost it is to make your own frozen brown rice packs at home.
Let me show you how I made my own frozen brown rice packs. I’ll show you how easy it is and I’ll break down the cost savings (see the bottom of this blog) and time it takes so you can decide if it’s worth it or not.
How to make your own frozen brown rice packs
STEP 1: Make a lot of rice
I used my Instant Pot for this step, but you can make rice any way you like. You can follow any of the methods in THIS RECIPE to make your rice, but I’ll take you through the Instant Pot way in this blog so you don’t have to go to the other page if you are doing this just like I did.
I started by adding 4 cups of dry, long-grain brown jasmine rice to the liner of my Instant Pot. You can use any dry brown rice you want. This yielded 10 cups of cooked brown rice.
I used about 4.25 cups of water. For the Instant Pot method, you typically use a 1:1 ratio of water to rice (different than stove top method). If you like rice a bit stickier, you can add a bit more water. That’s why I added 4.25 cups instead of 4 cups. It comes out slightly stickier and just how I like it.
Now, just close the lid, set the valve to “sealing”, and program for manual, high pressure, 22 minutes as shown below. I always let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes after the cooking time is done, and then I release the rest of the pressure naturally.
STEP 2: Cool the rice
When pressure was all released and I could open the Instant Pot, I transferred the cooked rice to a bowl to cool. You’re not going to want to try to freeze piping hot rice, so you’ll need to cool it somehow. If you want to cool it faster than it cools in a big pile in a bowl, you could spread it out on baking sheets to cool quickly.
Personally, I’m not looking to do any more work than I have to, so I let it cool for 45 minutes in the bowl and that was good enough for me.
STEP 3: Divide into packs
You could use resealable (Ziploc type) bags for this step, if you prefer. I used plain old plastic wrap because it’s cheaper and works just as well for this case. Use what works for you.
You can also divide your rice into whatever size packs work for your family. This makes them even more convenient than the store packs. The store packs like Trader Joe’s brand are approximately 2 cups of cooked rice.
I know, for our family of 4, it seems that the store packs are just a little too small (especially for a dish being served OVER rice rather than as just a side). So, when I do this again, I’ll probably make 4 packs (2.5 cups each), rather than 5 packs (2 cups each).
STEP 4: Freeze
That’s pretty much it. Just toss them in the freezer and use them when you need them!
STEP 5: Reheat
To reheat these, you won’t put them in the microwave with the packaging still in place like you do for the store packs.
For these, just remove the plastic wrap and place them on a microwaveable plate such as the one shown. You know…the plastic multi-colored ones that you use for lunch and probably would never use with guests except family? Yea, those. Haha!
I also put a second plate or a microwave splash cover over the frozen block of rice. It’s not to keep from splatters or anything, but I think it helps steam the rice. I don’t know how much it helps but it’s what I do.
It takes about 3 minutes for a 2 cup block of frozen brown rice (just like the store packs).
Trader Joe’s Cost: Prices as of 4/17/18 in Silverdale, WA
1 box = $2.99
Cost per bag (2 cups) = $1.00
Cost for 5 bags (10 cups) = $5.00
1 bag of dry brown jasmine rice from Trader Joe’s (7 cups dry) = $2.99
Cost for 4 cups of dry brown rice (10 cups cooked) = $1.70
Cost of packaging (plastic wrap) = negligible (you can add something if you are using something more expensive)
Cost per 2 cup pack = $0.34
Active Time = Approximately 20 minutes
Active time includes setting up rice cooker or Instant Pot, transferring cooked rice to a cooling bowl or sheet pan, dividing into packs, labeling, and putting in the freezer.
Passive Time = Approximately 1.5 hours
Passive Time includes Instant Pot cooking time (~40 minutes: 22 min at pressure + heat up and pressure release) and cooling time.