Rice is susceptible to cold stress and with a future of climatic instability we will be unable to produce enough rice to satisfy increasing demand. A thorough understanding of the molecular responses to thermal stress is imperative for engineering cultivars, which have greater resistance to low temperature stress. In this study we investigated the proteomic response of rice seedlings to 48, 72 and 96 h of cold stress at 12–14°C. The use of both label-free and iTRAQ approaches in the analysis of global protein expression enabled us to assess the complementarity of the two techniques for use in plant proteomics. The approaches yielded a similar biological response to cold stress despite a disparity in proteins identified. The label-free approach identified 236 cold-responsive proteins compared to 85 in iTRAQ results, with only 24 proteins in common. Functional analysis revealed differential expression of proteins involved in transport, photosynthesis, generation of precursor metabolites and energy; and, more specifically, histones and vitamin B biosynthetic proteins were observed to be affected by cold stress.