Arborio rice is just what you need when preparing a tasty dish of risotto. However, there are lots of delicious recipes that you can use this special rice in because it adds the needed creaminess and richness.
Running out of arborio rice while you’re preparing dinner shouldn’t stop you. As a matter of fact, there are lots of tasty alternatives that you can try if you don’t have arborio rice or want to experiment with a new arborio rice substitute.
The best substitutes for arborio rice
Arborio rice is named after the Italian town of Arborio, in the region of Piedmont, where it’s originally grown, but today it’s cultivated in several places around the world.
This short-grain rice is pearly white and has a short and fat grain compared to long-grain rice varieties. It also undergoes less milling, so it maintains most of its starch content.
When cooked, arborio rice releases its starch, creating a creamy, velvety, and rich texture, which is a signature of a successful risotto dish.
But that’s not all that you can prepare using arborio rice. Arborio rice is used to make delicious paella because it absorbs the sauces and flavors it’s cooked with, so it’s a creamy addition to seafood, chicken, and other flavorful ingredients.
Add it to your rice pudding, and you will enjoy the creaminess as the mouth-watering ingredients mix together. It’s also a good choice for arancini or fried rice balls and will add the needed richness to your minestrone.
You can also add arborio rice to any baked dish, casserole, or juicy shakshuka because the sauces in the dish enhance its creaminess. Slow-cooking methods with lots of liquid or broth enhance the richness of this rice, but you should avoid overcooking it, or it will become too mushy.
Despite being extremely tasty, arborio rice isn’t always easy to find. It’s also more expensive than some of the other rice types.
If you don’t have access to this type of rice, you can still enjoy your tasty risotto or any other recipe that calls for this rice using one of our suggested substitutes for arborio rice.
1. Carnaroli Rice
Carnaroli rice is an excellent substitute for arborio rice in risotto because it adds the same creamy and rich texture. This is an Italian rice that adds even more creaminess and softness when it’s incorporated into recipes.
Also known as the caviar of rice, Carnaroli rice has firm grains and releases more starches when it’s cooked. This is why it’s a great addition to stews and baked dishes where a lot of sauce, broth, stock, or condiment is added.
Carnaroli rice adds a subtle nutty flavor to your dishes. You can also use it to make cheesy rice and paella. However, it’s best to roast it in fat before adding the liquid to enjoy a better aroma and taste in your recipes. Carnaroli rice is also more resistant to overcooking than arborio rice.
2. Vialone Nano Rice
Vialone Nano rice is another popular Italian variety because it has a unique texture. This semi-fine medium-grain rice is more resistant to heat, so it’s less likely to overcook. It adds a lot of creaminess and richness when cooked, so much that it can be even creamier than arborio rice.
It has a delicate herbaceous aroma and pairs well with several vegetables like mushrooms and pumpkins. It’s also an excellent choice for shrimp and clam risotto and paella because its richness and delicate taste highlight seafood flavors and warm spices.
To prepare the perfect risotto, you need to add more broth and cheese rind to intensify the flavor of Vialone Nano rice. You can find this rice in specialty stores.
3. Baldo Rice
Baldo rice is a versatile Italian rice type that can be used to replace arborio rice in different recipes.
Classic Baldo rice has medium-sized grains which are elongated but not thin and cooks to a fleshy consistency. On the other hand, Piedmont Baldo is honey-colored and requires more cooking because the grains are stiffer.
You can use Baldo rice to prepare risotto, as well as rice pudding, rice pilaf, and rice soufflé. Because it has a delicate taste, you can serve Baldo rice as a side dish next to beef or chicken curry.
The Turkish variety of Baldo rice can absorb a lot of moisture, so it’s usually cooked with rich broth and served as a side dish next to grilled lamb, chicken, or beef with grilled or sauteed vegetables. It’s also a good choice for paella.
4. Calrose Rice
Calrose rice is a medium-grain rice with a subtly mild flavor. When cooked, Calrose rice becomes sticky and creamy, so it works for recipes like soups and stews, which usually need more texture.
You can also mix it with a salad to make it richer. It’s also a good choice for risotto, especially when you add bold flavors like herbs and spices because its mild flavor provides the needed balance.
It also holds flavors well, so you can serve it with a rich sauce. It’s a great choice for paella and pilaf.
5. Glutinous Rice
Glutinous rice, also known as sweet rice or sticky rice, is a special type of rice that turns quite gluey when cooked. It’s a staple in Asian recipes and has a subtle sweet flavor. The brown varieties have a stronger nutty flavor.
Because of its consistency, you can use sticky rice to make risotto as it adds the needed richness. It also pairs well with sweeter ingredients like coconut shavings and coconut milk. It’s usually used to make fried rice cakes and can be served with fruits like mango.
6. Sushi Rice
Sushi rice comes all the way from Japan but can perfectly replace arborio rice in various dishes. This is a Japanese short-grain rice variety and has a sticky consistency that makes it the perfect arborio substitute in your recipe.
Because sushi incorporates several ingredients with intense flavors and textures, sushi rice has a very mildly sour and sweet flavor and a warm starchy feel.
You can make sushi rice to make arancini or risotto because it adds the same rich creaminess as arborio rice. It might not look like arborio rice, but it provides the same stickiness. However, it’s important not to overcook this rice, or it will lose its mild flavor.
7. Jasmine Rice
Jasmine rice is a long-grain rice that is used in Asian recipes. It’s fragrant and has a nutty flavor, and some people say it tastes like buttered popcorn and fragrant flowers.
It doesn’t stick like other types of sticky rice because it has delicate, fluffy, and lightweight grains. However, it’s a little bit stickier than basmati rice. When cooked, it has a soft and moist texture.
If you use it to make risotto, you can expect it to feel a little bit fluffy and have a subtle floral aroma. It tastes amazing when served next to fried chicken and meat.
It goes well with various vegetables and can be served with peanuts and cashews. You can also add it to stews, rice puddings, and porridge.
8. Basmati Rice
Basmati rice is one of the most affordable and easiest-to-find arborio rice substitutes. It’s a long-grain rice with a light nutty flavor and a floral aroma that makes the perfect addition to many recipes.
There are two basmati rice varieties, brown and white, where the brown variety is stiff and nutty. Because of its spicy aroma, basmati rice goes well with pungent spices like ginger and curry.
When cooked, the long grains remain separated and fluffy, and the sauce will coat every grain individually. It’s a great choice for rice pilaf and any dish with a rich sauce. You can soak it first to make it more tender if you want a closer texture to arborio rice in your recipe.
9. Red Cargo Rice
Red cargo rice is a little bit difficult to find, but when used in dishes, it adds a sweet and nutty flavor. Despite its name, it can be red, purple, or maroon, so it will make your dishes look unique.
This kind of rice is used in several African and Asian cuisines and will look amazing when mixed with your salad. However, it takes more time to cook to help you reach the sticky consistency that you expect if you’re looking for an arborio rice substitute.
You can use it in stir-fries or serve it with different types of meat and poultry. It goes well with green chilis, mushrooms, lentils, and warm spices. It’s also used to make kheer or Indian rice pudding after mixing it with milk, cardamom, and saffron.
10. Brown Rice
Brown rice has a gentle flowery taste with a nutty and earthy flavor. There are different types of brown rice, but the short-grain variety tends to stick together when cooked.
You can definitely use brown rice to make risotto, but it generally takes more time to cook than arborio rice. It blends beautifully with earthy flavors like carrots, peas, zucchini, broccoli, and other hearty vegetables.
Use brown rice in stews and soups after adding warm spices. You can also use it to make rice pudding or rice pilaf. It adds a different taste than arborio rice, but it will work for you if you need to try a new flavor in your recipe.
11. Orzo Pasta
Surprisingly enough, orzo pasta can be used as a substitute for arborio rice when cooked right. Although it naturally has a chewy texture, when you add the right amount of liquid, orzo pasta will provide you the same rich and creamy texture that you expect in a risotto dish.
You can use orzo pasta to substitute arborio rice if you want a bland taste because it tastes neutral compared to other arborio rice alternatives. However, it will be the right choice if you choose to add more ingredients with stronger flavors to your dish.
Orzo pasta is highly versatile, so you can serve it as a side dish or add it to your soup or stew. Orzo pasta can also be served chilled in a summer salad with herbs and a vinaigrette dressing.
12. Farro Wheat
Farro wheat is an excellent non-rice substitute for arborio rice that you can use in multiple recipes. It looks like light brown rice and has a complex nutty taste that is very close to barley and oats.
Farro is very common in Italian recipes like Tuscan soup and can be added to salads as it complements the taste of cheese and nuts. You can also use it to prepare spicy shakshuka or delicious poultry stuffing.
If you want to prepare risotto, you can use farro wheat without soaking it. It cooks faster, and you will end up with a special version of your risotto. Combine it with mushrooms, chicken, or seafood, and it will taste amazing.
13. Pearled Barley
Pearled barley has a neutral-cereal taste with a slightly nutty flavor and a sticky, creamy texture that makes it a good option if you want to replace arborio rice in any recipe.
Thanks to its mild taste, pearled barley will go well with various ingredients, so you can use it in stews, soup, shakshuka, porridge, pudding, and casseroles. You can also add it to a salad, use it in baked goodies, or serve it as a side dish with meat and chicken.
You don’t need to soak it, and it doesn’t take long to cook. Pearled barley absorbs the flavors from the cooking liquid or sauce to give you a nice creamy texture and rich taste.
While it might not be a traditional arborio rice alternative, quinoa can actually replace arborio and other types of rice in several recipes.
Quinoa has a fluffy yet crunchy texture and a sweet, nutty flavor. When cooked right, quinoa adds the desired richness and creaminess to multiple dishes.
It’s quite easy to cook, and you can make it even more creamy by adding a little bit of milk, full cream, or sour cream to your recipe. It’s best to rinse quinoa before cooking it because it sometimes contains a bitter substance that alters the taste of your dish.
Quinoa pairs well with chicken, meat, turkey, seafood and is a staple in vegetarian and vegan dishes, so you can mix it with any type of vegetables you have. You can use it in salads, soups, stews, stuffings, porridges, or combine it with meat to make special meatballs.
Couscous is an interesting arborio rice alternative because it’s a kind of pasta and actually tastes very much like it, but it looks a lot like rice. So, you can use it if you want to achieve the same result in your recipe with a different flavor.
Couscous has a nutty and sweet flavor and cooks quickly. There are different types of couscous, so you can use the finest Moroccan type to make your special arancini where the grains add some crunch. You can also sprinkle it on top of salads.
Pearl couscous and Lebanese couscous have bigger grains and take longer to cook. However, you can use these types of couscous in stews with lots of sauce and hearty veggies. The nutty flavor makes couscous the perfect side dish for grilled meat and braised vegetables.
16. Bulgur Wheat
Bulgur wheat is widely used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines and can be used to replace arborio rice because it looks a lot like it.
However, bulgur wheat adds a subtly sweet and nutty aroma to your recipes, so it will work for you if you’re not that fond of the taste of arborio rice.
Because it’s extremely versatile, bulgur wheat can be used to replace rice or any other grain. You can use it to make stews, soups, porridges, pilafs, and puddings because it adds the needed richness. You can also use it to make salads after mixing them with herbs and spices.
How to choose an arborio rice substitute
There are lots of alternatives available that you can use to replace arborio rice if you can’t find it for your recipe. Each option will add a special flavor to your dishes.
- Closest flavor: if you want a substitute that provides the closest taste to arborio rice, then you can choose Carnaroli rice, Vialone Nano rice, Baldo rice, or Calrose rice.
- Different flavor: for a sweet and nutty flavor, we recommend that you try Jasmine rice, Basmati rice, red cargo rice, brown rice, farro wheat, pearled barley, quinoa, couscous, or bulgur wheat.
- Best for cooking: Carnaroli rice, Vialone Nano rice, Baldo rice, Calrose rice, Jasmine rice, brown rice, orzo pasta, pearled barley, quinoa, couscous, bulgur wheat, and sushi rice are perfect for various recipes like risotto, arancini, stews, rice pudding, and pilaf. They help bring out the strong flavors, add consistency and a crunchy texture.
- Best for salads: Calrose rice, red cargo rice, orzo pasta, farro wheat, pearled barley, couscous, quinoa, and bulgur wheat will add the needed richness and mix beautifully with the greens and herbs in your salad.
- Best non-rice alternative: if you don’t like rice or want to experiment with a new flavor, we recommend that you try orzo pasta, farro wheat, pearled barley, couscous, quinoa, or bulgur wheat to add the right texture to your dish.