A type of short grain rice, arborio rice is loved for its creamy consistency that goes perfectly in dishes like risotto. If you find it hard to buy this rice in your local grocery stores, don’t worry; there are several arborio rice substitutes that you can use for similar recipes.
Arborio rice is named after the town Arborio that is in the main region of Piedmont, Italy. It is known for its oval-shaped grains that have a firm, slightly chewy, and creamy texture. Overall, arborio has a mild taste which makes it easy to pair or mix with other ingredients’ flavor.
Arborio rice’s characteristics make it the number one choice to make risotto, an Italian rice dish that is now known in almost all cuisines. However, you can also use it to make porridge, pudding, and some starchy desserts.
With these qualities and uses in mind, you can use other grains depending on the recipe. Whether you’re after the consistency or satiety arborio offers, you have other options for doable or even better results.
Check out these arborio rice substitutes:
1. Carnaroli Rice
One of the best substitutes for arborio rice, carnaroli is delicious and can be used in a wide range of recipes. This rice offers the closest texture in terms of creaminess so you won’t have a hard time making adjustments in cooking.
This Italian medium-grained rice hails from Northern Italy. Like arborio, it is used for making risotto due to its super high starch content. Some would say that this is even a much better choice for making the creamiest risotto.
Dubbed as the “caviar” or “king” among all Italian rices, you would surely enjoy a meal with carnaroli.
2. Vialone Nano Rice
Vialone Nano rice is a medium-grain rice that comes from southern Italy. It shares a lot of the same qualities as arborio rice so it is a great alternative option.
Rich, creamy, and mild in taste, it has the characteristics of rice that’s perfect for risotto. In fact, Vialone Nano is sometimes a better choice for others who prefer a silky smooth kind of creaminess in their risotto.
You can also enjoy this rice in paella or as a side dish for fish or seafood meals.
3. Other Italian rice varieties
Vialone Nano is a bit harder to find in local stores and sometimes even carnaroli. As such, don’t forget to know some other rice options originating from Italy. Supposedly, some chefs suggest that the American variety of arborio rice does not come close to Italian rice varieties.
Consider Balo, Maratelli, and even the hybrid rice Calriso which all have a good reputation in terms of taste and texture. These rice varieties would go great in risotto or paella.
4. Sushi Rice
In a pinch, you can also use sushi rice for your recipes in place of arborio. Sushi rice offers a unique stickiness with plump and firm-textured grains that make sushi a chewy mouthful of deliciousness.
Try this Japanese-style short-grain rice when making risotto for a slightly different take on the recipe but is just as delicious. Plus you can make other Asian dishes if you have more to spare.
5. Glutinous Rice
Typically grown in Southeast and East Asia, glutinous rice is also a good alternative to use. It is also high in amylopectin starch like arborio which makes this rice extra sticky.
You can use this round-grained rice to make rice cakes, porridge, risotto and more. If you can’t find this in your local supermarket, try some Asian stores in your area which would most likely have this rice available.
6. Calrose Rice
Hailing from California, this medium-grain rice would probably be the easiest to find. It’s a rice variety that’s used in plenty of recipes by chefs all over the world.
Once cooked, calrose becomes slightly soft and sticky with mild flavor making it a great choice either as a table rice or a pair to other ingredients. You can use this rice in curries, sushi, soups, salads, or a side dish to savory viands.
Consider these non-rice alternatives to arborio rice:
7. Pearl Barley
With a high starch content, pearl barley is the next closest thing to arborio rice. This whole grain barley is not only nutritious but also delicious.
Pearl barley cooks faster compared to other rice because its bran layer usually comes off while its outer hull is removed. As such, it also doesn’t need to be soaked pre-cooking.
Pearl barley’s chewy texture goes great in soups, stews, rice dishes, potages, and risotto. It is also the main grain ingredient for making orzotto, a similar Italian dish to risotto.
Quinoa is known to be a superfood containing lots of nutrients and amino acids that will surely benefit your health.
This is a gluten-free option and due to the lack of starch, it may not give the same consistency as the starchy Italian rice.
Originating from Italy, this mix of three different wheat types can also be your next choice to arborio. It cooks a lot faster compared to other types of rice and it offers a similar consistency to rice with high starch content.
This whole grain is packed with protein, fiber, and vitamins so you won’t just be getting a great bite out of it but also enjoy nutritional benefits. With its nutty flavor and chewy texture, this grain works perfectly for risotto-like dishes, soups, stews, salads, or eaten on its own.
10. Israeli Couscous
Made from wheat flour and semolina, Israeli couscous look like caviar or tiny ball-like grains but it is actually a type of pasta. Unlike other couscous, this one gets toasted in the process which gives it a nuttier flavor and a chewier bite.
While it may not produce the same creaminess as arborio, this round pasta offers a delightful chewiness to many recipes including salads, pastas, and risotto. You can also enjoy it as a side dish to complement other dishes.
11. Bulgur Wheat
Bulgur wheat is a versatile grain that can replace not just arborio but also meat. It has a very chewy texture that makes for a full bite so it is sometimes used as a vegan alternative in dishes like tacos and chili.
You can also use this option to create smooth thick risotto that is just as delicious. Further, this ingredient goes well in salads, pilafs, veggie dishes, and meatballs.
12. Orzo Pasta
While it may look like rice, orzo pasta is a rolled type of pasta that makes it look like rice grains.
It has a chewy texture with neutral flavor that makes it a good addition to soups, salads, and rice dishes.
Orzo pasta may not work well for risotto but it can be the perfect grain substitute for other dishes like soups, paella, and other flavorful pasta recipes.
1. Can I substitute Basmati rice for arborio?
Generally speaking, many kinds of rice can work in place of arborio whether as a table rice or an ingredient in some recipes. This is also true for basmati rice. You can use this option if you’re in a pinch.
However, we’re not including this one in the list above because this long-grain rice has low starch content. It won’t be able to replicate the same chewiness or produce the same creaminess as arborio or other rice with higher starch content.
2. Is Jasmine rice a good alternative to arborio?
Jasmine rice makes for a doable sub for arborio like basmati. It’s also a long-grain rice which is popular in Thai, Vietnamese, and other Asian cuisine. This aromatic rice has a good fluffiness to it with a slightly sticky texture so it can be good for some recipes needing arborio. Still, its starch content is rather low so it won’t have the same creamy consistency for risotto.
3. Can I use brown rice instead of arborio?
Sure, you can. Brown rice is even a better choice to arborio and most white rice when it comes to nutritional value. With fewer calories and more dietary fiber, this grain choice can help people control their weight and blood sugar level.
You can use brown rice for many dishes including risotto but you will have to follow recipes that are specifically using this grain. Since brown rice is a whole-grain rice that contains all parts of the grain, it can take longer to cook and has a more complex flavor.
To sum it up:
Arborio offers a unique consistency with an almost tasteless flavor which goes great for creamy rice, soups, paella, and especially risottos. While it’s the reputed first choice for risotto, it’s not the one and only option.
There are arborio rice substitutes that can work just as well, are much more affordable and available, and have more versatility. So, don’t limit yourself and try out other types of rice, grains and pasta listed above to discover your next palatable dish.