5 No-Stress Arborio Rice Substitutes For Home Cooks

Have I mentioned how much I love Italian cuisine? Risotto is one of my favorite dishes to cook when I’m craving something decadent but economical. However, this recipe requires arborio rice which I rarely find at the town’s spice and grain store. Therefore, I’ve learned to perfect this recipe with a suitable arborio rice substitute.

If you are also a home cook who has little use for arborio rice, I suggest using alternatives as I did. I have discovered my favorite arborio rice substitute in risotto. It is time that you do too. But before that, let’s have a look at arborio rice.

Arborio Rice Substitutes

An Overview of Arborio Rice

Arborio rice is a short-grain rice that originates from Italy. They are used in popular foods like Risotto and Arancini. You can also use arborio rice substitute for rice pudding. Arborio rice has plum grains that are quite starchy and chewy even when cooked, a quality that contributes a lot to its uniqueness.

Other names:

Arborio rice is also popular by its other name: Risotto rice. Despite being used mainly for risotto, you can also use arborio rice for paella.

The texture of Arborio Rice

All rice contains two starches, namely, amylose and amylopectin. Short-grain rice has more amylopectin and less amylose than long-grain rice. Amylose doesn’t break down during the cooking process. On the other hand, amylopectin does and contributes to the gelatinous look of cooked rice.

It is this characteristic that makes risotto rice so valuable to Italian chefs. Moreover, arborio rice has a deformity called ‘Chalk’ that contributes to its firmness. So as the rice cooks and the surrounding starch breaks away, the chalk holds the rice’s shape together.

Arborio Rice Substitutes

Benefits of Arborio Rice

  1. It is rich in antioxidants. Thus, it helps in boosting metabolism.
  2. It contains protein that makes you feel fuller and thus combats frequent hunger pangs. Moreover, this protein also contributes to the development of lean muscles.
  3. It is rich in vitamins, particularly vitamin A and C. one full cup of rice fulfills about 45% of your daily vitamin requirements. It is especially good for bone and tooth health.
  4. It does not have a direct effect on our immunity. But arborio rice boosts the production of certain enzymes and hormones that keep specific diseases and ailments at bay.
  5. Many people shun carbs, but our body needs them to function properly. One cup of risotto rice contains approximately 100 g of carbs. Carbs help us focus and provide energy to the body.

Nutrition of Arborio rice:

Nutrition Per Serving ( 1/ 4 cup, 45 g, uncooked)
Calories  160
Total fat 0 mg
Cholesterol  0 mg
Sodium  0 mg
Total carbohydrates 36 g
Protein  3 g

 

What can I use instead of Arborio rice?

Arborio rice has a unique al dente quality that makes it very unique. Therefore, whichever substitute you use must be similar in its makeup to arborio rice. So, all the substitutes mentioned below will have similar texture and quality when cooked!

1. The best substitute overall: Carnaroli Rice

Carnaroli rice is also short-grain rice that is also of Italian origin. It is an excellent replacement for arborio rice and makes a much creamier risotto.

Carnaroli rice has higher starch content than arborio rice. Hence, it holds its shape during cooking. Moreover, arborio rice has a very mild flavor; therefore, it absorbs the flavors of all spices and herbs extremely well. Like arborio rice, Carnaroli rice has high amylopectin content.

Arborio Rice Substitutes - Carnaroli Rice

Carnaroli rice is also known as the ‘Caviar of Rice’ and has a special place in Italian cooking. Carnaroli rice is best for paella, but it makes excellent risotto too.

Nutrition Per Serving ( 1/ 4 cup, 45 g, uncooked)
Calories  170
Total fat 0 mg
Cholesterol  0 mg
Sodium  0 mg
Total carbohydrates 90 g
Protein  8 g

 

2. The best substitute for Asian cooks: Sushi Rice

 It is an affordable alternative to arborio rice for Asian cooks. Sushi rice is short to medium-grain rice that is typically paired with seafood. Although this substitute is not quite as rich as arborio rice, it has similar compositional traits (high starch and amylose). Therefore, it makes a good risotto.

Arborio Rice Substitutes - Sushi Rice

Remember to not rinse the rice before cooking, as starch is essential for the dish. Sushi rice is easy to obtain and cook, and with the right amount of ingredients, you can also mimic the classical risotto richness.

Nutrition Per Serving ( 1/ 4 cup, 42 g, uncooked)
Calories  150
Total fat 0 mg
Cholesterol  0 mg
Sodium  0 mg
Total carbohydrates 33 g
Protein  3 g

 

3. The best Italian substitute

If you are looking for some Italian substitute for arborio rice, my suggestions would be:

  • Vialone Nano

This is another short-grain rice of Italian origin. It is cultivated in a place called Veneto, Italy. The best thing about this rice is that it is completely organic as you can’t use chemicals to grow it. Moreover, it is not very expensive either and yields a perfectly creamy risotto. However, this substitute is rather hard to come by.

Remember that risotto is an economical dish. Therefore, you mustn’t waste money on pricey ingredients. Common Italian chefs used whichever Italian rice was available at the nearest farm to cook risotto.

Arborio Rice Substitutes - Vialone Nano

Many Italians swear by the capability of Italian rice types like Balo, Maratelli, and Calriso to make excellent risotto. Thus, remember to use short-grained rice and not to wash them. Calriso, a California and Italian rice hybrid, yields a very creamy and rich risotto.

Nutrition Per Serving ( 1/ 4 cup, 45 g, uncooked)
Calories  170
Total fat 0 g
Cholesterol  0 mg
Sodium  0 mg
Total carbohydrates 88 g
Protein  10 g
  • Farro

Although it is native to ‘Fertile Crescent or the ‘Cradle of Civilisation’ as many know it, the grain was acquired by Romans during their historical conquests. It is believed that farro fed the Roman legions during their invasions. It is still popular in Rome, modern-day Italy, for its exquisite flavor and texture.

Recently, farro has gained a lot of popularity because of its health benefits. The most pleasing thing about this substitute is its flavor. Farro grain has its bran intact. Therefore, it never develops a creamy texture in cooking. However, it presents more of a toothy and chewy finish. Many chefs use its nutty flavor to add versatility to their dishes.

Arborio Rice Substitutes - Farro

But if you aren’t too big on this approach, you can try using pear farro. It is simply farro without bran so that you can obtain a creamier risotto.

Nutrition Per Serving ( 1/ 4 cup, 45 g, uncooked)
Calories  160
Total fat 0.5 g
Cholesterol  0 mg
Sodium  0 mg
Total carbohydrates 33 g
Protein  6 g

 

4. My favorite grain substitute: Pearled Barley

Pearled barley is a whole grain without its outer fiber-rich layer. It makes a very creamy and aromatic substitute for arborio rice in risotto. Although pearled barley has a slightly toasted flavor, I love making risotto with it.

Arborio Rice Substitutes - Pearled Barley

Not only this, pearled barley is a great substitute for arborio rice, even in minestrone. You do not have to wait too long for it to cook, nor do you have to soak it in water beforehand. Therefore, if you are short on hand, you can always use this substitute as a quick fix.

Nutrition Per Serving ( 1/ 4 cup, 45 g, uncooked)
Calories  160
Total fat 0.5 g
Cholesterol  0 mg
Sodium  4 mg
Total carbohydrates 35 g
Protein  4.5 g

Rice to Avoid

You can use any short-grain rice for cooking risotto, and you will end up with a more or less creamy risotto. However, there are certain types of rice you can’t use to make risotto, and they are long-grained ones.

Arborio Rice Substitutes

Therefore, if you have sneaky thoughts about using basmati as an arborio rice substitute, it is time to purge them. Similarly, you can also not use jasmine to substitute arborio rice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use paella rice instead of risotto rice?
Yes, and vice versa. So if you want to substitute arborio rice for paella, you can. However, remember that they have different qualities so that the result may vary in taste or texture.
Is pudding rice the same as risotto rice?
Not exactly. Pudding rice is stickers and clings together on cooking like a glop. Some refer to pudding rice as low-grade risotto rice. So the difference is not as colossal as one might imagine. You can use arborio rice in pudding if you don’t like it or have pudding rice at home.
Why is risotto so expensive?
Unlike most other dishes, the priciness of risotto lies in the time, skill, and effort required to cook it rather than the ingredients. When cooking it, you have to be very careful as a little carelessness would either make it too mushy or too al dente.

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