9 Great Arborio Rice Substitutes For The Perfect Risotto


Arborio rice is short-grain rice most commonly used for the preparation of any risotto recipe. This product has a wider, slightly more oval shape than regular rice, and a creamy texture when prepared.

In case you don’t have this type of white rice at home, don’t run to the grocery store to buy it immediately, first, check your cupboards for these Arborio rice substitutes.

The best substitutes for Arborio rice are

  1. Sushi rice
  2. Basmati rice
  3. Pearl Barley
  4. Brown rice
  5. Carnaroli
  6. Farro
  7. Quinoa
  8. Bulgur
  9. Couscous

These kinds of rice have different characteristics, so make sure you stick with us till the end of the article to learn their uses and preparations.

Arborio Rice Substitutes

Sushi Rice

Sushi Rice

Of all the varieties of rice, this Japanese rice probably comes the closest to Arborio and makes the perfect substitute. Sushi rice is a type of short-grain rice that has a high content of starch in it and therefore it provides the same creaminess and thickness that is a must in every risotto recipe.

Sushi rice is most commonly used in the preparation of different types of sushi, sushi bowls, or rice pudding because of its ability to stick and form a shape. Originally it comes from Japan, but these few years sushi rice has been cultivated in many states in America.

Tips For The Perfect Rissoto With Sushi Rice

  • Do not wash your rice- In any sushi preparation, the rice must be rinsed with water a couple of times to get rid of its starchiness. Do not do this if you are making a risotto, the starch in this rice actually helps to get that creamy risotto that we see in commercials and high-end restaurants.
  • Always stir-fry your rice before cooking it- Before boiling your rice, you need to chop up some onions and cook them until they look transparent like glass. If the onions are burning fast, add half a cup of water to make it more tender. Add your rice to the same pan as the onions, coat it in oil, and stir constantly until the rice is starting to look translucent.
  • Do not cook it like regular rice- This type of rice has a unique way of preparation, so make sure to read all of your instructions before making it. Sushi rice can easily get very mushy if it is overcooked and your risotto would likely become a hot mess. My advice is to cook it until it’s Al Dente (take it off the heat a few minutes before its cooking time).

How To Always Make The Perfect Sushi Rice

When I first tried making sticky sushi rice, I was terrified of the results because I taught that it was very difficult and complicated to get the perfect structure and stickiness.

Turns out, It wasn’t difficult at all if you educate yourself enough. Here are some tips that may help you get the perfect rice for sushi

  • First things first, rinse your rice- This is essential for making rice for sushi or poke bowl. Like I said before, this is a great substitute for Arborio because it has a high amount of starch and makes any risotto recipe very creamy, as it should be. But, for sushi preparation, you do not need any starchiness. Put the sushi rice in a mesh strainer and give it a rinse in cold water until you see that the water that comes out is clear and not brownish/yellow.
  • Measure the water proportion- For every cup of rice, put the exact same amount of water. For example, for two cups of rice put two cups of water.
  • Boiling the rice- Boil the rice and closely follow the instructions on the label. I think sushi rice usually cooks for about 20 minutes but every label is different.
  • Always put rice vinegar/white vinegar to your cooked rice- Originally, this type of rice is prepared with a specific type of vinegar made from rice, but you can always use white vinegar(even though the taste will be slightly different). After the rice is done cooking, add a mixture of vinegar, sugar, and salt. Make sure to coat the whole rice with this mixture.  Close the pot with a cool cloth and let it settle for 5 minutes.
  • Cool the rice- Before making any recipe with this type of rice, make sure that it has cooled properly. Otherwise, this starchy, short-grain rice will not be sticky rice and it won’t hold its shape.

Basmati Rice

Basmati Rice

Basmati is Indian, long-grain rice with a fragrant smell, chewy texture, and a nutty flavor. While not the most suitable choice for risotto, Basmati is by far the healthiest of all types of white rice because it is gluten-free(low starch content) and contains 8 amino acids including the essential amino acid methionine.

This healthy alternative is the best when making fried rice, paella, rice pudding, and pilaf. When you’re shopping for this product, make sure you’re getting the real Basmati type of rice since there are a lot of duplicates that are not the real deal.

How To Always Cook The Perfect Basmati Rice

The most important thing I learned while cooking alongside the best traditional chefs in my family, is to always prepare your ingredients before you do any actual recipes or dishes.

This way, your ingredients will be already in front of you, and you will never forget anything that would be essential for the said recipe or dish.

  • Clean your rice- To get rid of any excess starch, put your rice in a bowl of cold water and wash it with your hand. Repeat this process until you see that the water is no longer mirky and brown.
  • Put your rice in cold water- The most common mistake that I’ve seen people make is that they put their rice in boiling water, pumpkin broth, or chicken broth. Try putting the rice in cold water/broth, and then bring it to a boil. When you see the water boiling, reduce the heat to low, put an airtight lid on top of the pot, and let it cook for 10/15 minutes. Your rice will be fluffy and ready to use in any recipe.
  • Season your Basmati- This variety of rice has kind of a boring taste, so I prefer putting some butter and saffron in the boiling pot for a rich flavor. If you want to intensify the nutty taste that Basmati rice has, you can grate just a little bit of nutmeg on top of it.

[Related Article: Can You Boil Water In A Rice Cooker? Here are The Do’s and Don’ts]

Pearl Barley

Pearled Barley

Pearled barley is a type of grain with a nutty taste and firm texture. This can be an excellent rice substitute, especially for risotto rice, because of its creamy consistency when cooked.

Pearled barley is a grain that has been processed and polished. Barley loses its natural fiber and bran layer during the processing and polishing, meaning that it is less healthy and is not considered a ”whole bran”.

When substituting rice with this grain, make sure that you get the pearled barley. Other types of barley won’t work because they are not processed, and therefore still have their bran layers, which makes it harder to get the creamy texture of risotto.

Pearl Barley Recipes

  • Pearl barley risotto dish– You can turn this Italian rice dish into a barley dish very easily. The only thing you have to do is substitute the Arborio (rice for risotto) for barley. The rest of the recipe is basically the same.
  • Fresh barley salad- Make any salad more satisfying by adding a cup of cooked pearl barley. Make it fresh by topping it off with some white cheese and fresh green peppers. Barley has a mild flavor and won’t interfere with the taste of the vegetables.
  • Roast chicken with barley- In case you’re sick of the classical roast chicken and rice, you can switch it up a notch and instead put some barley with lots of herbs and a little bit of lemon juice.
  • Rice with barley and province herbs- Boil your rice and

Brown Rice

Brown Rice

Brown rice is a whole grain product. This means that the rice hasn’t been through processing and still has its high nutritional value, fibers, vitamins, minerals, and bran layer. This makes brown rice the most superior rice in the World. Of course, every whole-grain product comes with a slightly annoying preparation process.

How To Prepare Brown Rice

  • Rinse the rice- This will make your rice starch-free, and a lot less gummy and mushy.
  • Double the amount of water- For every cup of rice put two cups of water.
  • Boil the rice- Put your brown rice in a mixture of water and oil and bring it to a boil. When you see the water boiling, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about an hour while being covered with a lid.
  • Let it rest- After your hour has passed, take the pot out of the heat, and let the rice rest while still being covered with the lid.

Carnaroli Rice

Carnaroli rice is cultivated in the Lombardy and Piedmont region in France, and it’s very similar to Arborio rice.

Carnaroli is short-grain rice and it’s famously known as the caviar of rice that makes amazing risotto dishes taste even better.

Farro

”Farro” is actually a term for three ancient varieties of wheat: farro piccolo(einkorn wheat), farro medio(emmer), and farro grande(spelt). They can all be used as an alternative for this rice.

Quinoa

Quinoa

Quinoa is a known ”superfood” in the modern world. This is a high-protein grain that also contains 8 essential amino acids.

I always recommend Quinoa as a substitute for rice, not because of the similarities in those two, but for the nutritional value in Quinoa and all the health benefits.

[Related Article: 5 Best Stainless Steel Rice Cooker And Buying Guide]

Bulgur Wheat

Bulgur is a whole wheat grain and it’s used for making pilafs, soups, casseroles, meatloaf, or you can cook it, add some cumin, and voila, you have a nutritional and healthy dinner for your family.

Bulgur doesn’t require much cooking since it has already been parboiled or steamed. The necessary time for cooking this healthy grain is no more than 20 minutes.

Couscous

Couscous

Is a round granule that’s made with semolina and wheat flour. The best thing about couscous is that it doesn’t take much time to prepare it.

I do an amazing Tabouleh salad by just boiling a cup of water, adding a cup of couscous in the water, and letting it sit with a lid on a turned-off stove for 5 minutes, till all the water is absorbed.

I add my favorite veggies like tomato, cucumber, and peppers, followed by some raisins, fresh mint, and of course lemon juice to get that zesty taste.

Related Questions

What Can Be Substituted For Arborio Rice

Sushi rice, barley, brown rice, and Basmati rice can all be good substitutes for Arborio

Do You Need A Special Rice For Risotto

Yes, the original recipe for risotto requires a special type of rice called Arborio, but you can use other types of rice if you do not already have it, or an Italian rice variety.

Is Risotto Rice The Same As Pudding Rice

Although they’re not the same type, they are quite similar to each other. They both have a high amount of starch that allows them to be sticky and creamy. You can easily use Arborio rice for a rice pudding recipe.

Can I Make Risotto Without Wine

Yes. You can make risotto without wine, but it won’t be as aromatic and flavorful as the one made with wine. If you want, you can substitute the wine with a mixture of vodka and some kind of acid.

Can I Use Sushi Rice For Risotto

Yes. This Japanese variety is a great substitute for any risotto recipe.

Natasha

Natahsa is an editor/writer for buttercreambakeshop who is excited to share the latest baking tips she experimented with herself at home. She loves to meet with like-minded people who share her passion in baking.

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