arborio rice substitutes

What Are The Best Alternatives to Arborio Rice?

If you’re looking for the best replacements for Arborio rice for your recipes, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we will discuss similar alternatives and how to use them.

What is Arborio Rice?

Arborio rice is Italian in origin and is a short-grain rice and is a part of the “superfino” (starchy) rice family.


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It comes from Arborio, which is located in the Po Valley of Doron, but is also produced in various states across the USA, including Arkansas, California, and Missouri.

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How is Arborio rice used?

Arborio rice is typically used to make risotto, a traditional Italian rice dish. It gives risotto it’s incredibly creamy texture, especially if it is refined and sold as white rice. It also comes unrefined as brown rice, but is less starchy, making it not as preferable for use in risotto. 

Arborio rice is also used to make paella, which is a classic Spanish dish made of rice, saffron, chicken, seafood, and other Spanish ingredients. Arborio rice is also used to make rice pudding and is used in minestrone soup.

Nutrition Facts

100 gram serving of uncooked Arborio rice contains (1):

  • 356 calories
  • 6.67 grams of protein
  • 80 grams of carbohydrates
  • 2.2 grams of fiber
  • 0 gram of fat

What Is Arborio Rice Good For?

There are a few health benefits of arborio rice, though it may not seem like it due to it being a starchy carbohydrate. It is truly a sodium-free grain, making it a healthy alternative for individuals with heart conditions or for individuals who retain a lot of water. Being sodium-free, it does not negatively affect blood pressure and prevents renal overload.

Arborio rice is a good source of protein, containing 8.4 grams per 1 cup which is more than other rice types. It is packed with vitamins A and C, contributing to strong teeth and bones. It contributes to digestion and assists in preventing constipation and can help alleviate gas.

Lastly, arborio rice is a good source of iron, containing about 2.7 mg per 1 cup. Iron helps to prevent anemia and can help improve oxygen flow in the body, since it is required for proper oxygen transport throughout the body.

What Can I Substitute for Arborio Rice?

If arborio rice is not something you have access to or cannot tolerate, there are a few options for you to try! Let’s discuss 6 great alternatives to using arborio rice in your cooking.

1. Carnaroli Rice

Carnaroli rice is a medium-grain rice that is native to northern Italy. It is a fantastic substitute for arborio rice, for it is very similar, yet yields an even creamier risotto.

It has a higher starch content than arborio rice with a firm texture, attributing to its ability to retain shape during the cooking process. It has a very mild flavor and absorbs and takes on the flavor profile of whatever it is being cooked with. It goes well in paella, as does arborio.

2. Sushi Rice

sushi rice

Sushi rice is a short- or medium-grain rice that is popular amongst Japanese cuisine. It is typically paired with seafood, but due to its high starch content and high amount of amylose, it can technically be used to make risotto and paella.

Since it is more mild, it will not give you the richness that arborio rice will, but many people do use it, since sushi rice tends to be more affordable.

3. Israeli Couscous

israeli couscous

Israeli couscous is a pasta produced from combining semolina flour and water and is popular in Mediterranean cuisine. The couscous balls tend to be bigger than regular couscous and have a soft, chewy, and bouncy texture, with a mild and slightly toasted flavor.

It would not be ideal for risotto, due to its modest starch content, but could be used in paella if you are not a fan of the creaminess. It is high in protein and fiber and contains adequate selenium.

4. Orzo Pasta

Though it may appear to be rice, orzo pasta rice is actually just orzo pasta rolled to look like rice grains. Orzo originates from Italy, but is becoming more common in the USA.

It has a neutral flavor with a chewy texture, making it a great addition to soups, salads, and rice dishes. It takes on other flavors easily, making it a wonderful grain to keep in mind when preparing dinner. It has less starch than arborio, so it may not be the best substitute for risotto, but goes great in paella.

5. Pearled Barley

Pearled barley is a whole grain barley in which its fiber-rich outer layer is removed. Pearled barley is a great substitute for arborio rice, for it provides the same creamy texture and is similar in taste, though it does contain more of a subtle toasted flavor.

It makes for a phenomenal addition to minestrone soup, as well as other soups, providing a rich and creamy texture.

6. Vialone Nano Rice

Vialone Nano rice originates from southern Italy and is a medium-grain rice. It is almost identical to arborio rice, making it a perfect substitute for essentially any dish that calls for arborio rice.

It is creamy, rich, and absorbs the flavor of anything it touches. This rice is one of the gold standards for making risotto and has gained in popularity when making paella.

What Can I Eat Instead of Rice on A Low Carb and Keto Diet?

riced cauliflower

Because rice is very high in carbohydrates, the lowest carb alternative you can try is cauliflower rice. Basically it is cauliflower florets that have been shredded to grain-sized.

You can steam riced cauliflower to mimic steamed rice, or you can stir-fry it to make fried rice. There are many recipes you can find online to help you make delicious dishes from cauliflower.

*Featured Photo by Paul_Cowan/depositphotos

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