Substitute for Arborio Rice: 15 Suitable Options for Creamy Dishes

Are you a lover of risotto? Then you already know the importance of arborio rice in your risotto recipe. However, the availability of arborio rice is not always guaranteed. This is exactly why you need a substitute for arborio rice in your recipe. 

If you are also fond of using arborio rice in your rice pudding recipe, this is for you. Acknowledging the fact that you can run out of arborio rice is just as important as knowing the substitutes you can opt for when that happens. 

This article contains 15 different alternatives you can use in your recipe in place of rice. 

SEE: Cheffist Recommendations on Thyme Substitutes

What Is Arborio Rice?

Arborio rice is starchy short-grain rice. The grains have an oval shape and are usually available in two colors—white and brown. White arborio rice is usually more starchy than brown grains.

The grains can retain their natural starch because of the less milling process they undergo. When you cook the rice, it releases the starch to make the dish firm, chewy and creamy. 

Due to its starchy nature, it is popularly an ideal choice in risotto recipes as it gives the Italian dish a creamy consistency. The high content of amylopectin in arborio rice is what gives the creamy texture. 

The rice contains high protein and vitamins A and C content. Its nutritional content makes it beneficial to the health. While it is popular for being in risotto recipes, it is also used in a variety of other dishes that require a creamy ingredient.

Arborio Rice Substitutes

1. Sticky Rice

Sticky rice has similar features to arborio rice such as taste and stickiness. It is even more sticky, as the name implies. The only difference is the stickier nature of sticky rice. You will probably not even be able to tell the difference between sticky rice and arborio rice. 

This is the best alternative to use in place of arborio rice in your recipe. Cook the same way you prepare your arborio.

2. Israeli Couscous

Israeli couscous is a good substitute for arborio rice that can be used in risotto and a variety of other dishes. It is also known as pearl couscous. Made from wheat and semolina flour, it has a small round shape of pasta. 

Israeli couscous gives a nutty flavor and chewy texture. Its ability to absorb flavor and boil quickly makes it an even better alternative to arborio rice. 

Note: Due to its wheat content, this rice is better avoided if you are gluten intolerant. You can look for other alternatives. 

3. Sushi Rice

Sushi rice is another alternative you can use for your dishes in place of arborio rice. It is a short grain popularly cultivated in Japan and commonly used for making sushi. 

Like arborio rice, sushi rice has a sticky texture when cooked and can provide the required amount of creaminess your recipe needs. You can use it in a variety of dishes just as you use arborio rice in a recipe. 

4. Basmati Rice

Unlike the previously mentioned alternatives, basmati rice is long-grain rice popular in India. This is a great gluten-free alternative you can use for your recipe. It contains a low glycemic index, making it the best option for a gluten-free recipe.

However, it may not be the best choice but is a healthy arborio rice substitute. You can use it in your risotto recipe along with some pumpkin to get the desired level of stickiness.

5. Bulgur Wheat

Bulgur wheat, also known as cracked wheat, is quite popular in the United States. It is a whole wheat grain made from wheat berries. It contains nutritional properties such as protein, minerals, and fiber. This makes it an even more healthy arborio rice substitute. 

It cooks really fast, has a nutty taste, and also gives a sticky effect to your dishes. It also contains high-fiber, low-fat, and zero cholesterol. You can use this in place of arborio rice in your recipe if you are heavy on your diet.

6. Pearled Barley

Pearled barley happens to be one of the best alternatives to use in place of arborio rice because of its high starch content. It also boils quickly because of the partial bran removal it goes through during production. 

Just like arborio rice, you do not need to soak it before use. Cook your pearled barley the same way you prepare your arborio rice and use it in your recipe. 

7. Quinoa

Quinoa is another arborio rice substitute that is cultivated in the southern region of America. It contains a high level of protein and all 8 essential amino acids. This makes it healthier and more nutritional than all the other alternatives. 

However, you will need the help of milk or cream to achieve the creamy consistency you need for your recipe. Prepare the rice the same way you prepare arborio rice. Add cream or milk to it for the preparation of your risotto recipe. 

8. Brown rice

If you wish to stay away from carbs with no nutritional value, this is a good choice for you. Brown rice is a good substitute for arborio rice mainly because of its nutritional content. It is not as starchy and tasty as white rice but can stick and give an adequate amount of starch when cooked. 

9. Carnaroli Rice

Carnaroli rice is short-grain rice cultivated in the northwestern region of Italy. Similar to arborio rice, it also contains a high level of starch. This makes it a great substitute for arborio rice in your recipes. 

It gives a creamy and firm texture when cooked and also improves the flavor profile of a dish. This has earned it the title of “the caviar of rice”. Use carnaroli rice in your recipes the same way you use arborio rice. 

10. Vialone Nano Rice

Vialone nano rice is medium-grain rice that originates from Italy and can serve as a substitute for arborio rice. It is very similar to arborio rice and that makes it an excellent alternative to use for your recipe. 

As with arborio rice, vialone nano rice is starchy, rich in nutritional contents, and easily absorbs the flavor. It is one of the gold standard rice used in making risotto and is also popularly used in making paella. 

11. Orzo Pasta

It’s quite easy to mistake orzo pasta as rice as it looks just like rice grains. It originates from Italy but has gained popularity in other countries, including the United States. Orzo pasta rice is a great substitute for arborio rice that can be used in soups, salads, and even rice dishes. 

Orzo pasta has a chewy texture combined with a neutral flavor that allows it to absorb other flavors easily. It may not be the best substitute for arborio rice when making risotto, but works well in paella recipes in place of arborio rice.

12. Cus-Cus

Cus-cus looks very similar to rice grains, but is made from flour and water mix. It has the same taste as pasta but works great as a substitute for arborio rice in any recipe. 

Cus-cus suits most recipes that require the use of arborio rice. It cooks really fast and you season it to suit your taste. You can also use it in salads. 

13. Farro Grains

These grains are made from three different types of wheat that originate from Italy. Farro means “three” and the three wheat varieties are: Farro piccolo, Farro Medio, and Farro grande. You can get any of the varieties of Farro grains and use them as substitutes for arborio rice in your recipe. 

14. Jasmine rice

Jasmine rice is a delicious alternative to use for recipes that requires arborio rice. These rice grains have an aromatic and nutty taste that can elevate and give your risotto recipe the right kick. 

Using jasmine rice as a substitute for arborio rice in your recipe will give your dish a unique taste. You can use it in any type of recipe in place of arborio rice. 

15. Red cargo rice 

Red cargo rice has a very rich flavor, and that makes it different from all other types of rice you might have tried. The rice grains have a red color that makes them ideal for a versatile dish as they give your dish an interesting look. 

Red cargo rice has a nutty flavor and transforms into a creamy texture when cooked. This makes it one of the best substitutes for arborio in your risotto recipe. 

SEE: Get Your McDonald’s Favorites For Free

Why Does Arborio Rice Need Substitutes? 

One of the reasons arborio rice needs a substitute is its lack of availability, as you can’t easily find it everywhere. It originates in Italy and is grown in the US in states like California and Texas. Finding it available in other states can be quite a hassle. 

Another reason is the price as it costs two times the price of other rice varieties. This calls for more affordable alternatives. 

SEE: Superb Tomato Sauce Substitutes You Can Get Around


Is arborio rice the same as white rice?

No, it isn’t. Arborio rice is not the same as white rice is a lot starchier than arborio rice. In addition to that, arborio rice has an earthy color, unlike white rice. 

Is arborio rice the same as sushi rice?

No, it isn’t. Even though arborio rice has a similar size, starch content, and shape to sushi rice, they are different. Arborio rice originates from Italy, while sushi rice originates from Japan.

Is arborio rice the same as short-grain rice?

No, it isn’t. Short-grain rice is an umbrella name for any form of rice that has short grains such as sushi rice and arborio rice. 


For all risotto lovers, arborio rice is always the first choice when it comes to the preparation of the tasty recipe. But what happens when you run out of arborio rice? Remember, arborio rice is not easily available everywhere. 

Don’t hesitate to try out the recommended recipes in this article to make your risotto dish. You can also use the substitutes for other recipes that require the creamy effect of arborio rice in a dish.

Thanks for reading.

Visit Cheffist to discover more worthy food substitutes you can use for your favorite recipe.