Best Arborio Rice Substitutes

Arborio rice is commonly used to make risotto. But if you don’t have this rice handy, you can still use Arborio rice substitutes to make recipes and dishes.


Like virtually every other ingredient, there’s always a backup plan, thanks to the versatility of food. As such, we invite you to join us as we share our top picks to use in place of Arborio rice.

And don’t forget to stick around till the end, as we show you where you can find even more useful food substitutes. You never have to get stuck in the kitchen again. With these tasty alternatives, you can be sure to replace essential components and see your recipes through to completion.

What Is Arborio Rice?

Named after a small town in northwestern Italy, Arborio rice was originally grown there. It’s a short-grain rice that is quite starchy, making it a perfect ingredient for risotto recipes everywhere. If you’re not familiar with risotto, it’s a northern Italy rice dish with a signature consistency of creaminess.

Its creamy and soft texture is a result of the Arborio rice having a high amylopectin content. The grains themselves have an oval shape, while the rice comes in two colors: brown and white.

It’s worth pointing out that the white rice contains more starch than brown rice. Therefore, the white version is widely used to make risotto and rice pudding.

You can’t find Arborio rice just anywhere. And on top of that, the rice costs more than many other varieties.

As such, it is a wiser choice to replace Arborio rice with substitutes if you’re on a budget. The best substitute is an ingredient that contains a lot of starch. While you can use ingredients that are less starchy, it’s important to add cornstarch or cream to give your recipe a creamier texture.

There are a few good alternatives to choose from when you need to replace Arborio rice. So let’s shift our focus to our top picks so you can decide which option is the best fit for your needs.

Pearled Barley

This is probably going to be your best alternative to Arborio rice among all of the other barley types. Why? Because it possesses the most starch content out of all of them. Plus, it cooks faster thanks to the bran being partially removed prior to the grain getting polished. Therefore, there is no need to soak before cooking, which saves preparation time and speeds up cooking.

Basmati Rice

This rice is a long-grain variant that hails from India. Since it is gluten-free, this rice isn’t necessarily the best alternative for making risotto. The good news, though, is that it is a healthy alternative to Arborio rice, thanks to its glycemic index being low. Use this kind of rice to make risotto and add in pumpkin broth to give it a sticky consistency.

Brown Rice

While the taste of brown rice is not the best for risotto, it’s nutritionally better than white rice. What’s more, brown rice’s milling process only removes the exterior layer, hull, and kernel.

This ensures the retention of bran, which has high fiber and lots of nutritional value. As such, brown rice is an excellent choice for anyone trying to avoid simple carbohydrates that have no nutritional value.


Farro refers to the three wheat varieties from ancient times. These were originally planted in Fertile Crescent. In fact, they are still cultivated in Italy to this day.

Farro’s emmer variety is very common here in the States. And it is capable of cooking very quickly. There’s no need to soak, either, ensuring that you can prepare farro in just 25 minutes.

Carnaroli Rice

Just like Arborio rice, the Carnaroli variety comes from the northwestern regions of Italy. Carnaroli is short-grain and boasts lots of amylopectins.

When cooked, Carnaroli’s texture is quite creamy, and its body is firm. Thus, it helps to improve the flavors of your favorite dishes. Even better, Carnaroli is considered to be one of the most suitable rice types for risotto.

Bulgur Wheat

It is commonly referred to as broken wheat in the United States. Basically, it is whole wheat cracked, made of half-boiled, dried, and coarsely ground wheat mash. Therefore, it will be cooked quickly when boiled or steamed.

Also called burghul wheat, Bulgur wheat is loaded with protein and beneficial minerals. It also delivers a nutty flavor. High in fiber and low in fat, Bulgur wheat has no cholesterol. As such, it’s an ideal alternative that replaces Arborio rice with plenty of healthy properties.


This grain is high in protein and grown by the South American Inca tribes of the Andes. Not only does it contain more protein compared to other grains, but quinoa also boasts all eight of the amino acids your body needs for optimal health.

While quinoa doesn’t have quite the same starch quality found in Arborio rice, it’s still a fine substitute with tons of nutritional value. If you want quinoa’s consistency to be a bit creamier, simply add some milk or cream.

Sushi Rice

Sushi rice is usually used to make sushi, as it becomes a bit sticky when you cook it. And like Arborio rice, sushi rice provides the creamy flavor that your recipe requires. So you don’t need to add in any additives like butter or cornstarch.

Discover Even More Substitutes at Cook Gem

As you can see, many of the substitutes here provide additional health benefits. This makes these choices worthy of your consideration, especially if you’re trying to monitor your food intake. Therefore, you can enjoy risotto without fear of interfering with your diet.

If you are interested in learning about more healthy alternatives, we invite you to explore our growing Food Substitutes page. There, we share many beneficial replacement ideas that are just as useful as our Arborio rice substitutes.

You can also find helpful guides that detail the vegan-friendly menu items in various restaurants. And if you’d like to learn about some tasty recipes, you can find plenty by clicking here.

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