The 8 Best Substitutes For Arborio Rice

What can I use instead of Arborio rice? The best substitutes for Arborio rice are other kinds of rice, like Carnaroli, Vialone Nano, brown rice, and sticky rice. Starchy grains like pearl barley, farro, and bulgar wheat are suitable for risotto, as is the pasta orzo if you don’t require a gluten-free substitute.

Arborio rice, medium-grained Italian rice, is ideal for risotto and rice pudding because it releases starch but remains firm after long, slow cooking. What can you do when you don’t have the perfect rice for risotto? We recommend these eight substitutes for Arborio rice.

The Best Arborio Rice Substitutes

Carnaroli Rice

The best substitute for Arborio rice is Carnaroli rice, which many Italians prefer for making risotto.

Carnaroli rice is a medium-grained, superfine variety of rice known as the caviar or the king of rice in northern Italy. It is prized for its texture and flavor.

Nutritionally, Carnaroli rice is gluten-free, making it suitable for people with celiac disease. It also contains high levels of lysine, an amino acid necessary for making antibodies to fight infection. This rice is also highly digestible and has a low glycaemic index.

Carnaroli is a delicious substitute for Arborio in risotto and rice pudding as it releases even more starch than Arborio rice does, maintains its firm texture, and absorbs flavors well. It’s ideal for inexperienced cooks who may cook their risotto too long, as it doesn’t get gummy or sticky.

Substitute Arborio rice with equal amounts of Carnaroli rice.

Vialone Nano Rice

Another tasty substitute for Arborio rice is Vialone Nano rice from Italy.

Like Arborio and Carnaroli, Vialone Nano is medium-grained, superfine rice with a firm center and soft exterior when cooked.

It is most popular in the Veneto region of northern Italy, where risotto is typically soupier and contains seafood.

Vialone Nano rice is gluten-free, low in sodium, and rich in B vitamins. It promotes healthy digestion and reduces inflammation.

Vialone Nano absorbs a lot of liquid when cooking, becoming creamy and soft, making it an excellent substitute for Arborio rice in risotto and arancini or rice balls.

Use Vialone Nano as a 1:1 substitute for Arborio Rice.

Brown Rice

Brown rice is a convenient and healthy substitute for Arborio rice.

Brown rice and white rice are the same grain, but brown rice has the inedible outer hull milled away, leaving the bran and cereal layers.

The bran layer is exceptionally nutritious, high in fiber, B vitamins, copper, magnesium, iron, selenium, and manganese, supporting the immune system.

For the health conscious, short-grain brown rice is a suitable replacement for Arborio rice as it is high in starch.

The slow cooking technique of risotto suits brown rice, which requires an extended cooking time.

The stirring process in risotto-making is unnecessary with brown rice – you can simply add six cups of broth for one cup of brown rice and let it bake in a moderate oven for an hour. Add butter and cheese for a simple supper.

Use equal amounts of brown rice as you would Arborio rice.

Sticky Rice

Sushi rice, Japanese rice, or sticky rice, is a handy substitute for Arborio rice.

Known as uruchimai rice in Japanese, sticky rice is short-grain rice high in amylopectin starch, which gives it a moist texture when cooked.

When making sushi, you will often soak the rice and then rinse it to remove some of the starch so that it becomes sticky but not mushy during cooking. You’d also add rice vinegar when steaming the rice.

If you want to use sticky rice instead of Arborio rice, make sure you have sushi rice, not the glutinous rice used for making the dessert, mochi.

Don’t soak and rinse the sushi rice before use, as the starch will make your risotto or rice pudding creamy. Cook sticky rice using the risotto technique, but ensure it doesn’t overcook.

Use the exact proportions of sticky rice as Arborio rice.

Pearled Barley

When you have no rice, turn to grains: pearl barley is a perfect substitute for Arborio rice.

When barley has been processed to remove the fibrous outer hull and some of the bran layer, it is known as pearl barley. Pearl barley cooks quickly, doesn’t need to be soaked before cooking, and remains high in starch.

Unlike rice, pearl barley is not gluten-free. However, it has many health benefits, including proteins, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, reducing cholesterol, and regulating blood sugar.

Pearl barley is a popular ingredient in soups, stews, and casseroles because it becomes creamy when long-cooked but retains a delightfully toothsome texture.

Because of these characteristics, pearl barley makes a delightful risotto, soaking up the flavorsome broth. Barley absorbs moisture readily, so you can let it simmer without the stirring necessary with Arborio rice.

Replace Arborio rice with equal proportions of pearled barley.


Another grain that can substitute for Arborio rice is farro, an ancient wheat variety.

Use either hulled farro with the bran layer or pearled farro, which has been processed. The bran layer gives farro a delightfully nutty flavor and chewy texture, but pearled farro cooks more quickly and doesn’t require soaking.

Farro contains high levels of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, especially magnesium, which is good for heart health.

Use pearled farro to make a risotto (or farrotto, in Italian), as it will release the creamy starch you want. Pearled farro cooks in 25 minutes, more quickly than Arborio rice, and makes a lighter risotto.

To use hulled farro for a hearty, healthy risotto, add more liquid than Arborio rice. Your risotto won’t end up as creamy, so stir through some cream and cheese at the end.

Use farro in a 1:1 ratio to replace Arborio rice.

Bulgur Wheat

A healthy and quick-cooking alternative to Arborio rice is bulgur wheat.

Any form of wheat can be made into bulgur wheat. Burghul, bulgur, or cracked wheat is par-boiled, dried, and coarsely ground wheat berries, allowing it to cook more quickly.

Bulgur wheat is beneficial for you since it retains wholegrain wheat’s proteins, minerals, and fiber. Although it does contain gluten, it has very little fat and no cholesterol.

With its distinctively substantial texture and nutty flavor, bulgur wheat makes a tasty risotto. Use the standard risotto method of toasting the grains, slowly adding broth and stirring until the bulgur absorbs all liquid to become thick and hearty.

Replace Arborio rice with equal amounts of bulgur wheat.


A final recommended substitute for Arborio rice is orzo, a tiny kind of pasta (or pastina).

Orzo is made from semolina flour and crafted to look like grains of rice; hence Italians call it risoni. It’s wheat-based, so it is not gluten-free, but it is higher in protein and fiber than rice, especially if you choose wholewheat orzo.

Because orzo is pasta rather than rice, it doesn’t make an authentic risotto. It looks like risotto but has a more delicate texture, with less bite. The starch in semolina creates a smooth, rich dish.

Use orzo instead of Arborio rice to make orzotto, but note that you won’t need as much liquid nor as long a cooking time. Check as you cook to ensure that the pasta remains al dente.

Replace Arborio rice with equal quantities of orzo, but with modifications to the recipe.


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