What can I substitute for arborio rice?

In this brief article, we are going to answer the question, “What can I substitute for arborio rice?”, and discuss what arborio rice is, along with a brief description of different substitutes for arborio rice.

What can I substitute for arborio rice?

Pearled barley, carnaroli rice, Brown rice, basmati rice, faro, sushi rice, quinoa, bulgar wheat among others can be substituted for arborio rice.

Pearled barley

Pearled barley has the highest amount of starch compared with other arborio rice substitutes. The bran is half removed and the grain is polished which makes it easier and faster to cook. The easy cooking eliminates the need to soak the rice before cooking it, which makes it a time efficient substitute. 

Basmati rice

A type of rice which has long grains and is commonly popular in India. The low glycemic index and the gluten free property makes it an efficient substitute especially in patients who have both celiac disease and diabetes.

On the other hand, basmati rice is not an ideal substitute to make risotto, as it does not have gluten to make the dish sticky such as risotto; so pumpkin broth can be added to basmati rice if it is substituted for arborio for making risotto.

Brown rice

It is more nutritious than white rice, but does not have that pleasing flavour which the white rice has. 

When brown rice undergoes milling, only the hull is removed and the bran is retained, which consists of high fibre and is also a good source of nutrients. It is a good source of complex carbohydrates.

Carnaroli rice

Carnaroli rice is also a type of Italian, short grain rice with high levels of amylopectin. When cooked, the texture becomes creamy with a firm body thus improving the dish flavours. 


Farro is one of the three ancient wheat varieties, and is also cultivated in Italy. The emmer farro variety can be found commonly in the US. It is easy and very quick to cook without the need to soak before cooking. 


Quinoa is a type of grain which has rich amounts of proteins with eight of the nine essential amino acids. In contrast to arborio rice, it does not have significant amounts of starch, which makes it harder to cook, and to achieve a creamy consistency. 

When this rice is used to prepare risotto, milk has to be added to achieve the creamy texture.

Bulgur wheat

Bulgur wheat is also known as cracked wheat, and is a type of whole wheat. This type of wheat is formed by par-boiling, drying and then grinding it coarsely. The smaller particle and larger surface area makes it easier and quicker to cook than other types of arborio substitutes. 

It is also a healthy alternative as it is rich in proteins, minerals, and fibre with low levels of fat and no cholesterol.

What is arborio rice?

Arborio rice is an Italian rice which has short grains. Arborio rice is also grown in the regions of Arkansas, California and Missouri in the US. Arborio rice is a common ingredient in the formation of risotto, which is a dish of rice prepared with broth and cooked slowly to achieve a creamy consistency. 

Arborio rice is also used as an ingredient in the preparation of a Spanish dish known as paella, which is made up of rice, saffron, chicken, and seafood. It is high in calories and contains a significant amount of proteins with a huge amount of carbohydrates and a significant amount of fibre but zero fat. The high calories (around 330 calories in 100 grams), can affect weight when used often as large portion sizes in meals.

The high levels of amylopectin in arborio rice gives it a unique texture. The amylopectin helps in the blending with other flavours and is thus used for making puddings of rice and risotto. 

It can be known from the name itself that arborio rice is quite expensive and is not commonly found in grocery stores.

Other FAQs about Rice that you may be interested in.

What is the size of a grain of rice?

Does rice turn into sugar?

Does rice need to be rinsed?

Does rice milk go bad?


In this brief article, we answered the question, “What can I substitute for arborio rice?”, and discussed what arborio rice is, along with a brief description of different substitutes for arborio rice.