Arborio rice is traditional Italian rice that is commonly used to make a popular dish called risotto. It is a short-grain, starchy rice that gives you a pleasing crunch when cooked.

Arborio rice contains a high amount of amylopectin that gives risotto its characteristics creamy consistency. 

However, this rice is quite expensive and not available everywhere. In that case, you can rely on some other rice and grains as substitutes for arborio rice.

This article looks into some of the top alternatives to this famous Italian rice that can be used to make risotto and rice pudding.

substitutes for arborio rice

Substitutes for Arborio Rice

1. Carnaroli Rice

Carnaroli rice can be one of the best arborio rice substitutes as both of them have high-starch contents. This short-grain rice is typically cultivated in the Lombardy and Piedmont regions of northwest Italy.

When cooked, it brings a creamy texture and amazing flavor to a dish, which makes it one of the most popular choices for making risotto. [1]

What’s more, most people even find the flavor of carnaroli better than arborio rice.

2. Pearled Barley

Another great substitute for arborio rice that is highly starchy. It’s a whole grain barley that has been processed and polished to remove its fibrous outer hull and some of the bran layer.

Pearled barley is quite popular as it takes less time to cook. Besides, you don’t need to soak it before cooking, which saves a lot of preparation time.

Besides, pearled barley is a good source of antioxidants and fiber that will provide numerous health benefits while creating a delicious dish.

3. Sushi Rice

Sushi rice is Japanese short-grain rice that becomes sticky when cooked. Because of this quality, it is widely used to make sushi.

Like arborio rice, this Japanese sushi rice can provide the required creaminess to your recipe, meaning that you don’t need any additive like cream or cornstarch.

And the best part is, sushi rice is widely available at almost every supermarket and grocery shops.

4. Farro

Farro is ancient wheat comes in three popular varieties — einkorn, spelt, and emmer. Of them, emmer is commonly available in the United States.

Compared to modern-day wheat, farro is more nutritious and healthy. [2] It can be cooked in just 25 minutes without soaking.

You can use this substitute to make risotto or rice pudding.

5. Basmati Rice

If you want to make rice pudding but don’t have arborio rice in your pantry, then basmati rice can be a good choice for you. 

It is one of the healthiest alternatives to arborio rice as it is gluten-free and has a low glycemic index. [3]

If you want to make risotto with basmati rice, use pumpkin broth to make it sticky.

substitutes for arborio rice

6. Israeli Couscous

Israeli couscous is a silky, round, small, pasta-like granule that is made from semolina or wheat flour. [4]

It can be used to make risotto or other delicious, creamy side dish where it will bring a chewy texture and nutty flavor

And the best part is, it takes only 10 minutes for Israeli couscous to be cooked. However, if you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, you need to avoid this option as it’s not gluten-free.

7. Quinoa

Quinoa is a high-protein grain originally cultivated in the Andes mountain of South America. It can be the right choice for the health-concerned people as it contains all eight essential amino acids. [5]

While quinoa is not a perfect arborio rice substitute, it can bring flavor and crunchiness to a recipe. If you want to make risotto using quinoa, add milk or cream to get the desired consistency.

8. Bulgur Wheat

Bulgur wheat or cracked wheat is a whole wheat grain that is produced by par-boiling, drying, and then grinding the berries.

Due to its production method, it’s easy to cook. However, you will get a nutty taste no matter what you cook.

Bulgur wheat is a healthy alternative to arborio rice as it contains fiber, zero cholesterol, and low-fat. [6]


Having some good substitutes for arborio rice can save you from a recipe disaster.

However, not all options will provide similar health benefits to you. While some of them are high in calorie, others can be an excellent source of protein.

Besides, most of these alternatives will give you a slightly different flavor than the original recipe. You can try these options to get a different flavored risotto.

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