Making Risotto with Arborio Rice Substitutes

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Arborio rice in wooden bowl with a text "arborio rice substitute"

Raise your wine glasses, foodies. Let’s toast to another week done and over with. 

We’re creatures of habit through and through. And so, we’re all living for the weekend!

Now that it’s here means more time spent in the kitchen doing what we do best. 

Bringing nuanced culinary creations to life (even if we’re all just self-proclaimed chefs here). 

For this weekend? We’re making risotto!

Who’s excited to transform our humble kitchens into La Bella Italia?

Better crank up the Italian opera playlist, keep the wine bottles coming, and grab the arborio rice, then!

Wait, what did you say? 

You don’t have the latter covered? You’re out of the very thing that makes risotto…risotto?! (insert rapidly rising tension)

Got ya! 

No worries. 

I’m no Gordon Ramsay. I’m not going to blow my lid just because you don’t have the main ingredient (I’m sarcastic, though).

It’s no biggie, truly!

But only because I know some arborio rice substitutes.

It’s Still a Go on Risotto: Arborio Rice Substitutes

Arborio rice forming word "arborio" in black background.

Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco.

It’s an Italian proverb that literally translates to “Not all donuts come out with a hole.”

I believe “No use crying over spilled milk” is a close and similar expression. 

So basically, life doesn’t always unfold the way we want it to. Let’s just be flexible and adaptable in face of challenges, yeah?

Besides, there are two arborio rice substitutes that can easily turn your current predicament around. And they’re both of Italian descent as well!

Carnaroli Rice

All hail the “King of Italian rice.”

Carnaroli rice is given that title because of the creamier texture, and better ability to hold its shape than arborio. 

It’s on the more expensive side, though.


  • 1 cup of carnaroli rice
  • 1 peeled and diced medium butternut squash
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 chopped sprig of sage without the leaves
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 2 minced cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup of dry white wine
  • 4-5 cups of hot vegetable broth
  • ½ cup of grated Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper 


  • Bowl
  • Baking sheet
  • Large pan
  • Wooden spoon


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Mix the butternut squash, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl, then spread on a baking sheet. 
  2. Roast everything for 20-25 minutes or just until the squash is tender. 
  3. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium fire while step 2 happens. Add the sage leaves and cook for about 30 seconds. 
  4. Remove the sage and set them aside for now. You can then add the shallot and garlic to the pan, then cook them for a minute. 
  5. Add the carnaroli rice while increasing the heat slightly. Toast the rice for 1-2 minutes. 
  6. Pour in the white wine and cook. Make sure to stir frequently until the wine is absorbed. 
  7. Gradually add the broth. About ½ cup at a time, then stir constantly. 
  8. For 20-25 minutes, keep adding broth until the rice becomes al dente. 
  9. Halfway through, stir in the squash and sage. 
  10. Remove the rice from the fire, then stir in the Parmesan and butter. Season with salt and pepper.
  11. Garnish with sage leaves before serving. 

Vialone Nano Rice

Vialone nano rice dish in a white plate.

This next substitute is often overshadowed by its famous cousins, Arborio and Carnaroli. 

But never underestimate vialone nano for it boasts a unique pear-shaped grain and a high starch content. 

Even higher than that of Arborio’s. 


  • 1 cup of vialone nano rice
  • 1 pound of cut asparagus
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 2 minced cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup of dry white wine
  • 4-5 cups of hot chicken broth
  • 1 pound of deveined medium shrimp
  • ½ cup of grated Pecorino Romano
  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon wedges


  • Large pot
  • Large pans
  • Wooden spoon


  1. Boil a large pot of salted water. Add the asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Drain the asparagus and set it aside. Reserve about ¼ cup of cooking water.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium fire. Add the shallot and garlic and cook for 1 minute until it becomes soft. 
  4. Increase the heat slightly and add the vialone nano rice. Toast it for 1-2 minutes and make sure to stir constantly.
  5. Pour in the white wine and cook until the wine is absorbed. Add ½ cup of broth at a time. 
  6. While the rice is simmering, heat another pan over medium fire with a drizzle of olive oil. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, then cook it for 2-3 minutes per side. 
  7. Add the asparagus water about halfway through cooking the rice. Continue to add broth, as well, for about 15-20 minutes until the rice is al dente.
  8. Stir in the Pecorino Romano and butter once the rice is cooked. Season with salt and pepper, then add the shrimp. 
  9. Garnish with lemon wedges before serving. 

Beyond Arborio

Chefs of our caliber are nothing if not resourceful. Besides, we’re flexible enough not to stick to the norm all the time. 

So take these two arborio rice substitutes in stride. 

Both of them have much to offer and can produce a unique version of risotto that’ll surely surprise you. 

Here’s to a risotto weekend…


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