What is Arborio Rice?


Known for its trademark creamy texture, Arborio rice is short-grain rice to medium-grain rice species that is most known for its use in the traditional making of risotto. If you’re a home cook who loves to experiment with rice recipes, you’ve most likely come across this rice variety before and have probably used it several times in creamy rice dishes or risotto.

However, if you’re new to the cooking world and are confused as to what it is, this article is for you. So, what is Arborio rice and what are its uses? Read below for more insights.

What is Arborio Rice and Why It’s Preferred in Risotto

The most ideal rice needed to create risotto rice is Italian rice varieties. Arborio, which is long-grain super fino rice, is the most recommended option due to its ability to absorb liquid without being overcooked and its availability in major supermarkets. The reason why cooked arborio rice produces such a creamy texture is that it has a lot of amylopectins, which is a kind of starch. This rice releases its natural starch when cooked, resulting in creamier, more delicious rice that is chewier and has a more silky texture than ordinary rice such as Basmati rice.

How is Arborio Rice Different From Regular Rice?

How is Arborio Rice Different From Regular Rice?

For starters, Arborio rice has more amylopectin than regular white rice. Arborio rice keeps more of its natural starch content since it is milled less than regular long-grain rice and is somewhat more expensive than conventional long-grain white rice.

Uncooked arborio rice has a pearly white skin and is short, plump, and somewhat oval-shaped. There are different size classifications, the most popular of which being “ultra fino”. It is a variety of short-grain to medium-grain white rice named after the town of Arborio in the Po Valley in Italy, where it was originally cultivated.

While Basmati and Jasmine rice can be used in recipes that require firmer rice, arborio is much more ideal for dishes that need more creaminess and smooth texture like rice pudding and risotto. Arborio rice recipes can also include paella and minestrone.

What Does Arborio Rice Taste Like?

Arborio is appreciated more for its creamy texture than for its flavor. Because of arborio’s high starch content, this rice has a slightly creamy and starchy taste. The rice absorbs flavors very well, making it perfect for creamy rice and other dishes that require high starch.

Arborio Rice Uses

Because of its creaminess, Arborio isn’t often prepared as a side dish on its own, but rather in recipes where its texture is appreciated, such as risotto. While you don’t particularly need to be a rice recipe developer to be able to cook arborio successfully, this short-grain rice variety will need supervision when it’s being cooked. Aside from making risotto, arborio can also be used for porridge, rice pudding, and other starchy desserts.

How To Cook Arborio Rice

Releasing the starch from the grains is an essential part of cooking arborio, and it can only occur if it is cooked gently with a hot liquid added a little at a time. If arborio rice were cooked in the traditional stovetop method, which involves combining all of the water and all of the rice in a pot and then simmering until the water is absorbed, the arborio would be devoid of its trademark creaminess.

Arborio rice, like pasta, should be cooked al dente, which means that it should be somewhat firm to the bite, and a little less done than regular white rice. To cook risotto, don’t let it rest for too long since the starch will quickly congeal, making it rigid and giving it a gluey consistency. Also, note that arborio rice can absorb up to 6 cups of liquid before turning mushy. If you’re cooking porridge it might be fine, but other recipes will call for more supervision.

How to Cook Arborio Rice Risotto on the Stove

Want to try out an arborio rice recipe? Check out this simple risotto recipe below:

  1. To make a simple risotto, warm 8 cups of low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth in a skillet over medium heat.
  2.  In a medium sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Add a big, finely diced onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add in 1 pinch of kosher salt to taste. 
  3. Stir in 2 cups of unrinsed Arborio rice. Add butter and gently coat the rice. Continue stirring for approximately 2 minutes, or until the edges of the rice grains are transparent but the center is still opaque. 
  4. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in 1/2 cup white wine and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes or until the pan is nearly dry. 
  5. Slowly add 1/2 cup heated broth at a time, swirling almost continuously between additions.
  6. Before adding the next ladleful of broth, wait until the liquid is nearly fully absorbed. Continue adding liquid for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the rice is al dente and the broth is creamy and the dish has the consistency of thick porridge.  
  7. If preferred, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil and finely grated Parmesan cheese. Serve right away and enjoy. 

If you still have plenty of leftovers after dinner, simply store the risotto in an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to two days.

Final Note: What is Arborio Rice?

While great for most starchy recipes, arborio shines the most in risotto and rice-based desserts, unlike its long grain counterparts that are ideal in pilaf recipes. If you’re up for a challenge, you can definitely try your hand at other rice recipes.

For more rice-related news and posts, you can visit our blog.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you substitute Arborio rice for white rice?

You can, definitely. However, there’s going to be a drastic change in flavor and texture. It’s best that you try this in small amounts before surprising your entire household with the change come dinner time.

What is a substitute for Arborio rice?

If you want to create risotto but can’t find arborio rice, consider these additional rice or grain varieties: Carnaroli, Vialone Nano, and sushi rice. Carnaroli rice is a kind of Italian super fino rice that is rich in amylopectin and may be more difficult to locate than arborio rice. Vialone Nano, on the other hand, is a fino or semi-fino Italian rice type that is smaller in size yet capable of absorbing a large amount of moisture. Sushi rice grains are also ideal because the grains are small, plump, and hold more moisture when cooked than other rice kinds, making them stickier.

Can you use normal rice instead of arborio?

Technically, you could. However, part of the reason why different rice varieties are needed for different recipes is because of texture and taste. While basmati and arborio are both rice, the former has a firmer texture and separate grains when cooked while the latter is thicker and creamier. Arborio is the ideal risotto rice because the recipe requires a starchy grain. If you want good food, it’s best that the foundation of the recipe, in this case, the rice variety, remains unchanged.

Can you cook Arborio rice in a rice cooker or a pressure cooker?

Due to the nature of how arborio is cooked, it is not ideal to make this type of rice in a rice cooker or a pressure cooker. This is considering that these two appliances have limited menu options and can possibly overcook the rice. An Instant Pot would be the better option if you don’t want to cook the rice on the stove. With its menu options such as a sauté function, you can easily make your risotto in an instant pot. Do note that it may not have the same consistency as a risotto made on the stove.