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Rice is a staple food in many Asian countries like Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore, and the Philippines.
In fact, people from these countries value rice highly enough to eat it multiple times a day, every day.
Rice is a grain, and it comes in many varieties.
Arborio rice is popular in Italy and much of the world because it is high in starch and has a creamy texture once cooked. Therefore, it’s perfect for risotto.
So, what is the best substitute for rice?
The two best substitutes for arborio rice are brown rice and basmati rice.
Brown rice is high in fiber and retains more nutrients; thus, it’s a great low carb option.
Basmati rice is a low calorie and much healthier alternative to arborio. You can make risotto with this type of rice as long as you add some pumpkin broth to add in that creamy texture.
To date, there are over 40,000 varieties of cultivated rice around the world. Because of this, the number of dishes that you can cook with rice is countless.
Some of these famous rice dishes include Sushi, Biryani, Gimbap, Chazuke, and Curry Rice.
But what if rice is not available? Or perhaps you can’t eat rice because of health issues.
Whatever the case, the good news is that there are many rice and non-rice alternatives with a similar texture and flavor.
Are you wondering what other grains can you take as an alternative?
In this article, I will share the best substitutes for rice and explain why you can cook with them in a similar way.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What to Look For in a Rice Substitute
- 2 Other Grains That are a Good Substitute for Rice
- 3 Can you Substitute Rice with Quinoa?
- 4 Best Healthy Non-Rice Substitute: Cauliflower Rice
- 5 Different Rice Varieties and their Benefits
- 6 Best Way to Substitute Rice: Find your Favorite
What to Look For in a Rice Substitute
If you cook a rice recipe and need alternatives, you need to use a substitute with a similar texture, stickiness, and flavor.
White rice has its husk, bran, and germ removes, which gives it that unique texture.
It eliminates the flavor and gives it a neutral taste. This process also gives it that pearly and polished appearance and smooth texture.
But since the rice is bleached, most of the nutrients are thus removed.
When looking for a yummy substitute, look for rice that is less processed and unbleached.
Also, keep in mind that less processed rice is flavorful and often has a nutty or earthy flavor.
You can manipulate the texture of rice substitutes by soaking the grains.
If you want your rice to taste like white and arborio rice, it must be at least a bit starchy.
Other Grains That are a Good Substitute for Rice
Best Substitute for Arborio Rice
Arborio rice is short-grain rice from Italy. It is starchy, making it the traditional choice for cooking the north Italian rice dish risotto.
Arborio rice is sodium-free and has high protein content. It is also rich in vitamin A and C.
However, this rice variety is not available everywhere. And in some parts of the world, it can be quite expensive.
As a substitute, you can replace this rice variety with the following grains: pearl barley, farro, quinoa, bulgur wheat, Israeli couscous, basmati rice, carnaroli rice, and brown rice.
But the number one substitute is brown rice, followed closely by basmati rice. Brown rice is low in carbs but high in fiber, so it’s a more nutritious option.
Basmati rice is relatively cheap, and it is low in calories. It is lightly fragrant and has a slightly nutty taste. It can be cooked to have a fluffy texture, like arborio risotto rice.
Best Low-Carb Rice Substitute
Rice is actually pure starch. Now, with that in mind, it’s important to look for low-carb rice substitutes, especially if you are on a diet or have health issues.
Do you know what to look for when it comes to low-carb substitutes?
Most rice varieties are full of carbohydrates – and yes, some carbs are essential for your body. When you eat too many carbs, it causes a spike in your blood sugar levels.
This lower’s your body’s glycemic response and makes you ill over time. Therefore, look for low-carb substitutes such as quinoa, cauliflower rice, and wild rice.
When it comes to low-carb rice or other alternatives, look for something with 35 grams or less of carbs per cup. Wild rice has 35 grams of carbs per cup, so it’s a pretty good substitute for white rice.
The healthiest options include:
- wild rice – earthy and nutty flavor and chewy texture
- black rice – slightly sweet and distinct chewy texture
- red rice – nutty taste and chewy texture
- cauliflower or broccoli rice – made from vegetables and has a similar texture to white rice
- Konjak shirataki rice – made from konjac root and mimics the texture of white and brown rice
Best Substitute for Brown Rice
Brown rice is popular for its many health benefits. However, it has a high carb content, just like white.
Unlike other commercial rice, brown rice is less processed. Only the hull is being removed from the grain, leaving the nutrient-rich bran and germ behind.
Brown rice is packed with vitamins, fiber, and minerals.
However, you might want to supplement it with other grains if you plan to go on a low-carb diet despite its nutrient content.
Yes, contrary to popular belief, brown rice is not the most low-carbohydrate rice variety.
As many nutritionists suggest, the best alternatives to low-carb rice are vegetable- and legume-based.
These are some great substitutes:
- Quinoa: gluten-free, but it has a texture similar to rice. It also tastes like rice grains, and you can use it for cooking almost any type of rice dish.
- Barley: This grain has a similar appearance and consistency to rice. It is chewy with a neutral taste. Barley looks like brown rice and can be cooked sticky or chewy, so it’s best if you use it as a substitute.
- Whole-wheat Couscous: although it’s pasta, couscous has the consistency of small pearls. It acts like brown rice when cooking with it. Since couscous is smaller than rice grains, it adds a fluffy and unique texture to any dish.
- Whole-wheat Orzo: This pasta type is very similar to rice when it comes to texture, size, and shape. It’s full of protein and fiber, so it’s a healthy substitute. You can cook it until you achieve the desired consistency and use it in dishes that require both sticky rice or chewy rice.
- Farro: This grain is larger than rice grains so that you can use it for risotto type dishes. It is chewy with a nutty flavor, but it becomes tender if cooked for longer than rice.
- Freekeh: This whole grain is similar to barley, but you cook it just like you would rice, and it becomes tender. It’s best for pilaf dishes because it’s more nutritious than rice, yet it has a similar texture. Freekeh takes less time to cook, and you can cook it on the stove, rice cooker, or a microwave.
- Bulgur Wheat: It’s small cracked whole wheat grain pieces, about the size of couscous and smaller than rice. It’s commonly used as a salad rice substitute. Like some rice varieties, it is fluffy and sticky.
You can also use non-grain substitutes made out of veggies.
Vegetable substitutes for brown rice, or any rice, include shirataki rice, cauliflower rice, broccoli rice, parsnip rice, rice mushroom, rutabaga rice, riced cabbage, and zucchini rice.
Best Substitute for Sushi Rice
Rice is the number one ingredient in making sushi, one of Japan’s rice-based dishes.
To make sushi, you need to use short-grain sticky Japanese rice. It is the best option since it has high starch content, which helps the grains stick together.
Unfortunately, in the absence of Japanese rice, you cannot simply use white rice, jasmine rice, or basmati rice to make sushi.
But do not fret.
As a substitute for rice in sushi, you can use medium-grain California rice (also called Calrice or Calrose), arborio rice, and glutinous rice.
This type of rice has a similar sticky consistency to sushi rice.
While these substitutes are not as good as the Japanese rice, their starch content is high enough to keep your rice grains together for your sushi.
You need to slightly overcook the rice so that it becomes a bit mushy.
In terms of flavor, it is different from regular sushi rice since it’s blander. But once you add the Nori sheets and fish, you can still make the sushi rolls taste similar.
Looking to ditch the sushi rice altogether? Check out these 5 Sushi without Rice Recipes for paleo and keto low carb diet.
Best Substitute for Glutinous Rice
Glutinous rice is a popular type of rice from Asia, with opaque grains and low amylose content, which makes it very sticky when cooked.
Sweet rice is another name for sticky rice. This rice’s main characteristic is that it’s high in amylopectin starch and low in amylose starch. Therefore, when cooked, especially when boiled, it sticks together in clumps.
If you’re looking for rice with a sticky texture, you can substitute glutinous rice with jasmine rice.
To make jasmine rice have a stickier texture, you need to soak it in cold water for about eight hours. Make sure you drain, but never rinse this kind of rice.
Jasmine rice has a floral taste and buttery texture and scent.
The key to making it similar to glutinous rice is to slightly overcook this long-grain rice. It then becomes a bit soft and soggy so you can use it as you would glutinous rice, although it’s less sticky.
Best Substitute for Rice for Diabetics
Diabetes is a disease associated with high levels of glucose or sugar in the blood.
Glucose comes from the food we eat, particularly those that are rich in carbohydrates.
While eating too many sweets can increase your chances of acquiring diabetes, they are not the only food responsible for it.
In some countries, rice is the number one culprit.
If you have diabetes or have a history of diabetes in your family, it is best to minimize your rice intake. Better yet, stay away from it.
If you insist on having rice, you can try to eat a small quantity of wholegrain basmati rice.
It has the lowest glycemic index out of all the rice varieties. It doesn’t release all the energy at once, so it keeps the blood sugar levels relatively stable.
Luckily, there are many other grains and legumes that you can take as a substitute for rice.
For instance, you can use quinoa, brown or red rice, corn rice, buckwheat, farro, whole-grain barley, cauliflower rice, bulgur wheat, shirataki rice, broccoli rice, rutabaga rice, zucchini rice, and parsnip rice.
These substitutes are low on carbohydrates and are mostly vegetable- and legume-based, making them excellent choices for lowering your risk of acquiring diabetes.
Best Substitute for Jasmine Rice
Jasmine rice is a variety of long-grain fragrant rice commonly cultivated in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.
When cooked, Jasmine rice releases an aroma reminiscent of pandan. It is quite sticky but not as sticky as glutinous rice. It is also slightly sweet.
However, jasmine rice is quite expensive and is not commonly found in grocery stores, especially in the U.S.
As an alternative, some people use Basmati rice. Like Jasmine, Basmati is also long-grain and fragrant.
But the aroma it produces is a little stronger than Jasmine.
Unfortunately, Basmati is also not cheap, so that you might opt for other affordable alternatives.
As a substitute, you can use the American long-grain white rice, long-grain brown rice, popcorn rice, or texmati rice.
Can you Substitute Rice with Quinoa?
Many nutritionists consider quinoa as one of the world’s healthiest foods. In fact, some call it a “superfood.”
Quinoa is a seed that comes in over 3000 varieties. It is loaded with a lot of nutrients, thus the “superfood” moniker.
By taking just a cup of quinoa, you will be able to get the following recommended daily intake of nutrients:
- 58% Manganese
- 30% Magnesium
- 28% Phosphorous
- 19% Folate
- 18% Copper
- 15% Iron
- 13% Zinc
- 13% Thiamine
- 12% Riboflavin
- 11% Vitamin B6
Now the question is, can you replace rice with quinoa?
It might not taste like rice, but you can definitely use quinoa in almost any dish where you use rice.
In fact, doing a little research online will lead you to numerous recipes in which quinoa has replaced the ever-popular rice ingredient.
Like rice, quinoa makes an excellent side dish or bed for stir-fried vegetables.
It is also a great addition to salads, casseroles, and soup. You can also use quinoa as stuffing or use it to make veggie burgers.
Some people even use it to make breakfast porridge and desserts similar to rice pudding.
If you wonder if you can use it as a substitute for rice in fried rice, you definitely can!
You can even use quinoa to make risotto.
There are different types of quinoa available in the market today.
If you want something similar in color to the typical white rice, you may opt for white quinoa.
White quinoa, by far, is the most versatile among the quinoa seeds sold commercially. It is light, fluffy, and has a mild flavor.
On the other hand, the red quinoa tastes nuttier and is perfect in salads and grain bowls. However, its texture is crunchy, which makes it a not-so-good ingredient for baking.
There is also the rare black quinoa, which is similar in flavor, texture, and application to the red quinoa.
Quinoa is packed with nutrients that can help you lead a healthy lifestyle. So, if there is an opportunity for you to replace rice with quinoa, do it!
Best Healthy Non-Rice Substitute: Cauliflower Rice
If you’re familiar with rice substitutes, you’ve probably heard about other popular substitutes like quinoa.
But, have you heard of the new healthy cauliflower rice?
With more people turning to healthy, vegan options, cauliflower rice is a delicious alternative. It tastes bland or neutral, just like rice, so it’s a great substitute.
Cauliflower is a cruciferous (crumbly) vegetable. Thus you can crumble it or put it in a food processor to make a vegetable ‘rice’.
It is not a starch like rice, but it is a great way to add extra veggie servings into your dishes.
Here’s how you make cauliflower rice:
- Wash the cauliflower and cut in large chunks.
- Grate the cauliflower or put it in a food processor.
- Once the bits are about rice-sized, place them on a paper towel to drain excess moisture. The drier to bits are, the more similar they are to white rice.
- Then, cook the ‘rice’ in a skillet by sauteeing or steam it for a few minutes.
In terms of nutrition, this rice alternative is low in carbs and calories, so it’s a much healthier alternative to arborio rice.
Different Rice Varieties and their Benefits
As I mentioned earlier, there are different kinds of rice across the world.
They come in a different flavor, color, and nutritional value.
In this section, I will discuss why you should choose some varieties of rice over others.
As the name implies, black rice is known for its deep black color. When cooked, however, it turns purple.
According to some stories, black rice was reserved for the royals of Ancient China only. Commoners were not allowed to eat it, earning it the moniker “forbidden rice.”
Research shows that the black variety of rice is high in antioxidants compared to other types of rice.
It is also rich in anthocyanins, a compound known to have potent anti-cancer properties.
Black rice is much chewier compared to white rice. If you want to use black rice as a substitute for white rice in a dish, you must soak the grains to gain that moist texture and become tender.
Brown rice is a healthy grain option for people who want to include rice in their healthy diet.
The bran of brown rice is rich in apigenin, quercetin, and luteolin — flavonoid antioxidants known for their disease prevention properties.
While brown rice supplies the same amounts of calories and carbohydrates per cup as white rice, it has three times more fiber and is also packed with proteins.
Furthermore, it is also good for regulating blood sugar and insulin.
Since brown rice is healthier than white rice, it’s easy to substitute when cooking because it has almost the same consistency.
Both white and brown grains come from the same grain, but white is more processed.
Like brown rice, wild rice is rich in fiber and protein.
If you want to reduce your rice intake, this rice variety is a more filling choice than white rice.
Wild rice has low-calorie content than brown rice. It is rich in vitamin B6 and other nutrients like magnesium, folate, zinc, and phosphorus.
However, this type of rice is relatively low in potassium, selenium, and iron.
Cooked wild rice is chewy, plump, and well-rounded. It is tender and not mushy when cooked right.
Red rice has almost zero fat content. Meaning, it is an excellent grain option if you are on a low-fat diet. Compared to white rice, it has a much more chewy consistency, so it’s not ideal for risotto.
It is loaded with fiber and has ten times more antioxidants than brown rice. It has the highest nutritional value of all rice types.
Red rice is also rich in vitamins, phosphorus, and other nutrients.
Studies show that red rice has monacolin K, a compound known for lowering cholesterol. As such, it is a widely recommended grain for people suffering from high cholesterol.
Aside from lowering cholesterol levels, red rice is also good at lowering blood glucose, lowering the risk of obesity, and preventing heart diseases.
Red rice has a slightly nutty flavor. In terms of texture, the grains tend to cling or stick together, and they are chewy.
A great substitute for red rice is brown rice because it also has a lower fat content. Additionally, brown rice is easy to digest.
Best Way to Substitute Rice: Find your Favorite
There are so many ways to cook rice.
The method depends on the type of rice you use. The same thing applies to substitutes.
If you aren’t cooking with white or arborio rice, you need to cook the substitutes in order to make them have a similar consistency, texture, and flavor.
With our guide, you don’t have to worry because you can find plenty of tasty alternatives that work for most recipes.
Check out our new cookbook
Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.
Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:Read for free
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.