Arancini Rice Balls are simply awesome! After enjoying many arancini at one of our favorite local restaurants I decided it was time to make them myself.
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The gooey mozzarella in the center is a wonderful surprise and dipping them in marinara or tomato sauce is an absolute must! (However, dipping in a basil pesto sounds equally amazing).
I love serving these Italian rice balls as appetizers or they are delicious on their own with a salad or soup.
But, what is arancini?
- Arancini is a Sicilian specialty of saffron-flavored rice balls stuffed with varying ingredients that can include meat, meat sauce, vegetables (such as peas) and/or cheese.
- The rice balls are coated with breadcrumbs and usually fried, though they can also be baked.
- The word arancine means “little oranges” and refers to both the shape of the fruit and the orange color from the saffron.
- My recipe is does not include saffron, but you could add a pinch of saffron to the rice when you add the broth if you prefer!
I made my arancini large to yield 12 big arancini balls, but you can always make yours smaller if you prefer. 🤗
It’s a perfect appetizer for the holidays, or year round, and a fun way to cook with rice in the kitchen!
- U.S.-grown basmati rice: U.S. basmati is an aromatic long grain rice with its own distinctive aroma and flavor. Their savory and nutty flavor works really well in this recipe and you’ll love their fluffy, slightly chewy texture.
- Butter and flour: when making the béchamel sauce, you’ll need butter and flour to make the roux.
- Whole milk: 1 cup is needed to make the béchamel. This sauce gets mixed into the rice so the rice stays nice and creamy.
- Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese: freshly grated Parmesan is recommend and low-moisture mozzarella. You’ll need to cube the mozzarella into small cubes to stuff inside the balls.
- Italian breadcrumbs: I like using Italian breadcrumbs because they have a little seasoning already mixed in. I haven’t tried making these with any other breadcrumbs but I’d imagine any finely ground bread crumb would work great.
- Eggs: For the dredging station when the rice balls get coated. (Dredging station is 3 shallow bowls: flour, egg and then breadcrumbs).
- Vegetable Oil: A neutral oil like vegetable or canola oil is best for deep frying.
Step by Step Directions:
Classic arancini is a true labor of love. My recipe is a bit more streamlined. It may sound complicated or sophisticated but it’s quite simple:
- Make the rice & let it cool
- Form cooled rice into disks
- Stuff with cheese & roll into balls
- Coat in breadcrumbs
- Deep fry!
Making the rice is very similar to making rice pilaf. It’s easy and takes all of 25 minutes from start to finish.
Once the rice is done you can make the béchamel sauce (see video for guidance).
You’ll combine the rice and béchamel sauce together and then turn out onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Flatten into a thin even layer and chill in fridge for at least 1 hour.
After the rice is chilled, scoop a small handful and shape into a flat disk. Place mozzarella in the center and fold the rice around the cheese and shape back into a ball, being sure to enclose the cheese. Rice balls may be a little sticky but not too horrible to work with. You can use wet hands if too sticky.
Dredge in flour, then egg and then breadcrumbs and fry in vegetable oil.
Tips and Variations
- Typically these rice stuffed balls are made with arborio rice or leftover risotto. If you have risotto and want to make that way, go for it! 😊
- There are a variety of fillings you can choose, I kept it simple and used mozzarella. Common fillings include meat, peas, mushrooms, sausage, ham, spinach, and more.
- When frying in oil be sure to get oil hot enough, I recommend 350°F. If you don’t have a food thermometer to check, you’ll know the oil is hot enough when a cube of bread turns golden in 20 seconds. Once hot, of course be very careful as you set rice balls into oil. I use a spoon or slotted spoon to drop each rice ball in, allow to cook in hot oil, turning to brown all sides. It’s best to work in batches so you don’t over crown the pot. Top up the oil as needed between batches.
- Dip in your favorite sauces: pesto, marinara, garlic aioli, spicy sriracha aioli, etc.
Make them bite sized to serve as appetizers or make them larger to serve as a main. There is no right or wrong!
I recommend in the oven at 350°F until warm, about 10-15 minutes. This will also help keep the exterior crispy and the inside will get creamy again.
How do I store leftover arancini rice balls? Once cooled, arancini keeps well in the fridge in a container lined with a paper towel for up to 5 days, covered.
Place cooked and cooled arancini in a freezer safe baggie and freeze for up to 2 months. When ready to enjoy, place on a baking sheet and bake, frozen, at 400°F for 15-20 minutes.
More U.S. Grown Rice Recipes you will love
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Arancini Rice Balls
For the rice
- 2 Tbsp. butter, unsalted
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup U.S.-grown basmati rice
- 2 cups chicken broth
For the béchamel
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 1 Tbsp. flour
- 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 1/2 cup mozzarella, cut into small cubes
- 1/3 cup flour
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
- Vegetable oil for frying – (you’ll need enough to add 2 inches deep into a pot, about 3-4 cups)
- Make rice on stovetop: Melt butter over medium-high heat in a saucepan. Add in onions and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4minutes. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute more. Add basmati rice and stir until evenly coated and grains look translucent. Add in the broth and bring to a small boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer with lid on for 15-20 minutes.Remove from heat and allow to sit covered for 5 more minutes.
- Make the béchamel: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until roux forms. Slowly add in the milk in small increments, continuing to whisk and stir as the sauce thickens. Whisk until smooth and all the milk is added. Add in the cheese, stir and remove from heat.
- Pour rice into a large mixing bowl. Pour béchamel sauce over rice and stir to thoroughly combined.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread rice out into an even thin layer and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Once rice is chilled, scoop a small handful and form into a flat disk. Place 1-2 small mozzarella cubes in the center and fold the rice around the cheese and shape back into a ball, being sure to enclose the cheese. Rice balls may be a little sticky but not too horrible to work with. You can use wet hands if they are too sticky. Place on parchment paper. Repeat to make 12 large rice balls, or make smaller if preferred.
- Line up the dredging station. Gather 3 shallow bowls. Place the flour in the first bowl, whisked eggs in the second bowl and breadcrumbs in the third. Roll rice balls in flour first, shaking off any excess. Dip in egg and then coat completely in the breadcrumbs. Place balls on a plate or baking sheet. Repeat with remaining balls. Refrigerate or freeze arancini while the oil heats, just enough to keep the rice balls cold.
- Fill a medium saucepan over medium heat with at least 2 inche sdeep of vegetable oil and heat oil to 350°F. Cook arancini in batches of 3-4, rotating to ensure all rice balls evenly cook. This should take about 4-5minutes. Once golden brown, use a slotted spoon to lift them, one by one, allowing excess oil to drip off. Place onto a paper-towel lined plate or baking sheet. Repeat with remaining arancini, topping up oil as needed and keeping oil at or around 350°F.
- Let arancini cool slightly, sprinkle with more freshly grated Parmesan, parsley and serve with marinara or favorite dipping sauce.
- To reheat: I recommend in the oven at 350°F until warm, about 10-15 minutes. This will also help keep the exterior crispy and the inside will get creamy again.
- Storage: Once cooled, arancini keeps well in the fridge in a container lined with a paper towel for up to 5 days, covered.
- Leftover risotto: Typically these rice stuffed balls are made with arborio rice or leftover risotto. If you have risotto and want to make that way, go for it!
- Fillings: There are a variety of fillings you can choose, I kept it simple and used mozzarella. Common fillings include meat, peas, mushrooms, sausage, ham, spinach, and more.
- Frying tips: When frying in oil be sure to get oil hot enough, I recommend 350°F. If you don’t have a food thermometer to check, you’ll know the oil is hot enough when a cube of bread turns golden in 20 seconds. Once hot, of course be very careful as you set rice balls into oil. I use a spoon or slotted spoon to drop each rice ball in, allow to cook in hot oil, turning to brown all sides. It’s best to work in batches so you don’t over crown the pot. Top up the oil as needed between batches.
- Dip in your favorite sauces: pesto, marinara, garlic aioli, spicy sriracha aioli, etc.
Hi, I’m Tawnie!
Welcome to my tiny “korner” on the Internet! I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who loves cookies as much as kale. (OK, maybe I like cookies a little bit more but shh, don’t tell anyone). I am so glad you’re here! Follow along for hassle free, realistic and approachable recipes.More about Tawnie