Gluten Free Arancini (Rice Balls)

Gluten Free Arancini (Rice Balls)

Gluten free arancini. Cooked risotto rice, stuffed with mushrooms, beef and cheese, dredged in gluten free flour, egg and coated in bread crumbs, then fried gently to perfection.

Gluten Free Arancini (Rice Balls)

I love brown rice risotto. I make short grain brown rice for my family all the time. It still tastes pretty starchy, but it’s the whole grain, so I get to feel virtuous. My main objectives in making dinner for my family are the following: 1. Fill them up (for the moment at least!); and 2. Not feel guilty about what I just served them. Sometimes, I make sure I serve gluten free bread with dinner because I know it’s going to be spectacular with #1 above. It’s all rather self-serving, I realize. But I loathe guilt and am relatively quick to let myself off the hook when I do the best I can on any given day. I’m not expecting perfection (of myself or of my children). Just our best, at least most days. So when I first set out to make a version of gluten free arancini, I thought I’d make them with brown arborio rice. Guess what? It does not work! It’s just not starchy enough. I mean, we ate the (multiple) failures, and they tasted quite nice, but … they were not arancini. Not by a mile. You want arancini, you’re gonna need to use the starchiest rice you can find.

Gluten Free Arancini (Rice Balls)

Brown arborio rice just isn’t starchy enough. And you neeeeeed starchy rice. I tried these first with brown arborio (fail), then with white arborio (nice), and finally with sushi rice (home run!). Temperature is also quite important. You want to begin with all of your ingredients at room temperature (especially the rice), which allows the starches in the rice to gel. Then, once everything is shaped, chilling the rice balls will keep them together through coating and frying.

Gluten Free Arancini (Rice Balls)

A few words about deep-frying: I don’t do it a lot, but when I do, I have a few habits that make my life easier. First, I have this tiny little deep fryer (made by Cuisinart) that wasn’t very expensive (I got it at Bed Bath & Beyond with a coupon), and makes my life so so so much easier when I remember to use it. It keeps the house from smelling of fried food for days. Second, I drain the food very well after it comes out of the frying oil and before it goes on the paper towels. Deep-frying, when done at the proper temperature, is actually better for you than shallow frying. The frying oil seals the outside of the food quickly, so the food absorbs very little oil. The rest of the time frying is to gently steam in the inside until it’s cooked through.

Gluten Free Arancini (Rice Balls)

I filled my arancini with sautéed mushrooms (I just cooked down sliced white mushrooms in some tomato sauce, and then drained them), but I also love them with browned ground beef. And with cheese. You gotta have the cheese (unless you can’t have cheese, and then of course they’re still lovely anyway—just leave the Parmigiano-Reggiano out, and skip the mozzarella in favor of another filling).

Gluten Free Arancini (Rice Balls)

These are right up there with my favorite finger foods. What’s your fave?

Gluten Free Cauliflower Fritters
Gluten Free Pigs in Blankets
Gluten Free Crispy Fried Onions

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 8 rice balls


3 cups (420 g) cooked short-grain rice (arborio rice works great; sushi rice works even better), at room temperature

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 ounce finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, at room temperature

2 eggs (120 g, out of shell) at room temperature, beaten

2 1/2 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese, roughly chopped (into about 1/2-inch square cubes)

1/2 cup sautéed mushrooms or 1/2 cup browned ground beef for filling (optional)

About 1/2 cup basic gum-free gluten free flour blend, for dredging

Egg wash (1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon lukewarm water), for dipping

Finely ground gluten free breadcrumbs, seasoned to taste with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and/or dried oregano as desired (finely ground gluten free corn flake cereal also works really well)

Oil, for frying

Tomato sauce, for serving


  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper, and set it aside. In a large bowl, place the cooked rice, salt, pepper, oregano, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and 2 beaten eggs, and mix to combine well. The starchier the rice, the better the mixture will hold together. If any of your ingredients are cold, the mixture will not hold together well. All of the shaping should be done with very wet hands, as that will help keep the rice from sticking to your hands. Wet them often. Divide the mixture into 8 parts of equal size. Divide the first part in half, and press half of the mixture firmly into one wet palm. With your free hand, place 2 small cubes of mozzarella cheese, plus about 1 sautéed mushroom or 1 teaspoon of cooked ground beef (if using), in the center of the rice in your palm. Place the remaining half of the rice on top of the fillings, and (again with very wet hands!) squeeze the mixture closed as tightly as you can, and roll into a ball. Set the filled rice ball on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining 7 parts of the rice mixture. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator (for 15 minutes) or freezer (for 5 minutes) until firm.

  • Place the gum-free gluten free flour blend in a shallow bowl, the egg wash in another shallow bowl, and the (seasoned) breadcrumbs in a final shallow bowl. Remove the rice balls from the refrigerator or freezer. Dredge each rice ball through the flour blend, then through the egg wash (allowing any excess to drip off), and finally in the breadcrumbs until well-coated on all sides. Return to the baking sheet. Place the coated rice balls in the refrigerator while you heat the oil.

  • In a medium-size, heavy-bottom pot or fryer, place about 3-inches of frying oil. Clip a deep-fry/candy thermometer to the side of the pot or fryer, and place the oil over medium-high heat. Bring the oil to 375°F. Remove the rice balls from the refrigerator, and fry in small batches until cooked through and golden brown all over (about 6 minutes total). Transfer the rice balls to a paper towel-lined plate and serve warm, with tomato sauce.



P.S. If you haven’t yet, please pick up your copy of Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread. Your support means so, so much to me!

Comments are closed.

  • Kit Beaudry
    March 5, 2014 at 6:38 PM

    This is probably hoping for too much, but do you think these could be baked instead of fried? Like in a mini-muffin pan?

    • March 6, 2014 at 8:00 AM

      You could totally bake them, Kit. They won’t be the same, but that doesn’t mean they won’t taste good. I’d actually recommend flattening them into disks to bake them, so they bake more quickly and evenly. Otherwise, you might have to bake them too long to get them baked all the way to the center, and they might dry out.

      • Kit Beaudry
        March 7, 2014 at 4:28 PM

        Well I went rogue on this recipe and, surprisingly, it still turned out great! I used leftover mushroom risotto I had in the fridge and shredded mozzarella (because that’s all I had) and baked them in a mini-muffin tin, turning them halfway though. The mushrooms made them a little less stable so next time I’ll use a simple risotto and maybe drizzle them with a little oil to get them to brown. I’ll post some pictures and thank you so much for all the advice!

  • sandra
    March 4, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    Just a hint for re-using oil.. I learned this years ago from Rodale… to keep used oil fresh & safe , strain it after use then add 1 vitamin E oil cap to the oil….

    • March 4, 2014 at 3:08 PM

      Interesting, Sandra. I’ll have to look into that!

  • Lauren Smith
    March 4, 2014 at 1:21 PM

    What would you suggest go well with this to make it a meal? (For hungry OH and kiddo’s!)

    • Lauren Smith
      March 4, 2014 at 1:21 PM

      Looks delicious by the way.

    • March 4, 2014 at 3:10 PM

      I really like them served with soup and salad, Lauren. They also go really well with roast chicken, if they aren’t filled with meat that is!

      • Lauren Smith
        March 4, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        Delicious, thank you!

  • Mare Masterson
    March 4, 2014 at 12:26 PM


  • Laura
    March 4, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    I was JUST googling what I can do with my Arborio rice (besides risotto) and when all I really found was risotto I thought I’d come see what you had for us today and BAM you had a recipe using Arborio rice! I swear you read my mind sometimes!!!

    • Mare Masterson
      March 4, 2014 at 12:26 PM

      Laura, I am convinced Nicole does have ESP! It has been proven over and over on this blog.

      • Laura
        March 5, 2014 at 4:49 PM

        I agree!!!

  • Jennifer S.
    March 4, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    I have Sushi rice!!!! I want to make these – they look so yummy. AND I’m so glad to see you using a fryer. Thank you for the recommendation. Here is my dilemma – what do you do with the oil? how do you store it? or do you use fresh every time. This whole thing freaks me out and I have no more space in my fridge to keep oil. What do you do? I really want to get a fryer but have been holding off because of my wacky storage fears.

    • March 4, 2014 at 12:22 PM

      Good question, Jennifer! I store the oil to use (hopefully) 3 times before I put it back in a sealed container and pitch it. If it’s something smelly (like fish), it never gets reused. But otherwise, I strain it after frying, and then usually put it right back in the bottle that it originally came from (if possible), or another resealable container. Then I keep it in a cool, dry pantry. If you put oil in the refrigerator, it will coagulate. I only keep very perishable oils (like nut oils, for ex) in the refrigerator. Fresh oil doesn’t fry as well as slightly “dirty” oil, so whenever I start with new oil, I “dirty” it a bit with a few ugly bits of whatever I’m going to fry first. Hope that helps!

      • Mare Masterson
        March 4, 2014 at 12:48 PM

        Me too, Nicole! I use well cleaned out pickle jars (with baking soda even to remove smell) to store my oil and then dump it after 3 uses. I strain the oil each time prior to use.

      • Jennifer S.
        March 5, 2014 at 10:04 AM

        Good to know all. I’ve had some anxiety about it. Going to get my coupon and go get myself one – happy days ahead!! :)

  • pigenholed
    March 4, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    So, would it be possible to make these vegan by using an egg substitute? The cheese…no problem with using a cheese substitute but my husband and sister are both vegan and my dad just had heart surgery so ditching eggs would be nice.

    • Jennifer S.
      March 4, 2014 at 10:29 AM

      I’m assuming this recipe relies heavily on eggs as a binder. I would try it at your own risk.

      • March 4, 2014 at 11:39 AM

        I agree completely, Jennifer! I can’t imagine these staying together without the eggs.

    • Mare Masterson
      March 4, 2014 at 12:50 PM

      There are vegan arancini recipes out there. Google it. I saw one that used water/flax for egg replacer, Daiya vegan cheese inside, and added nutritional yeast to the bread crumbs for a more cheesy flavor.

  • Teresa
    March 4, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    These sound so good. The bakery near me makes them with peas, cheese and a touch of meat sauce. I’ve been too long without them. And now I must wait till I get sticky rice………drool !!!!

    • March 4, 2014 at 11:39 AM

      I agree, Teresa, you’ve been without them for far too long. Your combo sounds delicious!

Back to Top

Where should I send your free guide?

By entering your email, you're agreeing to our Privacy Policy. We respect your email privacy, and will never share your information.