The Best Rice Substitute For Arborio When Making Risotto

Risotto, the beloved Italian dish known for its creamy, comforting texture, is a staple in many kitchens around the world. However, if you find yourself out of carnaroli (the Italian favorite) or arborio – often considered the best rice for risotto, don't panic. There's a fantastic substitute that can yield great results: Carolina Gold Rice Middlins, a type of high-starch broken grain rice. Let's delve into what exactly this type of rice is, how it compares to arborio rice, and where you can find it.

Broken grain rice is created when whole rice grains are fractured into fragments while being milled. Many different types of rice, including brown, jasmine, and other varieties are fragmented while being processed. When cooked, broken rice releases its characteristic starch, making it a risotto-worthy option. Though there are plenty of high-starch options to choose from, Carolina Gold Rice Middlins is chef-approved. 

In Atlanta, Georgia, Chef Jared Warwick of Octopus Bar relies on an heirloom variety of rice cultivated in the American South. "I use Carolina Gold [Rice] Middlins, but you can use any high-starch broken grain," Warwick tells Tasting Table. "Because this rice is broken, it is a short grain rice and will end up still having a creamy texture if given enough stock. But this isn't the only reason this specific rice is the best substitute for arborio in risotto.

The benefits of using broken grain rice

Carolina Gold offers the ultimate nutty flavor for this already indulgent dish while readily absorbing the dish's flavors. And using the short grain middlins also allows the risotto to cook quicker — and more easily. Arborio rice can be easy to overcook, turning into a mushy mess if not carefully monitored. Carolina Gold Rice Middlins, on the other hand, are more forgiving in the kitchen, standing up to heat remarkably well and maintaining their creamy texture even if you slightly overshoot the cooking time. This resilience makes it an excellent choice for home cooks who may not have mastered the precise timing required for traditional risotto.

Fortunately, finding this coveted variety is easier than you might think. It can be conveniently purchased online through retailers like Marsh Hen Mill and Amazon or at specialty shops. You can also find other varieties of high-starch broken grain rice locally at major grocery chains such as Kroger.

If you're ever in a pinch and find yourself without arborio rice for your go-to risotto, try reaching for Carolina Gold Rice Middlins and see how it changes your risotto. You may never go back to arborio.