Italian rice balls (Arancini) (2023)

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Deliciously crispy and golden outside, soft and creamy inside with a core of molten mozzarella, these Italian rice balls or “arancini di riso” are sure to please a crowd!

They’re also easy to make ahead and to customize with your favorite add-ins.

Italian rice balls (Arancini) (1)

Jump to recipe

Today I’m sharing one of the most popular Italian recipes: arancini. This sensational Italian street food made with sticky risotto balls filled with gooey mozzarella and fried until crisp is SO hard to resist!

Traditionally, these scrumptious rice balls are staples of Sicilian cuisine and the most common fillings include beef ragù and peas or mozzarella and prosciutto (ham), as well as many vegetarian options.

My mum, who was from Sicily, used to make them with saffron-infused rice, mozzarella and provola cheese, and these little rice balls with mozzarella are inspired by her incredible recipe.

And I absolutely love them because are versatile, economical (well, apart from the saffron!), perfect for sharing, and if you make them a bit smaller, you can serve them as a terrific Italian appetizer.

Added bonus? You can use up leftover risotto, you can customize the filling with your favorite ingredients, you can make them 100% vegan or vegetarian if you wish, and they are freezable too!

List of the ingredients

  • Risotto rice
  • Vegetable broth
  • Butter
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Saffron (optional)
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Flour & water
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt & pepper
Italian rice balls (Arancini) (2)

How to make Italian rice balls (arancini)

(Note: this is a quick description,the full recipe is at the bottom of the page)

  • To make the rice, you can either start with a classic risotto method or you can simply cook the rice in broth. Both methods work.
  • Spread the risotto onto a large baking tray and set aside.
  • Make the arancini coating by whisking water and flour.
Italian rice balls (Arancini) (3)
  • Divide the cold risotto into 10 pieces and flatten each piece in damp hands.
  • Cup the mixture, fill the centre with mozzarella, and shape into a ball.
  • Coat the rice balls in the flour mixture then roll to coat with breadcrumbs.
Italian rice balls (Arancini) (4)
  • Deep fry the arancini in batches for 3 minutes at a time.
  • Drain them on the kitchen paper and sprinkle with a little salt.
  • They are best served hot and freshly fried, but they’restillgoodwarm so that the juicy melted mozzarella cheese stretches from our hands to your mouth in thin delicious strands. YUMMY! : )
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Recipe notes

Before we go to the recipe below, here a few notes about the ingredients and substitutions.

Ingredients for Italian rice balls

Rice: risotto rice such as carnaroli, vialone, arborio rice is perfect for the recipe, also short-grain sushi rice would work. But don’t use long-grain rice such as basmati. You need a sticky rice mixture here.

Butter: in this easy arancini recipe the butter is used at the end to make the rice creamy and flavorful.

(Video) Arancini Rice Balls Recipe

Parmesan: it adds plenty of flavor and makes the rice richer.

Broth: for more flavor.

Saffron: the classic arancini recipe uses saffron which lends flavor and a color making them to look like “little oranges” (that’s why are called “arancini” or “arancine” in Italian). However, saffron is an expensive spice and I’m using here for the sake of tradition, but you’re welcome to skip it. ; )

Mozzarella: I always use fresh mozzarella in water for this recipe. And if you look for more fresh mozzarella recipes, this collection is perfect to inspire you!

Flour: mixed with water, all-purpose flour makes the perfect coating for arancini, and no beaten egg required!

Bread crumbs: fine breadcrumbs works better than panko crumbs and makes a nice and smooth crispy outside.

Salt & pepper: taste and make sure you adjust the seasoning to your taste, the rice should be flavorful, not bland.

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Frequent Asked Questions

Can I use leftover risotto for arancini?

Yes, you can use up your leftover risotto for these Italian rice balls, or you can make risotto from scratch by sautéing diced onion in olive oil followed by a dash of white wine and broth. However, to simplify the recipe, I cook the rice in vegetable broth.

How to customize these Italian rice balls?

Once you’ve made risotto, you stir in chopped parsley, basil or your favorite herbs, and you can fill the centre of your rice balls with extra ingredients that pairs beautifully with mozzarella. You might try cooked peas, sautéed spinach, sun dried tomato pesto or paste, arugula pesto, gorgonzola, or diced ham, ground beef ragu’, or salami if you go for the meat option.

How to make them vegan?

To make vegan rice balls, skip butter and use vegan parmesan and vegan mozzarella instead.

Can I make Italian arancini ahead of time?

Yes, once these Italian rice balls are coated in breadcrumbs, they keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days and they’re freezable too. But for best result, I suggest you to deep fry your rice balls just before serving. Hot, crispy and delicious are best!

How to store arancini leftovers?

if you’ve already fried them, no problem, they keep well in the fridge for up to 2-3 days and they’re freezable as well. To serve them, preheat the oven to 180C/350F, and bake them for 10-12 minutes. If the rice balls are frozen, make sure you thaw them first.

Can I bake them?

Yes, if you want to cut back the oilyou can place the arancini on a baking sheet, spray with olive oil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until crisp and golden (at 200C/390F). However, I’m not going to lie to you: the oven dries out and baked arancini have different texture, less soft and less moist than fried arancini.

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Looking for more classic Italian appetizers?

I’ve got you covered with this incredible collection of Italian appetizer recipes perfect for any occasion. Below a few of my favorites!

(Video) SICILIAN ARANCINI Recipe | Homemade Italian Rice Balls Recipe

  • Pinzimonio
  • Sun dried tomato paste
  • Caprese skewers
  • Focaccia with tomatoes
  • Easy Italian focaccia
  • Italian breadsticks
  • Bruschetta with mozzarella
  • Italian spicy olives
  • Marinated mozzarella balls

If you make theseItalian rice balls, or you have a question,let me know by leaving a comment. I would love to hear from you and get your feedback! x

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Italian rice balls (Arancini) (8)

Print Recipe

Italian Rice balls (Arancini)

Deliciouslycrispy and golden outside, soft and creamy inside with a core of molten mozzarella, theseItalian rice balls called "arancini"are sure to please a crowd!

Recipe yields 10 servings (each rice balls with about 7cm/3inch diameter)

Prep Time20 minutes mins

Cook Time30 minutes mins

Total Time50 minutes mins

(Video) How to Make SICILIAN ARANCINI Like an Italian

Course: Appetizers

Cuisine: Italian

Servings: 10 servings

Author: Katia


  • 2 ¼ cup (540 ml) low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt, or more to taste
  • 1 cup (200 grams) Italian risotto rice (Arborio, carnaroli…)
  • 1 pinch saffron strands (optional)
  • teaspoon black pepper, or more to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ (60-70 grams) mozzarella ball in water, diced


  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 ½ cup fine breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups vegetable oil, for frying


Cook the rice

  • If you use saffron, place the strands in a glass with 2 Tablespoons of warm water. Let them soak.

  • In a large pot bring the broth to the boil, add the salt and the rice. Reduce to medium heat and cook, stirring often, for about 15 minutes.

  • Stir in the saffron and the coloured water, and keep cooking for a further 5 minutes or until cooked. Add a touch extra liquid if needed. Keep stirring.

  • Turn the heat off, stir in the butter and the parmesan cheese, add freshly ground black pepper, taste and make sure you're happy with the seasoning.

    (Video) How To Make Arancini Rice Balls - Italian Classic Recipe

  • Then scrape the cooked rice onto a large baking tray, spread it in a thin even layer and set aside for at least 1 hour or until cold. Once it's cold enough, you can also transfer it into a bowl and place it in the fridge if you plan to use it later or the day after.

  • Cut the mozzarella into 10 dices, and pat dry them with kitchen paper.

Shape the rice balls

  • Once the risotto has cooled completely, divide the mixture into 10 pieces and flatten each piece in damp hands. Cup the mixture in the palm of your hand and fill the centre with a piece of mozzarella. Shape into a ball by bringing the sides up and sealing at the top. Shaping is much easier with clean, damp hands, so make sure to wash them often.

  • Repeat with the remaining mixture and place the rice balls onto a tray.

Arancini coating

  • Whisk water, flour and salt in a bowl until smooth and place the breadcrumbs onto a plate.

  • Coat the balls in flour mixture then in the breadcrumbs. Space them out on a large baking tray. Repeat until all the arancini are coated.

Fry them

  • Heat about 2 cups/480 ml of vegetable oil in a heavy based pan to 170°C – if you don’t have a thermometer, test the temperature by dropping in a small cube of bread, if the oil is hot enough, the bread should brown in around 30 seconds. Fry the arancini in batches for 2-3 minutes at a time or until nicely golden-brown, making sure they are not crowded in the pan and there's enough oil to cover them. Once done, lift them with a slotted spoon and place them to drain on the kitchen towel or paper. Sprinkle with a little salt while still hot.

  • Enjoy them freshly fried and still warm.


Can I make arancini ahead of time?
Once these Italian rice balls are coated in breadcrumbs, they keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days and they’re freezable too. But for best result, I suggest you to deep fried your rice balls just before serving

(Video) Homemade Rice Balls ( Arancini ) Recipe - Laura Vitale - Laura in the Kitchen Episode 452

How to store arancini leftovers?
If you’ve already fried them, they keep well in the fridge for up to 2-3 days in airtihght container and they’re freezable as well. To serve them, preheat the oven to 180C/350F, and bake them for 10-12 minutes. If the rice balls are frozen, make sure you thaw them first.


What's the difference between rice balls and arancini? ›

Differences. There are two main recipes of the fried rice balls: the Roman suppli, and the Sicilian arancino. The main difference between the fried rice balls is that suppli are made with arborio rice and mozzarella, while arancini are made with arborio rice, mozzarella, and the addition of beef and peas.

What does the Italian word arancini mean? ›

Arancini derives from the Sicilian plural diminutive of aranciu ('orange'), from their shape and colour which, after cooking, is reminiscent of an orange.

What do Italians eat with arancini? ›

What do you serve Arancini with?
  • Add Italian sauces to them, such as tomato Passata type. Arancini balls are lovely tiny morsels, and an excellent homemade sauce like this Tray-baked tomato. ...
  • Spinach wilted turn your arancini to the next level. ...
  • Salad with Parmigiano, the most common combination among Italians.

Why do my arancini fall apart? ›

If it is not properly chilled, it will fall apart in the hot oil instead of forming crisp, glistening, orbs filled with molten cheese. Serve these arancini with warmed tomato sauce or even pesto, and crown them with a flurry of gremolata or plain lemon zest for brightness.

Do you put egg in arancini balls? ›

Put the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs into three separate shallow bowls. Dip each prepared risotto ball into the flour, followed by the eggs and finally, the breadcrumbs.

What is usually in arancini? ›

Arancini di Riso, or Sicilian Rice Balls, are one of the most delicious dishes you can find in Sicily. Arancini are small deep-fried rice balls filled with meat sauce or mozzarella and prosciutto, round or conical in shape.

Do arancini contain meat? ›

Arancini is the ultimate Sicilian and Italian food, its a delicious meat sauce stuffed inside a rice ball, dipped in bread crumbs and fried a ragu stuffed rice ball dipped in bread crumbs and deep fried.

What are rice balls in Rome called? ›

Without a doubt, the Romans' most beloved fried snack is the supplì. These fried rice balls, that are prepared in Rome only, are on sale across the city in pizzerias and street food shops and are the perfect choice for a hearty, comforting bite on the go at any time of day.

Is arancini male or female? ›

In fact, according to the Italian grammar, the word arancina is feminine while arancino is masculine! Palermitans love to say “a' arancina fimmina è!” (the arancina is a lady!” – from Sicilian language). The origins of this typical Sicilian food isn't well-known.

What is Italy's most famous rice dish? ›

Although the risotto may be Italy's most famous rice dish, the country holds a plethora of rice recipes, both sweet and savoury.

Do you eat arancini hot or cold? ›

Arancini are best served warm when they are creamy and cheesy in the center. They are just as good freshly cooked as they are reheated, especially when you reheat in the oven to re-crisp the exterior.

Are arancini balls unhealthy? ›

Arancini, for instance, come from the deep south of Italy: Sicily. Arancino literally means “small orange”. But don't be fooled, arancini are not that healthy, they are in fact deep-fried stuffed rice balls, coated with bread crumbs.

Does arancini reheat well? ›

It's easy to reheat Sicilian rice balls that have been refrigerated. Simply set the arancini on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and reheat in a 350°F (175°C) oven for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Do you have to deep fry arancini balls? ›

Do you have to deep fry arancini balls? Instead of deep frying, you can shallow fry arancini balls instead! Just make sure to baste them in the oil over medium heat for an all-over golden crispiness.

How long do you reheat arancini balls? ›

Prepare your arancini by defrosting then reheating using one of these methods: - For the crunchiest balls in town, deep fry for 3-4 minutes until heated through; ​Otherwise... - Air fry at 200'C for 8-10 minutes.

Why are my rice balls not sticking together? ›

If you are using long grain rice (such as jasmine rice), the onigiri will simply fall apart because they are not sticky enough. You can overcook the long grain rice so it will be soft and mushy to form a shape, but it certainly will not taste very good.

Are arancini high in calories? ›

Seemingly a little healthier, a large arancini ball clocks in at 150 calories and 10g of fat per serve, whilst a fried chicken wing contains at least 8g of fat and a single piece of fried calamari 50 calories and 4g of fat. Make a blanket rule to avoid pastry and you will do your body a massive favour.

How long does rice balls last in the refrigerator? ›

If you don't eat the Onigiri immediately, wrap each with plastic and store them in an airtight container. It's ok to leave them at room temperature for half a day, but if it's longer, keep them in the fridge or freezer. Then last in the fridge for a couple of days and one month in the freezer.

What are arancini balls made of? ›

What are arancini balls made of? That warm, gooey interior and crispy exterior of arancini balls is achieved by turning risotto into a ball shape, stuffing it with cheese, and then rolling it in a breadcrumb coating, before deep frying.

What is another name for rice balls? ›

Onigiri (お握り or 御握り), also known as omusubi (お結び), nigirimeshi (握り飯), or rice ball, is a Japanese food made from white rice formed into triangular or cylindrical shapes and often wrapped in nori.

What rice is arancini made of? ›

Stir in 300g risotto rice. Turn up the heat to medium-high and pour in 150ml wine – it should sizzle and start to bubble instantly. Gradually add in 900ml stock a ladleful at a time, stirring continuously until the rice is tender, this should take about 15 minutes.

What are rice balls made of? ›

Onigiri (おにぎり) are Japanese rice balls made of steamed rice that have been compressed into a triangular, ball, or cylinder shape and are usually wrapped in nori seaweed sheet. They can be flavored lightly with just salt or filled with a variety of fillings.

Is arancini good for you? ›

Arancini, for instance, come from the deep south of Italy: Sicily. Arancino literally means “small orange”. But don't be fooled, arancini are not that healthy, they are in fact deep-fried stuffed rice balls, coated with bread crumbs.

Can you eat arancini balls cold? ›

You can absolutely eat these cold, however, I believe it's far superior when served up hot and with a side of tomato sauce. If you choose to eat arancini cold, I would obviously chill them after they are fried. Whether you enjoy it cold or hot, it's completely up to you.

Why do we eat rice balls? ›

They make people feel comfortable and that is why people frequently eat them. The way I cook rice and how much salt I add changes from day to day. People can enjoy these little changes as well, but rice balls always give a sense of comfort and always tasty. That is what makes them so great.”

Do Chinese eat rice balls? ›

Tangyuan are a traditional Chinese dessert made of glutinous rice shaped into balls that are served in a hot broth or syrup. They come in varying sizes, anything between a marble to a ping pong ball, and are sometimes stuffed with filling.

Why do Chinese people eat rice balls? ›

Glutinous Rice Ball (Tangyuan)

While dumplings are more popular for celebrating Chinese New Year in the north, Tangyuan (sweet glutinous rice balls) are popular amongst the southern Chinese. Eating Tangyuan symbolises family reunion and wishing peace and happiness in the family.

Do you eat arancini with your hands? ›

If you want it extra-crispy, let it stay 2 minutes in the oven immediately after. Your Sicilian Arancini are ready to eat: use your hands to eat them like a local!

What is the black thing on rice balls? ›

Nori (海苔) is a dried edible seaweed used in Japanese cuisine, made from species of the red algae genus Pyropia, including P. yezoensis and P. tenera. It has a strong and distinctive flavor, and is often used to wrap rolls of sushi or onigiri (rice balls).

Do you eat rice balls hot or cold? ›

Do You Eat Onigiri Hot or Cold? Onigiri is typically eaten cold or at room temperature, but it can be quickly grilled and served hot (known as yaki onigiri).

What do you eat with rice balls? ›

Good question and the answer is limitless. These deep fried risotto balls pair well with pretty much any Italian-based dish and depending on what's inside them you can serve with vegetables, salads, relish or pasta. Stick with classic Italian flavours and you can't go wrong.


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