How to make vegan Arancini with leftover Risotto. Risotto is simple, versatile comfort food. You can serve it simply, a la Milanese, or you can primp it up with all manner of sautéed vegetables, herbs, tofu, or even serve it sweet.
Even better, you can use leftover Risotto to make Arancini balls or fry up the cold, almost coagulated rice in butter and vegetable oil to serve as delicious, flavourful rice patties.
Risotto is never as difficult as you might think. It does require a level of patience but we’re talking no more than 30 minutes of ladling vegetable broth or vegetable stock into the rice and some gently stirring. Often people add a dash of dry white wine or vermouth. It’s a bit of a no-brainer to prepare but the final result is truly sublime the perfect vegan food.
My favorite way of serving risotto is with lemon zest, baby broad beans, and peas (frozen of course!) stirred through it at the last minute. The bite of the tiny beans is wonderful and the sweetness of the peas adds a certain something to the creamy rice. This takes risotto to a whole new level. Mushroom risotto can also be delightful.
I have meddled with the basic Risotto recipe on one occasion only when I made a beetroot risotto. The rice was stained a pale plum color and it looked stunning, however, the flavor seemed somehow wrong, as if the beetroot had in some way tarnished the purity of the rice. My only experimentations with risotto nowadays would be using some chargrilled peppers or sauteed mushrooms or courgettes to the final dish. Oh, and I did make this particular risotto luxurious by stirring through the leftover Oatly Crème Fraiche, leftover from a cream tea at the weekend. This is a completely unnecessary step and was an exercise in “using up stuff in the fridge that’s gone/going bad”, although a whorl of any vegan cream/creme fraiche or even vegan cheese will make a risotto extra decadent.
And just when you thought that risotto couldn’t taste any better, just try it the next day. Shaped into little rice balls and fried or rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried, the flavor is somehow more mellow, as if the risotto has matured overnight. And before you get squiffy about deep-frying, these Arancini are so simple to make that you’ll always make extra risotto just so you can treat yourself the next day.
What is the Best Rice to Use for Risotto?
My favorite rice for making risotto is Arborio, but you could use Carnaroli, which is a shorter grain and gives a more al dente finish to your risotto. Vialone Nano is a third option, and this is considered the “gold standard” of risotto rice, used most commonly in restaurants.
Do not use any other rice other than Risotto rice. It mustn’t be long grain, but instead a high-starch, short-grain rice. This ensures that the correct creaminess is exuded from the grains as you slowly add the stock to it. Fine Cooking has a wonderful article here, exploring the benefits of changing up your risotto rice!
and of course, to ensure that you stir your risotto correctly, you might like to add an olive wood risotto spoon (not essential but fun for the risotto lover in your life!)
What is Arancini?
Arancini comes from the Sicilian word Aranciu, meaning little orange, the shape, and color the balls of rice take on during frying, a rich golden brown. I use my favorite vegan risotto recipe to make these crisp little balls, and serve them with a marinara sauce.
They are made from leftover rice, always risotto, and always short-grain rice.
How do you make Vegan Arancini?
Some Arancini are simply cooked risotto formed into balls and rolled in breadcrumbs before frying, but I put a little filling of some finely chopped vegan blue cheese inside the mine and rolled them in another traditional Italian ingredient, Polenta, for a delicious crunch. You could also panko breadcrumbs.
If you don’t want to fry your Italian rice balls, you could cook them in an air fryer, make sure that you spray the coated balls with some sunflower oil once you’ve popped them into the basket.
The more adept you become at rolling the balls (floured hands help immensely), the more extravagant you can become with your fillings: cold, thick pizza sauce is another favorite. You can make them as bite-sized as you want or form them into balls that need knives and forks to tackle them with. I served mine with arrabbiata sauce (or a plain tomato sauce) and some linguini – a vegan variation of Spaghetti and Meatballs! I promise you, from the first bite, you will be hooked!
I sometimes like to make a big batch of rice mixture so I can make extra arancini. Freeze the balls once rolled and coated, but before frying. Freeze them in a ziplock bag for up to 6 weeks. You can deep fry or oven-bake them from frozen. Perfect for an Italian night feast!
Try my other delicious vegan supper dishes
Vegan Arancini (Risotto Balls)
- A couple of flat baking sheets or dishes for rolling purposes
- 3 cups Risotto (you can either make a batch using the recipe above, or make double the batch, so you can have risotto one day, and Arancini the next!)
- ½ cup Polenta coarse
- ½ cup Cheese vegan, of your choice, cut into dice sized cubes
- 4 tbsp Vegetable Oil for frying
- Pour the cornmeal onto a plate so that your arancini can be transferred immediately to the plate once rolled. They are very sticky and need to be de-stickified as soon as possible.
- Lightly flouring your hands, scoop out little dollops of the rice, placing into the palm of one hand and flatten slightly.
- Place a couple of cubes of chopped vegan cheese into the centre of your risotto patty, then close the rice up around the cheese, ensuring it is completely enclosed.
- Form a rough ball shape, then place onto your plate of polenta. Continue this until all the rice is used up. You should get around 8 large Arancini.
- Wash your hands.
- Now you can roll the balls in the cornmeal. Once coated you can carefully form them into a slightly more uniform round shape.
- Heat the oil up to the point where a cube of bread turns golden and crisp in about a minute. If the oil is too hot, the polenta will just burn, too cool and the filling will ooze everywhere and absorb all the oil. Not nice. I prefer to shallow fry them as I am nervous about deep-frying, however, this is to your own preference.
- Using a metal slotted spoon, drop two or three of the coated balls into the hot oil and cook for about 2 minutes. They will be a rich, golden colour and the cornmeal will have made a delicious, crisp shell around the meltingly hot rice.
- Leave to drain on kitchen paper whilst you fry the others.
- Serve with a tomato pizza sauce or dip of your choice.