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What is Arborio Rice?

Arborio rice is a short-grain Italian variety, renowned for its creamy texture and ability to absorb flavors, making it the cornerstone of risotto dishes. Its high starch content is key to the luxurious consistency it lends to culinary creations. Discover how Arborio rice can elevate your cooking and bring a touch of Italian finesse to your table. Ready to explore its versatility?
Cassie L. Damewood
Cassie L. Damewood

Arborio rice is a short-grain type that was developed and first grown in the Italian town of Arborio located in the fertile Po Valley. Its distinctive creamy outer texture and slightly chewy center make Arborio rice a popular choice to make the savory side dish risotto. The velvety dessert called rice pudding also benefits from the high starch content and softly rounded grain of Arborio rice.

Now grown in both Italy and the United States, Arborio rice is often alternatively labeled as risotto rice to help consumers choose the correct variety. Other rice varieties commonly used to prepare risotto are Vialone Nano and Carnaroli. Vialone Nano is a thick, stubby rice grain grown in the Veneto region of Italy. It has great absorption properties perfect for risotto. Rice farmers in Italy’s Lombardy and Piedmont regions grow Carnaroli rice, a short, plumb grain that has an appealing firm inner kernel and creamy cooked texture that makes it ideal for risotto as well.

Arborio rice is used in risotto dishes.
Arborio rice is used in risotto dishes.

All these types of rice are readily available at specialty Italian grocery stores and gourmet markets. Certain supermarkets and health stores may also stock them. Many online stores ship both domestic and international rice varieties all over the world.

Rice is widely perceived to have fed more humans than any other grain in history. Its cultivation has been traced back many years before the first sign of any civilized culture, around 1500 B.C. No mention of rice can be found in the history of the Western Hemisphere prior to the arrival of the Europeans in the 15th century. Its existence in North America was first recorded in 1685.

Arborio rice range in color from red to black.
Arborio rice range in color from red to black.

Over the centuries, rice has been cultivated by numerous cultures. New strains are constantly being developed to improve crop production yields and make rice more tolerant to drier growing environments than are commonly found in rice paddies. Cooks and chefs are constantly searching for improved and diverse varieties suited to different cooking methods and recipes.

The high starch content of Arborio rice ideal for making rice pudding.
The high starch content of Arborio rice ideal for making rice pudding.

Today there are six colored rices ranging in hue from red to black and purple. There are four main varieties of short- and medium-grain rices, which are mainly used in sushi and dessert dishes that require a highly glutinous sticky rice to be successful. Long grain rice, a non-sticky type predominantly used for side dishes and in Asian cooking, is available in three varieties. Brown rice is a hearty, unpolished grain favored for its substantial texture and health benefits. Only one hybrid rice, wild pecan rice, currently exists, and has no relation to either wild rice or pecans.

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Discussion Comments


@gardenturtle: This recipe is for orange-honey Arborio rice pudding. It is one of the best tasting rice puddings I have ever had. I think you will like it.

The ingredients are: ½ cup Arborio rice, 3 cups milk, zest of 2 oranges (cut into strips), 1 cup heavy cream, ¼ cup sugar, ¼ cup honey, 1 large egg, 1 egg yolk, ¼ tsp. salt, and ½ tsp. vanilla extract.

Combine 2 ½ cups milk, the rice, and the zest from one of the oranges in a heatproof mixing bowl. Place it on top of a large pot of simmering water. Cover and cook. Stir occasionally, until your rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed. This usually takes about an hour. Remove the orange zest and set the rice aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the remaining ½ cup milk, the rest of the orange zest, and the heavy cream. Let simmer. Beat the honey, egg, egg yolk, and sugar together and add the hot milk mixture, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until the consistency is like custard. Immediately strain the custard over the rice. Throw away the zest. Add the vanilla and stir. Let cool overnight in the fridge.


@gardenturtle: Arborio rice is perfect for rice pudding. This is the recipe that I use and my whole family loves it!

You will need 4 cups milk, ¾ cup Arborio rice, 3-inch piece cinnamon stick, 2 Tbsp. honey, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, a pinch of sea salt and fresh berries (optional).

In a large saucepan, gently boil the milk, rice, cinnamon and salt. Lower the heat down to a gentle simmer. Continue this simmer for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the honey and then remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract and remove the cinnamon stick. Pour into bowls and serve with fresh fruit on top.


Does anyone have a recipe for rice pudding using Arborio rice?

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    • Arborio rice is used in risotto dishes.
      Arborio rice is used in risotto dishes.
    • Arborio rice range in color from red to black.
      By: amenic181
      Arborio rice range in color from red to black.
    • The high starch content of Arborio rice ideal for making rice pudding.
      By: JJAVA
      The high starch content of Arborio rice ideal for making rice pudding.