Can You Use Paella Rice for Risotto

Cooking, FAQs

Can You Use Paella Rice for Risotto?

Some dishes are highly sacred, symbolic and important to not only the cuisine but also the culture of a country. Risotto is one of the most well-known dishes in Italian cuisine, originating back to the Italian region Lombardy.

However, it was not until the 20th century, more than 100 years after its initial invention, the specific rice was cultivated for risotto. With so much consideration going into its development, it is possible to use paella rice for risotto instead of risotto rice. 

You can use the same types of rice you would use in paella for risotto as they are both very high in starch without being sticky. Instead, the risotto will remain loose and creamy so long as you allow a little longer cooking time. 

What Is Risotto Rice?

While you can buy packets of what are labelled risotto rice in the supermarket, there is actually no such rice called risotto rice.

Risotto is the name of the Italian dish which is made using rice.


However, some kinds of rice have been specifically cultivated to make the best risotto, all high in starch and short-grained. 

The most commonly associated rice with risotto is arborio rice. When arborio rice is cooked in a risotto, its starch slowly releases to make perfectly creamy grains that do not stick together.

Though there is still enough of a chew to the rice to make it a more dynamic component in the risotto. 

Two other types of rice you may often find associated with risotto or even listed in risotto recipes are carnaroli and Vialone Nano which are both short-grain types of rice also high in starch.

Carnaroli is higher in starch than arborio, so it will produce a creamier risotto if that is what you prefer. Vialone Nano, on the other hand, is very absorbent, more so than arborio. It will absorb far more liquid, making it more filling. 

What Is Paella Rice?

Like risotto, paella rice isn’t actually a specific type of rice. Yes, there will be packets of rice in your supermarket label or sold as paella rice, but paella refers to the name of the Spanish dish rather than the rice itself. 

Bowl of Paella

There are some types of rice that are considered to be the traditional rice to use in paella.

For example, the short-grained Bomba rice that originated in the East of Spain. It is a type of white rice that is exceptional at absorbing liquid, though it doesn’t become sticky because of its high amylose content.

This means you can add plenty of stock and flavour to your paella without the bomba rice clumping together in the pan.

The issue with bomba rice is that it is hard to find for an affordable price outside of Spain. If you live near a Spanish speciality store, you can try using Calasparra rice, which is practically identical to bomba rice.

However, calrose rice is much more readily available. It is a medium grain rice, not a short grain, so it must be cooked for longer. 

Other Rice Substitutes For Risotto Rice

Unless you make risotto or even paella often, the chances of you having a packet of paella or risotto rice to hand are slim.

Instead of spending more money on rice you are likely not to use again, rice you probably already have in your cupboard can work to make a deliciously creamy risotto instead.

Keep in mind that these types of rice are best used as substitutions for arborio rice which typically produces a loose, highly creamy risotto: 

  • Jasmine Rice – For those who often make Asian cuisine, you can replace risotto rice with jasmine rice on a 1:1 ratio.

    Jasmine rice is a type of long-grain rice, while risotto is primarily made with short-grain rice, so you will need to be prepared to cook the risotto for longer.

    It can also become stickier than arborio rice if cooked with too much liquid. Make sure to measure out your ingredients carefully. 
Jasmine Rice for Risotto
  • Brown Rice – There are serval types of brown rice, but short-grain brown rice can be used in risotto if you do not mind the slightly nutty taste of the rice. Make sure only to use short-grain brown rice.

    Otherwise, the rice will take even longer to cook and will not have the right amount of starch for a creamy risotto. 

Non-Rice Substitutes For Risotto Rice

The chances are that if you do not have traditional paella rice to hand like bomba or calrose, you will not be able to substitute risotto rice as directly as you thought.

Luckily, there are a handful of non-rice substitutes you can use instead: 

  • Pearled Barley – A type of short-grained barley, pearled barley has plenty of fibre, so it can still be as filling as risotto rice and can easily absorb plenty of liquid.

    Once fully cooked, which can take 30 to 50 minutes, pearled barley remains a little chewy, like arborio. 
  • Farro – Farro has become increasingly popular in the west in recent years as a healthy alternative to many other grains. However, it has been used in Italian cuisine for way longer.

    Once cooked, it has a noticeably nutty taste and a chewy texture, meaning it will not be as creamy as risotto rice. But it will still be very filling. 
Farro for Risotto
  • Couscous – Another healthy favourite, couscous is considerably smaller than risotto rice, it can still have that creamy risotto texture if cooked correctly. It is also an effortless substitute to cook and can ensure a speedy risotto if you are short on time. 

Paella Rice for Risotto FAQs

Do you still have questions about using paella rice for risotto? Then have a look through these FAQs:

Are Risotto Rice and Paella Rice the Same?

No, not quite! They’re similar in appearance and have a similarly high-starch content but they are not exactly the same ingredient.

What is the Best Rice for Risotto?

You want high-starch rice that will result in a creamy risotto. This is why varieties such as arborio or carnaroli work great.


Where we obtain our information and verify the facts in this article:


What is paella rice

All Recipes

What is risotto rice

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