Baked Italian Brown Rice Balls (Arancini)

Baked Italian Brown Rice Balls (Arancini)

This is one version of the wonderfully crispy and spicy fried rice balls and croquettes that I used to love making all the time, but I've been out of the habit for a long time now because I despise wasting several cups of good quality olive oil for deep-frying and I absolutely refuse to use cheaper vegetable oils. But they were always such a tasty treat that I kept returning to the idea when thinking of something to accompany the Italian-style cannellini bean soup with fontina gremolata I had planned for my menu. To overcome my scruples, I came up with a healthier alternative to deep frying and baked the rice balls instead. I was delighted when they turned out just as delicious as I had remembered them, crunchy and brown on the outside and creamy and chewy in the middle.

Baked Italian Brown Rice Balls (Arancini)

These rice balls take little time to prepare, but can take some while to cook, especially if they don't all fit in one baking dish. You can cut down on the time by cooking the rice in the morning and letting it cool during the day. Leftovers can be wrapped in foil and reheated in a 350°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

These rice balls would also be a good appetizer or snack, served along with some salsa.

Baked Italian Brown Rice Balls (Arancini)Baked Italian Brown Rice Balls (Arancini)
Recipe by
Cuisine: Italian
Published on March 20, 2008

Crispy, spicy and cheesy Italian-style rice balls — heavenly, and baked instead of fried

Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 45 to 60 minutes

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Rice balls:
  • 1 1/3 cups brown rice
  • 2 2/3 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 oz (115 g) mozzarella cheese, chopped into 1/8-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped, lightly packed
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • olive oil for baking
  • Soak the brown rice overnight in the water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and set aside to cool.

  • In a large bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients for the rice balls. Stir in the cooled rice until all the ingredients are combined.

  • Preheat an oven to 400°F and grease the bottom of a glass baking dish with a generous layer of olive oil. Whisk together the eggs and olive oil for the coating together in a small bowl. In another small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs with plenty of ground black pepper.

  • Wet your hands, and shape the rice mixture into 2-inch balls. Dip each rice ball into the egg and oil mixture, then roll around to coat in the bread crumbs. Transfer to the baking dish and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the bottoms are golden brown. Turn over and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. Drain on paper towel, and serve hot.

Makes approximately 18 2-inch rice balls

Baked Italian Brown Rice Balls (Arancini)


Kalai said...

These look phenomenally crispy! Wonderful idea!

Peter M said...

Arancini are a great way to use up leftover rice...Sicilian street food at it's best.

Laavanya said...

I love the crispy crust on these!

Anonymous said...

These actually look very decadent! I'd feel the same as you re: the oil, but what a fabulous mix of flavors here. (I wonder if these could be baked. . .).

Lisa Turner said...


They were baked :)

Johanna GGG said...

these look so gorgeous - and no deep frying - I feel the same about wasting oil - and all that hot oil seems an unnecessary danger too! But these are now high on my too do list!

Astra Libris said...

Oh, my gosh, these look incredible... I love how you invented a baked version... This I must absolutely try...

Anonymous said...

Looks delicious! Baking is so much nicer than frying -think it would still work ok without the eggs and cheese for a vegan version?

LisaRene said...

I'm glad they turned out well baked. I know what you mean about wasting good quality olive oil plus I'm all for saving calories with out sacrificing flavor.

eatme_delicious said...

When I first saw these I thought ohh those look delicious but unhealthy. But then saw that they're baked! Saving the recipe.

Anonymous said...

These look fabulous. Thank you for providing a baked version. Definitely a must try.

Mansi said...

I have an almost similar recipe that I use Lisa, and now you gave me another variation to try! they look gorgeous:)

Neen said...

Baked -- Brilliant! I can't ever stand the thought of deep fat frying anything, but it tastes so good when well executed. Thanks for this healthy and less psychologically painful alternative!

test it comm said...

Those look nice and golden brown and crispy. They sound tasty as well.

Lisa Turner said...

Chow Vegan;

I'm not sure a vegan version of these rice balls would work out, as the eggs and the cheese not only add a special flavour, but help to hold the delicate grains together.

Jen said...

Lisa-- These look amazing... I've always thought fried rice balls would be delicious but thought they were really unhealthy to make at home. I will definitely be trying out your recipe sometime soon.

P.S. Also love that you use brown rice.

Laura Paterson said...

Somehow I missed this post at the time!
I love fried rice balls - but can seldom be bothered to deep fry anything. Great to know that baking works too!

John Rait said...

Just finished preparing these for dinner with a nice crisp salad. They are in the oven as I type. Easy to prepare and can't wait to try them!

Anonymous said...

Nice recipe, I bake my version of rice paddies always and they are tasty.
@ chow vegan
You can make rice balls without eggs and cheese, I would make them in a non-stick pan witout any oil and it works just fine. I use some bell pepper and more spices in order to add some flavour.


Kellie H said...

These look really good! If I wanted to add ground turkey, how much should i put in? Would it change the measurements of any other ingredients?

Lisa Turner said...

Thanks for dropping by Kellie. I haven't cooked with meat for over 20 years, so I'm no expert in that regard. Perhaps just cut down on the rice by a 1/2 cup or so and sub with turkey? Maybe some of my readers may have a better answer.

Anonymous said...

Shredded instead of cubed cheese be okay??

Lisa Turner said...

You could use shredded cheese but the cubes are best because they literally melt in your mouth adding a whole new experience to the dish.

Unknown said...

It's awesome. ...!!!
Yummyyyyyy!!! crispy yyy!!! spicy yyyy!!!
I tried !!!

Claudia's Crochet Creations said...

There were amazing! Just the perfect spice, cheese melted in your mouth and super crispy! What a treat, thank you for this amazing recipe!

Jennie said...

Could I skip the olive oil coating the baking dish and use parchment paper? Thanks!

Lisa Turner said...

Hi Jennie:

Yes, you could.

Anonymous said...

I made these at Christmas and they came out delicious. I add a little Prosciutto to the mixture. Everyone thought they were great. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa, any tips on forming the balls? My mixture seems too wet to stay in shape..

Lisa Turner said...

You could try chilling the mixture in the fridge for a least an hour before shaping the balls, or stir some cornmeal or breadcrumbs into the mixture.