8 Delicious Rice Substitutes That You Can Easily Swap In

Switch up your favorite rice-based recipes with some tasty substitutes like quinoa, barley, and bulgur.

Countries all over the world consider rice a pantry staple. Not only is rice cheap and filling, but its neutral taste also serves as a blank canvas for all sorts of sweet and savory dishes. It can be fried with veggies, used as a base for a casserole, and even creamy pudding. While white rice is traditionally the grain kept on hand for mealtime, there are some excellent white rice substitutes out there. So whether you're trying to avoid white rice for health reasons, you ran out, or the grocery store is out of stock, we've got the best rice substitutes to consider.

rice substitutes that you can easily swap in

BHG / Joules Garcia

Rice Substitutes

Though the flavors and textures of some of these rice alternatives might differ from white rice, they can be cooked and used interchangeably with any of your favorite rice dishes as a one-to-one substitute.

1. Brown Rice

Perhaps the easiest swap among this list, brown rice makes an excellent white rice alternative. Unlike white rice, which is processed to remove the grain's outer layers, brown rice is a whole grain with all the nutritious parts intact (minus the inedible hull). Brown rice is a bit nutty and chewy in texture but has 25% more protein and six times the fiber (essential for a healthy digestive system) than white rice. It takes a bit longer to cook brown rice (about 40 minutes versus 20 minutes for white rice).

2. Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) covers all the bases for a healthy alternative to rice. The tiny, cereal-like rice substitute is the seeds of a plant in the amaranth family. Quinoa has nearly double the protein and almost nine times the fiber of white rice. Expect a slightly nutty flavor but nothing too overpowering for your dishes. Similar to white rice, quinoa cooks in about 15 minutes.

3. Cauliflower

Anyone trying to eat fewer carbs can rely on cauliflower rice to save the day. Nutrition-wise, a cup of cauliflower rice only has 25 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrates compared to brown rice (216 calories and 45 grams of carbs). It's simply raw cauliflower pulsed in a food processor ($40, Bed Bath & Beyond) until it reaches a texture similar to rice. You can also find this healthy rice substitute in most grocery stores, bagged fresh or frozen.

4. Wild Rice

Wild rice isn't just for your favorite soup. As a white rice substitute, it has fewer calories and carbs with almost double the protein. And if you need to add more fiber to your diet, wild rice packs about 10 grams of fiber per cup, while white rice has less than 1 gram. The firm grain takes a bit more water and time to cook, so expect about a 45-minute wait. The flavor is much stronger than other rice alternatives, so if you're making an even swap, expect a bolder nutty flavor.

5. Barley

Barley looks more like oats than rice, but it's a wheat grain similar in calories to white rice. The only difference with this rice substitute healthwise is that it's got more protein and fiber. Barley is chewy and a bit nutty in flavor. It may be known to star in soup recipes, but it works great as a risotto substitute.

6. Bulgur

Bulgur is a cooked, dried, and cracked whole wheat kernel popular in Middle Eastern cuisine. The rice substitute is very similar in texture to white rice, only with 25% fewer calories and carbs. Bulgur is also another rice swap with a healthier dose of fiber. Add it to your salads for a nutritional boost.

7. Farro

A chewier grain among the list, farro is a rice substitute that packs extra protein and fiber. The whole-grain wheat product is also nuttier in flavor. It takes about 30 minutes to cook in boiling water. Try it as a rice substitute in stuffed peppers or a hearty stew.

8. Chickpea Rice

Relatively new to the culinary world, chickpea rice ($4, Target) is made from the same legume you whip into hummus. Chickpeas are utilized as a plant-based protein. This rice alternative packs 11 grams of protein per serving (brown rice has 3 grams of protein). It has a similar texture to orzo pasta, with a neutral taste. It also cooks super fast, needing about 5 minutes in boiling water.

It's time to put some of these substitutes for white rice to the test. Enjoy some warm-spiced quinoa for breakfast. Or surprise the kids with an extra serving of veggies with a chicken alfredo cauliflower rice bake for dinner. We've also got a lot of recipes already using whole grains if you need some new ideas.

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