Vegan Arancini Fried Rice Balls (With Air Fryer Option)
These vegan arancini are the perfect way to use up leftover risotto! They’re filled with melty plant-based mozzarella, crispy on the outside, and all-around delicious!
If you’ve ever made homemade risotto before, you’re probably well aware of the fact that the leftovers… well, they aren’t great. What was once a creamy, rich dish is now congealed into a solid mass the shape of the Tupperware container you stored it in.
I’m pretty sure this is how arancini came to be invented.
What Are Arancini Balls Made Of?
Arancini are traditionally made with leftover risotto. The risotto is shaped into balls; sometimes they’re also filled with cheese or other ingredients. After this, the balls are breaded, fried, and then devoured. (Seriously, they are so good.)
You really can’t substitute other leftover rice, or freshly cooked rice here. You need risotto!
If you don’t want to fry your arancini, no problem! I also included an air fryer option and I’m happy to say these babies are super tasty in the air fryer. (Let’s be honest, if they are 10/10 deep fried they are 8/10 air fried because they never get quite as crispy, but you’ll still love them, I promise!)
Notes on Ingredients
Please note that this is important information on the ingredients and instructions and the FULL recipe with amounts and details can be found DOWN BELOW (scroll to it) in the recipe card.
- Leftover risotto – Use my Creamy Vegan Mushroom Risotto, your own favourite risotto recipe, or leftovers from a restaurant meal. Whatever!
- Plain panko breadcrumbs
- Sea salt
- Ground black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Oil for frying – Choose something with a high smoke point.
- Vegan mozzarella – Make sure this is room temperature before starting the recipe.
- Arrabbiata sauce and parsley – For serving.
What Is the Difference Between Rice and Risotto?
Rice is, well, rice. Risotto is a dish made from a specific type of rice called Arborio rice. This rice is higher in starch than other varieties, which makes it extra creamy and delicious.
In other words, risotto isn’t a type of rice; it’s a dish made with rice.
How to Make Vegan Arancini
Here’s what you’ll need to do to make your leftover risotto into irresistible vegan arancini!
Prepare. Place the panko breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl and crush them a bit. In another bowl, set the vegan mozzarella. Heat at least an inch of oil in a deep pan.
Shape the arancini. While oil is heating, flatten one tablespoon of the risotto into your palm, then place about a teaspoon of vegan mozzarella into the centre. Add another tablespoon on top, then roll into a tight ball. Roll the ball in the panko, coating it evenly, then repeat with the remaining risotto.
Cook the arancini. Test the oil to see if it’s hot enough by adding a pinch of panko; if it sizzles and floats, it’s ready. Drop the risotto balls into the oil, being careful not to over-crowd them, and cook for about 5 minutes on one side. Flip and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes on the other side, until the balls are golden brown.
Cool and serve. Remove the finished arancini from the oil and set them on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb any excess. Serve with parsley and Arrabbiata sauce.
Air Fryer Arancini Instructions
Here’s how to make arancini in your air fryer:
- Refrigerate the risotto balls to firm them up even more.
- Preheat your air fryer to 450ºF for about 5 minutes while the arancini are chilling.
- Drizzle or brush each risotto ball with oil. Air fry for about 8 minutes, working in batches to avoid over-crowding.
Tips for Success
Here are a few tips and pointers for making vegan arancini:
- Getting the arancini to hold together. My leftover risotto was creamy and sticky, so I didn’t need to add anything to keep it together. If you feel that yours isn’t sticking, you can add a flax egg and/or 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs to help it all stick together.
- Scooping the risotto. If the leftover risotto is too hard to scoop out of the container, you can add a tablespoon of vegetable broth or water to loosen it up just a bit.
- Gluten-free option. If you want to make these gluten-free, simply use gluten-free panko or breadcrumbs.
Serve vegan arancini with a simple marinara sauce or arrabbiata sauce for dipping. They would also be delicious with a vegan aioli or even a spoonful of pesto over the top. Arancini are traditionally an appetizer, but you can make them a meal by pairing them with a vegetable side like garlic roasted asparagus or balsamic roasted vegetables.
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
These vegan arancini are best served hot, straight out of the pan (or air fryer), but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat them in a 350ºF oven or air fryer until they’re hot.
Can This Recipe Be Frozen?
You can freeze these vegan arancini balls before or after frying. If you’re freezing them before frying, simply place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze for 2-3 hours, or until solid. Then transfer them to an airtight container or freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to fry, there is no need to thaw, simply cook as directed in the recipe.
If you’re freezing after frying, place the arancini in an airtight container and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Heat them in your air fryer or a 350ºF oven.
Enjoy friends! If you make this vegan arancini recipe, please snap a photo and tag #jessicainthekitchen on Instagram! We’d also love it if you would leave a comment below, and give the recipe a rating! Thanks so much!
Vegan Arancini (Fried Rice Balls)
- Set up a breading and stuffing station – one bowl for the panko breadcrumbs, and one bowl for the mozzarella. Crush the panko breadcrumbs a bit in their bowl so they are more crumb texture.
- Heat up a pan with the oil, you want it to come at least 1 inch up the side of the pan or more. That way you can fry them like I did (turning them over), or even deep fry them.
- While oil is heating up (or you can do this before), roll the risotto into golf size balls, which is about two tablespoons. Flatten one tablespoon into your palm, then spoon or pull about a teaspoon of vegan mozzarella into the centre. Add the other tablespoon on top and then roll into a tight rice ball, squeezing slightly. It should not fall apart easily, if it does see notes below.
- Roll that ball into the panko breadcrumbs to cover completely, or place it in the bowl then cover it with more breadcrumbs by sprinkle it over it, turning it.
- Test the oil to see if it’s hot enough (a sprinkle of panko breadcrumbs should sizzle and float). Drop one risotto ball into the oil with a tongs or a spider. Allow to cook about 5 minutes on one side, then flip and cook for about 2-3 minutes on the other side. The balls should be golden brown. Remove and set on a plate lined with a paper towel.
- Only make as many balls as you’re going to eat, but the entire recipe makes about 12-15 fried risotto balls. Serve with parsley and Arrabbiata sauce. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Although jessicainthekitchen.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Jessicainthekitchen.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.