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Here's an arancini recipe for sticky risotto rice balls stuffed with creamy Boursin cheese. They're an irresistible Sicilian snack that's crispy on the outside yet soft and gooey on the inside. You can easily make them ahead of time, and they're ready in 90 minutes!
Arancini is a famous Sicilian snack for good reason! Is there anything better than savory rice stuffed with warm melted cheese and a crunchy breadcrumb coating? We think not!
We won't pull the wool over your eyes and pretend this arancini recipe is easy. These homemade cheese arancini take some work, and they can get a bit messy. We like to think of it as a labor of love, and it's well worth it in the end. If we can make them, you can too!
Serve these cheesy arancini balls right away with a side of marinara sauce. They make a delicious appetizer or snack, but if you pair them with a salad or soup they're wonderful as a light meal.
How to pronounce ‘arancini'
The word ‘arancini' (pronounced eh-ruhn-chi-ni) is derived from the word ‘orange' in Italian. These round rice-filled balls get their name from their shape and color.
What is arancini?
Arancini are Italian rice balls stuffed with fillings such as ragù, cheese, and vegetables. They're coated in a light layer of breadcrumbs and then deep-fried until golden.
They're a staple in Sicilian cuisine and their shape and fillings vary based on the region. They're a popular snack that can be found year-round in Sicily, and on Italian menus around the world.
Arancini recipe ingredients
Here's everything you need to make this delicious cheesy arancini recipe:
- Chicken stock – we always have some of our homemade chicken stock on hand so that's what we use, but you can also use a store-bought broth. Just keep in mind the quality of the broth you use makes a big difference in the overall flavor of the arancini.
- Olive oil + butter – olive oil and butter add rich flavor and creaminess to the risotto.
- Onion + garlic – for that classic aromatic flavor base.
- Arborio rice – make sure to use arborio rice, and not another rice variety. Arborio rice has a high starch content which helps make it sticky so you can form it into balls.
- Dry white wine – white wine lends flavor and adds acidity which can help balance out risotto's inherent richness. If needed, you can use extra chicken stock instead.
- Parmesan cheese – risotto is traditionally made with parmesan cheese, stirred in at the end of cooking adding a salty, nutty flavor. Parmigiano-Reggiano is usually our first choice.
- Sea salt + black pepper
- Boursin cheese – Boursin cheese is soft, creamy, and flavorful. It melts really nicely inside these risotto balls. We use the garlic and fine herb flavor, but you can use any flavor you like.
- All-purpose flour – we use all-purpose flour as part of the breading mixture. Use a 1:1 gluten-free blend if needed.
- Eggs – eggs act like sticky glue to attach all the breadcrumbs to the rice balls.
- Panko breadcrumbs – panko breadcrumbs are extra crispy which is why we love them for this recipe. Use gluten-free if needed.
- Vegetable oil – we use a simple vegetable oil for frying the arancini.
How to make this arancini recipe
Arancini is a much-loved appetizer that makes a delicious snack or light meal. You'll need some time and patience for this recipe, but the effort is well worth it.
- Make the risotto
To make risotto, first saute onion and garlic until it's translucent. Then add the rice and wine to the pot and stir it until the wine has been absorbed. The next step is to add a ladle of hot broth to the pot and stir it until it's absorbed. Stirring the rice as it cooks helps to release the starches which makes it creamy. Keep adding broth and stirring the pot until the rice is fully cooked. Once the rice is cooked, stir in the parmesan cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Then, spread the risotto out evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and place it in the fridge to cool. Spreading it into a thin layer on the baking sheet helps it to cool quickly.
- Roll the arancini balls
Gather a bit of cooled risotto in your hand (you can make them as big or small as you like). This part can get pretty sticky but damp hands can help! Press a small piece of Boursin cheese into the middle, roll it into a ball, and place it onto a baking sheet. Repeat this process until all the rice is used up.
- Bread the arancini
Set up three bowls, filling one with flour, one with whisked eggs (and a splash of water), and one with panko. Then dip each ball first in flour, then in eggs, and lastly in panko.
- Fry the arancini
Heat your oil until it reaches 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, gently drop a few balls into your pot, and fry until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon, place on a cooling rack, and continue until all balls are cooked. Enjoy right away!
How to make arancini ahead of time
Did you know you can easily make this arancini recipe up to three days ahead of time? Just keep them in a covered container in your fridge or freezer. Re-crisp them in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 minutes from the fridge or 20 minutes from frozen.
Easy tips for making arancini
You'll still need a bit of time and patience, but here are a few tips that help make the process more smooth:
- Make a double batch of the risotto. Enjoy some for dinner, and use the rest to make the arancini tomorrow. Two birds, one stone!
- The process of rolling the rice can get pretty sticky, but keeping your hands moist with a little water helps.
- To save time, you can make these up to three days ahead. Just pop them in your fridge and then reheat them in the oven.
- They freeze really well, so make extra and store them in your freezer for your next party!
What to serve with arancin
Arancini are typically served as an antipasto or appetizer with marinara sauce. Paired with a salad or a soup, these delectable rice balls can easily be enjoyed as a light meal. Or opt for a feast and serve them with porchetta. Skip the fork, because this is finger food at its best!
Italian sides to serve with this arancini recipe
Can I use leftover risotto for these?
Absolutely! Leftover rice works great for making arancini and it takes out the extra step of making the risotto from scratch. If you've made a double batch of our easy risotto, use the leftovers for making arancini!
Can I use a different type of cheese?
Yes, another cheese can definitely work. Mozzarella cheese is a traditional option.
Do I have to roll them into balls?
Not at all! In fact, forming them into a conical shape is common in Sicily. We roll them into balls as we find it easiest this way.
Can I use regular breadcrumbs instead?
You bet! We like the crispy texture of panko, but regular breadcrumbs work great, too.
How do I freeze arancini?
Simply place arancini balls in an airtight container or reusable silicone bag (we like these ones) and store them in your freezer for up to three months! Re-crisp them in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
For the risotto
- 6 cups chicken stock (or store-bought bone broth (see notes))
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion (finely minced)
- 1 clove garlic (finely minced)
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 1 ½ cups dry white wine
- 1 cup parmesan cheese (freshly grated )
- 1-2 teaspoons sea salt (or to taste)
- Fresh ground pepper (to taste)
For the arancini
- 1 box Boursin cheese (5.2 ounces/150 grams)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (gluten-free if needed)
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups panko (gluten-free if needed)
- 2 cups vegetable oil
- Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium-sized pot over high heat. Reduce the so that it stays at a low simmer.6 cups chicken stock
- Melt the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it is soft and just starting to brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the arborio rice to the large pot with the onions and butter and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add the wine to the pot and stir until it has been mostly absorbed.2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons butter, 1 medium onion, 1 clove garlic, 2 cups arborio rice, 1 ½ cups dry white wine
- Add a ladle full of the hot broth to the pot with the rice and stir well. Continue stirring occasionally until it has been mostly absorbed, about 1-2 minutes. Continue adding the broth, one ladle at a time waiting until most of the broth has been absorbed by the rice before you add more. Stir the rice a few times between each addition of broth. The risotto is cooked when the rice is soft but not mushy … think al dente pasta.
- When the risotto is soft, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Pour the risotto onto a rimmed baking sheet and spread it out evenly. Place it in your fridge to cool. Once it has cooled completely you can begin making the arancini.1 cup parmesan cheese, 1-2 teaspoons sea salt, Fresh ground pepper
- Remove the cold risotto from the fridge. Gather a small bit in your hand, (you can make them as large or small as you like) and press a small piece of Boursin cheese into the middle. Roll the risotto into a ball. Note: this process is a little less sticky if you have damp hands. Place the rolled balls onto a baking sheet.1 box Boursin cheese
- Once all the risotto has been rolled into balls, set up 3 shallow bowls. Fill one with flour, sea salt, and pepper and mix it together. Fill another with the eggs whisked with a splash of water. And fill the last bowl with panko.1-2 teaspoons sea salt, 1 cup all-purpose flour, ¼ teaspoon sea salt, 2 large eggs, 1 ½ cups panko
- Dip each risotto ball first in the flour, next in the egg and finally in the panko. Keep one hand for the flour and panko and the other for the egg. Work with 3-4 balls at a time to speed things up. Place the panko-coated balls back onto the baking sheet.
- Place the vegetable oil in a small pot with high sides over medium-high heat. You want there to be at least 3 inches of oil – add more as needed. Attach an oil thermometer to the side. When the temperature reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit, reduce the heat to medium and let it continue to heat until it is 375 degrees Fahrenheit.2 cups vegetable oil
- When the oil has reached 375 degrees carefully drop 3 balls into the pot and give it a little stir. Cook the balls for 1 minute, or until they are light brown. Remove the balls from the oil and place them on a wire rack (set over a baking sheet for less mess.) Repeat until all the balls are cooked. Serve immediately.
- The arancini can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept in a covered container in your fridge or frozen for up to 1 month. Re-crisp the arancini in a 400-degree oven for about 15 minutes from the fridge or 20 minutes from the freezer.
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.