Rice is one of the best ways to stretch a meal and feed the whole family. Use this comprehensive rice substitute list when you run out of rice instead of heading right out to the store. We've even got some healthy rice alternatives for you that you're gonna love!

white rice in a pan, from Shelf Cooking

Rice, rice, baby, nuh nuh nuh nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh! (We digress now that song is stuck in your head…) Rice is definitely a great way to stretch a meal. Make rice in the Instant Pot or a rice cooker and you'll be on your way to yummy-in-your-tummy town in no time. Sometimes you need to find a rice substitute, though.

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Maybe you're tired of eating white rice all the time and want to change things up a little. Could be the store didn't have your normal rice so you had to grab a different type. Regardless of your situation, we're here to help!

We've got everything you need to know about finding a rice substitute that works for you. We even have some healthy rice alternatives if you're looking to change things up a bit! Let's do this!


When it comes to rice, not all kinds are created equal. The three main types are classified based on their length-to-width ratio when they're cooked: short-grain rice, medium-grain rice, and long-grain rice.

Although you can technically use any of them as a rice substitute when you're cooking, we highly suggest sticking to the same type of rice your recipe calls for whenever possible.

That said, you can switch between the different types if you need to, but the texture and flavor of your recipe will be more greatly affected. Here's what you need to know about each type of rice…


rice in a container, from Shelf Cooking

True to its name, short-grain rice is a lot wider than it is long. When cooked, it's tender, soft, and will clump together because it's sticky. These short-grain rice types are most commonly used to make risotto, rice for sushi, and rice pudding.

While they're not the most common type of rice you may have in your pantry, they still have a place in certain dishes!


Medium-grain rice is roughly two to three times as long as it is wide. When cooked, these grains are chewy, moist, tender, and will slightly stick together. These medium-grain rice types are best used for making paella and risotto.

Short- and medium-grain kinds of rice substitute best for each other and are most easily swapped out that way in a recipe.


Long-grain rice is long and thin, about four to five times as long as it is wide. When cooked, the grains stay distinctive. They're fluffy but will separate after cooking. These are the most common rice types you'll find in your local grocery store:

  • Basmati rice (the predominant rice used in Indian and Pakistani cuisine)
  • Brown rice
  • Converted/parboiled rice
  • Instant rice
  • Jasmine rice (the main type used in Thai food)
  • White rice
  • Wild rice (actually the seed of a native grass!)

At least a few of those sound familiar, right?! 😉


Since long-grain rice is the most common type of rice in many recipes, here's a more in-depth synopsis for which rice will substitute best for each type:

  • Basmati rice – Use white or Jasmine, which have shorter, stickier grains.
  • Brown rice – White has less fiber, will cook quicker, and will require less liquid. Converted rice is another easy substitute for brown that cooks quicker.
  • Converted rice – Brown takes longer to cook and requires more liquid. White is stickier and takes a little longer to cook.
  • Jasmine rice – Basmati takes longer to cook and is less sticky. White rice is another easy substitute.
  • White rice – Brown takes longer (and more liquid) to cook. Wild is firmer, but still a good option. Converted cooks quicker and won't be as sticky. Instant is always a great choice, but it cooks much quicker, so be careful how you're using it as a rice substitute.

The most important thing when swapping out rice types? Cook your rice substitute for the appropriate amount of time and liquids the package calls for. It's no fun to bite into a hard, dry mess because your brown rice needed more time and liquid than the normal white rice uses. Just trust us on that one, mkay?


cauliflower rice in a bowl, from Shelf Cooking

Are you completely out of rice and searching for a substitute? Or maybe you're being more health-conscious and are trying to go for a healthier version. Regardless, we've got some great rice alternatives for you!

  • Barley – This is pretty similar to wheat and rye. It's a little bit chewier than rice but still good.
  • Bulgur Wheat – Here is a whole-wheat rice substitute. They're small, cracked pieces of the whole grain.
  • Chopped Cabbage – Cabbage goes well with a lot of different dishes. Use a food processor to shred it, then cook with a little oil over medium heat until it's tender to your liking.
  • Farro – This is a whole-grain wheat product, chewier than rice, and packs a punch when it comes to protein!
  • Freekeh – Here's another whole grain, coming from wheat, that's harvested while still green.
  • Quinoa – This seed is gluten-free and has loads more protein than rice.
  • Riced Broccoli – Buy it frozen or make it yourself using a food processor. Either way, it's a great addition to your meal!
  • Riced Cauliflower – This is probably one of the most popular, grain-free rice substitutes out there! Make it on your own or find it in the frozen veggie aisle.
  • Shirataki Rice – Made from the konjac root, it's a great rice substitute for low-calorie and low-carb diets.
  • Whole-Wheat Couscous – Made of very small pearls of flour, the whole wheat variety is rich in fiber and protein.
  • Whole-Wheat Orzo – This is actually a pasta. It's higher in calories than rice, but is a great source of fiber and has some protein in it as well.

It's pretty easy to make these substitutes once you've done it a time or two!

Really, you can't go wrong using any of these rice substitutes in a recipe! Use what you've got to feed your family and rest easy knowing they'll be full and happy campers.

What's your favorite rice substitute? Let us know in the comments below!

white rice in a spoon, from Shelf Cooking

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