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 your favorite type. We've even got some healthy rice alternatives if you're cooking for someone who can't eat regular rice!

white rice in a pan, from Shelf Cooking

Rice, rice, baby, duh 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 it 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 get down to the grain-y details. (See what we did there? We're so punny…)


When it comes to rice, not all types are the same. Once you know about the different types of rice, you'll be better able to substitute for it in a recipe. The three main types are classified based off their length-to-width ratio when they're cooked.

Although you can use any of the following as a rice substitute when you're cooking, we highly suggest staying with the same type of rice that your recipe calls for, if possible. You can switch between the different types if you need to, but the texture and flavor of your recipe will be more highly affected when you jump to a different type.


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 that 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 rices 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 that you'll find in your local grocery store.

  • Basmati (Predominant rice used in Indian and Pakistani cuisine.)
  • Brown
  • Converted/Parboiled
  • Instant
  • Jasmine (Main type used in Thai food.)
  • White
  • Wild (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 that a recipe will (most likely) be calling for, we're going to go a little more in depth over which rice will substitute best for each type.

  • Basmati – Use white or Jasmine, which will have shorter, stickier grains.
  • Brown – White will have less fiber, will cook quicker and will need less liquid. Converted rice is another easy substitute for brown that will cook quicker.
  • Converted – Brown will take longer to cook and will need more liquid. White will be stickier and will take a little longer to cook.
  • Jasmine – Basmati will take longer to cook and is less sticky. White rice is another easy substitute.
  • White – Brown will take longer and more liquids to cook. Wild is firmer, but still a good option. Converted will cook 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 within a recipe is to make sure you 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 that's 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 it is a great source of fiber and has some protein in it, as well.

Really, you can't go wrong using any of these 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!

white rice in a spoon, from Shelf Cooking

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