These arancini rice balls are Mexican-spiced savory rice balls filled with melted cheese and covered in crispy panko breadcrumbs baked to golden perfection.
If you’re sensitive to cheese and carbs, you may want to look away because these arancini balls are what dreams of made of!
Arancini (pronounced aw-rawn-chee-nee) are Italian rice balls filled with cheese and other ingredients, coated in breadcrumbs and traditionally fried. Today, I’m giving them a little Mexican-inspired makeover and seasoning the rice with some of my favorite flavors – chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chili powder, smoked paprika and tomato paste. The flavor of the rice is similar to my mom’s authentic Mexican rice, but I transformed it into a rice ball and stuffed it with ooey-gooey mozzarella cheese because why not? 🙂
Knowing that I couldn’t eat just one, I decided to make them a little healthier by baking them instead of frying them. To achieve the crunch factor, I coated the rice balls in egg and then rolled them in cruchy panko breadcrumbs. While the final product isn’t exactly the same as traditionally fried arancini, these babies come damn close.
How to make arancini rice balls
In order to make this arancini recipe, you need to start with cooked Mexican risotto rice that has been cooled (find the recipe below). Once you’ve got the cooled risotto, it’s time to form the rice into balls and stuff them with cheese – my favorite part!
If you’ve got some little helpers around, this part would be perfect to get the kids involved. Here’s the step by step process on how to form, stuff and bread the arancini.
- Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out the cold rice mixture (about 2 heaping tablespoons worth) and form into a ball.
- Make a small indent in the middle of the ball with your thumb and place 1 cube of mozzarella in the middle.
- Pinch the rice ball closed around the mozzarella and roll into a ball again.
- Roll the ball in the beaten eggs, shake off any excess and then place in the panko breadcrumbs.
- Roll the ball in the panko breadcrumbs and then transfer to the lined baking sheet.
This arancini recipe will make a total of 16 rice balls and about 4 to 6 servings depending on how much you think each person will eat. If you’re making this as a side dish for dinner or for a party and this is the only appetizer, I would plan for 3 or 4 arancini balls per person. If this dish is one of many appetizers, I would say 1 or 2 balls per person is perfect.
Can this be made in advance?
Yes. You can stuff and form the risotto into balls, place them on a baking sheet, cover and refrigerate them for up to three days in advance. When you’re ready to make them, just roll them in egg, cover in panko breadcrumbs and bake.
I made this recipe for John and I one afternoon and we pretty much ate the entire thing by the end of the day. Granted, it was the weekend, we had had a few drinks and John is very tall and can eat a lot, but still. We ate it all and were very happy and full by the end of the night.
Plus, he deserved it! He worked hard for these rice balls!
If you notice in the picture above and the one right above the recipe card, the hands holding the arancini are actually his. I often use him as a hand model when I take photos on the weekends. 🙂 I reward him handsomely with all the food he can eat.
For the dipping sauce, I made my easy arrabiata sauce that I created a few years ago back when I first started the blog. I made it way before I decided to start focusing on creating Mexican-inspired recipes and though it’s technically not Mexican, it’s still one of my favorites from the blog.
I recommend serving your arancini with your favorite marinara sauce, ranch dressing, or this chipotle ranch dressing.