Paella is hailed as the national dish of Spain.
Whenever someone mentions authentic Spanish cuisine, paella is one of the first dishes to come to mind. If you are in the mood for some delicious and flavorful paella and find that you have no paella rice, worry not. There are a number of substitutes that you can use instead.
The best substitutes for paella rice include short-grain rice, sticky rice, brown rice, jasmine rice, parboiled rice, Basmati rice, orzo rice, arborio rice, Calrose rice, and Calasparra rice.
Keep reading to find out more about each of these substitutes.
What Is Paella Rice?
Before I begin to look at the substitutes for paella rice, let us look at what exactly paella rice is. What if I told you that there is no such thing as “paella rice”?
That’s right paella is a dish rather than a type of rice. The word “paella” stands for frying pan in the regional language spoken in Valencia, Spain. Paella is a rice dish that is cooked in a traditional pan over a fire, which is where it acquires its name from.
Although paella is known as one of the most popular dishes in Spanish cuisine, it actually originates from and is most popular in the Valencia region. It is made with rice, green beans, duck, rabbit, chicken and is cooked in broth and olive oil.
It has a trademark yellow color which is added with saffron, turmeric, and calendula. There are different variations of the paella dish – known as paella de marisco, which is served with seafood and paella mixta that combines all types of meats and toppings.
So, what about the rice? Paella uses “bomba rice” which is mainly cultivated in Spain. It is a type of short-grain rice with a slightly crunchy texture. As it is associated with paella and its native Valencia, it is also known as paella rice or Valencia rice.
What Are The Substitutes For Paella Rice?
Now that you know what exactly paella rice is, let us take a look at some of the best substitutes for bomba rice to add to your paella dish.
1. Arborio rice
Arborio rice is the closest substitute for paella rice. Although you might have associated arborio rice with risotto all this time, it works as a great substitute in paella.
Apart from being the same shape, arborio rice also has a consistency similar to that of paella rice. They are both short-grained, chewy as well as slightly creamy.
Perhaps the best part about arborio rice, apart from being a close substitute to paella rice, is that you can find it in supermarkets easily.
2. Short grain rice
Short grain rice, or sushi rice, is another substitute that you can find easily. As the name suggests, short-grain rice is plump and smaller in size.
Substituting bomba rice with short-grain rice will not have a significant difference when it comes to the taste of your paella dish. However, this type of rice tends to be slightly sticky, as you might have noticed while eating sushi.
Regardless, using short-grain rice as a substitute will not greatly affect how the texture of your paella turns out. Moreover, like bomba rice, short-grain rice easily soaks up water.
3. Calrose rice
You might already be familiar with Calrose rice.
It is a type of medium-grain rice that originates from the state of California. What this means is that this type of rice tends to be longer in size than paella rice, but is smaller than most other varieties that you can find.
Calrose rice tends to be slightly sticky and is often used to make sushi. It also has a slightly different taste from paella rice, but it works well as a substitute in the final dish.
4. Calasparra rice
Calasparra rice is easily one of the closest substitutes for paella rice. It originates from the Murcia region of Spain and is also found in paella’s native region Valencia.
Calasparra is a type of short-grained rice that tastes very similar to bomba rice. So, you will barely detect a difference in taste or texture if you substitute Calasparra rice in your paella dish.
However, as it is mainly produced and consumed in Spain, it might be difficult to get your hands on some Calasparra rice.
5. Sticky rice
Sticky rice is a good substitute for people who have dietary restrictions. This type of rice originates from East Asia and has a slightly sweet flavor along with a sticky texture.
Sticky rice contains no gluten, so even if you are on a diet, you can use sticky rice to make some delicious paella. Moreover, sticky rice is shorter than most other types of rice, which means that you will get a similar mouthfeel as traditional bomba rice.
6. Brown rice
Brown rice is another healthy substitute for paella rice. You can find both medium-grain and long-grain brown rice in any supermarket near you.
Although brown rice tends to have a texture different from paella rice, it is a good option for those who want to enjoy the goodness of this traditional dish while being healthy.
Note that it might take you longer to cook paella while you are using brown rice as a substitute, as this type of rice still retains its bran whereas other options do not.
7. Parboiled rice
Parboiled rice is a type of rice that is partially boiled at the husk.
Although parboiled rice is closer to brown rice, you can still use it as a substitute for paella rice. In fact, some people might want to use parboiled rice over bomba rice as it is a healthier option.
However, using this type of rice might make your paella have a slightly different texture. This is because parboiled rice has a distinct taste and does not stick to each other when cooked.
8. Jasmine rice
Jasmine rice, or Thai rice, is a type of long-grain rice that works well as a substitute for bomba rice.
Although this type of rice tends to have a different shape than paella rice, it becomes soft and sticky when cooked. So, you will barely feel a difference in taste if you substitute bomba rice with Jasmine rice in your paella rice.
9. Orzo pasta
You might be surprised to find pasta in a list of paella rice substitutes.
However, if you are familiar with Orzo pasta, you might know that it is shaped like rice. Although it will inevitably have a different texture than paella rice, it has the same softness and stickiness that you can find in bomba rice.
So, if you are ever in the mood to switch up your paella, go for some orzo pasta instead.
10. Basmati rice
Basmati rice is a type of long-grain rice that is native to the Southasian subcontinent.
Although it has a slightly sweet flavor and a texture distinct from paella rice, Basmati rice is a good option for those who don’t like the taste of bomba rice. Moreover, Basmati rice is much easier to find than paella rice.
Can I Use Long-Grain Rice Instead Of Paella Rice?
Technically, you can use any type of rice instead of paella rice. However, I suggest keeping your substitutes limited to short-grain rice when making paella.
The most important ingredient of a paella dish is bomba rice, which is extremely short. If you replace them with long-grain rice, you might lose out on the authenticity of the dish. Moreover, the texture of the rice will be drastically different.
So, keep long-grain rice as the last option for a paella rice substitute.
Can You Swap Paella Rice For Risotto Rice?
You can swap paella rice for risotto rice. Both risotto rice and paella rice have a chewy and sticky texture as well as a short and plump shape. Therefore, they can be interchanged in many dishes and not just paella.