In a world full of carb-heavy recipes, sometimes you just need a few rice substitutes to lighten up your meals.
Luckily, I’ve found quite a few!
Whether you’re swapping out rice for health reasons or just as a personal preference, you’ll be happy to know there are a lot of options.
From very low-carb and low-calorie veggies to high-carb or protein-packed grains, you’re sure to find an alternative to rice you love.
I happen to love cauliflower rice but have been a little obsessed with bright green broccoli rice recently!
Try these rice substitutes today, and let me know which you prefer.
20 Healthy Alternatives to Rice
Quinoa is a protein-rich grain that’s often used as a rice substitute.
It’s loaded with fiber, protein, and minerals, and it cooks in about 15-20 minutes – just like rice.
It’s also gluten-free and soaks up flavor like a dream. That means you can stock or seasonings to make it extra tasty.
The texture is different, though. It’s a much smaller grain, so it’s more like couscous than rice.
Still, it’s cheap, easy to cook, and ideal with everything from tacos to curry.
2. Riced Cauliflower
Riced cauliflower is a very popular rice substitute because it’s low carb and low in calories.
Also known as cauliflower rice, it’s essentially blitzed cauliflower that’s been cooked until tender.
It’s easiest to do in a food processor, though be sure you only “pulse” the florets. You want it chopped, not blended.
You can also grate the cauliflower, but that’ll take much longer.
Either way, it makes a fantastic substitute.
However, it doesn’t get soft and fluffy like rice. Instead, it’ll still have a slight bite whether it’s steamed, sautéd, or even microwaved.
And it doesn’t soak in flavor in the same way. So I like to add extra seasonings to make it tasty.
That said, the neutral flavor of riced cauliflower makes it a versatile ingredient to use in many different recipes and cuisines.
3. Riced Broccoli
Similar to cauliflower rice, riced broccoli is a low-carb and low-calorie substitute you’ll love.
It adds beautiful color to any dish and is jam-packed with vitamins to boot.
Broccoli rice can be eaten raw, cooked in the microwave, steamed, or sautéed. And unlike cauliflower, it has lots of natural flavor.
Plus, it’ll take on flavors, too, meaning it pairs well with pretty much anything.
It makes a nutritious and delightful rice substitute. Try it and see for yourself!
4. Shirataki Rice
Shirataki rice is another terrific low-carb and low-calorie swap that’s high in fiber.
It comes from the konjac root, which is similar to a potato. So you know it’s hearty and filling.
Shirataki rice is also sometimes called “miracle rice” or konjac rice. And unfortunately, it’s a unique ingredient that may be difficult to find.
However, you’ll love it as a plain white rice substitute if you have some.
Couscous is a little grain made from semolina flour.
Low in sugar and fat but high in fiber, it’s loaded with antioxidants and tremendous health benefits.
The grain is slightly bigger than quinoa and has a pleasantly chewy texture.
It cooks super fast and absorbs any herbs and spices it touches. So it’s ideal as a side to curries, stews, and more.
You can even add this to salads and wraps to make them extra hearty.
6. Orzo Pasta
Orzo pasta is an ideal substitute for rice in many dishes. It looks just like grains of rice, although it is slightly bigger.
It cooks quickly too.
And while it’s higher in calories and carbs, it’s also a fabulous source of protein and fiber.
Since orzo is a type of pasta, it doesn’t absorb flavor in the same way as rice, quinoa, or couscous.
Still, you’ll love the chewy texture, and it’s terrific in soups and salads.
7. Sweet Potato
Sweet potato is another starchy rice substitute you’ll want to try. It’s a nutrient-dense vegetable that’s colorful and filling.
And while it doesn’t “rice” like broccoli or cauliflower, you can spiralize it and chop it into rice-like pieces.
Of course, you can always just serve it roasted or mashed. The flavor will be the same, and it’ll be much easier.
I like sweet potatoes with curry and chili. But it’s not ideal for everything.
Take sushi, for example. You’d be better off with one of the grains above.
8. Corn Grits
Corn grits – also known as cornmeal or polenta – are a vibrant and scrumptious rice alternative.
This popular grain has a lot of nutrients, including antioxidants and fiber, and is low on the glycemic index.
Grits cook quickly in boiling water, so they’re ideal for busy weeknights. Just be sure to stir them frequently!
They make a great side dish for any recipe and can be swapped for rice at any time.
I especially love polenta fries!
Barley is a unique but lovely substitute for rice.
It has a similar texture and is known for helping you feel fuller for longer. It also has an incredible amount of protein and can aid in digestion.
Some people even use barley when hoping to lose a little weight.
10. Buckwheat Noodles
Buckwheat or soba noodles are low on the glycemic index and can even help with stabilizing blood sugar and lowering cholesterol.
And since rice and noodles can often be interchanged, they make a great rice substitute for certain recipes.
Soba noodles can be eaten cold or warm, and they’re ideal for Asian-inspired recipes.
That said, they wouldn’t be as welcome in tacos or with a bowl of chili.
11. Chopped Cabbage
Cabbage is an inexpensive and readily available vegetable that can be used as a rice substitute in almost any recipe.
When chopped up into small pieces, it makes a great bed of “rice” for many meals.
And its mild flavor means you can smother it in any sauce or dressing to disguise the veggie taste.
It has tons of vitamins and minerals that are incredibly good for you and can be eaten raw if you like.
Or, it cooks in just a few minutes if you’re in a rush.
Just remember to get the white kind. If you try to cook red cabbage, your whole dish will turn pink!
Farro is a whole-grain wheat product that makes a superb rice substitute.
It has a chewy texture, a bit of a nutty flavor, and is a superb source of plant-based protein.
It’s also low-carb and ideal for those on the keto diet.
Farro needs quite a bit of water to cook, but it’s no more complicated than rice or quinoa.
I know, I know. Potatoes are nothing like rice!
But they’re so versatile and hearty, I had to include them here. After all, who doesn’t love potatoes?
Mash them, roast them, stew them, or chop them. No matter what, there’s no meal they don’t make better.
Not only are potatoes familiar and well-known, but they’re also very accessible. Moreover, they’re kid-approved to boot!
14. Zucchini Rice
Zucchini rice may be one of the least common riced vegetable varieties, but it’s just as good.
It is very low in calories and has plenty of nutrients. I love the color, and it cooks nicely too.
Like cauliflower rice, just pulse this in a food processor to create a rice-like texture.
From there, it can be pan-fried and added to your favorite rice meals.
Lentils are full of flavor and include tons of protein. They’ll give you a boost of energy but are low in calories.
I love lentils for how easy they are to make and how delicious they are with minimal effort.
Add them to soups, or make them into a yummy side dish.
You can even add them to meatballs to bulk them out and add moisture.
Adlai is a tropical grain that grows mainly in the Philippines.
It’s high in carbs but low on the glycemic index, so it’s an ideal rice substitute for those managing their blood sugar.
The flavor of adlai is similar to pasta. So aside from rice dishes, it can also be used in many pasta recipes.
The only downside to cooking with adlai is that it takes about 30-40 minutes to become tender. So you’ll need to plan ahead.
17. Chickpea Rice
You may be familiar with chickpeas, but did you know you can use them to make a rice substitute?
It’s true! And it’s a high-fiber, high-protein alternative that’s loaded with tons of other nutrients.
After a quick blitz in the food processor, they’ll need to cook for about 45 minutes.
But then, you’ll have something hearty and filling to add to your stir-fries and burritos.
Chickpea rice is particularly lovely in Mediterranean dishes.
18. Bulgur Wheat
Bulgur wheat is similar in size and appearance to couscous and is made from small, cracked pieces of whole wheat.
It’s lower in calories than rice but has a similar texture and flavor.
Bulgur wheat is often found in Mediterranean dishes like tabbouleh. But it’s not as readily available as some other substitutes on this list.
However, if you can find it, it makes an excellent rice alternative.
19. Whole Wheat Bread
Rice is often served as a hearty filler. It’s something to help mop up sauces and add bulk to a meal.
So, why not just use bread? It’s readily available, cheap, and pairs well with pretty much everything.
Plus, you can buy this ready-made, saving you time and effort in the kitchen.
Whole wheat bread can be used to substitute for rice in a lot of dishes but might take a bit of imagination.
For example, instead of a rice bowl, toast some bread and top it with your protein and veggies.
Or, maybe turn that chicken dish into a sloppy sandwich!
Risoni is another pasta that’s shaped like rice. It’s very similar to orzo and can even be labeled the same as well.
I love to use risoni in soups because I feel like it floats better than rice, which often sinks to the bottom of the bowl.
Risoni is a lovely way to swap out rice in any recipe and cooks just like pasta, so it’s nice and easy to prepare.
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