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What are the Differences Between Risotto vs Paella Rice?

paella rice vs risotto rice main image paella cooking in paella pan next to finished risotto

When you get into cooking, a common issue you’ll come across is finding the right ingredients or substitutes when in a pinch. For example, a recipe may call for the use of paella rice like bomba, but you only have risotto rice. Rather than going out to buy rice for this specific recipe, it may be easier to substitute it with what you have. By knowing the differences between the two types of rice, you can better adjust your recipes and cooking to match the original recipe. Substituting various rice in different recipes is easy once you know the differences between them. So, what exactly are the main differences between risotto rice and paella rice? Some main differences include:

  • Absorption Rate and Cooking Speed
  • Starch Content
  • Cooked Consistency / Texture

What is Risotto Rice?

Risotto rice is specifically known as Arborio rice; named after the region of Italy it originally comes from. The rice is now grown in other places in the world outside Italy such as California and Missouri. Like paella rice, it is a short-grain rice. Arborio is well known for producing that essential creamy texture in risotto. Though the rice come from different regions of the world, they are often compared because both paella and risotto are single pan rice dishes. That just means you cook the entire dish in a single pan (or pot in the case of risotto) and rice is the main base instead of pastas or noodles.

Cooking Paella with Risotto Rice

Risotto rice are known for their fast absorption rate. However, they typically do not hold as much water as something like bomba rice. So, how does this effect the cooking process and can you make paella with risotto rice? It does not change the cooking process too much besides maybe requiring less liquid, so you can definitely make paella using risotto rice. The more notable differences will be in the final result. Risotto has a very creamy texture that comes largely from the rice. This is because Arborio rice has a large shell of starch that bomba does not. The starch is released during cooking the makes the liquid creamier.

Starch content plays a large role in the final texture of your rice. The texture of the rice, or mouth feel, can differ depending on how much starch goes into the dish. You could potentially reduce the amount of starch when using risotto rice in paella by rinsing the rice before cooking. Like with many dishes using white rice that is supposed to be fluffy, you can rinse out the starch by passing water over your rice and filtering out the starchy water. Rinsing could result in a texture more similar to bomba rice.

What is Paella Rice?

Bomba rice on yellow cloth coming out of straw basket paella rice

Paella rice can be a couple different types of Spanish rice, but the most famous for paella is known as bomba rice. Like Arborio rice, bomba is also short grain. It is most famous for being the default rice in most paella dishes and being a staple in Valencian cuisine. Valencia in Spain is the area in which paella in its modern form is said to have originated. The biggest difference between the risotto rice vs. paella rice is the texture rather than the taste. Bomba rice keeps its form very well while risotto has the tendency to get mushy. That mushiness is perfect for risotto but really does not match the consistency of a paella where you want a nice crispy layer.

Cooking with Paella Rice

If you were to substitute risotto rice with bomba or another type of paella rice, you can do so very easily. You would want to not rinse out the rice before use. If you cook a lot of fluffy white rice, this can be a normal step when making rice dishes but for risotto, you want to get as creamy of a rice as possible. Bomba rice already has less starch content, so you may need to cook it longer and with slightly more liquid to break it down more. Since bomba holds its form well, it will take longer to get the same results. Risotto rice quickly breaks down its starch and tends to cook faster.

Shop Paella Pans and Join the Machika Family Today!

At Machika, we believe that the kitchen should be a vital part in everyday life. Cooking at home not only instills important life skills, but can be a great way to grow closer to your friends and family. Sharing delicious dishes, eating healthier food, and learning new skills are easier with a little help. Sign up today for deals and recipes. You can also click here to buy an authentic Machika enameled paella pan made in Valencia, Spain! At Machika, #EveryoneIsInvited

Maria Perez machika writer blurb. Paella recipes and more.

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