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9 Paella Rice Substitute

Lisa Price
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by Lisa Price

Paella is one of the first things that come to mind when you mention Spanish cuisine. It’s a beautiful mixture of bomba rice, vegetables, and meat, as well as lemons and herbs, resulting in a dish packed with proteins.

The good news is that you don’t need to be a gourmet living somewhere on the Spanish coast to cook a delicious paella — all you need is the correct ingredients.

As we’ve already established, bomba rice is unquestionably the finest rice for paella, but obtaining it outside of Spain will be challenging.

So, can this meal be made with other rice alternatives? Fortunately for you, it can, and it’ll taste just as good! The best paella rice substitutes are black rice, sticky rice, jasmine rice, carnaroli rice, rosematta rice, Carolina Gold rice, basmati rice, koshihikari rice, and Himalayan red rice.

So, let’s see the best paella rice substitutes in more detail.

Paella Rice
Paella Rice

Paella Rice Substitutes: Cooking Ratio & Nutritional Value

100 grams ofCaloriesFatCarbProteinFiberRatio
Black Rice1300.3g28g2.7g0.4g1:1
Sticky Rice970.19g21.09g2.02g1g1:1
Jasmine Rice1702.5gg32.14g3.81g0.5g1:1
Carnaroli Rice3470.9g76.3g7.4g2.2g1:1
Rosematta Rice840.14g18.54g1.51g0.6g1:1
Basmati Rice3600.9g77.07g8.51g1.4g1:1
Koshihikari Rice3560.1g79.6g6g0.1g1:1
Himalayan Red Rice3783g78g8.9g4.4g1:1

What Does Paella Rice Taste Like?

The basic ingredients of paella are nearly always fixed — protein (seafood, chicken, hog, beef), vegetables, broth, lemon, herbs, and bomba rice.

Because this dish combines so many complex flavors and has a lot of different variations, the taste of paella is difficult to describe. For instance, a traditional seafood paella will have a strong shrimp, clam, or lobster taste. On the other hand, chicken paella will be much lighter.

However, the magic ingredient that holds it all together is the rice, and its texture fits any paella variety perfectly. Bomba rice is the go-to choice due to its exceptional capacity to absorb water without turning mushy.

Luckily, bomba is not too unique in that capacity, and you can find alternatives regardless of where you are.

Paella Rice Nutritional Value

One serving of paella rice consists of:

  • 355 calories
  • 0.8g fat
  • 78.9 carbs
  • 6.3g protein
  • 1.5g fiber

Substitutes for Paella Rice

  1. Black rice
  2. Sticky rice
  3. Jasmine rice
  4. Carnaroli rice
  5. Rosematta rice
  6. Carolina Gold rice
  7. Basmati Rice
  8. Koshihikari rice
  9. Himalayan red rice

Black Rice

Black Rice
Black Rice

Our first alternative is really special — so special that it’ll give your paella a completely new look!

Black rice is a beloved variety in China, where it’s also known as “forbidden rice” or “Emperor’s rice.” This substitute has very tiny, thin kernels, and despite its name, it features a wide range of colors, including black, purple, and red hues.

The presence of a pigment called anthocyanin, a potent antioxidant also present in blueberries and blackberries, is what gives the fruit its distinctive black color.

Black rice is also highly nutritious, in addition to having a distinctive appearance. However, its uniqueness and health benefits make it more costly.

When cooked, black rice will become a faint shade of purple. You may eat it with chopsticks since the texture is rather fluffy and the grains are sufficiently sticky.

Black rice has a delicious, somewhat crispy texture with a taste that is intensely nutty and almost caramel-like.

Sticky Rice

Sticky Rice
Sticky Rice

Sticky rice, commonly referred to as glutinous rice, is mostly grown in Southeast and East Asia.

The term “glutinous rice” refers to the sticky, glue-like feel that cooked rice has — not to the presence of gluten.

Uncooked, it has a very powdered texture, which lets you know that it will be extremely starchy and sticky.

Once cooked, sticky rice becomes chewy and has a flavor that is nearly sweet, which makes it incredibly fulfilling to the palate.

The best trait of this rice is that you won’t even need cutlery to eat it. You could essentially shape a bite and scoop up all the other components of the paella dish with your hands — it makes the whole experience even better.

Jasmine Rice

Jasmine Rice
Jasmine Rice

Here we have another incredible variety of Southeast Asian rice. Interestingly enough, jasmine rice is named after the jasmine flower, but that comparison has to do with its bright, white color rather than its specific flavor.

While certain types of rice are better off aged, the delicate scent of this variety fades over time, so if you want to experience its unique fragrance, go for a fresh crop of jasmine rice.

Once cooked, jasmine rice is long and fluffy and doesn’t get as sticky as the other two alternatives. It’s fragrant, with herbal, woodsy, and toasty notes.

Luckily enough, its flavor is not as strong as its aroma. In fact, it has a delicate, subtle taste that wouldn’t overshadow meals with strong flavors like paella.

Carnaroli Rice

Carnaroli Rice
Carnaroli Rice

For this next alternative, we are hopping on a flight from Southeast Asia to Europe. Carnaroli rice, the king of risotto rice types, originates in the northern Italian regions of Pavia, Novara, and Vercelli.

Carnaroli rice has larger grains than the rest of the substitutes on our list. They become wide and nearly appear flattened when cooked. The grains have a moderate, nutty taste and a starchy, fuzzy texture.

Carnoli rice doesn’t get sticky or mushy, and that combo is what makes it perfect for risotto or fried rice.

If you are a fan of non-sticky rice, then Carnaroli might be the perfect rice for paella as well.

Rosematta Rice

Rosematta Rice
Rosematta Rice

Rosematta rice hails from the southern Indian state of Kerala. It’s a distinct variety of parboiled rice.

Parboiling is the process of soaking, steaming, and drying harvested rice (husk included) before further processing. This makes hand-milling the rice easier.

Rosematta has a nutty and earthy flavor. Although it doesn’t have the same scent as jasmine rice, it’s nonetheless a tasty alternative for paella.

This variety has a unique brown color, but once cooked, it’ll lose a lot of its color. Moreover, the grains are firm and stick together, so they won’t tumble off the spoon.

Carolina Gold Rice

Carolina Gold Rice
Carolina Gold Rice

Carolina Gold rice is one of the most well-known long-grain rice types in North America.

After the Great Depression, Carolina Gold, which was initially imported from Africa, almost became extinct. However, fortunately for us rice lovers, it began to flourish again in the middle of the 1980s.

Both the color and grain size of Carolina Gold rice vary widely. The grains are delicate and shatter quickly.

Once cooked, this paella rice substitute gets quite fluffy, and the shattered grains give the meal some textural variety. It will give paella a ton of flavor — your taste buds should detect a sweet, almost piney flavor that won’t overpower your paella dish.

Basmati Rice

Basmati Rice
Basmati Rice

The Indian subcontinent is the original home of this long-grain rice. Its name translates to “fragrant” in Sanskrit.

Basmati rice has a distinctive hue and nutty scent. In terms of size, it’s shorter than jasmine rice and healthier too.

The basmati variety is exceedingly light and almost fluffy when cooked. The grains are just loosely joined together, each with a moderately rough texture.

To hold the grains of basmati rice together, drizzle some saucy liquid on top. Paella broth fits the bill in that regard, which makes basmati rice a great substitute for bomba.

When combined with the veggies and proteins, the basmati grains will just melt in your mouth with no effort.

Koshihikari Rice

Koshihikari Rice
Koshihikari Rice

Koshihikari rice is Japan’s premiere short-grain white rice. Although it’s Japanese in origin, it is frequently planted in Northern California’s central valley.

The flavor of koshihikari rice is quite mild, somewhat sweet, and nutty. When cooked, each grain is distinct and independent, but they cling to one another loosely enough to be picked up with chopsticks when eating paella.

Himalayan Red Rice

Himalayan Red Rice
Himalayan Red Rice

And finally, the last but by no means inferior alternative for paella rice — Himalayan red rice.

This red rice is an eastern Himalayan staple crop that originates in Bhutan. It’s known for its earthy hue and semi-milled grains.

Once cooked, Himalayan red rice has a nice, firm texture. When it comes to flavor, this variety is very special — it almost has an acidic note that’s not found in other rice, which we appreciate since it will complement freshly squeezed lemons in a paella dish.

Paella Rice Recipe

While we usually provide popular recipes that use the ingredient our article is about, paella rice, or rather bomba rice, is quite one-dimensional — it’s in the name!

With our help, the most well-known meal in Spain — paella — can be made in your own kitchen with several essential ingredients. The best thing is that you can prepare it using a standard big skillet instead of a paella pan!

These are the ingredients in our simple paella recipe:

  • 900 ml chicken stock;
  • 300g rice;
  • 400g seafood mix;
  • 1 tbsp olive oil;
  • A handful of roughly chopped parsley (flat-leaf variety);
  • ½ lemon juice;
  • ½ lemon wedges;
  • 1 chopped onion;
  • 3 tbsp white wine (optional);
  • 1 tsp dried thyme;
  • 400g canned tomatoes (chopped);

In a large frying pan, paella, or wok, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft for five minutes. Then stir in the rice, thyme, and white wine (if you want to). Stir the ingredients after a minute or so and add the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock next.

Season, simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, and stir occasionally. Add the seafood mixture and then cover with a lid. Let everything simmer for five more minutes to ensure that the seafood is cooked and the rice is soft.

If you feel like the rice is still raw, feel free to include another 1/4 cup extra water or broth and simmer it for another ten minutes. Once done, sprinkle your paella with some lemon juice and decorate with some parsley and fresh lemon wedges. Bon appetite!


Even though you might be able to get bomba rice at larger marketplaces, for many people, finding high-quality bomba rice can be quite challenging.

In a paella, the purpose of the rice is to add texture, taste, and volume. All of these qualities are present in many types of rice.

Bomba rice belongs to the short-grain variety, and the substitutes we provided have comparable characteristics and offer a comparable — if not even better — texture and taste. Ultimately, in an emergency, you can prepare paella with almost any kind of rice.

About Lisa Price
Lisa Price
Lisa is Food Champ's resident fitness enthusiast and nutrition expert. She holds a nutrition degree in her home state of Florida and works for a large health system to ensure sound nutrition and dietetics information is passed on to all members.
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