I’m sure you’re probably thinking, ‘What the heck is arancini?’ Great question.
Arancini is an Italian dish consisting of rice balls stuffed with cheese, coated in bread crumbs, and deep fried. The result is a crispy, savory ball of goodness with a cheesy center, perfect for dipping into marinara sauce.
Pretty awesome, right? I thought so, too. Which is precisely why I wanted to experience them for myself.
To the experimental vegan kitchen we go!
Origins of Arancini
Arancini means “orange,” which is somewhat fitting considering the shape and color of these delicious rice balls. It’s believed that they originated in Sicily, Italy in the 10th century. And they may be inspired by similar recipes from the Middle East. Learn more about the origins and history of arancini here.
Our plant-based, cauliflower rice version is not traditional, but is inspired by the texture and flavors. You can find a more traditional arancini recipe here from Nonna Box.
How to Make Vegan Arancini
This recipe starts with cauliflower. Did you know this cruciferous veg can be made into rice? So cool.
I wanted to use cauliflower rice as the base to keep this dish lighter and healthier. Spoiler alert: It totally worked.
The flavor in this 10-ingredient dish comes from vegan parmesan cheese (my trusty kitchen companion), sun-dried tomatoes*, fresh basil, and garlic. Panko bread crumbs create the perfect coating for browning and crisping the edges.
*Note: you can learn about the origins of sun-dried tomatoes here.
What do they taste like? Little bites of Italian food heaven. They’re:
Tender on the inside
Crispy on the outside
& Surprisingly healthy
Think Italian vegan “meatball,” but only more tender and somehow more delicious.
These make the perfect side dish or appetizer for Italian night or when you want a hearty snack. I would bet money that kids would gobble these down without guessing they were eating mostly cauliflower. Sneaky vegetable placement for the win.
If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to take a picture and tag it #minimalistbaker on Instagram. We’d love to see what you come up with. Cheers, friends!
Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Arancini (Vegan)
- 3 cups cauliflower rice (1 small head cauliflower yields ~ 3 cups)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (4 cloves yield ~2 Tbsp or 12 g)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil (divided plus more for sautéing)
- 1 batch flax egg (1 Tbsp (7 g) flaxseed meal + 2.5 Tbsp (37 ml) water as original recipe is written)
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (chopped)
- 3 Tbsp fresh basil (chopped // plus more for serving // or 1 Tbsp dried basil per 3 Tbsp fresh)
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 cup vegan parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs*
- 1/4 tsp each sea salt and black pepper (plus more to taste)
- 3 Tbsp panko bread crumbs
- 1 Tbsp vegan parmesan cheese
FOR SERVING optional
- 1 cup favorite marinara sauce
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and line a baking sheet with foil.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté cauliflower rice and garlic in half the olive oil (1 Tbsp as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size) for 5 minutes, with a lid on, stirring frequently. Set aside.
- Add sun-dried tomatoes, basil, oregano, vegan parmesan cheese, and panko bread crumbs, and pulse/mix to combine.
- Add cauliflower rice to food processor or blender, along with salt and pepper and remaining olive oil (1 Tbsp as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size). Pulse/mix a few more times and then transfer to a mixing bowl to avoid getting the mixture too paste-like.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Add more bread crumbs and/or vegan parmesan cheese if the mixture feels too wet. It should be moldable when squeezed together.
- Transfer mixture to refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes, or freezer for 15 minutes. At this time, mix together panko bread crumbs and vegan parmesan cheese in a shallow bowl. Set aside.
- Once chilled, use a Tablespoon or cookie scoop (I like this one from Amazon) to scoop out rounded Tablespoon amounts of the arancini mixture.
- Carefully form into balls by resting the arancini in your palm and using your other hand’s fingers to gently roll until a ball is formed. They are fragile, so work carefully. There should be 13-14 total (amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size).
- Coat arancini one at a time in the panko-vegan parmesan mixture, then set aside on a baking sheet.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add 1-2 Tbsp oil and brown 6-7 arancini at a time for 4-5 minutes total, rolling with a spoon or fork to brown on all sides. Turn down heat if browning too quickly.
- Once all are browned, place back on a baking sheet and bake in a 375-degree F (190 C) oven for 15-20 minutes. In the meantime, prepare/heat sauce (optional) and any other desired toppings or sides.
- Let arancini cool for 5 minutes, then serve with marinara and additional vegan parmesan cheese. These are best eaten with a fork as they are tender.
- Leftovers keep for 2-3 days in the refrigerator, though best when fresh. Reheat in the microwave or in a 375-degree F (190 C) oven until warmed through.