Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Arancini (Vegan)

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Cast-iron skillet showcasing our vegan Italian side dish of sun-dried tomato and basil arancini

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!

Wood platter with homemade cauliflower rice for making vegan arancini

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.

Turning cauliflower rice into Vegan Arancini in a cast-iron skillet

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.

Cooking homemade Vegan Arancini in a cast-iron skillet
Platter of Vegan Arancini ready to be devoured as a healthy Italian night recipe

What do they taste like? Little bites of Italian food heaven. They’re:

Savory
Flavorful
Tender on the inside
Crispy on the outside
Satisfying
& 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!

Dipping Vegan Arancini into tomato basil marinara sauce

Lastly, if you liked this dish, be sure to try our Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Pinwheels and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta!

Dipping a ball of our Vegan Arancini recipe into marinara sauce

Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Arancini (Vegan)

10-ingredient vegan arancini with cauliflower rice, sun-dried tomatoes, and basil. Inspired by an Italian dish that’s typically cooked rice stuffed with cheese and fried, only my version is healthier and veganized!
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Skillet of marinara sauce beside a batch of Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Arancini
4.8 from 20 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings 14 (arancini)
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Italian-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 1 month
Does it keep? 2-3 Days

Ingredients

ARANCINI

  • 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)

COATING

FOR SERVING optional

  • 1 cup favorite marinara sauce

Instructions

  • 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 flax egg to blender or food processor. Wait 5 minutes.
  • 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.

Notes

*Find gluten-free panko bread crumbs if you’re GF.
*Inspired by Saveur.
*This is our inspired, plant-based (not traditional) version of arancini. You can find a more traditional arancini recipe here from Nonna Box.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated without additional sauce.

Nutrition (1 of 14 servings)

Serving: 1 arancini Calories: 93 Carbohydrates: 9 g Protein: 3 g Fat: 5.4 g Saturated Fat: 0.9 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 140 mg Fiber: 1.7 g Sugar: 1 g

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  1. sandra forte says

    WOW made these last night….but used left over cooked rice from the previous night…..instead of cauliflower. Can I just say they were beautiful. Loved them so much we will be making this to share with the family on Christmas day. Super easy to top it off! Thank you Dana

  2. Kayla M. Willms says

    Sooooooo good! My taste buds are in heaven right now..
    I used only 12 oz of frozen cauliflower and nov vegan cheese while leaving the rest of the recipe exactly the same (measurements and all) and it was very good!
    I only immures the vegan parm because I have fat kid tendencies and I prefer to eat my parm with a spoon and not mixed in stuff. I used nutritional yeast with bread crumbs for the crusting of the balls.

    So amazing. I recommend this a thousand times over.

  3. Monique says

    I’m so disappointed I don’t love these. I saved the recipe weeks ago and finally got around to making it tonight. It was so time consuming to make all the ingredients, then follow the recipe. I’d hope that after all the effort I would love them but sadly, I think they’re just “okay”. I cook regularly so I know recipes can be hit or miss the time spent on this one makes it particularly disappointing :( I’ll look for a shorter recipe to try next time.

  4. emory says

    These are great — thank you!

    I didn’t have enough cauliflower, so I subbed 1/3 broccoli, which made mine a tad green. :-)

    I also didn’t have any dried tomatoes, so I roasted some fresh ones in the oven with some liquid smoke. They probably made my dough too wet, so I threw in a tad more Panko.

    My carnivore husband loved them, too. The only drawback is that now he is going to want them every time I make pasta for dinner!

  5. Juli Martin says

    These are absolutely delicious! The consistency and flavours are excellent. I have made several of your dishes and have loved every single one. Thank you for inspiring me to eat more plant based and making it super simple and enjoyable. I am trying to encourage my husband to eat more plant based foods and he has loved every recipe I have made from your cookbook/website. It’s a win!

  6. Kayla says

    These are the most tender, savory, and crispy balls of amazement! I just made these and they taste like pizza in a ball form! 10/10

  7. Joy says

    I made this recipe today to have to pull out for myself next week. I used a bag of frozen cauliflower rice. The bag is 4 cups and I squeezed most of the water out after I steamed in the microwave. I eat low fat so I thought steaming it saved a few grams of fat. They were quite easy to roll. I didn’t cook them on the stove top. Only baked so they were very delicate to eat. I’m not sure if the steamed cauliflower made a difference in the texture or firmness or not but they were so delicious and pleasant to eat! I think they would be great without sauce along with an arugula salad.
    I save or pin one of your recipes several times a week. Thank you so much for sharing!

  8. Karey says

    I used rice, because I had some leftovers that needed to be used and they were delicious to. Thank you for the delicious recipe! Will try with cauliflower next time. You are awesome!

  9. Emma Kleck says

    Love this recipe!! I don’t like marinara sauce that much, though, so I made your tofu ricotta to accompany. Turned out perfect!

  10. Nomeat Malone says

    Love this recipe!! To enjoy all these flavors with a bit less work, I’d recommend a “fried rice” – just mix everything together with the marina sauce!!

  11. Shauna says

    I wonder how you made the rice, did you put the cauliflower in the food processor first before cooking it? Thanks!!

  12. Sophia Schonwetter says

    Made these for dinner last night and they were so delicious! I ran out of nutritional yeast and they didn’t have any at the store, so I subbed the vegan parm for some raw cashews, white miso paste, and dijon (they still tasted super cheesy and delicious anyways.) I think I could have probably pulsed them together a little longer since the mixture did fall apart on me a little bit when trying to roll/fry them. I also should have browned them a bit longer in the pan – but overall they were delicious, and so warm and comforting. Reheated well for lunch today too. With store bought cauli-rice these would be a BREEZE! Thanks for another excellent weeknight dinner!

  13. Kate says

    Oh my god this was amazing…. everything about it was amazing…. loved the vegan Parmesan cheese too…. you guys are amazign… xx

  14. Kathryn @ The Scratch Artist says

    YUMM YUMM YUMMAH!!! I am clearly on a Mbaker kick recently. I have been making so many of your recipes and they are all soooo good! I have your cookbook, but for some reason I keep coming to your blog for recipes, I guess it’s force of habit. The book is beautiful by the way. I have my eyes on that jackfruit burger!
    Tomorrow your vegan ramen!! <3 :-)

  15. Michele says

    Are these sundried tomatoes in oil? If I use the dry ones in the plastic packaging, do I need to reconstitute? Thanks!

  16. Kimberlee says

    This recipe produced one of the best dishes I’ve ever personally made. The arancini were SO flavorful and tender, and the crispy outside matched with the melt-in-your-mouth inside was really lovely. I’ve made a handful of Minimalist Baker recipes now, and I think this one might be my favorite so far.

  17. Silvia says

    I see that someone else already asked this, but since there’s no reply… Can these be frozen, either just before or after cooking?

  18. Sally says

    These were a HUGE hit in our mixed household of vegetarian, carnivore, allergic and picky eaters! My only suggestion is that it did take a bit of effort to make, so next time I will double and freeze half the batch before cooking. We ate them too fast for leftovers. Yum!!!!

  19. Jill says

    Commenting again just because I realized how dry my comment above sounds.

    The truth is, these are amazing. Like nice restaurant delicious. I have now had them for lunch, dinner and breakfast – in other words, every meal since I made them.

  20. Jill says

    I just made this for lunch and it was delicious. I got about 6 cups of cauliflower rice out of one small head, though.

    I used dried sundried tomatoes and even though I soaked them for a while first, they were hard to blend so next time I’d use oil-packed.

    The only change I might make next time is adding a bit of grated vegan mozzarella to help them stick together and make them a bit gooey. But that is certainly not necessary.

  21. travelinma says

    Dana, I made this upon a recommendation from a co-worker. It was easy and fun to make. My 18 year old came through the kitchen dipping one in the marinara then popped it in his mouth. “What is this? It’s good!” Asked the boy who barely allows veggies to pass his lips!

    “Do you really want to know? Cauliflower! Ha! Ha! Ha!” Got ya, I thought gleefully!!

    I will be making this again and again!

  22. Sara says

    Can these be frozen for storage after step 10? Before you fry them before serving? Would love to make these in bulk and defrost when convenient.

  23. Anjali @ Vegetarian Gastronomy says

    Just made this! Took a little while, but SO worth it! I love cauliflower rice and the flavors in this dish are awesome!!! Thanks for always providing delicious easy, pantry-ready ingredient recipes! You guys are such an inspiration!

  24. Kelsey says

    We loved these, although my Italian guy (with a horrible lactose allergy, ahem) griped a bit about missing the melty cheese center he’s used to in arancini, so I may try to add some sort of creamy cashew cheese next go-round. For anyone who doesn’t want to eat the whole batch in one meal, I cooked up half and left the “dough” in the fridge overnight, then made the second batch the next day. The mixture saved well and that way the arancini are nice and crispy even as leftovers.

  25. Lee-Ann says

    Made this tonight and it was DELICIOUS!! My 14 month old and canivore spouse loved it as well. Love your recipes, they are so good!!

  26. Sofia says

    How do you make the rice out of the head of cauliflower? Just break it into pieces by hand? Or chop it with a knife. Sorry, a newbie in the kitchen here.

  27. Chloe says

    I feel like cauliflower rice is very ‘in’ at the moment! I keep seeing it everwhere, and the more I see it the more I want to try it! It’s such a good substitute food. Like using it as a pizza base etc, it’s so versatile. This is a good way to make a somewhat heavy dish nice and light! Thumbs up

  28. Allison says

    I made this and it is great! The only changes I made were to omit the oregano (because I didn’t have it) and use drained, oil packed sun dried tomatoes because that’s what I had. I also only cooked them in the oven rather then stove top and oven, and they browned up perfectly! Great recipe, I’ll definitely make this again.

  29. Michele @ Two Raspberries says

    ok! totally loving these ;-) I have NEVER had anything like this before, very unique! I should totally try these! Happy weekend Dana!

  30. Julie | Small Green Kitchen says

    I’ve never had arancini but I’ve seen a few recipes online and it looks like something I’d probably want to hoarde and eat all on my own! I love the vegan, low carb version you created, Dana! :)

  31. Sarah | Well and Full says

    I LOVE this, Dana!! I’ve always wanted to make arancini since going vegan but was a bit intimidated by the prospect. I am SO EXCITED THAT YOU MADE THIS RECIPE!! <3 <3

  32. Laura says

    This looks so good I can’t wait to try it! With my food allergies there are so few recipes out there that I can use without making extensive changes to them. I don’t have to change anything on this so thank you. I am a new food blogger and just wanted to say I enjoy and have learned a lot from you blog. Have a blessed day.

  33. Mariana Sarceda says

    Delicious!!! And a great way of introducing cauliflowers to the daily menu (I’m having a hard time trying to convince my two boys _aka my son and my husband_ that they are nice. I’ll definitely try this recipe!

  34. Kristina says

    I love these! I really like arancini, but I don’t make them often because, well, I don’t find them that healthy. But this version is great, I have to try it once.

  35. Becky says

    Recipes that are both vegan and gastroparesis-friendly are hard to find and this looks delicious! Are the sundried tomatoes you’re using dry or oil-packed?

  36. Eve @ Baking the Day says

    These arancici balls look delicious with their crispy coating. They would be so delicious with that sauce, pinned!

  37. Traci | Vanilla And Bean says

    Drooling the instant I opened my email! My goodness, thank you for testing and bringing this to us, Dana! OMGeeeeee!!

  38. Stacy says

    My jaw literally dropped open at the idea of using cauliflower rice to make arancini. This is SO clever!

    Also- Do you think this would work as leftovers?

  39. Libby says

    Wow, I’m impressed! I’m a pretty big fan of risotto arancini, but I would be willing to give this a try because you make it look so good.

  40. Kathryn - The Scratch Artist says

    This is genius. I find cauliflower rice naturally buttery in flavor, which I’m sure makes these all the more savory and delicious. I have been eagerly awaiting this recipe since you mentioned it. You never let me down!

  41. Leah @ Grain Changer says

    OBSESSED doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings for this. LOVE that cauliflower rice works here, and fingers crossed that gluten-free panko works just as well as regular. Thanks for the great recipe, Dana!

  42. Sydney | Modern Granola says

    How heavenly! I love that you used cauli-rice for this! This is so creative and inspiring! Now I know exactly what I’ll be doing with that giant cauliflower in my fridge :)
    xx Sydney

  43. Nicole @ Young, Broke and Hungry says

    I have been meaning to make cauliflower rice for awhile now but this recipe has given me the push I needed.

  44. Samantha @ThePlantedVegan says

    What an awesome recipe! Looks super simple, and delicious! I haven’t tried anything like this before, so I’m excited to give it a try!

  45. Emily | Robust Recipes says

    Looks so comforting and delicious. I have yet to try making cauliflower rice, this would be a fun recipe to try it out on!

  46. Deborah @ The Harvest Kitchen says

    Ironically I had this for the first time at a company event this past Monday. Loved it so I can’t wait to make this healthier version for myself. (And I love sun-dried tomatoes in anything!) Great recipe & Beautiful photos!!!

  47. Laura ~ Raise Your Garden says

    Despite living in an area highly populated by Italians and due to my very dark skin, am considered to be “one of the family” by all our Italian neighbors….I have yet to hear of arancini and will be asking them about that later. That cauliflower rice looks fantastic, I’ve made it before, but like your new spin on it. And big surprise is like you said…..overall. This recipe looks really healthy.