These baked crispy cauliflower rice balls are a healthier alternative to arancini. They have a crispy coating and a creamy cheesy interior. This is one of my new favorite cauliflower recipes!
Arancini are Italian stuffed rice balls that are usually deep fried. This version uses cauliflower rice instead of regular rice and bakes the balls instead of frying them.
I came up with the idea of wanting to make a cauliflower rice version of arancini a few months ago but I didn’t get around to properly experimenting until now. It took a few attempts, but I am so pleased with how these came out.
I was surprised by how much they actually resemble real arancini. Even when you cut them open, they still look like regular rice balls.
Taste and Texture
Even though these are baked, they have a very crispy exterior just like the fried version. The texture of these is not quite as soft and creamy as traditional arancini since this recipe doesn’t use risotto and cauliflower rice doesn’t absorb the stock and cheese like regular rice does. But these are very flavorful, creamy and cheesy.
I tried my best to keep this recipe as uncomplicated as possible. These cauliflower arancini are ready in less than an hour from start to finish.
- You do not need to pre-cook the cauliflower rice. To save time, most grocery stores sell already cut cauliflower rice so that you don’t have to do it yourself. You can use either fresh or frozen.
- When forming the cauliflower balls, make sure to squeeze out any excess liquid as the liquid will prevent the rice from sticking together.
- The cheese and egg both act as binding agents, so make sure to include both or adjust with a substitute ingredient to bind.
- If you have a cookie scoop, I highly recommend using it to scoop out the rice for the balls as it will be easier to get the rice out of the balls.
- The plastic wrap is key to getting perfectly formed tight balls.
- The trick to getting the bread crumbs to bake an even golden brown so that they look like they have been fried is coating the bread crumbs in oil which is why they are sprayed with cooking oil spray. If you don’t have any cooking oil spray, you can also lightly brush them with oil but be careful not to scrape the bread crumbs off the balls.
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 2-4 tbsp no salt added chicken stock (or low sodium chicken broth)
- 3 cups raw cauliflower rice
- 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 8 (¾ inch) cubes fresh mozzarella
- 2 large eggs, divided
- 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
- cooking oil spray
- freshly grated parmesan (for garnish)
- 1 tsp finely chopped parsley (for garnish)
- 1 cup marinara sauce (for dipping)
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Add oil and garlic to a large skillet and bring to medium high heat. Cook until garlic is lightly browned. Add in the cauliflower and cook until tender. If your cauliflower gets too dry before it's finished cooking, add in a little chicken stock or broth, 1 tbsp at a time. When you are done cooking the cauliflower, the broth should be evaporated because the liquid will make it difficult for the cauliflower to bind together. Turn off heat but keep your skillet on the stove so it stays warm. Stir in 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Mix and stir until cheese is completely melted and you can see the cheese is sticking and binding the cauliflower rice.
- Allow cauliflower rice to cool slightly. You want your mixture to remain warm but you don't want it to be hot enough to cook an egg. Add in one egg and mix into cauliflower mixture until evenly combined.
- Scoop out 3 tbsp (packed) cauliflower rice. I used my 1.5 tbsp cookie scoop* because it has a release mechanism. Squeeze the cauliflower rice between the palm of your hands to remove any excess liquid.
- Take a small piece of plastic wrap (big enough to wrap around your cauliflower rice ball) and place cauliflower rice into the center of it. Press down on the cauliflower rice so that it forms a thick disc. Place a cheese cube into the center. Using the plastic wrap, roll up the sides of the cauliflower disc so that it covers the cheese completely and forms a ball. Use the plastic wrap to shape your ball, squeeze and tightly compact it so that the cauliflower rice ball does not lose its form. Place your ball onto baking sheet and repeat with remaining cauliflower mixture.
- In a small bowl, whisk 1 egg. In a separate bowl, add bread crumbs. Dip cauliflower ball in egg mixture until it is completely coated in a thin layer of egg. Shake a few times so that excess egg drippings drip off (you don't want them dripping into the bread crumbs). Roll cauliflower ball a few times in bread crumbs until fully coated. Place onto baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cauliflower balls.
- Using cooking oil spray, coat each of the balls in a light layer of spray. Make sure to coat the entire ball including the bottom. Place cauliflower balls into oven. Cook for 15 minutes at 400°F. Then increase oven temperature to 425°F. Continue cooking balls for about 10 more minutes or until balls are dark golden brown and crispy.
- Garnish balls with fresh parmesan and parsley. Serve with marinara sauce.
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