Crispy, flavorful vegan rice balls, a Brazilian staple recipe made with leftover rice! Baked rice balls are a perfect way to use up leftover rice, offering a delightful and nutritious gluten-free recipe for the whole family. Dip them or eat them as is!
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Hey there, fellow food enthusiasts! Today, I'm excited to share a delightful journey back to my Brazilian roots with the crispy and delicious Brazilian rice balls. Picture this: a golden, crunchy shell with a soft, flavorful center, each bite a harmony of textures and tastes, telling a story.
Growing up in Brazil, rice was more than a staple in our home- it was a canvas of culinary creativity. Even after moving to Canada, the comforting taste of homemade Bolinho de Arroz stayed with us. Cooking these baked rice balls with my aunt, our kitchen filled with laughter, and the aroma of these little wonders, was like holding onto a piece of Brazil. It is also the main reason why I worked so hard to develop and test this vegan gluten-free version, just like how we made our vegan version of Brazilian Cheese bread, or vegan Pao de Queijo!
Creating a Vegan Version
This recipe's simplicity and versatility are what I love most. Perfect for a gluten-free and vegan diet, baked rice balls are easy to prepare, with rice naturally binding everything together. Whether baked, fried, or air-fried, they're always a hit – less oily and utterly satisfying. Making these bolinho de arroz with my three boys is always fun; they love shaping the balls and waiting for that first crunchy bite. Check out our Instagram to see us making this fun recipe!
So, let's bring a taste of Brazil into your kitchen with this easy, delicious baked Bolinho de Arroz recipe. Your taste buds are in for a treat! And for an easy vegan dessert why not make our vegan Brigadeiro as well (Brazil's classic chocolate truffle!)
👪Why You'll Love Vegan Rice Balls
Wondering why these baked vegan rice balls should be your next family meal adventure? Here are some fun reasons that'll have everyone at the table asking for seconds:
- Crispy, Crunchy Fun: Who doesn't love a good crunch? These vegan rice balls have a satisfyingly crispy exterior that's just so fun to bite into. It's like a little party in your mouth with every crunch!
- Dippable Delights: Dip them in your favorite sauces! Whether it's a classic marinara or a creamy vegan dip, these gluten free rice balls are perfect for dunking. Dipping not only adds to the flavor but also makes eating more interactive and enjoyable, especially for the kiddos.
- Leftover Magic: Got some leftover rice? Turn it into these amazing rice balls! It's a creative and delicious way to reduce food waste and transform something simple into something extraordinary.
- A Flavorful Journey: Every bite is a little journey to Brazil, bringing a burst of culture and flavor to your dinner table. It's a great way to explore world cuisines right from the comfort of your home.
🥒Will Picky Eaters Eat This?
Absolutely! My three boys love these and here's why these vegan rice balls are a hit with even the fussiest eaters:
- Kid-Friendly Texture: The crispy outside and soft inside are a big win with kids. It's a texture that's generally well-received and can make mealtime exciting.
- Fun to Eat: Their small, bite-sized nature makes them perfect for little hands. Plus, they're just plain fun to eat, especially when you can dip them!
- Tasty but Not Overwhelming: The flavors in bolinho de arroz are delicious yet not too overpowering for sensitive palates, making them a safe bet for picky eaters.
- Customizable: Whether it's adding some vegan cheese for a gooey center or mixing in some veggies for extra nutrition, you can easily tweak this recipe to suit your family's taste buds.
So, why not give these a try? They're a tasty, fun, and nutritious option that's sure to bring smiles all around your dinner table. And hey, don't forget to get creative with those dips – it's all part of the fun!
🌴Cultural Significance of Bolinho de Arroz in Brazil
Bolinho de Arroz, a simple yet beloved dish in Brazil, carries with it a rich tapestry of cultural significance and history. Originating as a resourceful way to use leftover rice, this dish has evolved into a staple of Brazilian cuisine, celebrated for its versatility and deliciousness.
In Brazilian culture, rice balls are more than just a tasty snack; it's a symbol of resourcefulness and familial warmth. Traditionally, Brazilian households, known for their strong family bonds, would prepare this dish as a means to ensure nothing went to waste, embodying the ethos of sustainability long before it became a global trend.
The recipe for baked rice balls varies from region to region, with each household adding its unique twist, making it a reflection of Brazil's diverse culinary landscape. Whether served as a savory snack at family gatherings, a street food delight, or as a side dish in local restaurants, each bite of Brazilian rice balls are infused with a sense of home and heritage.
Today, Bolinho de Arroz continues to be a cherished part of Brazilian cuisine, connecting generations and serving as a delicious reminder of the country's rich cultural fabric and the simple joy of shared meals.
🧠Brain-Boosting Perks of Rice
Did you know that our beloved baked rice balls is more than just a tasty snack? It's actually a brain booster in disguise! Let's break down how these yummy rice balls can be a smart addition to your family's diet:
- Smart Food Power: Rice isn't just filling; it's smart food! Studies show that rice can be great for brain health, helping with things like memory and learning (1). It's like a brain gym in every bite!
- Vitamin B Bonanza: Brown rice especially, is packed with B vitamins. These are like the brain's best friends, keeping our nerve cells happy and our thinking sharp (2,3,4).
- Antioxidant Army: Some types of rice come with antioxidants. These little warriors fight off stress in our brains, keeping our minds clear and focused (2,3,4).
- Mood Mender: Ever heard of GABA? It's a neurotransmitter with calming effects on the brain (3,4). Some types of rice contain a higher amount of GABA and can help keep our moods balanced (3,4). So, a bite of bolinho might just turn that frown upside down! Source
- Steady Energy Supply: Rice gives us slow-releasing energy, perfect for keeping our brains running smoothly all day (1,3). No more mid-afternoon brain fog!
So, next time you're munching on these delicious rice balls, give yourself a pat on the back for feeding your family's brains as well as their tummies. Smart eating can be delicious too! 🧠
Baked rice balls are a delightful treat, and this version is no exception.
Here's what you'll need for this simple yet flavorful leftover rice recipe:
- Cooked Leftover Rice: The star of our vegan rice balls. Long-grain white rice works best for this recipe, giving the perfect texture. I love using leftover basmati rice and this recipe is a great way to reduce food waste. If you don't have leftover rice no problem, simply cook the rice from dry.
- All-Purpose (Gluten-Free) Flour: I love using Bob's Red Mill GF Flour for its reliability and texture. But you can use regular all-purpose flour if you prefer!
- Tapioca Flour: Helps in binding the ingredients, crucial for gluten-free rice balls.
- Chopped Onion and Fresh Garlic: Adds a subtle sweetness and depth of flavor.
- Olive oil: Helps bind the ingredients without the use of eggs and helps give our vegan rice balls that nice crispy exterior.
- Fresh Parsley: I prefer fresh herbs for that burst of garden-fresh taste.
- Lemon Juice: Adds a zesty twist, making the rice balls even more appetizing.
- Italian Seasoning: I like adding this spice in to help bring out some flavor without being overpowering.
- Salt: To enhance all the flavors.
For full quantities, see the recipe card.
To make the perfect vegan rice balls, it's all about the technique and the love you put into it. Here are some tips to ensure your vegan rice balls turn out delicious every time:
- Right Consistency is Key: For the batter, aim for a moist but firm consistency. If it's too wet, add a bit more gluten-free flour. Remember, the right kind of rice and consistency are crucial for perfect bolinhos de arroz vegano.
- Don't Over-Process: When using the food processor, pulse just until the ingredients are combined and finely chopped. Over-processing can turn your mixture into a paste, which isn't ideal for crispy rice balls.
- Wet Hands for Shaping: To easily shape your rice balls without the mixture sticking to your hands, wet your hands slightly. This makes the process smoother and more enjoyable, especially when involving kids in the kitchen.
- Baking for Perfection: Bake your rice balls until they are golden brown making sure to not overcook them. This not only ensures a crispy exterior but also enhances the flavors inside without drying them out.
- Experiment with Flavors: Feel free to add your twist to the recipe. Adding different herbs or spices can create a new flavor profile, making this traditional recipe a canvas for your culinary creativity.
👩🏽🍳Step-By-Step Instructions: Vegan Rice Balls
Let's dive into the step-by-step process of making these delicious vegan rice balls. Traditionally we deep fry Brazilian vegan rice balls but this recipe uses the oven or air fryer to get them just as crispy and delicious!
Step 1: Crank it up to 425°F (220°C). Let's get things heated! Then In a food processor, combine 1 cup of rice, chopped onions, peeled garlic, fresh parsley, spices, and lemon juice. Pulse until finely chopped making sure not to over-process. You want a textured mixture, not a paste.
Step 2: Transfer this fragrant mixture to a bowl, add the remaining rice, and give it a good stir.
Step 3: Now, sprinkle in the tapioca flour, gluten-free flour, and olive oil. Mix until you've got a moist (but not soggy) batter.
Step 4: Roll the rice balls mixture into balls or tots shapes. If it's too wet, add a bit more flour gradually – but be cautious, as too much flour can affect the taste. Place them on an oiled or non-stick large baking sheet.
Pro Tip: Wet your hands slightly to prevent sticking and achieve smoother balls.
Step 5: Bake in a preheated oven at 425°F for 25 minutes, turning them midway to ensure they're golden brown all over. Keep an eye on them to prevent over-browning, as oven temperatures can vary.
Air Fryer Option:
These vegan rice balls cook well in the air fryer. Simply set your air fryer to 400°F (200°C). Place the balls in the air fryer basket and cook for about 10-15 minutes. You're looking for a beautiful golden brown color.
And there you have it! Whether you bake or air fry, these veggie balls are sure to be a hit. Enjoy the crunch, the flavor, and the smiles all around your table!
⏲️ Time-Saving Tips
Making bolinho de arroz can be a fun and efficient process, even for the busiest parents. Here are some time-saving tips to streamline your cooking:
- Use Leftover Rice: One of the beauties of this recipe is that it uses leftover rice. Always cook a bit extra rice with your meals, so you have the right kind of rice ready for these tasty vegan rice balls.
- Prep in Advance: Chop your onions, garlic, and parsley ahead of time and store them in the fridge. This way, when you're ready to cook, you can just toss them into the food processor.
- Food Processor is Your Friend: Utilize a food processor to quickly blend the ingredients. It not only saves time but also ensures a consistent texture for your baked rice balls.
- Batch and Freeze: Double or triple the recipe and freeze extra batches. These rice balls freeze well, and you can reheat them in the oven or air fryer for a quick meal or snack.
- Air Fryer Option: If you have an air fryer, use it to cook these rice balls. It's faster than the oven and gives a wonderfully crispy texture. Simply set it to 375°F (190°C) and cook until golden brown (roughly 10-15 minutes.)
If you are looking for more time-saving recipes that are easy to batch make check out our vegan meatballs recipe!
🥬Substitutions & Variations
Creating vegan rice balls is all about flexibility and creativity in the kitchen. Remember, it's perfectly fine to "use what we have." This section is designed to offer you alternatives if you're missing an ingredient and to provide variations to tailor the recipe to your family's preferences.
Substitutions for Vegan Rice Balls:
- Rice Varieties: While the best type of rice for this recipe is long-grain varieties like basmati, white, or jasmine, you can also experiment with short-grain rice like brown rice or even sticky rice. Since the rice is pre-cooked you can adjust the amount of water and flour needed to ensure the batter is similar to the consistency in this recipe (see image above).
- Gluten-Free Flour: If you don't have any all-purpose gluten-free flour on hand, you can use chickpea flour or rice flour instead. Just adjust the amount you use, especially as chickpea flour tends to be a more dry, moisture-loving flour.
- Tapioca Flour Alternative: If you don't have tapioca flour, cornstarch is a great substitute. It will still provide the binding needed for the rice mixture. For non-vegan options, an egg will work well. This is a more traditional way to make this recipe. You will use 1 egg for each cup of rice you use.
- Herbs: If fresh parsley isn't available, feel free to use other herbs like cilantro or basil. They'll add a different but equally delightful flavor profile to your rice balls.
- Spicy Vegan Rice Balls: For those who love a bit of heat, adding chili flakes to the rice mixture can create a spicy twist. Serve with a side of marinara sauce for an extra kick.
- Cheesy Delight: Mix in vegan mozzarella cheese for a cheesy version. This can be a great way to introduce a new flavor and make the rice balls more appealing to kids. I love to add a slice of vegan cheese to the center of my vegan rice ball for a gooey surprise :0)
- Sesame Flavor: A dash of sesame oil and a sprinkle of sesame seeds can give your rice balls an Asian-inspired flavor. Pair them with a soy or teriyaki dipping sauce for an easy snack.
- Nutritional Boost: For an extra nutritional punch, add nutritional yeast to your rice mixture. It gives a cheesy flavor and is packed with vitamins, making it a healthy addition.
- Risotto Balls: Transform leftover risotto into delicious risotto balls. The creamy and rich texture of risotto makes for a luxurious variation of the traditional bolinho de arroz.
- Air Fryer Option: For a healthier version, cook your rice balls in an air fryer. This method requires less oil and gives a perfectly crispy texture. Don't forget to use parchment paper for easy cleanup.
- Vegan Italian Rice Balls: Experiment with different herbs like oregano or basil. Then dip your gluten free rice balls in marinara sauce for an extra kick of flavor and fun appetizer!
These substitutions and variations offer you the flexibility to adapt the recipe based on what's available in your pantry or to suit your family's dietary needs and taste preferences. Remember, cooking is an art, and bolinho de arroz is a canvas for your creativity.
Proper storage of your vegan rice balls is essential to maintain their flavor and texture. Whether you've made a big batch for future snacking or have some delightful leftovers, here's how to keep them fresh and delicious.
- Allow the balls of rice to cool to room temperature before storing. This prevents condensation inside the container, which can make them soggy.
- Store the rice balls in an airtight container or cover them with plastic wrap. They will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
- Reheating: To reheat, simply place them in a preheated oven or air fryer until they're warm and crispy again. You can also microwave them, but this might not retain the crispiness.
- Place the cooled rice balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze them until solid. This prevents them from sticking together.
- Once frozen, transfer the rice balls to a freezer bag. They can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- Reheating from Frozen: When ready to eat, there's no need to thaw; just reheat them directly in the oven or air fryer until heated through and crispy.
- Creative Snacks: Leftover baked rice balls makes for a great way to whip up an easy snack. Pair them with different dips like marinara sauce or a vegan cheese dip for a new flavor experience each time.
- Lunchbox Addition: They're also a fantastic addition to lunchboxes, providing a tasty and satisfying meal option that's both gluten-free and vegan-friendly.
By following these storage tips, you can enjoy your vegan rice balls at their best, whether freshly made or as a delightful leftover treat.
The best rice for bolinho de arroz is typically a long-grain variety like basmati or jasmine. These types provide the right texture and flavor. However, you can also experiment with short-grain or sticky rice for different textures.
While traditionally made with leftover rice, you can certainly use freshly cooked rice. Just ensure it's cooled down to room temperature before using. Leftover rice often has the ideal texture for forming the rice balls.
Making vegan rice balls is simple, this recipe is fully vegan. You can substitute eggs and milk for plant-based alternatives such as tapioca flour and water or plant-based milk.
Absolutely! Making Brazilian rice balls in an air fryer is a healthier alternative to frying. Preheat your air fryer to around 375°F (190°C). Place the rice balls in the basket, ensuring they're not touching for even cooking. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until they're golden brown and crispy. You might need to shake the basket halfway through for even crispiness. The air fryer creates a deliciously crispy texture without the excess oil of traditional frying methods.
Baking bolinho de arroz is simple and creates a healthier version of this traditional snack. Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C)and bake for about 20-25 minutes, turning them halfway through the cooking time to ensure they brown evenly. The result is a delightfully crispy exterior with a soft, flavorful interior.
🥣Pairings and More Fun Recipes
I hope you enjoyed our vegan rice balls! For more easy vegan and gluten free recipes be sure to check out these:
Baked Vegan Rice Balls (with Air Fryer)
- 2 cups cooked rice (Basmati or Jasmine (long-grain))
- ½ onion (roughly chopped)
- ½ cup all-purpose flour (can be gluten free AP flour)
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ¼ cup fresh parsley
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon tapioca flour
- Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C)
- In a food processor, combine just 1 cup of rice, chopped onions, peeled garlic, fresh parsley, spices, and lemon juice. Pulse until finely chopped making sure not to over-process. You want a textured mixture, not a paste.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add the remaining cup of rice, and mix.
- Then, incorporate the tapioca flour, flour, and olive oil. Then mix well. The batter should be moist but not too wet.
- Roll the rice ball mixture into balls or tots shapes. If it's too wet, add a bit more flour gradually – but be cautious, as too much flour can affect the taste.
- Place them on an oiled or non-stick baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, turning them midway to ensure they're golden brown all over. Keep an eye on them to prevent over-browning.
- These vegan rice balls cook well in the air fryer. Simply set your air fryer to 400°F (200°C) and cook them until golden brown (roughly 10-15 minutes).
- Koga, M., Kiso, Y., Kusumi, I., & Toyomaki, A. (2016). PT739. Rice is nice: Benefits of rice consumption for brain health. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 19(Suppl 1), 69.
- Zhao, P., Wang, J., Zhao, W., Ma, X., & Sun, H. (2018). Antifatigue and antiaging effects of Chinese rice wine in mice. Food Science & Nutrition, 6(8), 2386-2394.
- Koga, M., Kiso, Y., Kusumi, I., & Toyomaki, A. (2016). Rice is nice: Benefits of rice consumption for brain health. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 19(Suppl 1), 69.
- Study International. (2022). Is rice good brain food? Here’s what science says. Retrieved November 17, 2023.