| | | |

Copycat Trader Joe’s Arancini

Arancini are cheese-filled fried risotto balls. They make great appetizers or as a hearty side for a meat or poultry dish.

We used to love buying these at Trader Joe’s but, sniff sniff, they’ve been discontinued. Well, just because Trader Joe’s isn’t making them anymore doesn’t mean that we can’t. So we created this copycat Trader Joe’s arancini recipe. Ours come out a bit bigger than the frozen ones (they were actually called “Arancini Bites”), but I think we captured the taste and texture.

FYI, in Italian arancini translates to little oranges. Weirdly, the Italian word for tangerines is mandarino. That makes sense — mandarin organes. So, I’m not sure what a little orange is and why it’s arancini.

aracini rice balls on plate with marinara sauce.
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

How to Make Copycat Trader Joe’s Arancini Rice Balls

This recipe includes our stand-alone basic risotto recipe along with instructions on assembling and frying the balls. Ours is a basic recipe that includes a risotto ball stuffed with soft cheese.

Feel free to be creative and add a small piece of ham or bacon, or a few peas, to the center of the ball along with the cheese. You are limited only by your imagination and the size of the risotto ball you wish to create. I usually serve them with a side of marinara for dipping.

If you followed our advice when making our stand alone risotto recipe and made extra that you froze, simply defrost the risotto on the counter until it is malleable and skip to the “Assemble the Arancini” section of the recipe card below.

Arancini Ingredients

Here are the basic ingredients you’ll need for these Italian rice balls made from risotto aka arrabio rice. Trust us: you’ll love this copycat Trader Joe’s recipe. Now to make it.

arancini ingredients photo labeled

Step to make copycat Trader Joe’s arancini or rice balls

First, you’re going to make the risotto. Then, you’ll be working on the rice balls themselves.

Making risotto

So, get started by putting on the pot of chicken broth or stock (we forgot to get a picture of this but you know how to boil this, right?) In a separate large skillet (12 inches or so) or five quart dutch oven at medium heat, warm the olive oil and two tablespoons of butter until it shimmers.

making risotto adding olive oil to butter in pan
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Add the onions.

making risotto adding onions
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Cook for about 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently until translucent.

making risotto stirring onions
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Add the garlic and salt. Cook for about a minute.

making risotto adding garlic
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.
making risotto adding salt
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Add the arborio rice for risotto.

making risotto adding rice to pan
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Stir continuously until the rice browns just a bit. This should take about three minutes.

making risotto stirring after adding rice to pan
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

While continuing to stir, add about half of the wine.

making risotto adding wine first time
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Once it is absorbed in the rice (about two minutes), add the other half of the wine. Continue to stir. In about two minutes the rest of the wine should be absorbed.

making risotto adding second bit of wine
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Once the wine is absorbed, add about three cups of soup stock. Let the rice simmer in the stock until it is absorbed (about five minutes). Stir frequently.

making risotto adding chicken stock
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Once the soup is just about absorbed, check the rice. If it is still too al dente (it likely will be) add the rest of the soup. Then, if the rice is still too al dente, add water— or more soup stock if you have it. Do this 1/4 cup at a time until it reaches the desired texture.

making risotto adding water
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

When the rice is at the desired texture, remove from heat. We transferred the rice to a bowl first before adding these final ingredients. That was butter, pepper and Parmsean cheese. Then we mixed thoroughly.

final steps for making risotto
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Assembling the rice balls

Place the risotto in the refrigerator or freezer while you prep the next steps. Cooler rice is easier to handle. Now, cube the cheese and set it aside.

Create an assembly line with the flour, egg (beaten) and breadcrumbs, in that order, in separate bowls. I use half of the amounts of each of these ingredients at a time to reduce food waste.

assembly line for rice balls
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Remove the risotto from the refrigerator. To assemble each arancini, use about ¼ cup of rice to make a pancake of risotto on your palm. Place a cube of cheese in the center.

placing cheese in rice ball
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Make a fist, creating a ball of risotto around the cheese. Squeeze gently to firm up the ball.

making rice ball with cheese inside
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Coat the ball in flour, then egg, and finally the bread crumbs. Place on parchment paper and repeat until the risotto is used up.

three steps for coating rice balls
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Frying the rice balls

Add about half of the oil to a small (7-9 inch) skillet. The smaller skillet reduces the amount of oil you waste at the end. And forces you to fry in small batches, which reduces the chance of burning. Once you’ve heated the oil until shimmering, place four to six rice balls in the pan. Let them fry for about 45 seconds, until golden brown on the bottom. Roll them over until the entire ball is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.

frying rice balls golden brown
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Place cooked arancini on a plate covered in paper towel. Repeat until all of the rice balls are cooked.

place fried rice balls on paper towel
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Storing your copycat Trader Joe’s rice balls

Since the set up can be time consuming and messy, I recommend making at least two meal’s worth and freezing your arancini. Then, whenever you’re craving these discontinued Trader Joe’s rice balls, you’ll have some to nosh.

To freeze simply wait for them to cool and put them in the freezer in an air tight container. I prefer to use containers rather than freezer bags to avoid crushing the arancini in my sometimes overcrowded freezer.

Side note: when sharing links for shopping, we include something called affiliate links. That means that if you click through our links and buy something, we receive a small commission. There is no cost to you for using our links.

Anyway, our favorite air-tight containers are the ones from Rubbermaid. They a vented top so that if you put hot food away, it won’t cause a vacuum seal and make it impossible to open the top later on. We buy these food storage containers in bulk from Target.

They can be heated from frozen in an oven at 350 degrees. Don’t bother to preheat the oven. Pop them in, turn the oven on. In about 15-20 minutes they will be ready to eat. Of course, you could always try the microwave but that might make them mushy. Note to self: I need to try reheating these in the air fryer and see how that goes.

cheese pull close up trader joes rice balls copycat
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Save This Recipe?

Enter your email & we’ll send it to your inbox. Then, when we publish anything new, we’ll send that along as well.

Save Article

By submitting this form, you consent to receive emails from Bagels and Lasagna.

arancini rice balls on plate with marinara sauce.

Copycat Trader Joe’s Arancini

Arancini are cheese-filled fried risotto balls. They make great appetizers or as a hearty side for a meat or poultry dish.
We used to love buying these at Trader Joe's but, sniff sniff, they've been discontinued. Well, just because Trader Joe's isn't making them anymore doesn't mean that we can't.
FYI, in Italian arancini translates to little oranges. Weirdly, the Italian word for tangerines is mandarino. That makes sense — mandarin organes. So, I'm not sure what a little orange is and why it's arancini.
This recipe includes our stand-alone risotto recipe along with instructions on assembling and frying the balls. Ours is a basic recipe that includes a risotto ball stuffed with soft cheese.
Feel free to be creative and add a small piece of ham or bacon, or a few peas, to the center of the ball along with the cheese. You are limited only by your imagination and the size of the risotto ball you wish to create. I usually serve them with a side of marinara for dipping.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Resting time 20 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 16 arancini
Calories 604 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

For the Risotto

  • 2 cups short-grained rice Arborio is the most common risotto rice.
  • 4 tablespoons butter Unsalted preferred, evenly divided into two pieces.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • cups onion Chopped, about 1 medium.
  • 3 teaspoons garlic About three cloves, crushed or finely chopped.
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt Less if using salted butter.
  • 4 cups soup stock Chicken is traditionally used, but use vegetable to make the recipe vegetarian.
  • 1 cup sauvignon blanc I use whatever white wine is handy.
  • 1 cup water Optional if the rice is too al dente.
  • ¾ cup Parmesan Grated, Pecorino Romano or similar cheese works great too.
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper To taste.

For the Arancini — all measurements are approximate.

  • 2 cups neutral cooking oil Canola or similar is great.
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups bread crumbs Any kind work. Use panko to get closest to the Trader Joe's texture.
  • ½ lb Fontina cheese Substitute mozzarella in a pinch. Cut into cubes about ½-¾ the size of a game die.

Instructions
 

Prepare the Risotto (If using left over risotto, skip to "Assemble the Arancini".)

  • In a small stock pot, warm your broth.
    4 cups soup stock
  • In a separate large skillet (12 inches or so) or five quart dutch oven at medium heat, warm the olive oil and two tablespoons of butter until it shimmers.
    4 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Add the onions and cook for about 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently until translucent.
    1½ cups onion
  • Add the garlic and salt. Cook for about a minute.
    3 teaspoons garlic, 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • Add the rice. Stir continuously until it browns just a bit. This should take about three minutes.
    2 cups short-grained rice
  • While continuing to stir, add about half of the wine. Once it is absorbed in the rice (about two min) add the other half. Continue to stir. In about two minutes the rest of the wine should be absorbed.
    1 cup sauvignon blanc
  • Once the wine is absorbed, add about three cups of soup stock. Let the rice simmer in the stock until it is absorbed (about five minutes). Stir frequently
    4 cups soup stock
  • Once the soup is just about absorbed, check the rice. If it is still too al dente (it likely will be) add the rest of the soup. Once this is absorbed, if the pasta is still al dente add water (or more soup stock if you have it) 1/4 cup at a time until it reaches the desired texture.
    1 cup water
  • Once the rice is at the desired texture, remove from heat, add the remaining butter, pepper and Parmsean cheese and mix thoroughly.
    ¾ cup Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Assemble the Arancini

  • Place the risotto in the refrigerator or freezer while you prep the next steps. Cooler rice is easier to handle.
  • Cube the cheese. Set aside.
  • Create an assembly line with the flour, egg (beaten) and breadcrumbs, in that order, in separate bowls. I use half of the amounts of each of these ingredients at a time to reduce food waste.
    2 large eggs, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 cups bread crumbs
  • Place a parchment-lined baking sheet at the end of the assembly line.
  • Remove the risotto from the refrigerator.
  • To assemble each arancini, use about ¼ cup of rice to make a pancake of risotto on your palm.
  • Place a cube of cheese in the center.
    ½ lb Fontina cheese
  • Make a fist, creating a ball of risotto around the cheese. Squeeze gently to firm up the ball.
  • Coat the ball in flour.
    2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Coat the floured ball in egg.
    2 large eggs
  • Coat the egged ball in bread crumbs.
    2 cups bread crumbs
  • Place on parchment paper.
  • Repeat until the risotto is used up.

Fry the Arancini

  • Add about half of the oil to a small (7-9 inch) skillet. The smaller skillet reduces the amount of oil you waste at the end. And forces you to fry in small batches, which reduces the chance of burning.
    2 cups neutral cooking oil
  • Heat the oil until shimmering. Place the rest of the oil aside and add it to the skillet as needed while frying.
  • Place 4-6 arancini in the hot oil. Let them fry for about 45 seconds, until golden brown on the bottom. Roll them over until the entire ball is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Place cooked arancini on a plate covered in paper towel.
  • Repeat until all of the balls are cooked.

Nutrition

Serving: 1AranciniCalories: 604kcalCarbohydrates: 45gProtein: 13gFat: 40gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 9gMonounsaturated Fat: 22gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 52mgSodium: 480mgPotassium: 221mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 290IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 180mgIron: 2mg

Disclaimer

Please note that nutrient values, if included with the recipe, are estimates only. Variations can occur due to product availability/substitution and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of origin, preparation, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating