Go Back
+ servings
Print Recipe
5 from 18 votes

Arancini | Air Fryer Arancini | Cheese stuffed Italian Rice Balls

Arancini or Italian Rice Balls, is a very popular street food in Sicily. The classic traditional deep fried recipe gets a makeover by being air fried to make it a healthier and guilt free snack / appetizer. 
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: Italian, Sicilian
Diet: Vegetarian
Servings: 20 pieces
Calories: 95kcal


To make the rice balls

  • 2 cups Cooked rice or risotto I used rice
  • ¼ cup Bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp All purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp Corn starch
  • 1 small Onion finely chopped
  • 1 Bell pepper finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Crushed pepper flakes
  • to taste Salt
  • to taste Pepper
  • 2 tbsp Oil
  • 5 Mozzarella cheese stick cut into 1 inch piece

For the breading

  • 1 cup Bread crumbs
  • 3 tbsp All purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp Corn starch
  • as needed Water to make a batter
  • to taste Salt and pepper


  • Mash the cooked rice or risotto to a very soft mush and keep it aside. Using a potato masher or a flat heavy spoon works well to mash. Also if using leftover rice, warm it up a bit to help mash it easily.
  • In a small pan, add 1 tbsp of oil and sauté the onion and bell peppers until soft. Also add the needed salt and crushed red peppers in it when cooking.
  • Cool it down a bit and then add this vegetable mixture to the mashed rice. Add the corn flour, all purpose flour and bread crumbs and mix well.
  • Take a handful of this mixture and make a ball with your palm. Stuff a piece of mozzarella inside the ball and close it well to form a tight ball. Do the same to the whole mixture and keep it aside.
  • Now form a breading station. In a wide bowl, combine the all purpose flour, corn flour, salt and pepper and add about ¼ cup of water. Mix it well to form a thick batter. In another wide plate, add the bread crumbs and season it (if needed).
  • Dip each of the formed rice ball into the batter and coat it evenly.
  • Now transfer this to the bread crumbs and roll it around to coat the surface. I would suggest using the left hand for the batter and the right hand for the bread crumbs, just to keep the wet and dry separately and not make it messy. Layer all the prepared ones in a tray and keep them ready to deep fry or Air fry. At this stage you could also freeze them to fry later.

To Air Fry the Rice Balls

  • Turn the air fryer on and set it at 360 F. Let it pre-heat for about 3 minutes.
  • Layer the prepared Arancini / Rice balls in a single layer and lightly spray with oil.
  • Let it air fry for about 6 minutes and then check the rice balls. hake the basket to rotate the balls and then let it air fry for 6 more minutes.
  • Depending on the model of the air fryer and how many balls we have or the size of the balls, it might take slightly longer or lesser time. The Air fryer Arancini balls are done when they are evenly golden brown and crispy.

To Deep Fry

  • Heat about 2 inches of oil in a wide
  • Once the oil heats up slowly drop 2 or 3 balls into the oil and fry until evenly brown on all sides. The oil should be just the right temperature to allow cooking the balls to become crispy on the outside and melt the mozzarella slightly inside.
  • Serve hot as is or with some marinara sauce on the side!


Expert Tips 
  • Left over rice works great for this recipe. 
  • Adding onions and bell pepper is optional but adds a great flavor.
  • Season the ingredients at every stage. heck to see if the bread crumbs need seasoning or use seasoned bread crumbs. 
  • When breading the Arancini, I would suggest using the left hand for the batter and the right hand for the bread crumbs. This way we can keep the wet and dry separately and not make it messy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Risotto or Rice - Risotto works great to make the arancini, but I used the regular rice to make them. The only difference that I found from the restaurant one is that mine was a little softer in the middle when compared to the ones made with the risotto that made it chewy in the center.
Can I make them egg less - Absolutely,  I made this egg less using flour as my batter and it worked very well.
What cheese to stuff - I used mozzarella string cheese to stuff inside my Air fryer arancini. Fresh mozzarella balls would be a great choice as well. If you don't have cheese, feel free to skip them as well. 
Can I air fry the Arancini - Absolutely. I have updated the recipe and pictures using an air fryer. The Air Fryer Arancini  taste just the same and makes it a guilt free way to enjoy them. 
Can I freeze the Arancini - You can easily freeze the prepared arancini balls and then air fry or deep fry them when ready. Once the Rice balls are shaped and breaded, place them on a tray and freeze it for couple of hours. They would become hard by then. Transfer the frozen balls into a freezer bag and freeze them for about 3 months. When ready, place the balls directly on to the basket of air fryer and cook. It might take longer than mentioned to air fry the Arancini when starting from frozen. 


Calories: 95kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 107mg | Potassium: 38mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 216IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 1mg