7 Best Substitute For Glutinous Rice

Glutinous Rice Substitute

Glutinous rice, despite its misleading name, is a gluten-free grain that is cherished for its distinctive sticky texture and subtly sweet flavor. This traditional ingredient is a star player in various cuisines across the globe, from the flavorful, aromatic dishes of Asia to the hearty comfort foods of Europe. However, finding a perfect substitute for this unique grain can be a tricky endeavor due to its distinct characteristics.

This article explores the best available substitutes for glutinous rice, each with their individual culinary charm. Whether you’re catering to dietary needs, dealing with local unavailability, or simply feeling a little experimental, these alternatives present excellent options. Not only do they mimic the sticky consistency of glutinous rice, but they also enrich your dishes with a variety of textures and flavors. Here, we break down these substitutes, offering a comprehensive insight into their applications and nutritional profiles, guiding you towards a well-informed choice.

What is Glutinous Rice?

Also known as sticky rice, sweet rice, or waxy rice, glutinous rice is a type of rice that is particularly sticky when cooked. Contrary to what the name might suggest, it contains no gluten. The term ‘glutinous’ describes the glue-like, starchy consistency of the rice. Predominantly found in Asian cuisines, especially Thai and Laotian, it is used in both savory dishes and sweet desserts.

A Glance at Substitutes For Glutinous Rice

  • Arborio Rice
  • Sushi Rice
  • Jasmine Rice
  • Brown Rice
  • Pearl Tapioca
  • Cornstarch
  • Potato Starch

Best Substitutes For Glutinous Rice

Let’s delve deeper into these alternatives, understanding their properties, and how they can be used as effective substitutes for glutinous rice.

Arborio Rice

Originating from Italy, Arborio rice is most commonly associated with the classic dish, risotto. Its high starch content, similar to glutinous rice, gives it a creamy texture when cooked. This makes it an excellent substitute when a sticky consistency is desired in a dish.

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Arborio rice grains are short, fat, and slightly oval in shape. They absorb flavors and liquid beautifully, without losing their firmness, resulting in a delightful chewy ‘al dente’ texture. This property makes them particularly well suited for rice puddings and other dessert recipes that traditionally call for glutinous rice.

The only caveat when using Arborio rice as a substitute is its distinctively robust flavor. It is more pronounced than the relatively neutral taste of glutinous rice, which might subtly alter the flavor profile of your dish. However, this should not be a deal-breaker, as it could also add an interesting layer of complexity to your meal.

Sushi Rice

Sushi rice, a type of Japanese short-grain rice, is another excellent alternative to glutinous rice. Known for its sticky and slightly sweet properties, it is used predominantly in sushi and other Japanese dishes.

The stickiness of sushi rice is attributed to its high content of a specific type of starch called amylopectin, similar to glutinous rice. This allows it to stick together, making it ideal for dishes that require a certain level of stickiness, such as sushi or rice balls.

Despite its similar texture, sushi rice does have a slightly different taste compared to glutinous rice. It’s subtly sweet and vinegary, thanks to the sushi-su (rice vinegar) it’s typically seasoned with. If the dish in question can complement these flavors, sushi rice makes for a very fitting replacement.

Jasmine Rice

Jasmine rice, a long-grain variety native to Thailand, offers an enticing aroma and a beautiful, slightly sticky texture when cooked. Although its grains don’t stick together as much as glutinous rice, it can still be used as a substitute in many dishes.

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One of the key attributes of Jasmine rice is its fragrant, floral aroma, which is reminiscent of jasmine flowers, hence the name. This distinctive scent can add a pleasant, exotic note to your dishes. However, if the scent might interfere with the other flavors in your dish, you may want to opt for another alternative.

Jasmine rice grains are slightly less chewy than glutinous rice, but they still offer a satisfying texture. When cooked, they fluff up nicely but maintain a slight cling, which can work well in dishes that traditionally use glutinous rice.

Brown Rice

For a healthier alternative, you might want to consider brown rice. Unlike white rice varieties, brown rice retains its bran and germ layer, resulting in a higher fiber content and a chewier texture. While it doesn’t achieve the same level of stickiness as glutinous rice, it can still work in many dishes due to its similar shape and size.

Brown rice has a nuttier flavor compared to glutinous rice, which can add depth to your dishes. It does take longer to cook, and you may need to adjust cooking times and liquid quantities accordingly. But if you’re looking for a whole-grain, more nutritious alternative, brown rice is a great option.

Pearl Tapioca

For a departure from rice, pearl tapioca can be an effective substitute for glutinous rice in dessert dishes. Derived from cassava, a root vegetable, pearl tapioca offers a unique texture that can mimic the stickiness of glutinous rice in certain applications.

Pearl tapioca’s gummy, gel-like consistency works wonderfully in puddings and sweet soups, much like glutinous rice. Do keep in mind, though, that the pearls need to be soaked for several hours before use. Also, their clear, slightly sweet taste might vary slightly from the flavor of glutinous rice, but it can blend seamlessly with sweet ingredients.


Another non-rice substitute, cornstarch can be used to mimic the thickening power of glutinous rice. When mixed with liquid and heated, cornstarch creates a translucent, gel-like substance that’s similar to the consistency of cooked glutinous rice.

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While it won’t work as a direct replacement for glutinous rice in most recipes, cornstarch can be used as a thickener in sauces and gravies for dishes that traditionally include glutinous rice. It’s also an excellent choice for creating a glossy finish, just like the sheen often seen in dishes made with glutinous rice.

Potato Starch

Like cornstarch, potato starch can serve as a thickener in various recipes, emulating the sticky texture that glutinous rice provides. It is derived from potatoes and offers a neutral taste that won’t interfere with the other flavors in your dish.

Potato starch creates a smooth, shiny consistency when mixed with water and cooked. This can help replicate the glossiness that glutinous rice imparts to a dish. However, as with cornstarch, it won’t work as a standalone substitute for glutinous rice but can be used in combination with other substitutes.

Substitutes for Glutinous Rice: Nutritional Profile

Here’s a comparative glance at the nutritional profile of these substitutes in a ¼ cup serving:

Arborio RiceNo2000g45g0g4g
Sushi RiceNo1500g34g0.6g3g
Jasmine RiceNo1600g35g0g3g
Brown RiceNo2151.8g44g3.5g5g
Pearl TapiocaNo1500g37g0g0g
Potato StarchNo1600g40g3g0g

All nutritional values are approximate.

A Toast to Adaptability: Final Thoughts

Food is an ever-evolving landscape, shaped by necessity, creativity, and adaptability. While the unique sticky texture and subtly sweet flavor of glutinous rice hold a distinctive place in culinary traditions, several worthy substitutes exist for those moments when it’s unattainable. Each of these alternatives offers their unique spin, bringing in exciting textures and flavors to the culinary table. So, next time you’re out of glutinous rice, don’t hold back on trying out these substitutes. You may just discover a new favorite. Remember, the essence of cooking lies in the joy of experimentation. Happy Cooking!

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