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20 Rice Alternatives for Any Diet or Dish

rice alternative
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Brusse

Trying to cut down on rice? Learn about rice alternatives you can use in dishes ranging from soups and salads to curries, risotto, dumplings and stir-fries.

There are all sorts of reasons why people may choose to eat less rice. Whether you’re looking to cut down on carbohydrates or calories, you suffer from allergies, or you just want to incorporate more flavors and textures into your diet, these rice alternatives might be exactly what you’re looking for. Expand your palette and your pantry with other grains, pseudograins, extra veggies and more.

Grains as a Rice Alternative

Quinoa is a complete protein rice alternative.
Quinoa is a complete protein rice alternative.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / sweetlouise)

Some crops which we know as ‘grains’ are actually seeds or pseudograins. While some seeds are included in this section, we’ll tell you about pseudograins in a separate section below.

  1. Barley: Barley is high in fiber and protein compared to rice. Swap it out for rice when you want to get more vitamins and minerals. It’s great for soups, stews, stuffing and salads. 
  2. Quinoa: Although quinoa is actually a seed, is consumed as a grain. Quinoa makes for a delicious gluten-free rice swap, and it contains loads of nutrients. In fact, it has all nine essential amino acids. Use quinoa in salads, veggie bowls, burger patties, for stuffed veggies and more.
  3. Adlai: Adlai belongs to the grass family, along with corn and rice. It’s high in fiber and protein, and makes a great low-carb, gluten-free rice alternative. Adlai is very filling, and has a texture similar to rice. Use it for stir-fries, risotto, curries and fried-rice dishes.
  4. Grits: Corn grits have about the same amount of carbs and calories as white rice, but they’re packed with nutrients. They are typically eaten with cheese and gravy for breakfast. You can also make sweet grit porridge, as a sweet milk rice alternative. They’re also gluten-free.
  5. Freekeh: This is a full-grain high in fiber and protein. Freekeh has a rich, nutty and smoky flavor which makes it perfect for stews, salads, pilafs, curries and risottos.

Grains, especially whole grains, are usually quite high in carbs, which is why they are not suitable for a keto or low-carb diet. You can consume it, but shouldn’t eat full portions of it or use it as a base when on this diet, but rather use it as a small side.

You Can Use Veggies Instead of Rice

Get creative and swap rice out for veggies.
Get creative and swap rice out for veggies.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Einladung_zum_Essen)

You might already combine veggies and rice in many of your meals, but you can actually also use them as a rice alternative. Simply grate them into small strips to have them resemble rice, or leave as is.

  1. Cauliflower rice: Made from grated cauliflower, this is a super easy low-carb, keto rice alternative for everything from stir-fries to burritos. You can even make homemade cauliflower rice at home.
  2. Broccoli rice: The same idea as cauliflower rice, broccoli rice is a low-carb, keto rice swap you can use for fried rice, salads, rice bowls and more.
  3. Cabbage: Chopped cabbage can make a good keto-friendly rice alternative. Cabbage is high in vitamin C, and contains very few carbohydrates and calories. Use cabbage as a rice replacement in spring rolls and dumplings. 
  4. Greens: Use lettuce mixtures to replace a bed of rice if you’re looking for a lighter, or keto-friendly meal. Get your vitamins and minerals while cutting down on calories by swapping rice for romaine lettuce, spinach, sprouts, arugula and other greens. 
  5. Sweet potato: Packed with vitamins and minerals, sweet potato is a versatile veggie that can be used to replace rice. Whether you bake, fry or steam sweet potato, it always comes out great. While this option is not low-carb, sweet potatoes are packed with healthy complex carbohydrates. They also have more fiber than rice. Use sweet potato for more filling salads, soups and bowls. 
  6. Potato: Just like the sweet potatoes, regular potatoes can replace rice in a variety of dishes. If you want a more neutral flavor base for dishes like curry, potato may be the way to go. 


Try these wheat-based pseudograins as rice alternatives.
Try these wheat-based pseudograins as rice alternatives.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / kirahoffmann)

Couscous, bulgur, orzo and farro are all pseudograins that can be used to replace rice in salads, bowls, curries, and stuffed veggies. These pseudograins are all made from wheat, so they are not low-carb or gluten-free. However, they are processed differently so that they are higher in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Couscous is a great choice for Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, while farro is recommended for a more chewy texture and nutty taste. Still, all four of these pseudograins make simple and effective rice alternatives for a variety of dishes. 

Other Rice Alternatives

Try out Japanese soba noodles.
Try out Japanese soba noodles.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / rhapsody90)
  • Chickpeas: Chickpeas have the same amount of carbs as rice, but are higher in protein. They’re a great option if you want to switch up your regular meal while serving yourself some extra calcium and iron. Chickpeas are great for soups, stir-fries and salads, for example this vegan chickpea salad.
  • Lentils: Super high in protein and low in fat, lentils are a hardy rice alternative, perfect for stew and curry. Learn how to cook red lentils for ideal taste and texture.
  • Buckwheat, egg, and wheat noodles: There are loads of different noodles you can use to replace rice in Asian dishes. Buckwheat noodles, or soba noodles, are popular in Japanese dishes. Egg noodles are good for stir-fries, and there are lots of different types of wheat-based noodles as well. Udon noodles, for example, are a fun way to change up your typical curry night. For a rice alternative that’s a veggies and noodles at the same time, learn how to make zoodles.

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