Vegan Lentil Bolognese Rice Balls

Arancini are a basic recipe for rice balls from Italy, Sicily. We both grew up eating these delicious snacks, especially Marta as her family is from Sicily. Today we show you how to make the classic bolognese ragù rice balls vegan with our Vegan Lentil Bolognese Arancini Recipe. They will love it!

frequently asked Questions

Which lentils are best for this vegan Bolognese?

You can use green, brown, or red lentils to make this vegan bolognese sauce filling.

While green and brown lentils hold their shape better when cooked, red lentils can get mushy. So it’s up to your personal preference, the ragù sauce will be delicious either way.

Using canned lentils saves time because you don’t have to soak them and they cook much faster. We used canned brown lentils in our recipe, but you can opt for the dry legumes if you prefer.

To do this, follow the steps below:

  1. Start with half the amount of dry lentils and place them in a bowl of water.

  2. Let them soak at room temperature for at least 4 hours, or better yet, overnight.

  3. Then drain and rinse thoroughly and add to the passata as we did in our recipe above.

  4. Finally, increase the cooking time from 15 to 25 minutes and check that the lentils are soft and cooked through.

What can I use instead of egg milk to bread the arancini?

Many arancini recipes involve dipping the rice balls in an egg-water solution before coating them with the breadcrumbs. In our recipe we have made a vegan alternative from flaxseed. Soaking ground flaxseed in water results in a thick, gel-like mixture that’s perfect as an egg substitute.

If you can’t find flax seeds, you can use chia seeds and water in equal proportions.

Alternatively, you can opt for a dough made from flour and cold water. Use them in a ratio of 1:1.5, for example 100 ml (3.5 fl oz) flour and 65 g (2 oz) flour. Mix them in a bowl to form a liquid batter. Check out our Vegan Asparagus Arancini Recipe to see how we made it.

How can I make rice balls gluten free?

Making Italian Arancini gluten-free is incredibly easy, all you have to do is substitute gluten-free options for plain flour and breadcrumbs.

You can:

  • Use store-bought gluten-free flour and breadcrumbs.

  • Swap the flour and water in the breading for a flaxseed egg or chia egg.

  • Use ground nuts and seeds to make gluten-free breadcrumbs.

    We used cashews and black sesame in our Asparagus Arancini, while we used a combination of ground almonds, cashews, and pumpkin seeds in these seafood rice balls.

How to cook arancini balls?

Italian-style rice balls are traditionally deep fried, but you can also bake them in the oven or air fryer for a healthier, low-fat option.

Bread the arancini, place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and bake at 220°C (430°F) for at least 30 minutes. There is no need to brush the rice balls with oil before baking, as the breadcrumbs will crisp up in the oven, resulting in perfectly crispy croquettes.

For the Airfryer option, position the prepared rice balls in the basket, leaving some space between them to allow for an even flow of air. Then set the air fryer to its highest temperature (ours reaches up to 200°C / 390°F) and cook for 15 minutes.

Are Italian Rice Balls Vegan?

Today, arancini come in countless variations, but the most traditional filling is with Bolognese sauce and peas. Ham and béchamel sauce or seafood fillings are also very popular in Sicily, where these snacks originated.

Classic Italian Rice Balls are not vegan as they may contain beef, pork, seafood, cheese and butter.

However, with simple ingredients, you can easily make delicious vegan fillings for your rice balls. Eggplant and chickpeas, cashew cream and asparagus, or tomato and lentil sauce are all excellent plant-based combinations to try.

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