Air fryer arancini: When the leftovers beat the original

Last night’s risotto becomes this night’s tasty side dish

We suspect arancini – Italian fried rice balls – were invented as a way to dress up someone’s leftover risotto. At least, that’s how we discovered them. And our air fryer makes them easy and a bit less caloric – and still pretty delicious. (Or fry the traditional way and they’ll be just as great.)

Once we started doing our homework on arancini, though, we realized maybe they’re more than someone’s repurposed leftovers. They’ve been a popular street food across southern Italy for a few centuries, with recipes varying from village to village. These crispy fried balls of rice might have any number of fillings, from meat sauce with peas to prosciutto and cheese to eggplant and tomatoes. You can take them pretty much wherever you want flavorwise (there are even sweet versions), and that makes them a perfect fit for the SSS kitchen.

How to make air fryer arancini

Arancini, stuffed with hunks of mozzarella, ready for breading and frying

Since we came into this as air fryer noobs and arancini noobs, we decided to keep it simple. We pulled out the leftovers from the previous night’s risotto with anchovies and capers and some mozzarella. (We didn’t use fresh mozzarella, for fear that it would be too moist.) We cut the mozzarella into rough cubes and inserted one each into a scoop of rice. Then we formed balls around the cheese until they looked like the above.

Ready to bread the arancini: flour, then egg wash, then breadcrumbs

We did a standard triple dip for the coating: first flour, then a dip into the egg wash, then we rolled them in the breadcrumbs until they were thoroughly coated.

The arancini coating: flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs
air fryer arancini

Then it’s time to fry: In our air fryer we did them for 8 minutes on 400 degrees, then flipped them and did another 8 minutes on the other side. Times can vary, depending on your machine, so adjust accordingly.

If you want to go the traditional oil-frying route, you would heat a pan with 2 inches of oil until it’s 350 degrees, then fry for 6-8 minutes or until a golden crust forms. Either way, serve them when they’re hot and enjoy some little nuggets of Italy.

air fryer arancini

We served our arancini with a garlicky aioli, which might not be traditional but seemed to complement the anchovy-garlic-caper risotto that is the base here.

air fryer arancini
Our air fryer arancini, crispy on the outside and creamy-cheesy on the inside, with aioli.

Have you ever tried arancini, in Italy or elsewhere? Have a favorite flavor combination? Share your ideas in our comments section.


Air fryer arancini

We put some leftover risotto to use in making these savory, garlicky arancini, served alongside aioli.

  • Author: Dave_Grimm
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 16 minutes
  • Total Time: 36 minutes
  • Category: leftovers
  • Method: air fryer
  • Cuisine: italian


2 cups cooked risotto

1/2 pound mozzarella, cut into half-inch cubes

2 eggs

1 teaspoon water

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups panko or other breadcrumbs

For aioli:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Peanut oil or other frying oil (if using the oil-frying method)


Make the aioli: Whisk together the mayo, garlic and lemon juice until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Make the arancini: Using a spoon or an ice cream scoop, scoop out a ball of risotto and press a cube of mozzarella into it. Form a ball with the rice until it completely covers the cheese on all sides. (If your rice is sticky, wet your hands to keep it from sticking.) Set the rice ball aside and continue making rice balls until  you’ve used up all of your rice.

Set out three bowls about the size of a cereal bowl. In the first, add the flour and the teaspoon of salt and stir to combine. In the second, crack the eggs and whisk in the teaspoon of water until combined. Add the bread crumbs to the third bowl. 

Using a spoon or your hands, roll a rice ball in the flour and tap to knock off any excess flour. Then dip the ball in the egg wash to moisten all sides of the ball. Then roll the ball in the breadcrumbs until it is completely coated and set aside. Repeat until all rice balls are coated.

Air fryer method: Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees. Place the rice balls in the fryer, separating them so they’re not touching. Cook for 8 minutes, then flip the arancini and cook on the other side for another 8 minutes. Times can vary depending on your fryer, so put them in a little longer if they aren’t crispy to your taste. Once done, remove the arancini from the fryer and serve with the aioli.

Oil-frying method: Add the frying oil to a large cast-iron pan or other skillet until it is 2 inches deep, then heat over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 degrees.  Add the arancini and fry, turning occasionally, until they have developed a golden-brown crust, about 8 minutes. (Be sure not to crowd the pan; add no more than 10 at a time and fry them in batches if needed.) Set the fried arancini on a wire rack over a sheet pan until all of them are fried, then serve immediately with the aioli for dipping.



You can also dip these in a marinara sauce if you want to go the traditional route. You can’t go wrong there.

Keywords: air fryer arancini

Leave a Reply

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