8 Healthy Alternatives to Rice (and How to Make Them Taste Better)

Fewer carbs, fewer problems

Listen, we love carbs. But despite their deliciousness, we fully admit that many, like our beloved rice, aren’t great for us. That’s where these eight alternatives come in. They’re similar to rice in texture and, if you cook them right, in taste too.

rice cauliflower
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell


In case you haven’t noticed, we’re really into cauliflower. And why shouldn’t we be? It’s nutritious (including vitamin K, which acts as an anti-inflammatory), and it’s incredibly versatile. One of our favorite ways to prepare it is as a lower-carb version of rice that can be used interchangeably with the real thing. Whether beneath a stir-fry or added into a soup, this recipe, which comes together in just ten minutes, has become a staple in our kitchen.

What to make: Cauliflower Rice

rice quinoa
The Recipe Critic


Quinoa is kind of like the grain version of cauliflower. It’s so good for you (one cup has eight grams of protein) and can be used in so many different ways, from sweet, oatmeal-like dishes and even pancakes to healthier versions of typically bad-for-you ones, like this “fried” rice that will leave you feeling way better than you do after scarfing down takeout.

What to make: Quinoa Fried “Rice”

rice lentil
My New Roots


Well, this was a pleasant surprise. Risotto, as delicious as it is, often leaves us feeling overly full and really weighed down. Not so when we replace the traditional Arborio rice with white lentils, which are grain-free, cook quickly and are higher in protein than rice would be, all without losing the creamy goodness of the real thing.

What to make: White Lentil Risotto with Mushrooms

rice farro
Cait's Plates


Mexican-inspired rice bowls get a healthy update with farro, an ancient wheat grain that has a chewy texture and slight nutty flavor. In addition to a satisfying heartiness, farro has lots of protein, fiber, iron and magnesium. Heads up that it’s definitely not gluten-free though.

What to make: Black Bean, Corn, Sweet Potato and Farro Bowl

rice barley
Bowl of Delicious


With a great nutty flavor and chewy, almost pasta-like consistency, barley is a terrific substitute for rice in pretty much all traditionally rice-based dishes, like these “rice” balls. Barley also has 32 grams of fiber per cup; fiber that feeds the healthy bacteria in your intestines, keeping you regular.

What to make: Oven-Baked Italian “Rice” Balls

rice sorghum
Feasting At Home


An ancient cereal grain that is gluten-free, sorghum, unlike lots of other grains, doesn’t have an inedible hull, meaning it retains the majority of its nutrients. It also contains policosanols, compounds proven to have heart-healthy properties. Its neutral flavor and tiny size lend themselves nicely to soups and stews, where they add a subtle texture and taste without being overpowering.

What to make: Tuscan White Bean Stew

rice bulgur
Veggie and the Beast


 Bulgur is high in fiber (24 grams per cup), low in fat and calories and a staple of the Mediterranean diet. It’s abundant in B vitamins, iron, phosphorous and manganese and, since the bulgur you typically find in the store is already partially cooked, preparation is super speedy once you get it home.

What to make: Bulgur Black Bean Chili

rice oats
MJ and Hungry Man


While typically used in savory dishes, rice is also the star of one of our favorite sweet treats, rice pudding. For a lightened-up, heart-healthier version, use oats instead of rice. When simmered in milk, the texture is virtually identical to normal rice pudding, but with the added bonus of fiber and enough protein to keep you full for hours.

What to make: Mexican Oat Pudding with Spicy Nut Clusters

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Freelance Editor

From 2015-2020 Lindsay Champion held the role of Food and Wellness Director. She continues to write for PureWow as a Freelance Editor.