Spicy Brown Rice Arancini w/Quick Honey-Fennel Marmalade

Oh haiiii, yummy, gooey, spicy, fried, crispy rice balls here for day two of my Tabasco 10 ingredient challenge. Uh-huh. These brown rice balls demand all the tasty adjectives out there, I mean, hello, fried rice balls with cheesy goodness. Nuff said. I first encountered arancini when I was living in Madrid (I know, I know, they're Italian). I remember stumbling upon this little spot near the school I was teaching at called La Vita e Bella by literally following my nose. The heavenly smell of pizza and pasta wafted through the air and I couldn't help but follow. And thankfully, I did, because I was greeted by the cutest little Italian takeaway spot and tried my first arancini. (Cue the party poppers, please.) Anyway, that little ball of fried rice was so hot that it immediately burnt the roof of my mouth, but that didn't stop me for nearly inhaling the whole thing in less than a minute. CHEESY HEAVEN.  

These spicy brown rice arancini are a play on the insanely delicious arancini I had in Madrid (way back when, gosh I think that was like SIX years ago). I've spiced them up with some Jalapeño Tabasco, added some chopped fennel fronds, julienned zucchini, and an egg white to keep the rice together. Obviously salt and pepper made an appearance. I also made my own bread crumbs from half a loaf of ciabatta bread, which btw, is super easy to do! The end result was a slightly healthier version of my first arancini experience.

The first arancini I had was (yes, I only had ONE) definitely made with leftover risotto, so it was super duper creamy and decadent. These are just as tasty without all that added cream, thanks to the zing from the Tabasco. And because Jalapeño Tabasco is milder than the original, you can actually use more, adding more acidity and flavor to the rice! I served these up with some quick honey-fennel marmalade made by essentially caramelizing fennel with a bit of honey and a few dashes of Tabasco. I highly recommend whipping it up, breaking an arancini bite in half and spreading a little on both halves. Molto bene!

Quick note, these bites definitely demand to be served hot, like right out of the pot hot, so pull together a few friends, grab a few cold ones, and dig in!

This is Part 2 of Tabasco's 10 Ingredient Challenge – 5 recipes made from any of these 10 ingredients: Tabasco (Original Red, Green Jalapeño, or Chipotle), Chicken, Eggs, Mozzarella, Fennel, Zucchini, Rice (Brown, Basmati, Jasmine, or Wild), Rigatoni, Ciabatta, Honey, (Bonus Ingredients: Salt, Pepper, and Oil). 

Spicy Brown Rice Arancini w/Quick Honey-Fennel Marmalade

Adapted from Honest Cooking

Serves 4 to 6, depending on portion size



  • 1/2 loaf of ciabatta bread


  • 3 c. cooked short grain brown rice, cooled to room temperature
  • 1/4 c. thinly julienned zucchini
  • 1/8 c. chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 large egg white
  • 4 tsp. Jalapeño Tabasco
  • 3 oz. mozzarella, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 4 c. homemade ciabatta breadcrumbs
  • 3 large eggs, beaten well
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • High heat canola oil, for frying


  • 1 bulb fennel, cored and sliced into 1/8" thick slices
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 3-4 dashes, Jalapeño Tabasco


  • Chef's knife and bread knife
  • Cutting board
  • Rimmed baking sheet
  • Food processor or high-speed blender
  • Heavy bottomed pot
  • Paper towels
  • Small saucepan
  • Spider
  • Spatula
  • Oil thermometer



  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut ciabatta into 1-inch cubes and evenly spread on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden.
  4. Let cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a food processor or blender and pulse until coarse crumbs form. You should have about 4 cups.


  1. Mix first five ingredients together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. Place about 1/3 cup brown rice in your palm (make sure your hands are wet) and press into a flat round (don't be afraid to give it a good squish). Place a cube of mozzarella in the middle and then enclose by forming the flat round into a ball (again use a little force to squish it all together). Set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and repeat until you have used up all the rice and cheese.
  2. Set up your breading station: set out your bowl of beaten eggs (seasoned with salt and pepper), and another bowl with the breadcrumbs.
  3. Once all the balls have been rolled out, working one at a time, first roll ball in breadcrumbs, then dip in the egg, turning to evenly coat, and then roll in breadcrumbs again. Make sure to allow any excess egg to drip off before rolling in breadcrumbs for the second time. Place back on the parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the rice balls.
  4. Place tray in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes. Line a large tray with paper towels. Heat 3-4 inches of the oil in a deep heavy-bottom pot or heat deep fryer to 375°F. Remove rice balls from the fridge. Fry the arancini no more than 3 to 4 at a time until golden brown, turning if necessary, for about 3-4 minutes total. Remove with spider and place on tray lined with paper towels to drain. Season with sea salt. 
  5. Serve and enjoy hot!


  1. Heat olive oil in a small pan on medium.  Sauté fennel for 3-4 minutes then, add a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover with a tightly fitted lid and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 10 minutes or until the fennel is softened and caramelized. Add honey and tabasco and cook on low for 2-3 additional minutes. 
  2. Transfer to a small serving dish.

Pssttt, Tabasco, you're awesome for sponsoring this post. All opinions, ideas, and figurative party popper poppings are my own. Hope you guys are following along with the #Tabasco10 on social media!

PS - Did  you see i am a food blog's Spicy Chicken Meatballs and Grilled Cheese Skewers or Real Food By Dad's Stuffed Chicken Roll yesterday? YAASSSS.