Fried rice balls are not usually a Cuban thing, but they are a delicious Cuban appetizer when you make them with arroz con pollo. These are essentially arroz con pollo fritters, so it’s surprising that it’s not a Cuban thing because we make fritters from just about anything, and we have so many rice dishes.
I first got the idea to make these from Finka Table and Tap, a local restaurant serving Latin fusion food in Miami. They have these on their menu and I just loved them so much I couldn’t wait to try them at home. My mom tried these and loved them too, so they have the Cuban seal of approval.
These rice balls are a perfect way to turn leftover Cuban chicken and rice into great tapas. And I gotta say I so love a tapas party made with leftovers… like picadillo empanadas or ropa vieja sandwich and now these arroz con pollo fritters.
How To Make Rice Balls
My son tells me that these fried rice balls are an Italian appetizer known as arancini, made with leftover risotto. My Cuban arroz con pollo a la chorrera that I made a few days ago uses a short grain rice very similar to risotto. So I can use my arroz con pollo to make a similar rice ball. The sticky rice keeps its shape nicely. But the recipe won’t work as well with long grain rice.
Ingredients for the fried rice balls:
- 2 cups leftover Cuban arroz con pollo a la chorrera
- ¾ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 cup panko break crumbs
- 2 eggs
- Vegetable oil for frying
I took a ¼ cup of rice and shaped into a patty, added about a tablespoon of shredded cheese to the center and shaped into a tight ball. I tried making these with cubes of mozzarella, but the cheese didn’t melt enough when you cooked it. So, I used the shredded cheese. It can get a bit messy stuffing the balls with the shredded cheese, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just make a nice, tight rice ball and then freeze for about ten minutes so they’ll hold their shape while you’re frying.
Then take them out of the freezer, dredge them through flour, dip them in beaten eggs and coat with panko breadcrumbs. You can stick them in the freezer while you heat up the vegetable. Also, fry these on high heat, since they don’t need to be cooked through. This way, the rice balls don’t fall apart. I fried them for about two minutes per side on medium-high heat.
It’s that easy! I like to serve mine with a little siracha mayo. You can buy this ready-made or easily make your own with about a third-cup of mayo and a teaspoon of sriracha sauce. It’s a perfect sauce for these fried rice balls!
You can also make these fried rice balls with leftover paella rice or risotto. And you can stuff them with other types of cheese. Experiment with whatever you have on hand. Add a little wine and you’ve got a tapas night!
Try making my Cuban arroz con pollo or paella mixta first and then make the rice balls with the leftovers. Tell me how you like them!
I love cooking with leftovers because it can be fun finding creative ways to turn the week’s leftovers into party food. It’s like recycling… it’s good for us and good for the environment.
But I almost threw this rice away and missed my chance to make the fried rice balls. I had made a delicious arroz con pollo a few nights ago and had just a bit left, not enough for another night. So it was off to the trash. But then I remembered the arroz con pollo fritters I had at Finka Table & Tap and my leftover rice became this amazing appetizer.
The reason I share this story is because we tend to throw away things that can have a second life, and I’m not just talking about food. Sometimes it’s a part of ourselves or our past. But our past can be recycled. Even our pain can be put to good use in helping someone else. God has taught me that in His economy, nothing is wasted. So I’m always looking for ways to turn ashes into beauty… and leftovers into Cuban appetizers.
I encourage you to find ways to recycle and find the beauty even in used things.
Fried rice balls made with Cuban arroz con pollo are a fun way to turn leftover rice into a Cuban tapas party!
3/4 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups vegetable oil for frying
Sriracha mayo (1/3 cup mayo with 1 teaspoon sriracha)
- Pulse the panko breadcrumbs to make the crumbs just a bit smaller (or stick in a ziplock bag and crush for a bit)
- Take 1/4 cup of rice and shape into a patty. Add 1 tablespoon shredded mozzarella to the center and shape into a tight ball.
- Place rice balls in the freezer for ten minutes
- Dredge the rice balls through flour, dip in beaten egg and coat in panko bread crumbs.
- Stick the rice balls in the freezer while you heat the oil for frying
- Heat two cups vegetable oil for frying over medium heat
- Test the oil by throwing in a bit of panko to see if it’s sizzling hot
- Once it’s sizzling, add the rice balls a few at time so you don’t crowd them
- Fry the rice balls for two minutes on each side
- Drain on paper towels
Serve with sriracha mayo.
- Serving Size: 1 ball
Keywords: Rice Balls Recipe, How to make rice balls, fried rice balls, cuban chicken and rice, arroz con pollo, cuban arroz con pollo, stuffed rice balls, arancini rice balls