Sweet Rice Fritters is a traditional Italian dessert, typical of central Italy, particularly Tuscany and Sicily, where they are called “Sfinci di Riso”.
In Italy we use to make this dessert for carnival and also for St. Joseph’s Day, March 19.
The use of rice in Italian cooking mainly involves savory recipes: casseroles, risottos and soups. So when people talk about Italian rice fritters, they immediately think of the very famous and delicious Arancini recipe, made with meat sauce or stringy cheese.
But this recipe shows you a way to use rice in a sweet version. In the end you get a really good dessert, perfect for afternoon snacks, for your parties with friends or as a dessert.
Making sweet rice fritters is very easy: just cook the rice in milk scented with lemon zest. Then add the flour, eggs and raisins. Finally fry. As a finishing touch, roll them in granulated sugar.
Sweet Rice Fritters will win you over with their simplicity and their fantastic, slightly lemony flavor. Try this truly mouth-watering dessert!
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How to Make Italian Sweet Rice Fritters
- Prep Time: 40 min
- Cook Time: 15 min
- Servings: 10 people or about 30 sweet rice fritters (the number depends on the size of the fritters. They are usually quite small, about 4 cm (1 1/2 inch), one tablespoon of batter)
- 150 g (about 1 cup) of Arborio or Carnaroli rice
- 1 whole egg
- 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar + more for decoration (100 g – 1/2 cup total)
- 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 30 g (3 tablespoons) of raisins
- 3/4 teaspoon of fine salt
- 30 g (1/3 stick) of unsalted butter
- 500 ml (2 cups) of milk
- 1 medium lemon
- 1 liter (4 cups) of peanut oil or canola oil for deep-frying
Kitchen Tools and Equipment
The kitchen tools you need to make these delicious rice doughnuts are fairly common and easy to find.
You may need a lemon peel grater. This is a very useful tool in the kitchen, of which there are some packages complete with accessories. Items suitable for beautifying your kitchen or for making a special gift.
Get a kitchen thermometer to check the temperature of the oil.
A skimmer to remove the sweet rice fritters from the oil and paper towels to drain the excess oil.
Step 1) – In a small saucepan, combine the milk, 2 tablespoons of sugar and butter.
Step 2) – Prepare the grated lemon zest.
Make sure to use only the yellow part. The white part of the zest would make the mixture a little bitter.
Add the zest to the milk. Stir well and cook over low heat.
Step 3) – When the butter and sugar are melted, add the rice.
Cook over medium heat until the rice has completely absorbed the milk. This will take about 15 minutes.
Step 4) – Once cooked, place the rice in a bowl and let it cool.
Step 5) – When the rice has cooled, sift the flour and baking powder and add them to the rice. Add the salt.
Step 6) – Finally, add the whole egg and the raisins. Mix everything together, making sure the ingredients are well mixed with the rice.
Step 7) – Heat the oil in a narrow, high-sided frying pan. This will allow the mixture to be well immersed in the oil during frying.
PLEASE NOTE: The oil is ready for frying when the temperature is between 150°C (300°F) and 180°C (350°F). If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, dip a toothpick into the hot oil. When bubbles form around the toothpick, the oil is ready to fry.
Using a spoon, scoop out the batter and drop it into the hot oil.
Step 8) – Cook a maximum of 4 or 5 pancakes at a time.
Fry the sweet rice fritters until golden brown. Be careful not to burn them while frying.
Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon.
Step 9) – Place them on paper towels to remove any excess oil.
Finally, prepare a tray of granulated sugar and roll the hot sweet rice fritters in it. Enjoy them immediately!
How to Store Sweet Rice Fritters
We recommend that you enjoy the sweet rice fritters immediately or within the same day.
You can store the batter in the refrigerator covered with cling film for up to 1 day.
We don’t recommend freezing.
Sweet Rice Fritters: Some Variants
Sicilian Sweet Rice Fritters
As we have already mentioned, these fritters are most common in central Italy and in Sicily.
Each area of Sicily has its own recipe with small differences even in the name.
In the Messina area they are called “Sfinci di Riso”, while in the Catanese area they are called “Crispelle” (in Catanese dialect “Crispeddì”).
Instead of lemon they flavor them with orange zest and cinnamon. Sometimes they have a long, narrow shape and are sprinkled with honey instead of granulated sugar.
Apple Rice Fritters
In the area of Mantua there is a very special variation. The rice is always cooked in milk, but the characteristic flavor comes from the apples, which are added in pieces to the batter, in addition to or instead of raisins.
In taste and texture, they are somewhat reminiscent of sweet apple calas (New Orleans rice fritters).
Baked Sweet Rice Fritters
If you want to avoid frying, you can make these sweet rice fritters in the oven.
In this case, you will need to double the amount of flour, or even two and a half times, depending on how moist the dough will be.
You must be able to form balls like meatballs and bake them at 180°C (350°F) for about 30 minutes until golden brown.
Vegan Sweet Rice Fritters
To make vegan sweet rice fritters, simply replace the egg with half a banana or 50 ml (3 1/2 tablespoons) of yogurt.
Then replace cow’s milk with oat, soy, rice or coconut milk.
Finally, use two tablespoons of olive oil instead of butter.
How to Make Your Sweet Rice Fritters Even More Fluffy and Light
If you prefer fluffier, puffier sweet rice fritters, you can separate the yolk from the egg white.
Add only the yolk to the batter and then add the beaten egg white as the last ingredient.
Mix everything very gently. Then fry according to the instructions.
This will make the fritters puffier, lighter and fluffier, but less crispy. It’s a matter of taste.
Sweet Rice Fritters with an Alcoholic Note
Many people flavor sweet rice fritters not only with lemon zest, but also with a dash of liquor.
Most people use aniseed liqueur or rum.
You can add liqueur to the mixture before frying. Or you can sprinkle liqueur on the fritters after frying, before passing them through the sugar.
Italian Sweet Rice Fritters: Origins and Curiosities
Sweet rice fritters are a typical recipe from central Italy, especially from Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio.
In Italy these fried treats are especially prepared on the occasion of Father’s Day, which is celebrated on March 19.
In Tuscany, the fame of these sweet rice fritters is so old that there is even a saying: “San Giuseppe non si fa senza frittelle” (St. Joseph cannot be celebrated without fritters).
The recipe can even be found in the “Libro de arte Coquinaria” by Maestro Martino De’ Rossi. A book that dates back to the mid-15th century and marks the transition from medieval to Renaissance cuisine.
In fact, this recipe was created to eat the white rice left over from the previous meal. It’s even better if it’s cold and kept in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
Thus, it’s a recipe for recovering leftover rice, which was later refined by cooking the rice directly in milk.