Real Simplepicked the best boxed Arborio rice mixes that taste as good as if they were made from scratch.

By Lygeia Grace
Updated February 27, 2008
Bowl of rice
Credit: Beatriz Da Costa

“You can’t rush risotto,” goes the thinking behind most recipes for the classic Italian staple made with Arborio rice and warm chicken broth. But the reactions of tasters in Real Simple’s test kitchen to supermarket boxed blends told a surprisingly different story. “The mixes cooked up in just 25 minutes,” said one amazed fan, who noted that it usually took her twice as long to make the simple dish from scratch. “The rice was creamy and tender, though still properly firm to the bite.” Another taster confessed, “I wouldn’t have been able to tell it came from a mix if I hadn’t made it myself.”

Of the 10 varieties sampled (all MSG-free), Lundberg’s Garlic Primavera ($3 for 5.5 ounces) and Trader Joe’s Mushroom and Herb ($2 for 9 ounces) came out on top. Both make satisfying side dishes. Or, suggested one tester, “just add some cooked chicken or sausage and you’d have a full dinner.”