Atmospheric rivers (ARs) are efficient mechanisms for transporting atmospheric moisture from low latitudes to the Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS). While AR events occur infrequently, they can lead to extreme precipitation and surface melt events on the AIS. Here we estimate the contribution of ARs to total Antarctic precipitation, by combining precipitation from atmospheric reanalyses and a polar-specific AR detection algorithm. We show that ARs contribute substantially to Antarctic precipitation, especially in East Antarctica at elevations below 3,000 m. ARs contribute substantially to year-to-year variability in Antarctic precipitation. Our results highlight that ARs are an important component for understanding present and future Antarctic mass balance trends and variability.