How to make vegan risotto for two? It is easier than you think. All you need is 6 ingredients and about 30 minutes to cook a delicious creamy risotto. It will look fancy and impressive even if it was effortless and uncomplicated.
Risotto can be cooked and baked. Who knew, right? Try our awesome baked vegan butternut squash risotto and you will keep making it over and over again.
What exactly is risotto?
Risotto is the most common way to cook rice in Italy. According to the traditional recipe, it means that a high-starch, short-grain rice is cooked in broth, which has to be added in batches with frequent stirring. Risotto usually, but not always contains butter, white wine, and parmesan cheese for extra creaminess.
What is so special about risotto? It is so creamy due to the high starch content, while the rice grain is still firm to bite on. Compared to cooked or steamed rice which is more airy and fluffy, risotto is rather creamy and sticky.
- It is time-consuming. – No, it isn’t. You would think that because you add vegetable broth in batches it will take longer for the rice to cook. If you check any rice packaging, it says 15-20 minutes. If you make risotto you will also need only 15-20 minutes.
- You need continuous stirring. – No, you don’t. You need to give it a stir once in a while, but you don’t need to stand there and stir non-stop. You can certainly make other things in a kitchen in the meantime like preparing sauteed mushrooms for topping as you see in the pictures.
- You need risotto rice. – No, you don’t. If you have basmati rice at home, you don’t need to rush to the store to get risotto rice. We also tried and tested this recipe with basmati. It may be less creamy, but you can make up for it with extra butter and vegan parmesan.
Let’s start with what you need. It is not a long list I can tell you that. To make our basic vegan risotto recipe we use the following ingredients:
- Arborio rice – It is a type of short-grain rice that is the most popular choice for any risotto recipe. You can read a little bit below about all the different types you can use as well.
- Vegetable broth – It cannot be water, it has to be a broth. It is a must-have ingredient to make your risotto flavorful.
- Dry white wine – The alcohol content will evaporate during cooking, but the dry wine flavors will be absorbed.
- Vegan butter – The give the risotto is quintessential creaminess, you need butter instead of oil. We usually use a high-quality brand of margarine (dairy-free butter).
- Onion – Don’t use onion powder.
- Garlic – Don’t use garlic powder either.
- Salt and black pepper
- Optional: vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast
- Topping: sauteed mushrooms
🛒 You can find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
The best rice for risotto
You need to look for rice that is high in starch and has shorter grains. These are the 3 most common types of rice used for risotto. So which one would you choose?
- Arborio rice – It is the most popular one. You don’t need any specialty store, it is likely you can buy it in your local store nearby.
- Carnaroli rice – This is claimed to be the best rice for risotto. Chefs use it to make restaurant-style risotto. It is rare to find and may be more expensive than Arborio.
- Vialone Nano rice – It is also quite popular as it is more starchy than Arborio. Hence, it results in a creamier risotto. Not easy to find in the usual stores.
Can you use basmati rice?
If you have basmati rice at home, you don’t need to rush to the store to get another type. We also tried and tested this recipe with basmati. It may not be restaurant-style and be less creamy, but you can make up for it with extra butter and a generous amount of vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast.
Prepare the ingredients
- Peel and finely chop onion and garlic.
- Don’t wash the rice. If you do, you will wash away all the starch that could make this risotto creamy.
- Warm up the vegetable broth. If you use stock, boil water in a kettle and add the stock to hot water. It is an important step if you want to cook this risotto in 15 minutes!
- Measure all other ingredients and place them close to the stove.
Cooking vegan risotto
- Heat a large pan over medium-low heat. Add olive oil and chopped onion. Cook them until they are soft and tender. It takes usually 2-3 minutes.
- Add chopped garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Add unwashed arborio rice and stir it for 1-2 minutes to coat it with oil.
- Add white wine and simmer the rice in the wine until the wine is absorbed or steamed away. It shouldn’t be boiling. This usually takes 1-2 minutes.
- Add 1 cup of hot veggie broth to the rice and leave it on medium heat. It should bubble up, but not boil (so there is no heavy steam). Stir it a couple of times.
- We add the other cup of broth only when the previous batch is almost fully absorbed. You can check that by using your spatula. If you stir and the risotto leaves empty spaces i.e. you can see the bottom of the pot, then it is okay to add more. If the risotto flows right back to the empty space and you cannot see the bottom of the pot, then not yet as there is still too much liquid.
- When almost all veggie broth is absorbed, add vegan butter (and the optional vegan parmesan cheese) as well as salt and black pepper, and stir only until they are melted.
- Cook for 2 more minutes then cover it with a lid, take it off the heat and let it sit covered for 10 minutes. Voila! You’re ready! The risotto should be creamy, but the rice grains should remain firm to bite on.
Top tips to make it perfectly and quickly
- High heat or low heat? – If you cook risotto on medium/high heat, then 2 things can happen: 1) you need more stirring, and 2) you need more vegetable broth since it will evaporate quicker. Your risotto still may be ready faster.
- Adding broth all at once? – You can still make perfect risotto if you add veggie broth all at once, take it to low heat and cook the rice slowly. You need less stirring, and a bit more time to be ready, but you may stress less about it. Not perfect Italian restaurant chef-style, but your risotto will still taste pretty awesome.
- Hot or cold veggie broth? – We recommend using hot veggie broth. Every time you add cold broth, the risotto cools back and you need to bring them back to boil so that the rice continues to cook. It will prolong the cooking time for sure.
- Is your pot wide enough? – We chose to make risotto in a shallow large non-stick frying pan so the rice is cooking in a single layer. It was also to save time. Most recipes call for stockpot, which is fine as well.
- Don’t wash the rice. – We don’t wash the rice so that the starch on the rice will turn the risotto extra creamy.
When you make this vegan risotto, it is already quite rich, creamy, and flavorful, but you can add fresh herbs or dried ones at the end to make it more aromatic. How to choose what to add depends on the vegetable topping you choose. Here are some ideas:
- thyme goes great with butternut squash like in this baked risotto recipe or with sauteed carrots, pan-fried oyster mushrooms, or beetroot.
- rosemary and sage pair well with any type of squash or root veggies
- mint with green peas
- cilantro with fresh tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes
- basil and oregano with tomatoes, asparagus, broccolini, etc.
- parsley goes great with many veggies, but we especially like them with garlic mushrooms (pictured below)
- chives with zucchini
- more garlic with roasted asparagus or leafy greens like spinach or kale
Toppings vs add-ins
We turned this recipe into a vegan mushroom risotto by topping it with some sauteed mushrooms. But why do we recommend preparing vegetables (roasting, pan-frying, or sauteeing) separately and adding them as topping as opposed to adding them while cooking the rice? We have 3 reasons for you:
- Vegetables (especially mushrooms or tomatoes) may release water while cooking, which can make the risotto watery. It is hard to control how much water it releases and when and how much veggie broth you need at the end.
- You can’t season the vegetables properly. They will absorb the seasoning of the risotto and any additional spices will be washed off by the veggie broth.
- Some veggies can change the color of the risotto. It is especially valid for beetroot.
If you still want to add some toppings, here are some ideas:
- Chopped nuts like pine nuts, pecan, cashew, or walnut
- Dried fruits like cranberries
- Caramelized onions which we also used as a topping in this sweet potato casserole recipe.
- Vegan bacon bits or other plant-based bacon or ham alternatives
- Stir in this vegan spinach pesto or this vegan red pesto at the end for an additional flavor boost.
How to store it?
You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. However, the longer you store it, its texture will get mushier as the rice will continue to absorb any remaining liquid. We also recommend storing any toppings separately.
This easy risotto recipe is meat-free, dairy-free, and egg-free.
- Vegan – All ingredients are supposed to be vegan. Although wine can be non-vegan, so be sure to check the bottle.
- Nut-free – All ingredients are supposed to be nut-free. The only issue may be with dairy-free butter and vegan parmesan cheese as they can be made of coconut oil. In any event, check for cross-contamination issues in any products you buy.
- WFPB-friendly (whole foods plant-based) – It is not easy to make compliant risotto since white rice should not be used in this diet. You can skip oil to sautee onion and garlic and start with a bit of veggie broth or water to get the ball rolling, but I have never made this recipe with brown rice so I am not sure of the outcome.
- Gluten-free – All other ingredients are supposed to be gluten-free, but always check the packaging for cross-contamination info.
- Soy-free – All other ingredients are supposed to be soy-free. The only issue may be with dairy-free butter and vegan parmesan cheese as they can be made of soy products as well.
More vegan Italian recipes
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Easy Vegan Risotto (in 30 minutes!)
Prepare the rice
- First, heat a saucepan or stockpot on medium heat. Add olive oil and chopped onion. Cook them until they are soft and tender. It takes usually 2-3 minutes.
- Add chopped garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Add unwashed rice and stir it for 1-2 minutes to coat it with oil.
- Add the white wine and cook the rice in the wine until the wine is absorbed or steamed away. It usually takes 2 minutes.
Cooking the rice in veggie broth
- Add 1 cup of hot veggie broth to the rice and leave it on medium heat. It should bubble up, but not boil (no heavy steam). Stir a couple of times.
- We add the other cup of hot veggie broth only when the previous one is almost fully absorbed. You can check that by using your spatula. If you stir and the risotto leaves empty spaces i.e. you can see the bottom of the pot, then it is okay to add the other cup.
- When almost all veggie broth is absorbed, add butter (and the optional vegan parmesan cheese) and stir until melted.
- Add salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cook for 2 more minutes then cover it with a lid, take off the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes. Voila! The risotto should be creamy, but the rice grains should remain firm to bite on.
- Make our quick 10-minute sauteed mushrooms in soy sauce glaze recipe and add it to the top of this vegan risotto. They will be delicious together.
- Mushrooms release water while cooking, which can make the risotto watery. It is hard to control how much water it releases and when.
- You can’t season the mushrooms properly. They will absorb the seasoning of the risotto, and the veggie broth will wash off any additional spices.
- They will get soggy if you cook mushrooms instead of sauteeing them.
UPDATED: This recipe was originally posted in Sep 2019. More info, tips, and details have been added and it was republished in Sep 2022.