6 Tips for the Perfect Vegan Risotto

autumn risotto on plate on wooden table
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Risotto. The word melts on your tongue just like the creamy Italian rice dish itself. It does take a bit of effort to make the perfect risotto along with a little know-how, but the technique is easy, and the end result is delicious and impressive. A vegan risotto can actually be much tastier than traditional versions with butter and cheese, as you'll need to add lots of extra flavors, such as a quality broth, and maybe some wine, mushrooms, spices or fresh herbs, rather than relying on a layer of Parmesan cheese for flavor.

We find that if you follow all these tips, you can get away with using just a vegetable broth and don't need to add the wine that most risotto recipes call for. Here are a few tips to make sure your cheeseless vegan risottos are even better than even those with gobs of with butter.

  • 01 of 07

    Always Start the Same Way

    Sliced garlic and onions frying in oil

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    The key to vegan cooking is flavor, flavor, flavor. There's no meat and butter, so flavor comes from ingredients such as olive oil, garlic, and onions in the case of a homemade vegan risotto. 

    • Start with lots of fresh onions and garlic sauteed in a good quality oil, preferably olive oil. Use more of each than you would normally.
    • This is a general rule, which is flexible but shouldn't be broken. That means you can use shallots, purple onions, sweet onions, even green onions. You can add in other things other than garlic and onions to start, but a good vegan risotto should generally start with plenty of onions and garlic heated in a pan with some nice oil. 
    • After the onions and garlic have a good head start, it's time to toast the rice, and, if you're serious about making the perfect vegan risotto, it might also be time to add more olive oil, and, after that, to use a bit of white wine to deglaze the pan, even if the recipe doesn't call for it.
  • 02 of 07

    Don't Put Down That Spoon!

    Hand pouring water into pot with rice
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    The best risottos are stirred constantly, so don't put that spoon down! And if you do put it down, don't walk too far away!

    Occasionally, you'll come across a recipe or a chef or a food blogger claiming that it's not necessary to stir a risotto. Ignore them. Stir your risotto. No, you don't need to be stirring it every single second, but every minute? Yes. 

    Why do vegan risottos need to be stirred more often than not? Other risottos can rely on added milk or butter for a creamy texture, but your perfect dairy-free vegan risotto needs to rely more heavily on the starches released by the rice for the perfect risotto creaminess.

  • 03 of 07

    Keep It Hot and Moving

    Simmering Broth in pot
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    Like with stirring, there's some debate about how to add the broth. 

    Usually, risottos are made by adding broth a little bit at a time. This is what helps the rice starches release to give risotto its characteristic creaminess. Some people skimp on this step, but vegans in search of the perfect vegan risotto absolutely will not. 

    Besides adding the broth a little bit at a time, one good tip is to keep the vegetable broth simmering on the stove next to your risotto. This keeps the rice cooking a little bit quicker and keeps the temperature in your risotto a bit more even. 

  • 04 of 07

    Use a Secret Ingredient

    Sliced bouillon cubes in wrapper
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    When making soups, we rarely use vegetable broth, even if the recipe calls for it, because we can add plenty of flavor with other ingredients. But risotto is not the place to skimp on flavor. Use a good quality vegetable broth. 

    When making risotto, we like to use both vegetable broth and a vegetarian bouillon cube for maximum flavor. Why not?

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Give It Something Special

    Bay leaves in white bowl
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    Add some extra flavors into your rice while it simmers: a bay leaf or two, a couple of whole cloves or dried shiitake mushrooms (depending on what type of risotto you're making–cloves and mushrooms don't go with everything!). 

  • 06 of 07

    Finish It off

    Sea Salt and Peppercorns in bowls
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    Risotto is usually topped off with a mountain (or at least a molehill) of Parmesan cheese, but vegans can finish it off with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, a bit of garlic salt, a shake of nutritional yeast, or all of the above.

  • 07 of 07

    The Perfect Vegan Risotto Begins With the Perfect Vegan Recipe

    Vegan Risotto on plate
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    Whether or not you add wine to your risotto and whether or not you like a classic risotto or something a little different, there's a vegan recipe out there for you. Risotto makes for a great vegan dinner idea since it's familiar, delicious, just about universally loved, and it can be an entree or a side. Here are a few fantastic vegan risotto recipes you'll surely love: