Vegan Risotto

Prep time: 15 minutes /Cook time: about 45 minutes/Total Time: 1 hour

I’ve been making risotto for almost 30 years and my first attempt was a crunchy miserable mess. Then I found Craig Claiborne’s simple basic recipe in the New York Times. It’s great because no matter what “kind” of risotto you want to make you can use this as your base and fold in the other ingredients at the end of the rice’s cook time.

Note: Please use a decent quality short-grain Arborio rice. Even in full-fat dairy versions, the creaminess of risotto comes from the starch of a perfectly cooked grain, not from the butter, cream, or cheese.

Veganization: Instead of butter I use olive oil at the beginning and Earth Balance to finish. I choose to not replace the Parmesan cheese, but you can add ¾ cup of plant-based parm at the end…fold it in with the Earth Balance. Of course, vegetable stock replaces chicken stock.

(Recipe based on The New York Times Cookbook, Revised Edition; Harper & Row, 1990; pps 536-7)


2 cups short-grain Arborio rice

5 cups Vegetable stock (I usually use a 4 cup box and add a cup of water)

4 Tbs Olive Oil

¼ cup finely chopped onion

2 cloves finely chopped garlic

½ cup dry white wine

1Tbs Kosher Salt

1 tsp dried thyme

½ tsp white pepper

to finish:

1 pinch saffron treads

4 Tbs Earth Balance or other vegan butter


In a medium sauce pan heat the stock to just below simmering. Keep hot and close at very low heat.

In a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven heat the olive oil and add the onion, garlic, and salt. Cook until soft. Add the rice, thyme, and pepper. Stir well to coat and mix and continue cooking for about a minute or two to toast the aromatics and brown the rice bran. Boost the heat and pour in the wine – stir quickly to release any stuck bits on the bottom of the pot and lower the heat to medium to medium low. At this point the wine should be about gone.

Next, ladle 1 cup of the hot stock into the rice (Fun Fact: Most kitchen ladles are ½ cup), and stir to combine. Adjust the heat to a slow simmer. The rice should be absorbing the stock slowly and you should be stirring it gently. The 1st cup of stock should absorb pretty quick and you’ll see the starches thicken up. This is when you add another cup (2 ladles) of hot stock and stir to mix. This time the stock should absorb a little slower. You do not need to stir constantly, but I wouldn’t leave the kitchen. Make yourself a cocktail or empty the dishwasher. It’s important to remember that you’re cooking rice, but slowly, a little bit of liquid at a time, and with the lid off. Repeat adding the warm broth when needed, gently stirring, waiting a little and stirring a little.

About 30 minutes after you added your first cup of stock, you should be adding your last. (Slow cook time, plus the heated stock, plus the upfront toasting, helps break down the bran of Arborio rice into creamy starchy goodness.)

Once you add the last of your stock, keep the flame steady at medium heat, and stir well. Add the vegan butter and crush and add the saffron threads and fold in. Turn heat off and cover. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Adding in ingredients like mushrooms, artichoke hearts, pine nuts, vegan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, herbs, or any combination should be cooked separately and folded in at the end or served on top or at the side.

In the summer, I’ll lighten this recipe up with fresh lemon juice, herbs, and seasonal steamed or grilled veggies…in the winter I’ll keep it warm and rich with mushrooms, nuts, hearty greens, and finish it with port.


Makes 4-6 servings



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: