Did you know that risotto is naturally vegan? It’s got a reputation for being a little fussy, but it’s fairly easy once you get the hang of it! Savory and delicious, it’s the perfect warm entrée or side dish for a cold winter night, and it always makes an appearance at our holiday table. With fewer than 10 ingredients (seasonings not included), and a pretty short prep time, it actually comes together pretty quickly. Not to mention, risotto is sooooo satisfying, especially when the winter carb cravings hit.
Risotto looks and feels kinda fancy, but at its creamy, carb-y heart, it’s really just elevated comfort food. Kind of like an elegant, grown-up version of mac-n-cheese, without the mac, and without the cheese. (Sidenote: if you are craving some creamy mac-n-cheese, check out my easy cheesy vegan noodles.)
This Vegan Mushroom Risotto is:
- Warm & savory
- Delicious, creamy, and satisfying
- Easily made vegan or non-vegan
- Naturally gluten-free
- Fun to experiment with when it comes to add-ins
- Easier to make than you think!
Tips & Techniques for Making Risotto
Use hot broth.
Make sure to warm your broth in a separate saucepan on the stove before adding it to your rice. It’s not necessary to bring the broth to a boil, but adding hot broth to your rice allows the grains to cook evenly. If you add cold broth to your rice, you may end up with a mix of firm and mushy grains of rice – not what you’re going for! Keep your broth simmering over low heat on the stove as you gradually add it to your rice grains.
Add the broth gradually.
Risotto is beloved for its rich creaminess, and the main way that velvety-smooth texture is created is via the release of starch from the rice grains. Using dairy in your risotto obviously adds to the creamy component, but you shouldn’t have a problem getting creamy vegan risotto, especially if you follow the tips listed here.
- Start by ladling in your warmed vegetable stock, about 1 cup at a time. Stir regularly (about every 30 seconds), letting your rice come back to a slight simmer. Avoid boiling your rice, as this will lead to a gummy texture and cook it too fast.
- Wait until most of the stock has been absorbed before ladling in another cup. This slow addition of liquid allows the rice grains to get cozy and bump up against each other. This agitation leads to more starch being released.
- Repeat this process until you’ve cooked the rice to al dente. If you’re not sure how to tell when your rice is done, then you’ll definitely want to check out the next tip!
Use a good quality vegetable or mushroom broth
Homemade vegetable stock is excellent for risotto, especially a mushroomy stock. To make a vegetable stock extra mushroomy, just add a bunch of mushroom stalks (or a handful of dried mushrooms) along with thyme and a bay leaf to a pot of store-bought or homemade stock.
DON’T rinse your rice.
Whatever type of rice you use, do not rinse before cooking. Rinsing your rice removes surface starch, which is great for recipes where you want rice with fluffy, individual grains. We want to conserve all the starch we can, though, because it helps contribute to that yummy, velvety deliciousness of risotto.
Sauté your mushrooms first and then set aside.
- Don’t make the mistake of sautéing your mushrooms (and other veggies, if you’re improvising) and then just adding in your rice and vegetable stock. This makes it difficult to stir and agitate the rice properly (which is a crucial step to achieving creamy risotto!).
- Keeping your sautéed mushrooms in with the uncooked rice also means you’ll end up with soggy, overcooked mushrooms.
Cook your mushrooms properly.
Mushrooms play a crucial role in this recipe, so it’s worth taking a little extra time and care to make sure you do them justice.
- I recommend adding your olive oil (or butter if you’re going the dairy-route) to a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat.
- You don’t want to have a huge mound of mushrooms in your pan (hard to cook them evenly that way), so you may need to sauté your mushrooms in 2 batches, depending on the quantity you’re using.
- Let your mushrooms sear for 2-3 minutes without stirring, then toss occasionally as the mushrooms start to soften and brown.
- I recommend seasoning the mushrooms towards the end of the cooking process. Adding salt at the beginning can lead to the mushrooms releasing excess water, leaving you with soggy mushrooms.
- Don’t stir too frequently, and let your mushrooms take the time they need to caramelize and brown up nicely, which will help bring out that irresistible umami flavor.
Pay attention to the size of your risotto pot.
You can cook your risotto in the same pan that you sautéed your mushrooms in, just be careful about size. If your pan is too wide, the rice will cook in a thin layer and won’t be able to bump together enough to generate the amount of starch needed to get a creamy sauce.
Another problem: if your pan is too wide, you’ll have hot and cold spots, leading to unevenly cooked rice, so just make sure you’re using a pot that’s about the same size as your burner.
Deglaze the pot with a splash of wine.
When adding wine to the rice grains, take a minute to deglaze the pot. This is just a fancy word that means getting all the stuck bits off the pan.
As you stir the wine into the rice grains, make sure you are gently loosening any bits of rice, leeks, or leftover mushrooms. This helps the rice cook evenly and adds even more flavor to the risotto. If you’re omitting alcohol, you can do this with the first bit of vegetable stock you add in.
Don’t overcook your rice.
It’s a common mistake, especially for beginners, to equate creamy risotto with super soft rice, but cooking your rice until al dente is the way to go.
💡 Pro Tip: To achieve the perfect al dente risotto, try the “smear test.” Just like with pasta, each grain of rice should retain its own identity. You can take a grain of your cooked rice and place it on a smooth surface, like a cutting board or countertop. Pushing down on the grain with your finger, smear it across the surface. Overcooked rice will give you a smear that’s totally smooth, but properly cooked rice will spread smoothly, while retaining a bit of its white, al dente center.
Stir at the right rate.
You’ve probably heard that you need to stir your risotto constantly, but that’s not exactly true. When it comes to stirring, we want to use the Goldilocks Principle: not too much, not too little, juuuust right. Stirring too much (aka constantly) will produce a gummy risotto, whereas not stirring frequently enough can lead to burnt rice grains, and your risotto might not end up with that velvety texture you’re after. Stir just the right amount – around every 30 seconds – to achieve the perfect risotto.
Choosing Ingredients for Vegan Risotto
What type of rice should I use for risotto?
Use Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano Rice. One of the keys to risotto is using a short to medium grain rice, which has a higher starch content – imperative to achieving a creamy risotto.
Arborio: I like Arborio rice because it’s widely available and less high maintenance than other varieties of risotto rice. Plus, the outer coating of Arborio rice has the highest starch level of any variety of Italian rice, which makes it easy to get the perfect creamy texture every time.
Carnaroli: This rice is also a really popular choice for risotto, especially with chefs. However, it’s a bit of a fussier, less-forgiving rice than Arborio. The window for perfect doneness for Carnaroli is smaller than other varieties of risotto rice, which is worth keeping in mind.
Viaolone Nano: Another popular choice for risotto. This rice is required to be produced without chemical treatments of any kind (always nice) but is again less forgiving than other varieties of risotto rice. It’s also less available in the United States than other varieties.
What are the best mushrooms for risotto?
- My favorite mushrooms for risotto are oysters, chanterelles, criminis, porcinis, or maitakes.
- Ultimately you can use whatever mushrooms you prefer/are in season. Just make sure you prepare them properly! (Read more above)
💡 Pro tip: Using a variety of mushrooms in your risotto lends some nice textural and flavor contrast.
Should I wash my mushrooms before cooking them?
Should you wash your mushrooms, or wipe them clean? There’s a bit of a debate around this topic, and like many things in life, the answer is: it depends.
- If you’re using cultivated mushrooms, like buttons or portobellos, you can wipe them clean using a dry cloth or paper towel to get rid of excess “dirt”.
- If you’re using wild mushrooms (think chanterelles or porcinis), you definitely want to wash them thoroughly, and then lay them out to dry (you can use baking sheets lined with paper or kitchen towels).
- Since mushrooms are roughly 90% water already, starting with dry mushrooms is important. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up with diluted flavors and rubbery, slimy textures after cooking your mushrooms.
- If you’re short on time, you can wash your mushrooms and then use a salad spinner to help the drying process move along faster.
What kind of wine should I use for risotto?
Most people probably think about white wine when they think about risotto, and it’s true that white wine is used far more often than red. Red wine, however, can play really nicely with the mushroom aspect of this recipe. Regardless, stick to dryer varieties of wine versus fruiter, sweeter ones.
A note about cooking with wine: There’s no reason to use your best bottle when cooking with wine. It’s not going to hurt your dish, but it’s kind of a waste. That being said, it’s worth avoiding super cheap cooking wines. They won’t really add anything to your dish, and if they’re bad enough, they may even detract from the flavor.
Some solid recommendations for risotto are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Noir. You can use Barnivore.com to see if your wine is vegan-friendly.
If you don’t have any wine on hand/prefer to omit the alcohol, you can try adding some lemon juice to add some complexity and enhance flavors. If you’re fresh out of lemon juice, you can check out this article for wine substitutes.
Soy sauce in risotto?
While not very traditional, I love adding a splash of soy sauce to my risotto. Soy sauce is naturally salty, and adds a rich, savory, umami depth that makes flavors pop. If this is not your jam, feel free to just season with sea salt instead.
Nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese?
If you’re vegan/avoid dairy, replacing parmesan cheese with nutritional yeast is a great way to add an extra layer of cheesy flavor into your risotto. Nutritional yeast is also a good source of vitamins and minerals, and is a great way to add a little extra nutrition into this indulgent dish.
Whichever route you choose to go, you can add this ingredient, along with some salt and black pepper as needed, into your dish once the rice finishes cooking.
How to Store and Reheat Risotto
Risotto is a dish best served immediately. If you do have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat on the stove by adding in about ¼ cup of vegetable stock or water for every 1 cup of risotto you’re reheating. Stir occasionally and add more broth as needed until heated through. It’s not recommended to freeze risotto, as this will change and harden the texture of the risotto.
How to Garnish Risotto
I like garnishing with thyme, marjoram, sage, etc. Parsley is also nice here. It’s recommended to plate risotto on a hot dish. Restaurants do this because of the starchy component of risotto – as it cools, the sauce thickens. Up to you how you want to serve it, though!
More Yummy Grain Dishes to Try:
- Wild Rice Stuffing w/ Apples, Cranberries, & Toasted Pecans
- Spiced Quinoa, Apple, and Hazelnut Stuffing
- Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Quinoa
- Butternut Squash Risotto
If you make this Vegan Mushroom Risotto, leave a star rating or comment below! Your feedback is so helpful to me and other readers. You can also tag me in your meal pics on Instagram @katiesconsciouskitchen, or join my free private facebook group to share your creations and inspire others! I love to see what you all are making.
Vegan Mushroom Risotto
- 1 cup arborio rice, dry
- 2 large leeks, sliced, the white and light green parts, or shallots or onions
- 1 lb wild mushrooms, I love oysters, chanterelles, criminis, or maitakes
- 4 tbsp olive oil, or butter
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup dry wine, red or white
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme, or tarragon
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast, or grated parmesan, for a little cheesiness
- 1 tbsp soy sauce, or tamari, or just sub a pinch of sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- fresh herbs, to garnish, for example: thyme, marjoram, sage, etc.
- Bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a saucepan.
- In a large skillet, sauté the mushrooms in about 2 Tbsp of olive oil or butter, with a pinch of black pepper, until well browned. Add salt to season at the end of cooking. Transfer to a bowl.
- In the same pan, sauté the leeks in another splash of oil or butter until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and rice and stir for another minute, until fragrant.
- Add the wine to the skillet to deglaze, stirring for a minute or so to remove any stuck bits.
- Add hot vegetable stock to the rice pan in several additions, 1/2 cup at a time, until absorbed. This process should take about 20-25 minutes for the rice to fully absorb the broth.
- Season to taste with soy sauce, onion powder, thyme, a sprinkle of nutritional yeast (if desired), and black pepper. Don't add any salt before tasting it first, soy sauce adds plenty of saltiness (plus a savory umami depth) and it’s easy to overdo it on the salt if the broth has a high sodium content!
- Stir in the cooked mushrooms, garnish with fresh herbs and enjoy!