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Vegan Risotto Three Ways

Freelance writer from the northeast coast of England with a fondness for vegan food and punk rock.

From left, arborio rice, brown rice, and pearl barley

From left, arborio rice, brown rice, and pearl barley

Vegan Risotto Three Ways

There are purists who adhere to set rules when it comes to risotto; they insist that to earn that title, the dish must be made with carnaroli or arborio rice, and that the only true risotto is one where the ingredients have been stirred frequently, with stock being decanted a bit at a time via ladle. I have made risotto in this purist manner, and I have tried alternative methods and ingredients, including adding the bulk of the stock at the start. Such straying from the hard and fast etiquette of risotto making might disqualify a dish nominally, but it still produces a tasty plate of food.

This is because the culinary world has for centuries been awash with experimenters and rule benders; it’s why we have chocolate in chilli, balsamic vinegar on strawberries and pineapple on pizza. So for the purposes of this article I shall refer to these dishes as risotto, even if that is wide of the mark to some. The grains used in these dishes are arborio rice, brown rice and pearl barley.

There is one risotto rule I do advocate, however, and that is to serve it the moment it is ready, after a brief rest. If your risotto is deliciously creamy and perfectly cooked, but you are waiting for your sweet potato wedges to crisp up, the rice will continue to absorb liquid, and by the time it reaches the table it could be stodgy and dry. Try to time your cooking so that everything else on the plate is ready just before the risotto.

Risotto Tips

  • To add a delicious crunch to your risotto, take one or two vegan sausages and fry them over a medium heat. When they are cooked, remove them from the pan and let them cool a little. Quarter each sausage lengthways, and then slice the lengths into half inch nuggets. Put these back into the pan, and keep tossing them until they crisp up a little. Stir the sausage nuggets into the risotto right before serving, so they retain a crunch.
  • Brown rice and barley require more liquid to cook than white rice. With that in mind, it might pay you to soak brown rice or barley in a little stock an hour or two before making the risotto. This will reduce the cooking time, and eliminate the need to be constantly adding liquid at the end.
  • As this dish requires a lot of stirring, I find that a wooden spatula with a wide, flat blade is best for keeping the risotto on the move, and off the bottom of the pan.
Creamy vegetable risotto, borlotti bean salad, and steamed buttonhole kale

Creamy vegetable risotto, borlotti bean salad, and steamed buttonhole kale

Recipe 1: Creamy Vegetable Risotto With Arborio Rice

As this recipe (pictured above) uses traditional arborio rice, I’ve included the ladle and stir method, if you’d like to try it. If you can't be so attentive, add half of the stock and stir occasionally, adding more liquid as needed. This amount serves two.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2–3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ head broccoli, broken into small florets
  • ½ cup garden peas
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 medium glass of white wine (175 millilitres)
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup plant milk (I use unsweetened soya)
  • Knob of vegan butter or spread
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Put the stock into a pan and bring it just about to a simmer.
  2. In a separate saucepan, saute the onion in the oil over medium heat until soft.
  3. Add the rice, garlic and broccoli, and saute for another minute, making sure all the rice is coated.
  4. Pour in the wine and stir vigorously until most has evaporated.
  5. Using a ladle, pour in just enough stock to cover the rice. Stir and let it simmer gently.
  6. When the stock had almost evaporated, add enough again to cover the rice. Repeat until the rice is almost cooked.
  7. Add the peas and nutritional yeast, and stir in the plant milk to add creaminess.
  8. Stir in the butter or spread and adjust seasoning.
  9. Put a lid on the pan and let it rest for two minutes while you plate up other parts of the meal.
  10. Serve immediately.
Brown rice risotto with mushrooms, onion, peas and black olives, and nuggets of sausage, sweet potato wedges and green salad

Brown rice risotto with mushrooms, onion, peas and black olives, and nuggets of sausage, sweet potato wedges and green salad

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Recipe 2: Risotto With Tomato and Brown Rice

Purists will no doubt be aghast at the thought of using brown rice as the base of a risotto, but this dish hits the spot, whatever its nomenclature.

Ingredients

(see note above regarding pre-soaking)

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 2–3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 cup black olives
  • 1 tin Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Have your stock close by, piping hot.
  2. Stir the tomato paste into the stock until dissolved.
  3. Heat the oil over medium heat in a saucepan, and saute the onions until soft.
  4. Add the garlic, oregano, basil and chilli flakes, and saute 1 minute more.
  5. Stir in the rice, and mix everything together.
  6. Add about half of the stock, stir and cover the pan.
  7. Simmer for 10 minutes, checking and stirring occasionally, adding more stock if needed.
  8. Stir in the tinned tomatoes, olives and the rest of the stock.
  9. Continue simmering and stirring until the rice is tender.
  10. Let the rice rest for 1–2 minutes; then serve.
Creamy barley risotto with mushroom and tomato, served with vegan sausages, sweet potato wedges and roasted broccoli.

Creamy barley risotto with mushroom and tomato, served with vegan sausages, sweet potato wedges and roasted broccoli.

Recipe 3: Barley Risotto With Mushrooms and Tomato

Ingredients

(see note above regarding pre-soaking)

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2–3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced (I use button mushrooms)
  • 2 or 3 tomatoes skinned and chopped (see caption above)
  • 1 medium glass white wine (175 millilitres)
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • ½ cup plant milk (I use unsweetened soya)
  • knob of vegan butter or spread
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. In a saucepan, saute the onion in the oil over medium heat until soft.
  2. Add the garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes and stir for 1 minute more.
  3. Stir in the barley.
  4. Pour in the wine, and simmer until it has almost evaporated, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add one cup of the stock, and simmer gently.
  6. Allow the rice to cook, but stir occasionally, adding more stock if needed.
  7. When almost cooked, pour in the plant milk and bring back to a simmer.
  8. Taste and adjust the seasoning as required (a good grinding of black pepper goes well).
  9. Stir in the butter or spread, let the dish rest for 1–2 minutes, and serve immediately.

Vegan Risotto Prep Playlist

It's odd how some things stay in the memory. Assuming said memory isn't playing tricks on me, I'd say that this song was the opener on the 2000th episode of Top of the Pops. I'm happy to report that the Rezillos are still going strong today.

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