Learn how to make endless dairy-free risotto variations that are so creamy you won’t even notice the lack of dairy. Once you learn and memorize this simple formula, no recipe is needed.
Usually, when thinking about risotto, butter, cheese, and cream are instantly what come to mind. Risotto has a deliciously creamy texture that melts in your mouth.
It’s the ultra-comfort food!
Can You Still Achieve Those Creamy Results Without Dairy?
Yes. And it’s actually quite easy.
The key is to build the flavors early on and add in a couple of ingredients that mimic dairy. Then, let the simple ingredients transform and work their magic. The result is a creamy risotto that’s bursting with umami flavor and will keep you diving back into the bowl for another bite.
Base Ingredients for Dairy-Free Risotto
- Oil – avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil.
- Onion – yellow or white onions work well, but you can also use a shallot.
- Vegetables – any vegetables you like (choose 1 or 2 – see below for ideas).
- Spices – whatever spices/herbs you’re using to season your add-ons.
- Arborio rice – a starchy, Italian short grain rice that creates a creamy texture when cooked in liquid.
- Broth – vegetable, chicken, or beef all work great (even better with homemade bone broth).
- Lemon juice or vinegar (such as white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar depending on your toppings) – a splash of acidity really helps to brighten up the flavors in the dish.
- Kosher salt & freshly cracked black pepper – to taste.
Make It Your Way: Choose Your Add-ins
Choose one or two vegetables from the list below. You’ll want about 2 1/2 to 3 cups.
Here are a few ideas to get you started: artichoke hearts, arugula, asparagus, bok choy, butternut squash, corn, fennel, garlic, kale, leeks (white/light green part or leek greens), mushrooms, peas, pumpkin, scallions, shallots, sweet potato, tomatoes (though technically a fruit), zucchini, or zucchini blossoms.
Herbs, Seasonings & Flavorings
Herbs: basil, chives, parsley (flat-leaf), rosemary, sage, tarragon, or thyme.
Seasonings: chili powder, mustard seeds, nutritional yeast, paprika (sweet or smoked), black pepper, red pepper flakes, saffron, Herbes de Provence, kosher salt, etc.
Flavorings: Sun-dried tomatoes, capers, truffles, or bread crumbs.
Acid: lemon juice, lemon zest, dry red or white wine, etc.
To make dairy-free risotto more filling, I recommend adding a cooked protein such as bacon, chicken, chorizo, crab, clams, eggs, lobster, mussels, prosciutto, scallops, shrimp, or steak.
Making risotto is very hands-on. Constant stirring is necessary to help release the starchiness from the rice. This is what makes risotto ultra-creamy.
You don’t actually need a recipe
No matter what flavor combinations you make, the base and the method for doing so remain the same. Swap out the vegetables each time you make risotto depending on what you have on hand or what’s in season and just remember the rice to broth ratio.
From there you can add in any additional ingredients you want such as dairy-free butter or cashew cream to make things even more indulgent.
One of my favorite ways to make risotto is by using cooked protein and/or vegetables that are leftover from a previous meal. This is a great way to reduce food waste and also save a little time.
More Risotto Recipes You’ll Love:
- Lemon Zucchini Risotto with Miso Butter
- Pea & Leek Greens Farro Risotto
- Vegan Butternut Squash Risotto
Creamy Dairy-Free Risotto (So Versatile!)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 2 ½ – 3 cups vegetables of choice
- ½ yellow or white onion diced
- 1 ½ cups arborio rice
- 5 cups bone broth or stock chicken, beef, or vegetable
- kosher salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- seasonings, to taste
- cooked protein of choice (optional)
- squeeze of lemon juice or splash of white wine vinegar, optional about 1 tablespoon
- flakey salt for serving
- dairy-free butter
- cashew cream
- Heat up a large skillet over medium heat.
- Cut vegetables of choice into uniformly small pieces, so they cook faster and evenly.
- Once the skillet is hot, add 1 tablespoon of oil and your vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and other spices (if using). Once the vegetables are tender but not mushy, remove them from the pan and set aside covered to keep warm.
- Add the other tablespoon of oil along with the diced onion. Cook, stirring occasionally until it's translucent.
- Now, add in all the rice, mixing it together with the onion, and letting it lightly toast to develop flavor for just about a minute.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add 1 cup of the broth into the rice and onion mixture, stirring frequently.
- Once the rice has absorbed nearly all the broth, add another cup of broth and continue with this process until you’ve used all the broth and the rice has reached your desired consistency.
- Add the cooked vegetables back in, your cooked protein of choice (see notes below if using scallops), and a squeeze of lemon juice or splash of vinegar. Mix thoroughly to incorporate.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Then add any additional stir-ins such as dairy-free butter or cashew cream. Serve with flakey salt and enjoy!