Learn how to make a dairy-free risotto that is so creamy and comforting you won’t even notice the lack of dairy. Once you learn the simple formula, you can make any variation you want, no recipe needed.
Usually, when thinking about risotto, butter, cheese, and cream are instantly what comes to mind. Risotto is deliciously creamy, the flavors meld together, and it 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 with 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
- vegetables – any vegetables you like (choose 1 or 2 – see below for ideas)
- spices – whatever spices you’re using to season your add ons
- arborio rice – a starchy, Italian short grain rice that lends a creamy texture to dishes when cooked in liquid
- broth – vegetable, chicken, or beef all work great (even better with homemade bone broth)
- kosher salt & freshly cracked black pepper – to taste
Make It Your Way: Choose Your Add-ins
Vegetables (Choose 1 or 2, totaling 3 cups)
- bok choy
- butternut squash
- sweet potato
- tomatoes (technically a fruit)
- zucchini blossoms
Herbs, Seasonings & Flavorings
- herbs: basil, chives, parsley (flat-leaf), rosemary, sage, tarragon, 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, bread crumbs
- acid (brightening of flavors): lemon juice, lime zest, dry red or white wine
- bacon, chorizo, prosciutto
- crab, clams, lobster, mussels, scallops, shrimp
- steak (esp. top sirloin)
Making risotto is very hands-on. The constant stirring is necessary to help release the starchiness from the rice. This is what makes risotto ultra-creamy.
You don’t need a recipe
No matter what flavor combinations you make, the base and the method for doing so remains the same. So make it easy on yourself.
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.
Make It Even Easier
To make things even easier, you can use any leftover protein and/or vegetables from a previous meal. This will also help you repurpose your leftovers and reduce your food waste.
More Risotto Recipes You’ll Love:
- Lemon Zucchini Risotto with Miso Butter
- Pea & Leek Greens Farro Risotto
- 1-Pot Dairy-Free Butternut Squash Risotto
How to Make Dairy-Free Risotto (No Recipe Needed)
- 2 tbsp avocado or olive oil, divided
- 2½-3 cups vegetables of choice
- ½ yellow or white onion diced
- 1½ cups arborio rice
- 5 cups bone broth or stock chicken, beef, or vegetable
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- seasonings, to taste
- cooked protein of choice (optional)
- dairy-free butter
- cashew cream
- Heat up a large pan over medium heat.
- Cut vegetables of choice into uniformly small pieces, so they cook faster and evenly.
- Once pan is hot, add 1 tablespoon of oil and add vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and other dried spices (if using). While vegetables are cooking, dice onion, and set aside. Remove vegetables from pan once cooked through, but not mushy and set aside, covered.
- Add another tablespoon of oil and add the diced onion, cooking until it's translucent.
- Now, add in all the rice, mixing it together with the cooked onion, and letting it lightly toast to develop flavor for just about a minute.
- Reduce the heat to 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 and your cooked protein of choice (see notes below if using scallops). Mix thoroughly to incorporate.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. And add any additional stir-ins such as dairy-free butter or cashew cream. Enjoy!