This vegan mushroom risotto with peas is insanely creamy and decadent without the use of any dairy! It’s rich, comforting and packed with lots of umami flavors. Easy enough to make during the weeknight while special enough for entertaining.
If you asked me just a year ago is the words risotto and vegan could cohabit the same sentence I probably would’ve laughed you off.
Kind of like vegan spinach artichoke dip, not a recipe I thought that about either!
Risotto is a recipe that runs deep for me.
I grew up with it being a special Sunday dinner (95% of the time in the cold weather months only), always the same recipe and always involving a lot of cheese and pork sausage.
For 37 years, I would’ve told you a creamy, savory umami type risotto isn’t even possible without cheese and sausage.
On my 38th year, however, I’ve changed my mind and here we are with this creamy vegan risotto recipe.
It’s packed with mushrooms and peas (although they’re optional so the pea haters can chill) and lusciously decadent and rich.
How is that even possible without any dairy you ask?
Well, my friends, read on…
INGREDIENTS FOR VEGAN MUSHROOM RISOTTO
While missing some of the traditional risotto ingredients like butter and parmesan cheese, this recipe calls for just a few basics you’ll likely have on hand, especially if you typically eat vegan or dairy-free.
For the dairy-free mushroom risotto, you’ll need:
- extra virgin olive oil
- yellow onions
- lemon juice
- white wine (optional)
- arborio rice (or carnaroli, see below for differences)
- vegetable broth or stock
- frozen peas (optional)
- nutritional yeast
- salt & pepper
No cheese in sight and unlike my mom’s recipe, no saffron either!
Risotto is said to have originated in Milan where the original “risotto alla Milanese” was made with saffron.
With the Italian side of my family we keep in touch with being from that area, it’s no surprise that our version of risotto also includes saffron.
That said, saffron is expensive, annoying to deal with and honestly, I never really feel like it imparts any noticeable flavor, just color.
Verdict? Not worth including it.
So with cheese and saffron out of the way, this vegan mushroom risotto is actually quite affordable and easy to source!
WHAT MAKES VEGAN RISOTTO CREAMY?
If you’re wondering how the risotto gets so thick and creamy without any cheese or dairy, the answer is: it’s all about the stirring!
Let me go off on a quick tangent about any and all “no-stir risotto” recipes you may see out there…
Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble but, “no-stir” risotto isn’t a thing. You’re not making risotto if you’re not actively stirring the whole time (or at least most of it), you’re making rice.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with a good rice dish but, it’s not risotto.
The stirring requirements that people think of as “sooooo annoying” (I’m rolling my eyes as I type this) when it comes to risotto is precisely the whole premise of the dish!
Not to mention, it’s the sole mechanism for the decadent, creamy texture the dish is known for.
Continually stirring the rice as it cooks generates starch as the grains rub against each other resulting in that signature rich and creamy texture.
So, if you thought cheese was the answer and vegan and risotto were two words never meant to be in the same sentence (like I used to), consider yourself now educated.
Stirring also helps keep the rice from burning to the bottom of the pot.
While you don’t have to stir all 20-25 minutes or so of the rice cooking time, don’t walk away from the pot for too long!
The higher starch content in risotto rice varieties can make sticking/burning an issue if you’re not careful.
HOW TO MAKE THIS VEGAN RISOTTO RECIPE
First, pour the vegetable broth or stock into a medium sauce pot and keep warm over medium-low heat on the stove.
Next, place a large heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven on the stove over medium heat. Add the olive oil to the pot along with the chopped onions.
Cook the onions until softened, about 5 minutes then add the garlic and cook for an additional minute until fragrant.
Add the cleaned mushrooms, stir everything together then cover the pot with a lid and cook until the mushrooms have softened and released all their water. This will take about 10 minutes.
Add the rice to the pot, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes, “toasting” the rice.
Add the lemon juice and white wine (if using) and cook, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pot until the liquid has been completely absorbed.
Spoon a ladleful or two of the warm broth into the pot until the rice is just covered. Stir continuously until the liquid is 90% absorbed before adding additional broth.
Continue with this process one ladleful of broth at a time until the broth is used up and the rice is tender.
Add the frozen peas (if using) along with the last ladleful of broth. They will be warmed through by the time the broth has been absorbed.
Add the nutritional yeast and season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper.
Serve the risotto hot.
WHAT KIND OF MUSHROOMS CAN BE USED?
This is up to your preference or what you have on hand.
A variety of mushrooms can be used to comprise the 16 ounces called for in the recipe.
I used a combination of sliced white button mushrooms and baby bellas (also called cremini/crimini).
Shiitake mushrooms would also be a good addition.
With the popularity of adaptogenic mushrooms on the rise, try throwing some lion’s mane mushrooms into this dish. Their meaty texture is perfect for hearty vegan meals like this.
If you have them, dried mushrooms that you’ve reconstituted in warm water and then chopped are a great way to add lots of deep savory flavor. They’re a great secret ingredient for risotto, soups and stews! I love using them in this wild mushroom soup.
DO I HAVE TO USE ARBORIO RICE?
On a trip to a rice farm in Italy in 2014 with my mom, we were fortunate enough to enjoy a home cooked meal by the farmer’s wife and daughters in the courtyard of their barn structures.
To say it was one of the greatest meals of my life is no exaggeration. It was also educational though as they explained to us why the type of rice used in risotto truly does make a difference.
Here in the U.S., we often call for arborio rice for risotto recipes but actually in Italy, they use a rice variety called “carnaroli”.
Both are higher starch grains (versus other white rices like jasmine and basmati) which is what you want and need for a good creamy risotto recipe.
Arborio is a bit easier to find in the states and why we often call for it in recipes here.
But, if you’re able to find carnaroli rice (it’s often sold vacuum packed), it’s worth picking up.
Carnaroli has a bit higher starch content than arborio and a firmer grain making it harder to overcook.
Risotto made with carnaroli rice is pretty much always creamy, decadent and spot on when it comes to that cozy restaurant risotto texture.
WHY LEMON JUICE AND WHITE WINE?
While the wine is optional (just use more lemon juice and broth if you choose to omit), I truly love the bit of acidity these two ingredients bring to the final dish.
They’re the perfect counterbalance to all the savory umami flavors from the mushrooms, onions, peas, garlic and rice.
They bring a pop of brightness to the risotto and shouldn’t be overlooked!
WHAT’S THIS NUTRITIONAL YEAST STUFF?
If you’re familiar with vegan cooking, chances are you know the deal with nutritional yeast.
For everyone else, nutritional yeast (also referred to as “nooch”) is a species of yeast (just like brewer’s or baker’s yeast) grown specifically to be used as a food product.
It has a cheesy, nutty, savory flavor that’s often used in vegan cooking to bring umami and “cheesy” vibes to a recipe.
You can do everything with it from making kale chips and sprinkling on popcorn (I use it to make homemade snap pea crisps) to using it in place of parmesan cheese in an array of recipes like vegan risotto!
While both fortified and unfortified versions exist, you’ll often see it sold fortified which just means it has vitamins added during the manufacturing process (just like lots of cereals and breads do).
Even unfortified though, nutritional yeast is a complete protein with all 9 essential amino acids, high in B vitamins and a good source of trace minerals like selenium and zinc.
The nutritional yeast added at the end of this vegan mushroom risotto is more for umami flavor rather than cheesiness.
Even if you choose to omit it, the texture of your risotto will be just as thick and rich as without.
So there you have it, a comforting, cozy and super creamy vegan mushroom risotto recipe.
Hopefully, this has dispelled any misconceptions of risotto being a “difficult” recipe.
It’s not difficult, it just needs (and deserves) some attention while cooking to showcase it’s true creamy potential!
With just 10 basic ingredients yet an undeniably decadent result, vegan risotto is special and impressive enough to serve any crowd, vegan or not!
It’s also the perfect kind of meal for when you’re craving plant-based comfort food.
A big bowl of this vegan mushroom risotto + sweatpants + Netflix is my idea of the perfect night in.
OTHER RISOTTO RECIPES YOU MAY LIKE:
Creamy Vegan Mushroom Risotto
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 16 ounces mushrooms, sliced or chopped (*see note)
- 1 1/4 cups arborio rice
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup white wine, **optional, see note
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup frozen peas, optional
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pour the vegetable broth in a medium sauce pot and keep warm over medium-low heat.
- Place olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
- Once hot, add the onions and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the mushrooms, stir to combine then cover the pot and cook until the mushrooms are softened and have released most of their water, about 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid, add the rice to the pot and stir to combine. Sauté the rice for about 2 minutes.
- Add the lemon juice and wine. Stir and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed.
- Add the warm vegetable broth into the pot one ladleful at a time until the rice is just covered. Cook, stirring constantly (or at minimum frequently) until the broth is mostly absorbed by the rice. Add another ladleful of broth at a time, repeating the process of stirring and cooking until the broth is completely used up.
- Once the last ladleful of broth has been added to the pot, add the frozen peas (if using) and stir until incorporated.
- Once peas are warmed through and broth is mostly absorbed, add the nutritional yeast, salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine and serve hot.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.