Vegan butternut squash risotto is the perfect plant-based winter comfort food.

An angled shot of a vegan butternut squash risotto, garnished with sage.

I love risotto. It’s pure comfort food. It’s easy to prepare, but it still looks and tastes “fancy.” I make risotto frequently when friends come over—so long as there are enough of them to keep each other company while I stir.

The downside of risotto is, of course, is the time and attention it takes to prepare. It’s not always an easy choice for busy nights. But the good news is that the process is relatively easy work, in spite of being hands-on. And my worst batch of risotto still tasted wonderful.

Last week, I decided to combine two of my favorite things—rice and butternut squash—in my first ever vegan butternut squash risotto. Naturally, the pairing of two such stellar main ingredients was a success. I loved this dish, and I hope you will, too.

Elements of great risotto

Arborio rice

Arborio rice—a type of short-grained rice with a high starch content—is what gives risotto its wonderfully creamy consistency. I’ve made risotto with other grains before, including barley, brown rice, and farro. I like the fiber and flavor of other grains. But when it comes to consistency, arborio really can’t be beat. Whenever I’m hoping to make a classic risotto, I choose arborio rice, and I keep it in my pantry for that reason.

The right cooking vessel

You can absolutely make risotto in a big, heavy-bottomed pot. The problem with a deep cooking vessel is that it might delay the cooking time of your risotto, which is already considerable! A shallow, wider skillet will help the rice to absorb warm broth more quickly. I use a deep, straight-sided, nonstick sauté pan when I make risotto, and I think it makes the cooking process go smoothly.

Warm broth

Risotto is made by adding broth incrementally to rice, stirring as you go. The process of adding just enough broth to be absorbed in intervals creates the wonderful creaminess that risotto is known for. If you add cold broth, cooking will be slower, because each addition of broth will need to warm up before being absorbed by the rice. Keep a large saucepan of broth over a low flame next to your risotto as it cooks. The broth will be hot when it enters the sauté pan or skillet, and the risotto will cook correctly.

Why roasted butternut squash?

When I first made this recipe, I tried cooking the butternut squash in the sauté pan before adding my rice. I later realized that I was making my cooking process longer and harder than it needed to be. Roasting the butternut squash in the oven has a few advantages. First, the butternut squash becomes sweet and golden brown. It’s flavor is more intense flavor than squash that’s cooked on the stovetop.

More importantly, you can work on the risotto as the squash roasts. No need to wait for the squash to cook before you can get started on the risotto. Roasting in the oven will save you a lot of time. By the time the squash is roasted (about 30 minutes), your risotto will be close to ready. You’ll simply fold the sweet, cooked squash into the risotto at the very end.

I love the sweetness and heartiness of this vegan butternut squash risotto. It’s not a light risotto: the squash is substantial, as is the risotto itself. But if something deeply nourishing and flavorful is what you’re after, this is it.

And the nice thing about good risotto is that you don’t have to season it heavily, or even very creatively. A little white wine, garlic, onion, and shallot (which I think adds flavor beyond the onion), is more than enough. If you like, you can add some chopped sage at the end of cooking. The risotto will be creamy and comforting whether you do or don’t.

A bowl of autumn risotto with roasted butternut squash and sage leaves.

An angled shot of a vegan butternut squash risotto, garnished with sage.
5 from 1 vote

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

Author - Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks (about 1 1/4 lb after preparation)
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 small or 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Place the cut squash on the baking sheet. Drizzle it with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and use your hands to coat the squash cubes with the oil. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and roast for 30 minutes, or until the squash is lightly browning at the edges and tender. Remove the squash from the oven and set it aside for when the risotto has finished cooking.
  • Meanwhile, pour the broth into a medium saucepan and bring it to a very low simmer. Continue to simmer it over low heat while you proceed with the recipe.
  • Heat the remaining tablespoon oil over medium heat in a large, deep, straight-sided skillet. Add the onion and shallot. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes, or until the onion is clear and soft. Add the garlic. Cook for another minute, stirring constantly.
  • Add the rice to the skillet and stir it together with the onion, shallot, and garlic. Then, pour in the white white wine. Reduce the heat to medium low. Allow the wine to come to a gentle simmer. Continue to stir the rice periodically until most of the wine has been absorbed or cooked off, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add about 3/4 cup of the hot broth to the skillet. Repeat the same process you used for the wine: allow the broth to come to a gentle simmer, all the while stirring the rice frequently. Continue until almost all liquid is absorbed. Then, add another 3/4 cup broth and repeat. Continue to add the broth by the 3/4-cupful, waiting for the broth to be mostly absorbed before you add more and stirring the whole time. When the rice is ready, it will be creamy and tender. You'll still have some broth in the pan: the risotto should have enough liquid that it'll run out onto a serving plate, but it shouldn't resemble rice soup. You'll probably use nearly all of the broth, but you may have a half cup (or so) leftover. The process should take about 35-40 minutes.
  • When the rice is ready, fold in the roasted butternut squash. Then, stir in the nutritional yeast and sage. Taste and adjust the salt as needed, followed by freshly ground black pepper. If the risotto has gotten too thick, add another splash of hot broth to loosen it up. Serve immediately.

Storing butternut squash risotto

I’ve often read that risotto should be served as soon as possible and should never be made in advance. It’s true that risotto leftovers tend to become dense and stick together.

Honestly, though? I think risotto leftovers taste great. They don’t have all the wonderful, creamy, loose texture of risotto that’s freshly cooked. But they have a toothsome heartiness and stick-to-your-ribs quality that’s lovely in a different way. They remind me of so many of my favorite rice dishes: my creamy brown rice with shiitakes and peas, my lemon dill zucchini rice, or my creamy chick’n rice skillet supper. All starchy and satisfying. All good.

So, once you make the vegan butternut squash risotto, feel free to store it for up to four days in an airtight container in the fridge. The leftovers won’t taste quite the same, but they’ll taste pretty great.

A close up photograph of a creamy vegan risotto, made with tender roasted butternut squash.

This risotto makes for a lovely winter dinner. A simple green salad or sautéed leafy greens are all you need to turn it into a complete meal.

As school fires up, I’m going to feel gratitude for every night on which I have an hour or more to cook. Meals like risotto won’t be an option for much longer, but for as long as they are, I’ll savor them.

xo

This post was updated in October 2020.

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Recipe Rating




    40 Comments
  1. 5 stars
    This was delicious! I made it a little ahead of time and then reheated it at dinnertime. Served with salad and vegan sausages. So yummy. Thanks for a great dinner!

  2. You don’t state what to do with the shallots. I assume you meant “onion and shallot” when you said “onion,” right?

  3. Butternut squash risotto — what a great wintry comfort food! I like to make risotto a little bit too much — I tried it with millet the other day and it was lovely! A bit of a different texture, but still so very warming.

  4. Sounds yummy, creamy and simple! Maybe a great candidate for ‘make a huge pot in advance and use for several days’ in the busy time? No surprise that you’re going for the more hectic track: I hope it inspires and exhilarates you as well as exercising you hard, and that you find time to breathe.

    love
    Ela

  5. Yum! I’m especially excited to try this risotto and squash combo with the addition of nooch. Will be cooking this on the weekend for sure!

  6. Ha, after reading your post yesterday, I was going to write and say, “do the accelerated track!” But of course you figured that one out for yourself. So happy for you.

    • Thanks, E! That decision actually tripped me up — my adviser was SO adamant about me taking the conservative track — but I agree that that wasn’t the right approach for me. Time to step up 🙂

  7. Love risotto! It’s one of my favorites. I’d like to try this recipe and see if it’s as cheesy and creamy as my beloved recipes!

  8. I bet it will be worth it to do the more rigorous curriculum– it will be tough, but you’ll be SO glad to be done with it instead of dragging it out!

    This risotto look amazing! We’re hosting a dinner party in a few weeks, and I might just have to make this.

  9. I love risotto – and have found that the leftovers are equally as yummy as the 1st warm serving. Looking forward to your pizza post!

  10. Looks so yummy! I love a good risotto. Sadly my arm does not like stirring so I don’t make it too often. But a good vegan version can win people over.

    I can feel the stress over here! Take care of yourself. I hope it’s fun and you learn lots, despite the business of it all.

  11. mystery recipe!?! cant wait 🙂 this risotto looks so much like mac n cheese, it makes me crave both dishes.

  12. Looks divine. I can’t wait to give it a try. I made your cauliflower mash the other day and LOVED it! Thanks for all the great recipes and inspiration!

  13. Gena that looks great!

    I just made something today that was a veggie bake with nooch and was as you put it “warm, carb-y, delicious, and even though it’s easy to prepare, it looks and tastes professional.”

    Well my hubs and kid said it tasted professional. haha!

    I have no doubt your risotto creation is just that. I love that it’s one pot, one dish, nothing complicated or exotic involved, it’s straightforward eating. The way I like to cook and eat. Thanks for sharing!

    I can only imagine how BUSY and crazy your life must be right now. Hang in there, that’s all i can say and thank you for blogging even tho no doubt, you are slammed with other life stuff going on!

    🙂

  14. Mmm, how yummy and hearty indeed. Love how you healthified and veganized the standard, not so healthy, risotto.
    Is there a substitute for dry white wine I could use, as I have no alcoholic beverages in the house 🙂
    Also, would barley or farro work instead of arborio? It’d make it much more nutritious and dense!

  15. I made something like this for my and my bf’s parents last month and they loved it. To make it more omni friendly, we added Field Roast apple-sage sausage and carmelized onions. So delicious and creamy!

  16. I made a butternut squash risotto earlier this squash season (November-ish?). I cooked the squash bits first and added them to the arborio after it was good and risottoed (like is often done with mushrooms). I had added a bit of sugar, I think, but I love the idea of putting some nutritional yeast in the mix. Maybe I’ll give squash risotto another go! Thanks! Love the blog.