Risotto for Vegans, Just in Time for Spring

April  3, 2014

Every other Thursday, Gena Hamshaw of the blog Choosing Raw shares satisfying, flavorful recipes that also happen to be vegan.

Today: Welcome spring with a bright, lemony asparagus risotto -- Gena shares a trick for making it rich and creamy without any cheese.

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People are often surprised to hear me say that risotto is one of my favorite recipes to make. They assume that the dish’s richness must come from dairy, but the beauty of risotto is that arborio rice becomes creamy on its own, leaving little need for butter, cream, or even cheese. With flavorful vegetable stock (homemade or not) and some nutritional yeast -- every vegan’s secret to cheesy-tasting recipes -- you’ll find that homemade vegan risotto is reliable, forgiving, and delicious.

More: Now that you've got nutritional yeast in your pantry, use it to make vegan pesto, too.

The following dish celebrates the advent of spring with fresh asparagus. It’s lemony, bright, and simple. If you don’t care for the taste of nutritional yeast, that’s okay -- the recipe will turn out nicely without it. If you’re craving something a little more authentic-tasting, I recommend leaving it in.

Vegan Lemon Asparagus Risotto

Serves 4

1 bunch of asparagus spears (15 to 20), trimmed and chopped into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
5 cups low-sodium vegetable stock (you may not use it all, but have it handy anyway)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon fresh thyme

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here. 

Photos by James Ransom

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The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).

Order now

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  • Nancy
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  • Cath
  • KJP
Gena Hamshaw is a certified nutritionist, recipe developer, and food blogger. She shares her latest culinary adventures at The Full Helping. She's the author of two cookbooks, Food52 Vegan (2015) and Choosing Raw (2014). She enjoys yoga, sweet potatoes, cashews, and things that are smothered in sauce.


Nancy April 7, 2014
Everytime I make Risotto it comes out too thick, gummy, and blah tasting. I love creamy, and I love rice, but I must be doing something wrong with the risotto. I try to stir constantly, I'm careful to add the liquid correctly. I think I follow the recipes. Any tips?
Henry B. September 16, 2019
Use lower heat
Edith April 6, 2014
#KJP we avoid all added oil too; just fry with a little broth instead.
Darlene April 6, 2014
I've made Vegan Risotto for my family and friends many times. It always comes out 'creamy' (that's the way arborio rice works if you stir it correctly), so I don't think it needs nutritional yeast at all. I've even made it with minced ginger root and no onion/shallots for a friend who cant have that, and it turned out perfect! No one missed the onion/shallots, which really shocked me.
Cath April 6, 2014
This was great! Perfect time of year to try a new asparagus recipe. As an Italian and vegan I always want people to know you don't need cream or milk to make risotto creamy!
KJP April 6, 2014
How would this taste if I leave out the oil? I'm not a fan of oil.