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.
The following dish celebrates the advent of spring with fresh asparagus. It’s lemony, bright, and simple. It's elegant, but it has all of the creamy comfort and heft you expect from a traditional risotto. If it's your first vegan risotto, you'll be amazed at how authentic it is–and how little you miss the dairy. 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. —Gena Hamshaw
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Vegan Lemon Asparagus Risotto
bunch of asparagus spears (15 to 20), trimmed and chopped into 1 1/2-inch pieces
clove garlic, minced
low-sodium vegetable stock (you may not use it all, but have it handy anyway)
Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil. Add the asparagus spears and blanch for about two minutes, or until they're tender but still have some crunch. Remove them from the pan and run under cold water to stop them from cooking further. Set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the shallots and onions and cook for four minutes, or until the onions are getting soft. Add the garlic and cook for another three minutes.
Add the rice and heat it in the saucepan, stirring constantly, for about two minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low. Add the white wine, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and cook, stirring gently and vigilantly, till the white wine has been absorbed.
Add a cup of stock to the pan and cook, stirring as needed, till the stock has been absorbed. Continue adding stock in 1/2- to 3/4-cup amounts, stirring each time until the stock is absorbed. You may not need all five cups of broth to make the rice creamy and soft, but you can expect to use most of it. When the rice is tender but still has some chew, stir in the nutritional yeast and thyme, along with salt and pepper to taste.
Stir the blanched asparagus into the rice and heat through. Serve.
Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.