Vegan Lemon Asparagus Risotto

April  1, 2014
19 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

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

What You'll Need
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Vegan Lemon Asparagus Risotto
  • 1 bunch of asparagus spears (15 to 20), trimmed and chopped into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 cup onion, 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 leaves
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Stir the blanched asparagus into the rice and heat through. Serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Christine Day
    Christine Day
  • StreetSong
  • Emily Love
    Emily Love
  • Josephine Samuel
    Josephine Samuel
  • Spicely_Organics

24 Reviews

Christine D. October 14, 2022
My husband and I really enjoyed this. I didn't have a shallot, so I used a small leek and it was delicious!
StreetSong April 25, 2020
We had this tonight and loved it! This will be in regular rotation. I subbed a pinch of dried thyme since I didn't have any fresh thyme and added 3 generous pats of Myoko's non-dairy cultured butter (which is heavenly) just before serving. It was incredibly delicious. I've come to know that your recipes will not let us down, Gena. Thank you!
Lauren May 30, 2018
Had this for dinner tonight with a grilled romaine salad - so good!! Lightly roasted the asparagus stems after blanching and added frozen peas as others suggested.
LizCo77 May 13, 2016
I made this for a large family dinner and it was a hit! I used up some leftover asparagus that was a little softer than I would like, but it still came out great. I used pecorino instead of nutritional yeast since the crowd was only vegetarian, not vegan. Delicious!
Emily L. February 14, 2016
just made this and it was awesome! I've never made risotto with this method (just the baking method) and it was a lot of work but I really can't tell the difference! I cooked mine a bit more at the end to really evaporate more of the liquid to get closer to the traditional texture (perhaps I didn't stir long enough). I also added in some frozen peas I had on hand and pine nuts as suggested below - delicious!
Christine D. October 14, 2022
I was thinking that peas would be a good addition!
Jennife May 9, 2014
I wish you would post nutrition information with your recipes :(
Hannah May 5, 2014
I would recommend using a very mild-flavored vegetable stock or else all you can taste in the finished dish is the stock
Vaibs April 22, 2014
Also, I boiled the asparagus in 5-6 cups of boiling water which later I used as the vegetable stock for the risotto, thus utilizing everything and eliminating the need to have another stock and heat it.
(An Indian boy living in Europe, who loves to cook too)
Vaibs April 22, 2014
I just made this risotto. That's the first time I made a risotto from the start (not the instant risotto packs). And also the first time I use fresh asparagus. I liked it. I used one green onion and one red onion (instead of shallot). The lemon on the red onion made the whole risotto pink/reddish. And also, the lemon juice (I used half lime) made it a bit acidic (more than I am comfortable with). So probably the next time I will use less lemon (I thought this was less than the recommended total 3 table spoons). But other than that, it's delicious. I followed the exact ingredients (right from extra virgin olive oil up to pepper). And also, it's great to have it without cheese. I am a vegetarian, but not strictly vegan, so I added a bit of garlic butter and it's even more delicious.

Barbara W. April 16, 2014
This risotto is marvelous. Creamy, fresh with the asparagus and bright with the lemon. I did not have nutritional yeast, but look forward to that addition as I will be making this again soon! I topped with grated Parmesan and it was delish. Husband begging for more. Thank you!
Josephine S. April 16, 2014
what is the difference between the regular rice and arborio rice? is the taste differ that much?
Luigi April 17, 2014
Josephine, You absolutely have to use arborio rice. It's a different grain than regular rice. Arborio rice gives you creaminess and the right texture. The recipe won't work with regular rice.
Spicely_Organics April 15, 2014
Love it! Walnuts and/or peas would make a wonderful addition.
Luigi April 14, 2014
Finely chop a handful of walnuts and sauté. Use this as a flavor base. I don't use nutritional yeast; I don't like the flavor. If you're going to skip the cheese, I wouldn't use a cheese substitute like the yeast, which doesn't really taste like cheese. Also, I parboil the asparagus, but don't mix them in until close to the endto avoid their getting too mushy. I also slice some grape tomatoes and add them near the end just to add some color.
bgavin April 13, 2014
What is nutritional yeast and what does it do for this recipe?
Samantha April 13, 2014
It is a deactivated yeast filled with B12. Most vegans think it tastes like parmesan cheese. I disagree it kind of tastes like that fake kraft parmesan that comes in the shaker but worse... Most people like it though, I think it is an acquired taste. You can find it in most grocery stores now (at least where I live) and it is definitely available in health food stores.
chris April 11, 2016
I'm not a vegetarian, but I prefer nutritional yeast to Parmesan. I recently discovered non-fortified nutritional yeast, which I think is definitely worth the bump in price.
Lauren S. April 8, 2014
I made this last night and it came out delicious! The only change I made, was after I blanched all of the asparagus, I lightly roasted half of it (not the tips), and it added a great flavor to the dish.
JessieV April 7, 2014
Made this tonight - extraordinary! Thank you!
Veganosity April 5, 2014
This looks so amazing! We usually make a portobello mushroom risotto ( and I've never really thought of using lemons and asparagus. I can't wait to try it!
Luigi April 4, 2014
As part of your preparation, heat up your stock in a separate pot so that you add hot stock to the rice,
kim April 3, 2014
this sounds wonderful- I would be inclined to roast the asparagus mainly because I love that slight sweet thing that happens when it's roasted .
Y April 2, 2014
Yum! This looks amazing. I recently made a vegan risotto with brown rice, cashew cream, tons of lemon and peas. I can't wait to give your recipe a go! I like how this recipe doesn't have nuts, I'm amazed to see how creamy it turned out! Nutritional yeast makes everything tastier.