Rich, sumptuous, and exquisitely elegant, this Vegan Pumpkin Risotto recipe is certain to impress. Made with just 12 ingredients (about half of which I’d bet you already have on hand) and ready in just an hour, this vegan risotto is an ideal entrée for any fall occasion (I'm looking at you Thanksgiving).
As the days grow cooler and shorter, I can’t help but crave all my favorite fall ingredients (apples, maple syrup, and pumpkins, oh my!). Plus, I love it when I can start using my oven without feeling like I’m defeating my AC.
This cozy pumpkin risotto has all the elements I want from a fall dinner idea — it’s rich and creamy, packed to the brim with savory flavors like roasted garlic and squash, and has all the stick-to-your-ribs appeal you could hope for. Oh, and it just so happens to be gluten-free, soy-free, and vegan to boot!
What is Risotto?
At its most simplistic, risotto is a traditional North Italian dish made by slowly cooking starchy, short-grained rice (like arborio) in flavorful broth until it is velvety.
When cooked properly, the individual grains of rice should have an al dente consistency and the dish should be creamy even if zero cream or cream substitutes are added as a result of the starches mixing with the liquid.
While there are many flavors that can be introduced to this classic Italian dish, risotto alla zucca (or “winter squash risotto”) is easily one of the most famous.
As promised, you only need 12 ingredients to make this plant-based pumpkin risotto. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Garlic - Roasting a whole head of garlic until it is soft, sweet, and spreadable is one of life’s great pleasures. Adding said garlic to a dish as tasty as risotto? Well, that’s a whole new level of yum.
- Vegan Butter - Vegan butter has come a long way since I went vegan in 2015! I typically prefer the brands of vegan butter that come in stick form like Miyoko’s or Earth Balance. There’s also Country Crock plant butter, which I’d recommend only if you can’t find the others as it contains palm oil.
- Onion - Red, white, or yellow will all work fine!
- Pumpkin or Butternut Squash - I typically like to make my own pumpkin purée using fresh sugar pumpkin, butternut squash, or acorn squash. Feel free to swap in canned pure pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling) or canned butternut squash purée.
- White Wine - People often add white wine to risotto because it contributes a lot of savory flavor. Don’t worry, the alcohol will mostly cook off, so it will be safe for the kiddos to eat. If you don’t like having alcohol in the house, feel free to replace the wine with extra veggie stock.
- Nutmeg - For warmth. If possible, use a whole nutmeg grated on a microplane for the best flavor. As an added bonus, whole spices will keep indefinitely in the spice cabinet whereas ground varieties last only 2-3 years max.
- Salt & Black Pepper - For seasoning. Again, reach for freshly cracked black pepper instead of pre-ground powder for the best flavor.
- Arborio Rice - This is the most popular (and easy to find) type of rice for making risotto. You can also use other short-grain starchy rice varieties like Baldo, Carnaroli, Maratelli, Padano, Originario, Ribe, Roma, or Vialone Nano if you have access to them.
- Vegetable Stock - Either homemade or store-bought is fine! You can also use Better Than Bouillon paste if you’re short on kitchen storage space.
- Balsamic Vinegar - For a bit of sweet richness. Feel free to use white balsamic vinegar if you prefer a brighter orange color.
- Vegan Parmesan Cheese - We have some very solid options these days when it comes to vegan parmesan. My go-to is the Violife parmesan block, but I also love the Follow Your Heart parmesan shreds.
- Nutritional Yeast - Affectionately referred to as “nooch” in the vegan community, these little yellow flakes add tons of umami, cheesy flavor to anything they touch.
Pro Tips for Vegan Pumpkin Risotto
Making homemade risotto isn’t hard, per se, but I’ve learned some important lessons along the way. Here are my best tips for ensuring your vegan pumpkin risotto comes out perfectly every single time:
- Roast garlic ahead of time. It’ll keep in the fridge for up to 5 days and cut back on your prep time the day of.
- Check the frozen aisle. If you don’t want to deal with peeling, de-seeding, and cubing pumpkin, you can totally swap in frozen cubed winter squash instead! There’s no need to defrost it first, so just follow the recipe as written.
- Swap in canned pumpkin to save on prep time. Instead of cooking fresh or frozen squash, feel free to use canned pure pumpkin. I suggest adding it to the onions at the same point called for in the recipe. It’ll grow darker and richer as it cooks in the pan.
- Stir often. When it comes time to actually make the risotto, you have just one job: slowly cooking the rice as you add more and more liquid. This part requires a watchful eye and a bit of babysitting, but the process couldn’t be simpler. Just be sure to keep stirring at regular intervals to prevent any scorching.
Is canned pumpkin real pumpkin? So long as you’re reaching for canned pumpkin (Not pumpkin pie filling), the contents will be 100% winter squash. Whether they’re made with actual pumpkins that look like what we carve Jack-o-Lanterns from depends on the harvest and the brand.
Is risotto vegan? Not all risotto is vegan, but it is very simple to make vegan risotto! At the very simplest, all you need to make risotto is short-grained rice and broth; the rest is just icing on the proverbial cake.
Can I use anything other than arborio rice to make risotto? Absolutely! Aside from any of the Italian varieties I list in the Ingredients & Substitutions section above, you can also swap in sushi rice or even nutty, whole grain farro for a fun and healthy twist.
What’s the best way to make pumpkin risotto vegan? Simply use veggie broth and plant-based butter and cheese in place of chicken broth and regular dairy. Even your carnivorous friends won’t be able to tell the difference!
Roast the Garlic: Preheat your oven to 375°F. Slice off the top of a whole head of garlic and place in aluminum foil with the exposed top face up. Drizzle with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, then wrap the foil around the garlic so it is completely covered. Place the garlic in a small ramekin and bake for 50 minutes (it should be golden brown and tender). Open the foil to allow the garlic to cool, then squeeze the garlic head to release the roasted garlic and throw away the skin. Set aside.
Sauté the Aromatics: Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and pumpkin and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and the pumpkin is tender (about 10 minutes).
Deglaze the Pan: Add the white wine, nutmeg, pepper, and salt to the pan and scrape off anything that's stuck to the bottom of the pan. Continue to simmer for about 5 minutes until most of the liquid has cooked off.
Make the Pumpkin Puree: If you want to make this a one-pot meal, add the roasted garlic to the pan and mash the onions and pumpkins until you have your desired consistency. If you want a super smooth and creamy risotto, blend the roasted garlic with the onions and pumpkin and ½ cup of water in a blender and pour it back into the pan.
Cook the Rice: Add the rice along with 1 cup of vegetable stock to the pan with the pumpkin puree. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir consistently until the rice absorbs the liquid. Continue adding the stock 1 cup at a time, continually stirring, until the rice is cooked through (this process should take about 30 minutes). You might find you'll not need to add all of the stock or if your rice is still not cooked through continue adding more stock ½ cup at a time.
Add the Finishing Touches: Once the rice is cooked through, turn off the heat. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, parmesan, and nutritional yeast, and adjust any flavors to your preference.
Serve: Serve immediately garnished with more cheese, and sage or parsley. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
As far as I’m concerned, this is the best vegan risotto around! That said, taste is subjective and there are a LOT of delicious flavors to explore. Here are a few BSV-approved variations to consider:
- Vegan Butternut Squash Risotto - Whether or not you believe me, butternut squash and pumpkin can be used interchangeably in basically every possible recipe. You can also swap in peeled and cubed sweet potatoes if you prefer!
- Leek Pumpkin Risotto - Keep the onions called for in the recipe, but add some crispy fried leeks as a sweet, caramelly garnish.
- Pumpkin and Mushroom Risotto - Get extra umami and add some fun texture by stirring in the roasted sliced mushrooms of your choice.
- Pumpkin Sage Risotto - Adding fried sage leaves and vegan browned butter to your finished dish will add an extra layer of fanciness and flavor.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
There are so many reasons to love this fall-inspired recipe, this vegan pumpkin risotto recipe is:
- Made With Just 12 Ingredients, many of which I’d bet you already have on hand.
- Ready In An Hour. Considering this is restaurant-level fancy, that’s not bad! Plus, it’s easy enough for even the most novice home cook to try.
- Impossibly Creamy without a single drop of cream.
- Hearty & Comforting, like a hug in a bowl.
Let me know if you try this recipe for vegan pumpkin risotto, and if you do, I would love it if you left a rating and review below! Make sure you are also following along on Instagram and Pinterest for more food inspiration.
More Vegan Fall Recipe:
- Pumpkin Pasta
- Fall Harvest Salad
- Maple Roasted Carrots
- Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- Pumpkin Soup without Stock
- Greek Lemon Soup
- Broccoli Leek Soup
- Quinoa Meatloaf
- Yellow Curry
- Sugar Free Apple Crisp
- Pumpkin Pie Bars
- Apple Cinnamon Rolls
- Apple Pancakes