Looking for winter risotto ideas? This lemony winter risotto recipe is the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about comfort food. It is perfect for chilly nights. The addition of zucchini and squash makes it a healthy and hearty meal.
Many people fear it due to its misperceived complexity; we chose to kick-start this blog because you can pamper yourself any night.
This lemony, creamy risotto, made with zucchini, is one of our favorite Italian recipes. It is as close to our heart as our lemon garlic spaghetti and vegan asparagus Ppasta, dishes that always leave our guests asking for more, as they don't expect lemons to perform so well in savory dishes.
Check our dairy-free risotto recipes, including the sun-dried tomatoes risotto, traditional saffron risotto, or our vegan mushrooms risotto, for another great and easy-to-make version of this Italian favorite!
The good thing was that this time provided the perfect setting for cooking and a lot!
💚 Why you will love it
- Bright Citrus Flavor: The zest and juice of fresh lemon add a vibrant, tangy twist, perfect for brightening up chilly winter days.
- Comforting and Creamy: This risotto, with its creamy texture and hearty ingredients like zucchini and leeks, is the epitome of comfort food.
- Nutrient-Rich Vegetables: Packed with healthy zucchini and leeks, this dish is delicious and nutritious.
- Quick and Easy: Ready in just 30 minutes, this risotto is perfect for a hassle-free yet impressive meal.
- Versatile Dish: Serve it as a warming main course or a delightful side dish, making it perfect for any occasion.
This winter squash risotto is very easy to make, and you can vary the ingredients depending on the available herbs.
- Carnaroli Rice or Arborio Rice: The MVP of risottos, it's starchy and absorbent, making your dish creamy without any cream. It's the canvas waiting for its colorful flavor palette.
- Zucchini: Adds a subtle, earthy sweetness and a pop of green. It's like the supporting actor who unexpectedly steals the show.
- Leeks: These bring a milder, more nuanced oniony flavor. They're the culinary equivalent of a warm, cozy blanket on a winter day.
- Fresh Garlic: The aromatic powerhouse that adds depth and a kick. It's the bass drop in the symphony of flavors.
- White Wine (Dry): Introduces a layer of acidity and sophistication. Think of it as the plot twist that keeps you hooked till the last bite.
- Nutritional Yeast: The vegan's secret weapon for cheesy, umami goodness. It's like adding a sprinkle of magic to your dish.
- Vegan Butter (or Extra Virgin Olive Oil): Adds a rich, buttery texture that's like a warm hug for your taste buds. Also, it's plant-based, so it's a hug you can feel good about.
- Fresh Thyme (or Fresh Sage): A touch of herbal elegance that elevates the dish. It's like the chic accessory you didn't know your outfit needed.
- Vegetable Stock: More than just a liquid; it's the flavor-infused runway for all the other ingredients. It's the unsung hero of the risotto world.
- Lemon Juice and Zest: The zingy finale that brightens up the whole dish. It's like the encore at the end of a rockin' concert that leaves you cheering for more.
- Add homemade vegan parmesan (main in less than 5 minutes).
- Toasted slivered almonds
- Zucchini: Yellow squash can be a good substitute, offering a similar texture and mild flavor.
- Leeks: If leeks are unavailable, use a mild onion or shallots for a similar subtle, sweet flavor.
- Fresh Garlic: In the absence of fresh garlic, you can use ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder for each clove.
- White Wine (Dry): Non-alcoholic white wine or additional vegetable broth with a splash of lemon juice can be used for similar acidity without the alcohol.
- Nutritional Yeast: Grated Parmesan cheese can be used as a non-vegan option, adding a more traditional cheesy flavor.
- Fresh Thyme (or Fresh Sage): Dried thyme or sage can be used in smaller quantities, as they are more concentrated in flavor.
Large skillet, medium saucepan, and ladle.
To make this winter squash risotto carefully but easily follow these steps and you will have a meal in less than 30 minutes. Risotto is not time-consuming like most people think!
Make the vegetable stock
Start by cutting the rough piece of your veggies and throwing them into a medium-high heat medium saucepan with boiling water; make sure you have some onion in. If you are in a rush, you can always use a preservative-free vegetables stock cube.
Cut your veggies
Slice the leeks and cut the zucchinis in different sizes. We love to have different textures in our risottos, so I usually sliced on zucchini, and make halves and quarters with the second one.
Grill half the zucchinis
In a skillet, the same one you will use to make the risotto, add some vegan butter or olive oil, and grill one zucchini, the sliced one, on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
We will leave the quarters and halved to be cooked directly in the risotto.
Top tip: this step is key if you want to have some zucchinis look grilled and rich in color, vs the one that will look steamed or boiled.
Heat the oil on medium heat until you can see smoke coming out, then throw garlic and the chopped leeks until they become translucent.
Add rice, stirring constantly, until it also becomes translucent; it should take about 2 minutes.
And this is where the magic begins: pour the wine and enjoy the smell of the rice grains walls being broken by the alcohol and opening themselves up to absorb slowly and gracefully every single drop of the veggies’ stock that you prepared before.
Then stir and reduce heat.
Stir zucchini and lemon
Stir in the raw chopped zucchini, followed by the lemon juice, and nutritional yeast.
Start adding the stock, little by little, cook stirring, adding more when the rice has absorbed the liquid.
Add thyme sprigs and keep adding vegetable broth as needed.
When the rice is cooked “al dente,” add the grilled zucchini, fresh lemon zest, freshly ground black pepper, and salt.
To serve, add one tablespoon of vegan butter and optionally some slightly toasted slivered almonds to make it even more delicious.
Remember to carefully remove the thyme sprigs.
💡 Expert tips
Rice Selection: Use Carnaroli or Arborio rice for the best creamy texture. These varieties are ideal for risotto due to their high starch content.
Lemon Balance: Be mindful of the lemon juice and zest quantities. Too much can overpower the dish, while too little might not bring out the desired brightness. Adjust according to your taste preference.
Consistent Stirring: Regular stirring is crucial for a creamy risotto. It helps to release the starches from the rice, preventing it from sticking to the pan.
Vegetable Preparation: Grill half of the zucchini to add a smoky depth and leave the rest raw to be cooked in the risotto for varied textures.
Broth Temperature: Always use warm vegetable broth when adding it to the risotto. Cold broth can lower the cooking temperature and affect the dish's consistency.
Herb Choices: Fresh thyme or sage can significantly impact the flavor profile. Choose based on your preference, but remember that sage will give a more robust flavor compared to the milder thyme.
Seasoning: Adjust the seasoning at the end of cooking. The lemon and vegetables can alter the overall taste, so a final taste test is crucial.
Resting Time: Allow the risotto to rest for a couple of minutes off the heat before serving. This helps the flavors to meld and the texture to settle.
Loved the simplicity of our winter risotto? Our latest article on making risotto is filled with tips to refine your technique and bring out the best in every risotto dish.
🥢 How to serve
Veggie Medley: Pair the risotto with a side of roasted seasonal vegetables like our healthy Brussels sprouts or wedges of a whole roasted butternut squash. It's a hearty, balanced meal that screams comfort.
Stuffed Bell Peppers: Hollow out some bell peppers and stuff them with the risotto, a fantastic way to make a yummy variation of our vegan stuffed peppers recipe. Bake until the peppers are tender.
Fresh lemon juice is recommended for the best flavor, but bottled juice can be used in a pinch.
Absolutely! You can add plant-based proteins like tofu or tempeh.
- Fridge & Reheat: Store the leftover risotto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. To reheat, place it in a saucepan over low heat, adding a splash of vegetable stock to bring back its creaminess. Stir occasionally until heated through.
- Freeze & Reheat: Portion the risotto into freezer-safe bags or containers, leaving some space for expansion. Freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw in the fridge overnight and then follow the same reheating steps as above, adding a bit more vegetable stock if needed.
📚 More risotto recipes
Feeling like having comfort food? Check these additional recipes:
Indulge in our saffron risotto, a vegan twist on the classic Risotto alla Milanese, where the luxurious saffron infuses the creamy rice with its exquisite flavor. It's a perfect blend of tradition and plant-based innovation, ideal for those special dining occasions.
For a heartier fare, our vegan mushroom risotto and vegan butternut squash Risotto offer deep, comforting flavors. The earthy mushrooms in the former and the sweet richness of butternut squash in the latter elevate the creamy risotto base. And for garlic lovers, our simple yet flavorful garlic risotto is a true delight, showcasing how minimal ingredients can create a profoundly satisfying dish.
If you love zucchini dishes, give this Lebanese-style stuffed zucchini a try; you will love them. We also use them to make vegan ceviche and yellow Thai curry, they are perfect because they can absorb tons of flavor.
⭐ If you try this recipe, let us know! 💬 Leave a comment, rate it, and don't forget to tag us @ourplantbasedworld on Instagram. Cheers!
Lemony Winter Risotto
- 2 zucchini medium, one sliced and the other chopped in quarters and halves
- 1 lemon medium juice (juice of half the lemon) + whole lemon zest
- 1 cup finely sliced leeks about 8 oz, or one small onion
- 1 cup carnaroli rice or Arborio rice, 7 oz or 200 grams
- 5 vegetable broth
- 5 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 3 tablespoons vegan butter or olive oil. Divided store-bough or homemade vegan recipe.
- 3 sprigs thyme fresh, or sage, dill, rosemary
- Make the stock. Start by cutting the rough piece of your veggies and throw them into a pot of boiling water; make sure you have some onion in. If you are in a rush, you can always use a preservative-free vegetables’ stock cube.
- Chop yoiur veggies. Slice the leeks, chop one zucchni into slices, and the othe into quarters and halves.
- Grill one zucchini. Grill one the zuccinis, the sliced one, using 1 tablespoon of teh vegan butter.
- Sauté. Heat the 1 tablespoon of vegan butter on medium heat then add the sliced leeks and minced garlic, toss until they become transluscent.
- Stir in the rice. Add the rice and stir until it also becomes translucent; it should take about 2 minutes. Pour the white wine (or ⅓ cup vegetable broth) and as soon as it dried out, start adding the vegetable broth.
- Add vegetable stock. Start adding the stock, little by little, adding more when the rice has absorbed the liquid. When the rice is “al dente,” add the raw zucchini, nutritional yeast, fresh thyme, and half of one lemon's juice.
- Adjust. Add the remaining tablespoon of vegan butter, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove the thyme sprigs.
- Garnish. Add vegan parmesan and optionally lighly toasted slivered almonds.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice. See our full Nutritional Disclosure here.
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