Finely the asparagus season arrived and we are in! This vegan asparagus risotto is the perfect spring dish. Packed with fresh vegetables, it's light and healthy, but still filling and satisfying. It's also easy to make, requiring just a few simple ingredients.
This gluten-free Italian rice dish is as common here in Milano as eating pizza. After all, it is a Northern Italian dish.
This lemon asparagus risotto is the perfect springtime treat as it is made in less than 30 minutes and everyone loves it. It just requires a handful of seasonal ingredients and it is easy on your wallet.
You can easily adjust for as many guests as you need just by adding extra rice and veggies. This absolutely delicious dish, is by far one of our favorite risotto healthy recipes, just as our easy stovetop grilled asparagus, and our 15 minutes pasta with asparagus.
- Carnaroli arborio rice (7 oz, 200 grams)
- Fresh asparagus
- Frozen peas
- Fresh lemon juice and zest
- Small onion
- Garlic cloves
- Vegetable broth
- Olive oil
- Nutritional yeast or vegan parm
- Fresh thyme (or your choice of fresh herbs)
Optional: dry white wine and black pepper.
See quantities and full instructions in the recipe card.
Getting your ingredients ready
Prepare the veggie stock - put your vegetable stock to simmer in a saucepan over low heat. If using granulated store-bought veggie stock, bring the water to boil and prepare according to packaging instructions. I like adding fresh thyme and any leftovers from leek green tops, but it is not necessary.
Prepare the onions and garlic - peel and chop your onions. Mince the garlic cloves.
Prepare the asparagus - chop asparagus stalks woody ends. Cut into ½-inch segments on a diagonal.
In a large skillet, add one tablespoon of olive oil, and then stir-fry the asparagus with the lemon juice of a half lemon and a sprinkle of salt, until slightly golden. Remove from heat and reserve.
Making the risotto (about 15 minutes)
In the same skillet, add one tablespoon of olive oil, and stir-fry the onions, making sure they don't burn. Cook until slightly translucent and then add the garlic. We like using a wooden spoon or a slotted spoon.
Tip: keep the hot broth simmering next to your skillet, this way the temperature of the rice remains constant.
Add the arborio rice (or carnarolli rice), stir until lightly toasted, then add the thyme sprigs and either add wine and cook or use warm broth. Bring to a gentle simmer and stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed.
Using a ladle, keep adding broth? cup at a time, stirring almost constantly. Keep on medium heat and there should always be a slight simmer, to prevent it from becoming gummy.
Add thyme leaves or herbs of choice.
On minute ten, add nutritional yeast to the rice mixture or (homemade vegan parmesan), followed by extra broth.
Once the rice is al dente, turn the heat to the minimum and add the frozen peas, and add the asparagus.
Add the lemon zest. Use a fine shredder, to zest the whole lemon on top of the risotto (save some for garnishing).
Stir until well combined, testing a bite to ensure peas are warmed through.
Taste and adjust flavor, adding a pinch of salt and pepper to taste or vegan parmesan cheese. If it has dried out, add more broth to get that creamy texture back.
Note: you don't need to use all the broth. Some rice types absorb the liquid quicker than others. Just make sure you remove the risotto from heat when rice is al dente.
This vegan asparagus risotto is better when served immediately.
To serve, divide the creamy risotto between serving bowls, top with any remaining asparagus, and garnish with lemon zest and vegan parmesan cheese.
Instead of serving this great recipe as a main dish, you can serve it as a side dish or appetizer, reducing the serving size.
The best risotto is served immediately and al dente, otherwise it could turn out too soggy.
Best when fresh, though leftovers of this lemon asparagus risotto will keep covered in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Reheat the stovetop over medium heat, adding vegetable broth or water as needed to rehydrate. You can also reheat it in the microwave adding some liquid.
This lemon asparagus risotto is can be customized based on some of the ingredients you have readily available a can replace, see some suggestions.
Risotto rice - the most important aspect of risotto is the rice. This is because what makes risotto creamy is its starch content of it. To make this recipe it is vital to use carnarolli rice (the rice of choice in Italy), or arborio rice, another popular starchy short grain. If using brown rice, be sure to pick one of these varieties. Your risotto will take longer to cook and more liquid.
Another option is using orzo. Although it is not traditional, it has become more common over time, as a healthier option, as it contains more fiber than regular starchy rice varieties.
This lemon asparagus risotto works fine with orzo, just mid that similarly to brown rice, it will take longer to cook, so expect to spend an additional ten to fifteen minutes, and you will need about 3 extra cups of broth.
Vegetables - the frozen peas are optional; it just adds a nice texture pop. No worries if you don't have them and feel free to add seasonal vegetables.
Added mushrooms also work well. Use about 2 oz of sliced and seared portobello mushrooms, although if you are looking for a risotto featuring mushrooms as the main ingredient, check out our creamy mushroom risotto recipe.
Cheese - it is common to finalize the risotto and serve it with a cup freshly grated parmesan cheese. To make it vegan we use our homemade vegan parmesan cheese, which has a nutritional yeast base. I wouldn't add nutritional yeast directly in place of the parmesan, as it emulates the parm flavor best when mixed into the risotto or the homemade parmesan cheese, which can be made with sunflower seeds or walnuts.
Butter or oil - another common practice in making traditional risotto, such as Risotto alla Milanese, is to add even a creamier texture by dropping a piece of butter and stirring the risotto right before serving. This is called the mantecatura.
This vegan asparagus risotto is super creamy as it is but if you want to make a vegan mantecatura, you can simply add a dollop of vegan butter or a tablespoon of olive oil.
You can also replace the vegan butter with oil in the recipe's first step.
Broth - although traditionally adding ⅓ cup dry white wine, right before stirring in the broth, to brake up the rice grains, I have found that I get the same results, with broth. If you decide to do it anyway, make sure you do it right before starting to add moisture to the arborio rice or carnarolli rice, using the stock.
If you are not going to use your asparagus immediately, put them in a glass with water covering about 2 inches of their stock. Then place a plastic bag on top and place them in the fridge. They can last up to two weeks.
Asparagus always taste better the fresher they are as they start losing flavor from the moment they are cut.
Always reach for asparagus with vibrant green color.
Some of the key flavor molecules in asparagus, for example, are water-soluble, so if you boil asparagus, they extract into the water and end up down in the sink. As we do in this recipe, sauteeing the asparagus in butter or oil minimizes this loss and keeps more of the flavor in the vegetable. For the same reason, broccoli and beans - whose key odorants are oil soluble-retain their taste better if steamed or boiled.
I love how this is perfectly explained in one of my favorite gastronomy books, Flavor: The Science of Our Most Neglected Sense. [affiliate link]
The thinner the asparagus spears are the better, as they will be more tender and less woody.
Don't overcook them, they require minimum cooking, tossing, or blanching.
More asparagus recipes
We also like the roasted asparagus with tahini drizzle from World of Vegan.
If you enjoy having asparagus as part of your main dish, apart from this lemon asparagus risotto, you can go for a 15-minutes asparagus pasta.
More risotto recipes
We love risotto and make it at least twice per week. It is just an easy, comforting, and quick dish that can be adapted for every season and it is always a crowd-pleaser. So it works as an easy weeknight dinner or as an elegant dinner when you are hosting.
Some of our favorite risotto recipes are the classic saffron risotto from the Lombardy area, where we live, the roasted pumpkin risotto, butternut squash risotto, and the autumn-time favorite mushroom risotto.
When we run out of fresh veggies or come back from a long trip, we reach out for our dried sun-dried tomatoes always available in our pantry and make a tomato risotto.
Lastly, we love our wintertime favorite lemony zucchini risotto.
If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don't forget to tag a photo #ourplantbasedworld on Instagram. Cheers!
Vegan Asparagus Risotto Recipe
- 1 cup carnarolli rice or arborio rice (7 oz, 200 grams)
- 4.5 oz asparagus 125 grams (about ½ bunch, Cut into ½-inch segments on diagonal)
- ½ cup frozen peas 2 ¼ oz, 65 grams
- 1 lemon juice and zest
- 1 small onion finely chopped (leeks also work)
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 5 cups vegetable broth hot
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 tablespoons nutritional yeast or homemade vegan parmesan cheese
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme more to garnis
Prepare the vegetable stock
- Put your vegetable stock to simmer. If using granulated store-bought veggie stock, bring the water to boil and prepare according to packaging instructions. I like adding fresh thyme and any leftovers from leek green tops, but it is unnecessary.
Prepare the onions and garlic
- Peel and chop your onions. Mince the garlic cloves.
Prepare the asparagus
- Chop asparagus woody ends. Cut into ½-inch segments on a diagonal.
- In a skillet, add one tablespoon of olive oil, and then stir-fry the asparagus with the juice of a half lemon and a sprinkle of salt until slightly golden. Remove from heat and reserve.
Making the risotto (about 15 minutes)
- In the same skillet, add one tablespoon of olive oil, and stir-fry the onions on medium heat, making sure they don't burn. Cook until translucent, and then add the garlic.
- Add the risotto rice, stir until lightly toasted, then add the thyme sprigs and start adding the vegetable broth little by little. Stir constantly until completely absorbed.
- Using a ladle, add hot vegetable broth ⅓ cup (80 ml) at a time, stirring almost constantly. Keep on medium heat, and there should always be a slight simmer to prevent it from becoming gummy.
- On minute ten, add nutritional yeast or (homemade vegan parmesan), followed by extra broth. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer.
- Once the rice is al dente, turn the heat to the minimum and add the frozen peas and the cooked asparagus. Zest the whole lemon on the risotto (save some for garnishing). Stir until well combined, testing a bite to ensure peas are warmed through.
- Taste and adjust flavor, adding a pinch of salt and pepper to taste or vegan parmesan cheese.
- To serve, divide between serving bowls, top with any remaining asparagus, and garnish with lemon zest and vegan parmesan cheese.
- Best when fresh, though leftovers will keep covered in the fridge for 2-3 days. Reheat on the stovetop over medium heat, adding vegetable broth or water as needed to rehydrate. You can also reheat it in the microwave, adding some liquid.
We sometimes take for granted that we have years (or decades) of cooking experience that the average visitor may not. Add to, or remove from, the list below with health and safety tips.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking points to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
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