Finally, 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 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 like our easy stovetop grilled asparagus, and our 15 minutes pasta with asparagus.
💚 Why you will love it
- Springtime Freshness: Celebrate the season with fresh asparagus.
- Bright Lemon Zest: Adds a zesty, citrusy kick.
- Nutrient-rich: Packed with healthy, green vegetables.
- Creamy Yet Light: Offers a satisfying creaminess without heaviness.
- Quick & Easy: Ready in just 25 minutes, perfect for busy evenings.
- Carnaroli or Arborio Rice: This starchy Italian rice is the backbone of risotto, releasing creamy goodness without turning mushy, ensuring each bite is al dente.
- Fresh Asparagus: Its earthy, slightly sweet taste and crunchy texture contrast beautifully with the creamy rice, plus it's a springtime favorite loaded with nutrients.
- Frozen Peas: They add a pop of sweetness and color, plus a dose of protein and fiber, making the dish more nutritious and visually appealing.
- Fresh Lemon Juice and Zest: The zest brings in an aromatic citrusy flair, while the juice adds a bright tang, both cutting through the richness of the risotto.
- Small Onion: It's the flavor foundation, offering a subtle sweetness that deepens upon cooking, essential for building layers of taste.
- Garlic Cloves: They infuse the dish with a pungent warmth that becomes mellow and aromatic once sautéed, an irreplaceable base note in the flavor symphony.
- Vegetable Broth: Acts as a cooking liquid that's absorbed by the rice, imparting a depth of savoriness and ensuring the risotto is thoroughly infused with flavor.
- Olive Oil: Used for sautéing, it introduces a fruity note and helps to create a luscious texture in the finished dish.
- Nutritional Yeast or Vegan Parm: Either adds a cheesy, umami-rich dimension that mimics the savory depth traditional parmesan brings, without the dairy.
- Fresh Thyme: This herb adds a subtle, earthy note that complements the lemon and asparagus, and it's a fresh finishing touch that heightens the dish's complexity.
Optional: dry white wine and black pepper.
See quantities and complete instructions in the recipe card.
- Frozen Peas: Swap with chopped green bell peppers for a similar crunch and color but with a slightly different, more bitter taste.
- Fresh Lemon Juice and Zest: Orange juice and zest can be used for a sweeter, less tangy flavor.
- Small Onion: Leeks are a suitable substitute, providing a milder and slightly sweeter flavor.
- Garlic Cloves: Shallots can be used for a more subtle and slightly sweeter garlic flavor.
- Vegetable Broth: Chicken-style vegan broth can be used for a similar savory flavor profile.
- Olive Oil: vegan butter or avocado oil can be used for sautéing, offering a similar texture with a more neutral flavor.
- Nutritional Yeast or Vegan Parm: Store-bought vegan cheese shreds can be used, though they may offer a slightly different flavor and melt differently in the risotto.
- Fresh Thyme: Rosemary or dried thyme can be used in a pinch, but use it sparingly as it's more concentrated in flavor.
Large skillet, saucepan for the broth, and ladle.
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 a boil and prepare according to packaging instructions. I like adding fresh thyme and any leftovers from leek green tops, but it is not necessary.
Step 1: Prepare the onions and garlic - peel and chop your onions. Mince the garlic cloves.
Step 2: Prepare the asparagus - chop asparagus stalks woody ends. Cut into ½-inch segments on a diagonal.
Step 3: 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.
Step 4: 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.
Step 5: Using a ladle, keep adding broth, stirring almost constantly, one cup at a time. 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.
Step 6: On minute ten, add nutritional yeast to the rice mixture or (homemade vegan parmesan), followed by extra broth.
Step 7: Once the rice is al dente, turn the heat to the minimum, add the frozen peas, and add the asparagus. Then, 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.
Step 8: 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. Make sure you remove the risotto from the heat when the rice is al dente.
This vegan asparagus risotto is better when served immediately.
💡 Expert tips
Fresh Asparagus Selection: Choose bright green and firm asparagus with tightly closed tips. Freshness is critical for the best flavor and texture.
Rice Cooking Technique: Stir the rice frequently but gently. This helps release the starches, ensuring a creamy texture without making the rice mushy.
Broth Usage: Always use hot vegetable broth, gradually added. This maintains the cooking temperature and allows the rice to absorb the flavors thoroughly.
Lemon Zest and Juice: Add lemon zest and juice towards the end of cooking. This preserves the bright, fresh citrus flavor that complements the asparagus.
Peas Timing: If using frozen peas, add them at the end of cooking. They must only be warmed through, preserving their color and slight crunch.
Final Seasoning: Adjust the seasoning at the end. Sometimes, the asparagus and lemon can alter the saltiness, so a final taste test is crucial.
Serving Immediately: Risotto is best served fresh. It can lose its creamy texture and become too thick if it sits too long.
Relished our asparagus risotto? Take your passion for risotto to the next level by reading our exclusive post on making risotto, filled with expert advice and techniques.
Storing Asparagus: If not using asparagus immediately, stand it upright in a glass filled with about 2 inches of water. Cover with a plastic bag and refrigerate. This method can keep them fresh for up to two weeks.
Freshness Matters: For the best taste, use asparagus soon after purchase. They begin to lose their flavor once cut.
Color Check: Look for asparagus with a bright green hue, a sign of freshness and quality.
Cooking Technique: To preserve the asparagus's water-soluble flavor compounds, avoid boiling. Sautéing in butter or oil, as done in this recipe, helps retain more flavor. Similarly, vegetables like broccoli and beans have oil-soluble flavor compounds and are best when steamed or boiled.
Asparagus Thickness: Opt for thinner asparagus spears. They are usually more tender and less fibrous than thicker ones.
Cooking Duration: Be cautious not to overcook asparagus. They need just a brief cooking time, whether you're sautéing, tossing, or blanching them.
This lemon asparagus risotto can be customized based on some of the ingredients you have readily available and can be replaced; see some suggestions.
- Risotto rice - the most critical aspect of risotto is the rice. This is because what makes risotto creamy is its starch content. 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 need more liquid. Another option is using orzo. Although it is not traditional, it has become more common over time as a healthier option and contains more fiber than regular starchy rice varieties. This lemon asparagus risotto works fine with orzo; mind that, like 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; they just add a nice texture pop. No worries if you don't have them; feel free to add seasonal vegetables. Peas also go great with a red wine risotto.
- 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.
🥢 How to serve
To serve, divide the creamy risotto between serving bowls, top with any remaining asparagus, and garnish with lemon zest and homemade vegan parmesan.
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.
It is best when fresh, though this risotto's leftovers will be 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.
📚 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, easy garlic risotto, 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 us @ourplantbasedworld on Instagram. Cheers!
Vegan Asparagus Risotto
- 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 peas frozen, 2 ¼ oz, 65 grams
- 1 lemon juice and zest
- 1 onion small, finely chopped (leeks also work)
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 5 cups vegetable broth hot
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 tablespoons nutritional yeast or homemade vegan parmesan cheese
- 4 sprigs thyme fresh sprigs, and more to garnish
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.
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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