Vegan Asparagus Risotto: How To Cook An Amazing Vegan Risotto
It has been about 7 years since my first attempt at making risotto. I remember it well: I was home alone on a Friday or Saturday night, invited a friend over for dinner and started cooking. I followed the recipe closely, but after cooking and stirring for what felt like an eternity, ended up with a bowl of rice that was somehow both mushy and undercooked at the same time. To my friend, if you’re reading this – I’m sorry for making you eat that.
Fortunately, my cooking skills have improved a lot since age 17, and I’ve made many good risottos since. After going vegan a year or two back, I figured out a way to make vegan risottos the way I feel they should taste: creamy, dreamy, somewhat cheesy and absolutely delicious.
There are several elements to this recipe that make it work. First of all, a risotto is quite dependent on the stock. You could make your own vegetable stock, but I actually prefer using vegetable stock cubes for vegan risotto. The ones I use contain MSG, which lends the umami note that in a non-vegan risotto would come from parmesan cheese. You could also add MSG to the recipe yourself, if your stock cubes are MSG-free. Because I opt for stock cubes, I include celery and carrot in this recipe to add more true vegetable flavours as well. I also think the pops of orange from the carrot look super cute!
This recipe can be used as a base for many different vegan risottos. You simply cook the risotto with onion, celery and carrot, white wine and vegetable stock, and mix in nutritional yeast, a vegetable of choice and herbs or other flavourings at the end. Good variations include roasted pumpkin and sage or rosemary, mushrooms and thyme, peas and mint, or you could serve your risotto topped with seitan in red wine sauce for a special occasion.
Another important element is the olive oil. While I like cooking oil-free meals, risotto is not a dish that can or should be made without oil. Make sure to use a good quality olive oil, and never let it get so hot that it starts smoking. Use olive oil for frying the onion to which the rice is added, and more olive oil to fry your mix-ins, in this case green asparagus.
To add even more umami, my vegan risottos always contain nutritional yeast. This adds a cheesy flavour, but also mixes with the liquid to help bind your rice grains, much like cheese would. If it fits into your diet, you can make this risotto taste even better by stirring in some vegan butter before serving. Trust me, it’s totally worth it!
Green Asparagus and Mint Risotto
- 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 1 large onion
- ¼ large carrot
- 1 stalk celery
- 300 g arborio rice
- 150 ml white wine If you don't have any on hand, you could sub 100 ml white wine vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar. Don't do this unless necessary.
- 2 liter vegetable stock made from stock cubes
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 300 g green asparagus for this recipe you want to use the thin fresh spears, available seasonally
- 1 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
- ½ lemon, squeezed
- vegan butter optional
- Finely dice the onion, carrot and celery.
- Heat up a large, deep pan and heat up the olive oil for the risotto. Add the onion, carrot and celery, as well as a bit of salt.
- Let it cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the onion becomes translucent but not brown, then add the rice.
- After adding the rice, stir well, so that every grain of rice gets toasted a bit and becomes covered with a bit of oil.
- Deglaze the rice by adding the white wine and stir.
- When the wine is mostly absorbed, add a ladle of vegetable stock. Let it absorb, and add another ladle, stirring regularly in the process. Don't cover the pan. Repeat this process until the rice is cooked through – if you run out of vegetable stock before this happens, simply add hot water. This process could take half an hour.
- When the rice is cooked, adjust the consistency of the risotto to suit your preference – i like mine to be quite dry rather than runny, so I don't add too much stock when it's close to done. If you like yours a bit runnier, add more stock towards the end.
- While the risotto is cooking, you should have enough time to prepare the asparagus in between. First, chop the asparagus into pieces of about 2 cm in length and mince a clove of garlic.
- Heat up a second frying pan and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the asparagus and the minced garlic.
- Fry the asparagus, stirring occasionally, until cooked. This should take about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside until the risotto is done.
- When the risotto is done, stir in the nutritional yeast, asparagus, chopped mint leaves, juice of half a lemon, and some salt and pepper if necessary. Add some vegan butter if you feel like it, to make it even richer. Serve in your favorite bowl.