This Garlic Risotto is the ultimate creamy delicious dinner—and it’s vegan! Made to be the star of the show (but also works as a fabulous side dish), this garlic herb risotto is ready in 25-30 minutes and is packed with flavor.
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So a few weeks ago when I first tested this garlic herb risotto, Paul went bananas for it. There’s no such thing as too much garlic in our house, and we already love rice.
This recipe is incredibly simple and customizable. You can use the herbs you like, and there’s a simple modification for using dried herbs if you don’t have any fresh ones on hand.
Also, you can customize the broth, add-ins, and ultimate flavor very easily. But I also recommend trying the recipe exactly as written at least once, because I designed it to be ridiculously delicious.
And I hope my recipes are never intimidating, but to be honest I may have been a tad bit intimidated before I tried risotto for the first time.
But there’s not much to it, it’s just a different method than steaming rice. So this is not just vegan garlic rice, it’s creamy garlic risotto and it’s amazing.
Why This Recipe Works
I feel like first I have to talk about why risotto is so amazing in general.
What is risotto? It is an Italian rice dish that uses a special kind of rice called arborio rice. Instead of being boiled or steamed, this rice is cooked in broth until it is creamy, usually with a few other ingredients like butter (in our case vegan butter), shallots or onions, garlic, etc.
So, that garlic… we all know how much Paul and I love garlic. Well, I thought a garlic risotto would be a great next risotto recipe.
And it really, really is. There is so much delicious flavor in this recipe and I know you’ll love it.
The (large amount of) garlic, fresh herbs, and sun dried tomatoes REALLY take this risotto to a whole new level of delicious.
Risotto, for some people, may be a bit of a learning curve. But in my experience, if you follow the recipe exactly as written, you will do great.
Don’t forget to heat the broth in a different pot, otherwise the risotto will take forever to cook (because by adding room temperature broth, you’re constantly lowering the heat of the rice.
And when you’ve made risotto successfully a time or two, you can start customizing recipes as you become more comfortable with this method of cooking.
Also, I just recommend following this garlic risotto recipe as written because I wrote it to be super delicious and I also am not responsible for the recipe not working if you don’t follow it, hah! (You wouldn’t believe the number of people who tell me things didn’t work but they also changed out all the ingredients and the cooking method…)
Ingredients and Substitutions
- 2 tablespoons of vegan butter: Or you can substitute olive oil. While you can make this dish oil-free if you’d like, I think it tastes better and gets creamier if you start with a bit of vegan butter. If you prefer to cook oil-free, saute your shallots in a bit of broth in a good large nonstick pot.
- 1 small shallot: Half of a yellow onion will work in its place, but I love the flavor of a finely diced shallot in this risotto.
- 8 cloves of garlic, to taste: It wouldn’t be garlic risotto without a prominent amount of garlic in it! If 8 cloves sounds like too much, you’re welcome to reduce it, but keep in mind that may get you risotto with less garlic flavor. I also don’t recommend jarred garlic as it has a very different flavor than fresh minced garlic.
- 1 ½ cups Arborio short grain rice: Other types of rice will not work, so you must use arborio rice to get a delicious creamy vegan risotto. Otherwise you will just have vegan garlic rice, and not creamy risotto.
- 4-5 cups vegan chicken broth: While you can definitely substitute vegetable broth, I really love the flavor of vegan chicken broth in this recipe. My go-to vegan chicken broth is Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base because it tastes SO GOOD. Other bouillon products (such as Orrington Farms vegan chicken bouillon) will work, as will prepared vegan chicken broth (like Imagine vegetarian chicken broth, though it does need added salt in my opinion).
- ⅓ cup mixed chopped fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, basil, and chives: You can use whatever herbs you like but I prefer softer and fresher herbs like the ones I listed. If you only have dried herbs, use a ½ teaspoon of each I listed, but add them after sauteing the garlic, before you add the rice.
- ⅓ cup chopped sun dried tomatoes: This add-in is not necessary, but I really love it in this dish. Give them a good chop so you don’t have huge chunks. I recommend using jarred sun dried tomatoes that come packed in oil, but the drier ones will work--I recommend rehydrating these in extra virgin olive oil OR hot water while your risotto cooks, then add them at the end.
- ⅓ cup grated vegan parmesan, optional: This is totally optional, but I love a little vegan parmesan in here at the end. We love Violife Vegan Parmesan block, and grating it with a microplane!
How to Make Garlic Risotto
- NOTE: For risotto, use a wide heavy bottomed pot to ensure your garlic herb risotto cooks evenly. I like to cook with my All Clad Nonstick pot but any good quality pot you feel comfortable with will work. If cooking oil-free, it is imperative to use a nonstick pot.
- In a different pot (medium sized and deep is good), heat the broth over medium low heat. I recommend keeping it covered to keep it from evaporating too much. Let simmer covered while you cook the garlic risotto.
- First melt the vegan butter in your risotto pot over medium heat. If you are cooking without oil, move to the next step and add a splash of broth whenever things start to stick.
- Add the shallot and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Now add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds more.
- Add the rice and toast for 30 - 60 seconds, stirring constantly.
- Add ⅓ - ½ cup of the broth (about a ladleful) just 1 ladleful at a time, then let that broth absorb, and add another ladleful. Repeat this process for about 20-25 minutes until the rice is softer, but still somewhat al dente--or a little chewy. Babysitting the pot is key to a super creamy and delicious garlic risotto.
- Taste the rice and see if it needs any salt or pepper. I usually end up adding a bit of pepper but find that it doesn’t need any salt (due to the brand of vegan chicken broth I use). You can add an extra tablespoon of vegan butter if you’d like to up the creaminess and richness of the risotto.
- Add the chopped fresh herb, sundried tomatoes, and if you'd like, about one third cup vegan parmesan cheese (grated). Stir through and remove from heat.
- Serve and enjoy! You can sprinkle on a little vegan parmesan cheese (we love Violife vegan parmesan block) if you’d like, but I kind of love the super delicious flavors of this garlic herb risotto.
- Refrigerate leftovers up to 3-5 days in an airtight container or freeze for up to 3 months in a freezer safe container. I think rice freezes well--I like to add a tablespoon or two of broth or water (or vegan butter) to my rice when reheating.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are a few! For one, don’t rinse your rice beforehand. We need the starch to make the risotto cohesive, so don’t wash it all away. Two, risotto is all about the texture, which is created by cooking the rice over a lower heat and only adding broth a little at a time. Don’t rush it—that’s the secret!
No, if you want to make garlic risotto, you must use arborio rice (the easiest to find), or even better: carnaroli rice or vialone nano campanini rice which are shorter and starchier, providing an even better risotto texture. I can find arborio rice (I typically buy Rice Select brand) at every grocery store near me and easily online. If you use any other rice, it will just be vegan garlic rice and I cannot guarantee it will be creamy, cohesive, or anything like risotto. Substitute at your own risk, hah.
Risotto can be a side dish or the main attraction. If making this as a side, serve it with my vegan steak, seitan chicken, tofu schnitzel, vegan turkey, or tofu salmon. If making this risotto as a main dish, serve it with my Italian salad, or a veggie like broccolini, asparagus, or brussels sprouts.
Risotto is best on the first night… however you can reheat it after a couple days in the fridge. I like to reheat on the stove in a small pot with a little extra broth and vegan butter. Some people will think I’m nuts for this, but I’ve frozen risotto and heated the defrosted rice with a little broth and vegan butter and it’s fine. Nowhere near as good as the first night, but certainly better than letting it go to waste. If you won’t be able to eat it all, you also have the option of making half the recipe. It may cook faster in this case (yay!) so just keep an eye on it.
Pro Tips for Success
- If you are oil-free, you can skip the vegan butter. Your risotto will be a little less creamy, but it will still be good.
- If you are fine with oil, but don’t have any vegan butter on hand, saute your shallot and garlic in olive oil.
- The shallot can be swapped with a half of a small yellow or sweet onion—or you can skip it in favor of a stronger garlic flavor.
- I don’t recommend jarred garlic as it has a very different flavor than fresh minced garlic. Give your garlic risotto great flavor with real fresh garlic. Invest in a good garlic press or try grating your garlic cloves with a microplane.
- Don’t be tempted to stir the rice constantly. This adds too much air into the rice and cools it down, which may make it gluey. But don’t forget to stir either, we don’t want the rice to stick—and agitation from stirring helps create that beautiful smooth texture. I like to stir frequently, but not constantly.
- Did your rice turn out crunchy or hard? You didn’t add enough liquid. I have never needed more than 4 or 5 cups of broth for this amount of rice, but if your rice is older, your stove is hotter, or your broth evaporated a bit, you may need a splash more. Once the rice looks plump, start tasting every so often and seeing if you need to make an adjustment. Risotto is a learning process.
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