Loaded with autumn flavors, this cozy Vegan Butternut Squash Risotto is a delicious entree or side. This easy rice dish is family friendly and perfect for a weeknight or a special occasion like a date night or holiday meal.
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Hey Internet, you know I’m obsessed with risotto. And when I make vegan risotto, they have themes. It’s never just “risotto.” It’s gotta have… stuff, ya know?
Ok maybe I need to clarify. My vegan mushroom risotto features mushrooms, garlic risotto is super garlicky, zucchini risotto is super creamy and loaded with (you guessed it) zucchini, and my asparagus risotto is spring-themed and features lemon and asparagus. I actually even already have a fall-themed risotto with my vegan pumpkin risotto.
But that pumpkin risotto uses canned pumpkin puree, so you could make it any time of year.
And I was craving a risotto with fall — stuff (for lack of a better word) — in it. Thus I decided to make a butternut squash risotto.
Side note that it is inspired by Gordon Ramsay, but only in the sense that I get the urge to pronounce risotto like him, hah. Too much Food Network, I guess. What, I get inspired! I see all that cooking and get ideas for my own (very different) stuff.
Anyway, back to this amazing vegan butternut squash risotto. You’re going to love this recipe!
It’s super easy (if this is your first time cooking risotto, it’s not as hard as you think!), super delicious, and really makes for a wonderful side or main.
Why You’ll Love This Vegan Butternut Squash Risotto
- Family Friendly: This thick and creamy vegan risotto features sweet cubes of tender butternut squash cooked into a savory and delicious rice. It’s flavorful in a way that people with varied palettes will all enjoy.
- Makes a Great Side or Entree: Risotto is typically served as a side dish, which you could totally do here. Actually, it would make a great Thanksgiving side dish too (I have a whole article on the best vegan holiday recipes if you’re planning your holiday menu). But it also makes a wonderful plant-based main dish. The rice and squash are hearty and satisfying, making it great for a main or side.
- Customizable: Use any winter squash in this recipe! I recommend using peeled winter squash that’s been cubed in really small pieces (¼ - inch pieces) so that it cooks with the rest of the risotto. Alternatively, cut the squash into larger pieces and roast it or air fry it, then stir it into the risotto at the end.
- Great for Meal Prep: While I do recommend making and serving this butternut squash risotto immediately, the leftovers actually hold up really well. You can also freeze it in individual portions for later. I love stocking my freezer with a few portions from almost every recipe I make, that way I have a lot to choose from when I know I’m going to need an easy dinner.
These are the ingredients we’ll use in our butternut squash risotto. For any substitutions to these ingredients, see the next section. For full instructions, nutritional information, and tips, see the recipe card at the bottom of this article.
- 1–2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Optional: Olive oil gives us a nice way to soften the veggies and add flavor at the same time. See the next section for instructions on cooking this dish without oil.
- 1 Medium Yellow or Sweet Onion: Adds a lovely flavor.
- 3 Cups Finely Diced (¼-inch Dice) Butternut Squash: The star of the recipe! Make sure to peel your squash and cut them into consistently-sized pieces so they cook evenly.
- 4–6 Cloves Minced Garlic: I always err on the side of more garlic. It’s really a great flavor contrast with the sweetness of the butternut squash. You can err on the side of less garlic if you prefer, but please don’t skip!
- 1 + ½ Teaspoons Dried Thyme and ¾ Teaspoon Dried Sage or Rosemary
- 1+ ½ Cups Arborio Rice: Arborio is the easiest to find, but vialone nano carnaroli are even better.
- 4–5 Cups Vegetable Broth: I typically cook with low sodium broth so I can control the salt level myself. If you use regular sodium broth, I’d use less salt and taste, adjusting as necessary.
- Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to Taste
- 2–3 Tablespoons of Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice: This really brightens up the flavors at the end. Add to your personal tastes.
- ½ Cup Vegan Parmesan Cheese, Optional: If you can find vegan parmesan, I highly recommend it. My favorite is the Violife vegan parmesan block. If you are vegetarian, keep in mind that dairy parmesan is never vegetarian as it uses calf rennet.
- ¼ cup Finely Chopped Fresh Parsley for Garnish
While I always recommend making recipes as written the first time, the following are substitution suggestions I think you can make without messing too much with the recipe.
- Olive Oil: Feel free to use vegan butter, another oil, or cook oil-free. To cook oil-free in this recipe, use a large nonstick pot and add a splash of water or broth whenever the veggies start to stick during the sautéing process. I’d make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan whenever you stir it during the risotto cooking process and stir a bit more often than indicated. I usually have no problem cooking vegan risotto without oil.
- Onion: Swap out the yellow onion for 2 medium shallots if you’d like.
- Butternut Squash: Use a different winter squash like acorn, delicata, carnival, or sugar pie pumpkin (do not use a carving pumpkin, their flesh is not as tender or sweet). Just make sure you peel the squash and chop it small enough (¼-inch pieces) so that it cooks at the same rate as the rice.
- Garlic: I do not recommend using jarred minced garlic if you can help it, because it truly has a different flavor. That being said, if you’d like to experiment, try roasting some garlic and stirring that into the butternut squash risotto near the end of the cooking process.
- Dried Thyme and Sage or Rosemary: Feel free to use fresh herbs if you prefer! Use double the amount if using fresh.
- Arborio Rice: Other types of rice will not work, so you must use arborio rice, vialone nano, or carnaroli to get a delicious creamy vegan butternut squash risotto. Otherwise you will just have butternut squash rice, and not creamy risotto.
- Vegetable Broth: As stated above, I normally cook with low sodium vegetable broth. You could substitute a more flavorful broth like Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base or Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base mixed with hot water if you like! Use less to no salt if you use this option (to taste).
- Lemon Juice: Use fresh squeezed if possible. A good substitute is white wine vinegar (start with a tablespoon and add more if you’d like).
- Vegan Parmesan Cheese: This adds so much flavor at the end and feels very fancy. But if you can’t find it, this recipe will still be absolutely delicious. You can add a little nutritional yeast, or if you want to make my 2 minute vegan parmesan topping, that would also be a lovely addition (start with 2 tablespoons, mix, and taste).
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How to Make Vegan Butternut Squash Risotto
- NOTE: I recommend using a wide heavy bottomed pot to ensure your butternut 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.
- Heat your large nonstick pot over medium heat and add the olive oil (if you wish). Let the oil heat for a few moments and then add the onion. Sauté for 2–3 minutes until it softens slightly. (If cooking without oil, simply add a tablespoon or two of water and stir if things start to stick.)
- In a separate pot over low heat, add the broth. It's better to add hot broth to the risotto so it doesn't hinder the cooking process (if you add cold or room temperature broth, the rice will take MUCH longer to cook because you’ll be cooling it down every time you add broth). Cover the pot so the broth doesn’t evaporate too much!). If you don’t want to deal with two pans, you can place the broth in a large microwave safe cup and heat it every time you need to add the broth to the pan, but I think this method is actually more work.
- Add the finely diced butternut squash and cook for about 5–7 minutes until the butternut slightly softens, stirring occasionally.
- Add the garlic and stir well, then add the thyme and sage (or rosemary) as well as the rice. Stir frequently for about 1 minute. This toasts the rice and adds flavor.
- Add broth about a half cup at a time (I recommend using a ladle for this), and stir continuously, letting all the broth sink in for about 2–4 minutes before adding more. Repeat this process for about 20-25 minutes until the squash is fully tender and the rice is soft enough to eat, but still somewhat al dente—or a little chewy (in a pleasant way. If it is unpleasant, cook a bit longer). Babysitting the pot is key to a super creamy and delicious butternut squash risotto.
- Season with salt and black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Turn off the heat and add the vegan parmesan cheese (if using), lemon juice, and parsley. Stir well and serve.
- As I mentioned above, I don’t recommend jarred garlic as it has a very different flavor than fresh minced garlic. Get a good garlic press or try grating your garlic cloves with a microplane (otherwise known as a zester).
- Don’t want to use so much butternut squash? Use less. The recipe won’t be affected much; you may just need to add slightly less broth.
- Don’t 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. That’s why I recommend a good nonstick pot. My favorite is All Clad Nonstick Series pots.
- Also, use a wide pot, not a narrow one. The more surface area your rice has to spread out, the more evenly it will cook.
- For an enameled dutch oven, don’t skip using oil or vegan butter or your rice will likely stick and burn on the bottom.
- 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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As previously mentioned, you can serve this butternut risotto as a side dish or a main dish! Here are a few of my favorite ways to serve vegan butternut squash risotto:
As a Side Dish Alongside
- Vegan Steak
- Portobello Mushroom Steaks
- Beyond Meat Meatloaf or Lentil Mushroom Loaf
- Crispy Tofu or Panko Tofu
- Tofu Salmon or Vegan Scallops
- Vegan Turkey or Vegan Chicken
- Vegan Schnitzel (Tofu) or Vegan Schnitzel (Seitan)
As a Main Dish Alongside
- Vegan Italian Salad
- Vegan Creamed Kale
- Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts
- Creamy Vegan Avocado Salad
- Roasted Apple Brussels Sprouts
- Refrigerator: Let the rice cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Freezer: Let the rice cool and store in a freezer-safe airtight container. I often use souper cubes to freeze the butternut risotto in individual portions. Once frozen, I pop them out of the container and place in a freezer-safe bag. Label the bag with the name of the dish and the date and use within 3 months for best results. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
- Reheating: I prefer to reheat butternut squash risotto in a pan with a little vegan butter or olive oil, but the microwave can work too.
Frequently Asked Questions
Risotto is rice that is cooked slowly using small amounts of hot broth added while the rice cooks. Each addition of broth is absorbed before adding more. This results in a creamy and hearty dish, and is one of the most popular methods of cooking rice in Italy.
The main ingredient in risotto is rice. Other common ingredients include broth or salted water, aromatics like onion (or sometimes shallot) and garlic, and often vegetables like mushrooms, asparagus, peas, zucchini, etc.
Most kids like rice. If your kids like rice and they like butternut squash, they’ll probably love this vegan butternut squash risotto. The one thing I’d recommend is that if you have small children, I’d cook the rice slightly longer so it’s softer for them to eat (not al dente like traditional risotto).
Either cook the butternut risotto using vegan butter, or olive oil. You can also cook without either of these and just add broth or water if your onion begins to stick (I recommend using a good nonstick pot). Many recipes call for parmesan cheese as well, so you can use vegan parmesan cheese (we love the Violife Parmesan Cheese Block). If you can’t find vegan parmesan or prefer something less processed, try my homemade vegan parmesan topping or you can simply use nutritional yeast.
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!
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.
Butternut squash 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.
More Vegan Italian-Inspired Recipes!
- Vegan Mushroom Risotto
- Vegan Paella
- Garlic Risotto
- Vegan Asparagus Risotto
- Vegan Pumpkin Risotto
- 15 Minute Vegan Garlic Noodles
- Vegan Cacio e Pepe
- Vegan Cream of Chicken Soup with Rice
- Pasta with Vegan Vodka Sauce
- Vegan Carbonara
- Vegan Aglio e Olio
- Zucchini Risotto