Vegan risotto is a vegetarian version of an Italian rice dish enhanced with a variety of vegetables, herbs, and spices. Traditional risotto utilizes rice and chicken broth, along with other ingredients such as butter, while in the vegan version, the ingredients are derived from vegetables instead animal products. The most basic ingredient, rice, remains the same in both vegan risotto and the traditional version. Although the dish is inspired by the rich Italian version, the vegetarian take on it is far healthier. For this reason, vegan risotto is not only enjoyed by vegetarians, but it is also eaten by dieters and those who are simply looking to eat healthier.
The base ingredient for any type of risotto is rice, and this dish can be made from a variety of different types. Some people prefer long-grain, while others find that medium-grain rice is easier to sauté. Brown rice is favored among vegetarians because of its high fiber content. Many cooks stick with white rice for risotto, because it tends to sauté the best.
Traditional Italian risotto is sautéed in butter, while the vegan version uses olive oil. This offers more heart-healthy benefits, as olive oil is proven to increase the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. Most vegetarians refrain from eating butter, so the olive oil is a sound alternative.
Though regular risotto is usually creamy thanks to an abundance of cheese, the vegan version does not contain cheese. Instead, other fresh ingredients are added, such as mushrooms, tomatoes, and onions. A variety of herbs and spices, such as parsley, basil and oregano, can be used as well to enhance the flavor profile.
Chicken broth or stock is another key ingredient to making risotto. Vegetarians can use vegetable broth as a substitute over poultry versions, which can be made in advance by combining various vegetables with water and cooking them in a large sauce pan. Many vegans appreciate the homemade version over a salty, canned broth. Cooks may also add a little extra broth for creaminess to make up for the lack of cheese and butter in the dish.
A final garnish will enhance a dish, and vegan risotto is usually topped off with salt and pepper. Garlic salt may be substituted over regular iodized salt for some extra flavor. Some people like to sprinkle finely chopped vegetables, such as zucchini, on top for added crunchiness.