Vegan Asparagus Risotto

lemony vegan asparagus risotto_
Last week I learned how to make asparagus risotto. I have made risotto before, but I was never quite sure I was doing it correctly. Watching cooking shows and reading cookbooks helped, but not as much as seeing Chef Aaron from Harmons Grocery making it and then trying it out for myself. This is my version – Vegan Asparagus Risotto.

vegan asparagus risotto with lemon

Typically at the end of the long, slow cooking time, butter and cheese is added to give the risotto an extra creamy, rich texture. That adds a lot of flavor too. I knew I could probably make up for that by adding in other non-dairy ingredients when I was making this. I’ve included a few notes in the recipe below because I separated the risotto into half, and tried two different things. I’m still not quite sure which I liked the best. Basically I swapped the butter for extra virgin coconut oil, added some unsweetened almond milk, and a little nutritional yeast. I only did that to one half in case I took it in the completely wrong direction. Luckily it worked!

vegan asparagus risotto_I am addicted to lemon in and on everything. I added finely grated lemon zest, a bay leaf, and lots of garlic while the risotto cooked. I used a really full-flavored vegetable stock as well. It definitely wasn’t lacking in flavor when I was finished with it. The thing I learned from Chef Aaron, too, was to add the asparagus at the very end of cooking time. I sliced one bunch into small rounds so they barely cooked in the latent heat when I took the risotto off the stove. Each bite had tender-crunchy sweet asparagus with the bright lemony rice. It was SO good.

If making risotto intimidates you like it did me, there is a fantastic step-by-step risotto tutorial on It’s definitely worth checking out. It takes that scary “am I doing it right?” factor out of the equation.

p.s. I also included directions in the note section for making this into a more traditional risotto with butter and cheese.

Other springtime risotto recipes worth checking out:
Risotto with Shrimp and Asparagus from The Perfect Pantry
Pea and Lemon Risotto from Baked Bree
Summer Lemon Vegetable Risotto from Eats Well With Others
Vegan Mushroom Kale Risotto from With Food and Love
Spring Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Peas from Tasty Yummies
Beet Risotto (with goat cheese!) from Healthy.Delicious.
Roasted Red Pepper Risotto with Spinach from Bev Cooks
Onion, Leek and Parm Risotto from Naturally Ella
Fava Bean and Fennel Risotto with Sautéed Radicchio from The Vintage Mixer
Spicy Coconut Risotto with Lime Shrimp from Foxes Love Lemons (dairy-free)


4.8 from 4 reviews
Vegan Asparagus Risotto
Recipe type: Main Dish, Gluten-Free, Vegan
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
A creamy, lemony dairy-free asparagus risotto that is healthy and perfect for spring.
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced (about ¼ cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound (16 ounces) arborio rice
  • ¾ to 1 cup white wine
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8-9 cups unsalted or low sodium vegetable broth or stock
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Pour broth or stock into a pan and bring just to a simmer.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and heat for 30-60 seconds until shimmering. Add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until it starts to soften. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more.
  3. Next add the rice. Cook, stirring constantly for about a minute then add the wine. Stir and cook while the wine absorbs into the rice. Add the bay leaf, lemon zest and juice.
  4. Ladle about 1 cup of broth into the pan. Cook, stirring constantly and letting the liquid be completely absorbed. The heat should be on medium to medium-low. Not too hot that it burns on the bottom. You want to cook it slowly so the starch from the rice is released and it turns creamy.
  5. Add another cup of hot stock and keep cooking and stirring. Repeat until rice is creamy and cooked through. It should not be mushy or crunchy, but al dente (to the tooth).
  6. Remove from heat and stir in the asparagus. Season well with salt and black pepper. Serve hot. Garnish with extra lemon zest, if desired.
-The recipe is great as written, but if you want to add a creamy, cheesy factor to it, I tried adding extra virgin coconut oil, a little unsweetened almond milk, and nutritional yeast to some of the risotto. It was amazing how well that worked! It had a rich mouth feel and it tasted really good. It did have a very light coconut flavor, but not enough to be off-putting. If you go that route, add 1 Tablespoon solid coconut oil, and stir it in over low-heat. I added the almond milk after that and cooked for a few more minutes, then added a spoonful of nutritional yeast. All of that is after I added in the asparagus.
-Al dente means the rice is not crunchy or mushy. It's right in the middle. If you do decide to add the optional ingredients listed above, start adding them in when the rice is still a little undercooked so the extra cooking time doesn't make the rice mushy.
-If you're not dairy-free and want to make a more traditional risotto, add 1-2 Tablespoons of butter and ½-3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano right before you add the asparagus.

vegan asparagus risotto lemon


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28 Responses to “Vegan Asparagus Risotto”

  1. Beth @ Tasty Yummies March 6, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    Oh my, this is so beautiful. I love risotto, so I cannot wait to try this one. Thanks for sharing my Spring Risotto too, such a great collection of recipes!!

  2. Joanne March 6, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    Your asparagus risotto is beautiful!! Oh how I wish it would be spring sooner so I could try it out! I love that it doesn’t have cream or butter…so many people mistakenly think you need to add those to risotto to make it creamy but it’s just not so!

    • Lindsey Johnson March 6, 2014 at 9:41 am #

      Thank you, Joanne! Yours looks so good too! I can’t wait to make it when I have fresh peas.

  3. Becky @ Project Domestication March 6, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    It was so fun cooking with you (and most of all catching up) at Harmons last week. Risotto is such a favorite of mine. I can’t wait to make this again.

  4. Lori @ Foxes Love Lemons March 6, 2014 at 9:55 pm #

    Thanks so much for sharing my Coconut Risotto! Your recipe is just beautiful!

  5. Becky March 12, 2014 at 8:25 am #

    Beautiful dish Lindsey!

  6. Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies April 1, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    I made this for dinner last night–oh so delicious! I’ve never made risotto without the cheese and this recipe made me realize it doesn’t need it! :)

  7. Beverly April 8, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

    Delicious! My daughter and I made this last night for supper. As delicious as it was, or rather IS (because there are LOTS of leftovers–must remember to at least halve the recipe next time)…I am of the opinion that risotto is the invention of a cook who was looking for a way to occupy a helpful guest. It took two of us taking turns stirring for nearly an hour as the broth was gradually added to the arborio rice and other ingredients.

    Okey dokey…the tofu is draining…almost time to assemble ingredients for tonight’s dinner, the Red Cabbage Bowl! :-) Thanks for the inspiration–I have Spring Fever and needed some new ideas to motivate me, and to add some healthful variety to our meals, now that soups, stews, and casseroles can be left behind for a while!

    • Lindsey Johnson April 8, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

      Beverly, thank you so much for your lovely comment! It made me so happy to think of you and your daughter making risotto together. And you’re right – it does make a bunch! I’ve never thought about risotto in that way before, but you could be right! I like thinking of it that way because it sounds like something I would do. :) I hope your dinner was fabulous!

  8. Sherrie | With Food + Love June 12, 2014 at 5:52 am #

    Mmmm – yum yum yum, this reminds me – I’ve got to make risotto again soon! This looks fantastic and thanks so much for linking my {vegan} Creamy Mushroom Kale Risotto.


  9. Cath July 18, 2014 at 10:06 am #

    Beautiful food photography. Thank you for the recipe – it looks delicious, and what a great way to make the best of spring and summer vegetables!

  10. Nancy October 26, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    I made this last night and I won’t be making regular risotto again. This tastes amazing, just as if I added a ton of butter and cheese. The only down part is it disappeared in about 5 minutes and I don’t get to have any left overs.

    • Lindsey Johnson October 26, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

      Nancy! That is so great! I’m so happy you enjoyed the recipe. I feel the same way you do. :) Thanks for popping over to report back!

  11. Christa March 13, 2016 at 10:51 am #

    Can you substitute Quinoa for the rice?

    • Lindsey Johnson May 3, 2016 at 2:11 pm #

      Hi Christa! I haven’t tried this particular recipe with quinoa yet, but I do have another recipe for risotto made with quinoa that I really love. You could just make some adaptations to make it vegan (if you want to) and add asparagus instead of the canned pumpkin.

  12. Rachel April 16, 2016 at 6:29 pm #

    Literally eating this RIGHT NOW. It is delicious, creamy and fresh tasting! My only two cents is that you should definitely use real drinking wine, not cooking wine like I did. Wayyy too salty. Also, make sure the ‘spoon’ lid on your pepper container is closed. Oops!!! Haha

  13. Karen May 3, 2016 at 7:34 am #

    I would say that I’m the sole dissenter here but I made this for a vegan potluck and the reviews were very mixed. I made the recipe exactly as called for and found it was way too lemony. Since this is a long standing group of serious foodie vegans I decided to bring a small container of this risotto and then I “doctored” up the rest. To me it was really lacking in nuances and variety. I soaked some dried porcini mushrooms in water and added dried apricots, a touch of truffle oil, and sauteed chili peppers. Then I added some fresh English peas and topped it with some candied pecans I had made a while back.
    Only one person (out of twelve of us) liked the lemon risotto as per the recipe. The reviews were mixed for the “doctored” version. The consensus was that the lemon was still overwhelming.

    • Karen May 3, 2016 at 7:36 am #

      The website would not let me change the star rating on this. I’m not sure why.

    • Lindsey Johnson May 3, 2016 at 2:15 pm #

      Hi Karen! I appreciate your comment and all the feedback. You know, I’m a fan of lemon, so I tend to go heavy on it – my husband complains about that sometimes! Your additions are very interesting. I’m curious how it tasted with that combination of ingredients. I do want to say that this is supposed to be a very simple recipe – I was making a vegan version of a recipe I learned from a professional chef. I didn’t want to add anything to take away from the flavors of the lemon and asparagus. That’s what I was going for. I do appreciate the feedback though. I’m sorry it was a miss for you.


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