Creamy Vegan Risotto with Asparagus and Quinoa
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It’s a good mood comfort food day! This Creamy Vegan Risotto delivers the soul-satisfying, cozy decadence that suckers me into ordering whichever entree comes with risotto every time I see it on a menu, but it is made with lighter, brighter ingredients.
Risotto is one of those recipes that I made often when Ben and I were first married but slowly drifted away from over time.
Perhaps it was the onset of practicality. I began to feel like eating a plate of starchy grains showered in cheese on an average weeknight might not be the best long-term healthy eating strategy, especially since the two of us had a stellar record of polishing off the entire pot in a single sitting.
I still love to order risotto when I’m out or cook it for friends. For a regular weeknight affair, however, today’s vegan risotto recipe is the one you’ll be finding on my stove from now on.
Thanks to a few sneaky ingredients, this dairy free quinoa risotto delivers the decadence that makes risotto its wonderful self but is higher in protein, 100% whole grain, and packed with generous servings of veggies too!
The Inspiration for Creamy Vegan Risotto with Asparagus and Quinoa
I’m not sure how the idea of making risotto with quinoa instead of rice crept its way into my brain, but it stuck.
I liked the fact that, in comparison to rice, quinoa is noticeably higher in protein. I’m a sucker for all-in-one meals, so I reasoned that if I could add enough protein to the vegan risotto, it would be substantial enough to serve as a main course.
Because quinoa isn’t a starchy grain like rice, I knew I’d need to come up with an alternative way to make the vegan risotto creamy. I found my solution in two parts.
The first was to cook the quinoa in Almond Breeze almondmilk Original Unsweetened instead of stock or water. Almondmilk is my go-to for a wide range of sweet and savory recipes. I love its creamy texture and mildly nutty flavor. The fact that it’s only 30 calories a cup is also a definite plus when I’m slimming down more decadent dishes.
The almondmilk turned out to be a perfect pairing with the vegan risotto. Its flavor was lovely, and the resulting quinoa was more rich and creamy, making it the perfect vegan risotto base.
Although the quinoa was definitely the creamiest batch I’d ever cooked, I was so adamant that the vegan risotto be reminiscent of a classic risotto I’d order in a restaurant, I took the recipe a step farther by blending together a mixture of cauliflower (bonus veggie sneak!), white beans, fresh lemon, and garlic.
Not only was the resulting cauli-bean puree ultra fresh and flavorful, it was fantastically creamy. Once folded into the quinoa, it gave the vegan risotto the indulgent texture I’d been chasing all along.
In place of Parmesan, this vegan risotto recipe uses nutritional yeast, which is loaded with nutrients and tastes surprisingly “cheesy.” I regularly add nutritional yeast to my salads and roasted veggies, and you can use it in any one of these recipes with nutritional yeast too.
To round out the recipe, I topped my vegan risotto with asparagus, artichokes, and a little additional cauliflower, all of which I roasted in the oven. The caramelized texture of the veggies was a beautiful contrast to the creaminess of the risotto. I also loved how spring-y the asparagus made the vegan risotto taste. I can see this recipe as a great side for Easter, and if you have any vegetarian or vegan guests, a larger serving would be a good option for a hearty main.
At any time of year, this basic vegan risotto recipe is flexible. Feel free to swap the asparagus for other in-season veggies or any you might have on hand. I have tasty plans for a vegan risotto with butternut squash in the fall, along with a vegan risotto with mushrooms just as soon as I can make it.
The leftovers also reheat nicely, so you can take a container to work and elicit the envy of the office!
Creamy Vegan Risotto with Quinoa, Asparagus, and Cauliflower
- 1 medium head cauliflower — cut into rough florets, divided (about 5 cups)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil — plus 1 teaspoon, divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt — divided, plus additional to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper — divided, plus additional to taste
- 14-16 ounces quartered artichoke hearts — drained from a can or defrosted from frozen
- 1 pound asparagus — about 1 small bunch
- 15 ounces reduced-sodium white beans — (1 can) , such as cannellini beans, white kidney beans, or Great Northern beans
- 1 clove garlic — peeled and left whole (if you are a serious garlic fiend, you can up to 2)
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast*
- 2 1/3 cups Almond Breeze almondmilk Original Unsweetened — divided
- 1 large shallot — diced
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives — plus additional for serving
Place a rack in the upper and lower thirds of your oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Coat two large rimmed baking sheets with nonstick spray.
Place 3 cups cauliflower florets in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a pinch (about 1/8 teaspoon) black pepper. Toss to coat, then spread in a single layer on one baking sheet. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until tender and caramelized, tossing once halfway through.
Meanwhile, spread the artichokes in a single layer on top of several paper towels. Place a few additional sheets of paper towels on top, then press gently to remove excess water. Transfer the artichokes to a large mixing bowl. Trim the asparagus and cut into 1 1/2-inch diagonal slices, then add to the bowl with the artichokes. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Toss to coat, then spread into a single layer on the second baking sheet. Place in the oven and roast for 15 to 18 minutes, until the veggies are caramelized and tender, tossing once halfway through.
While the veggies roast, place the remaining cauliflower florets in a food processor. Pulse a few times until the cauliflower resembles grains of rice, then add the beans, garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and 1/3 cup almondmilk. Puree just until smooth.
Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil in a Dutch oven or medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the shallot and cook until it's beginning to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the quinoa, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Stir to coat the quinoa in the oil and shallots, then add the remaining 2 cups almondmilk. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat, cover, and let simmer until the quinoa has absorbed most of the liquid, about 12 to 15 minutes.
Add the cauliflower bean puree to the quinoa and fold to combine, adding a few extra tablespoons almondmilk as needed so that you have a nice, creamy consistency. Stir in the chives. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as desired.
Divide the quinoa into serving bowls. Top with a generous serving of roasted vegetables and sprinkle with additional chives. Enjoy immediately.
- *Nutritional yeast is available in many grocery stores and can be ordered online here. It offers nutrients and adds a pleasantly nutty, Parmesan-like flavor for the dish. If you prefer not to use it, you can simply leave it out.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat the risotto gently in the microwave or on the stove with a splash of almondmilk, stock, or water to keep it drying out. Store leftover vegetables separately and rewarm them in a low oven or by lightly sauting them on the stove. You can also microwave the vegetables, though they will become somewhat soggy.
Nutrition InformationAmount per serving (1 (of 4), heaping 1 1/2 cups risotto plus 3/4 cup roasted veggies) — Calories: 445, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Carbohydrates: 66g, Fiber: 16g, Sugar: 7g, Protein: 22g
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