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This butternut squash risotto is a creamy rice dish made with roasted butternut squash. Risotto is a hearty, nutritious, and cozy recipe that’s perfect for colder weather. Traditionally, risotto is stirred over heat for close to 45 minutes while slowly adding hot stock to help extract the starch. Following my recipe for butternut squash risotto will eliminate the need to stand over the pot and constantly stir!
The other great thing about this butternut squash risotto is that it’s vegetarian! My method of making risotto will get you a creamy risotto every time without the addition of butter or cream. I like adding parmesan cheese in the end because I think it really completes the taste. But you can use parmesan cheese made with a plant-based microbial rennet to keep the recipe vegetarian.
Why You’ll Love This Butternut Squash Risotto
- Healthier Choice: Omitting cream, and butter makes this butternut squash risotto a lighter, healthier choice that doesn’t compromise on flavor. It’s a fantastic option for anyone looking to reduce their intake of dairy without sacrificing on a creamy, indulgent meal.
- Rich in Nutrients: The butternut squash not only brings a vibrant color to your dish but is also packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, making each bite not only delicious but also nutritious.
- Infused with Fresh Herbs: The addition of fresh sage leaves infuses the risotto with a burst of aromatic flavor that pairs perfectly with the sweetness of the butternut squash, creating a harmonious blend of flavors in every bite.
- Creamy Texture: Despite the absence of dairy, the risotto still retains a creamy texture, thanks to the natural creaminess of butternut squash and the unique cooking process of the arborio rice, which releases its starches slowly, creating a naturally creamy consistency.
- Simple and Quick: This risotto doesn’t require constant stirring, a trait that is often associated with making risotto. The recipe is relatively straightforward and simple to make, freeing up your time without compromising the quality of the dish.
ingredients to make butternut squash risotto:
- Arborio Rice: This is the key ingredient for making butternut squash risotto, and it’s widely available in stores. It has a high starch content, which makes it perfect for making risotto at home.
- Butternut Squash: We’ll use some to mix with the broth and roast the others. Peel, and small dice them for best results. Here are two great tutorials for preparing butternut squash: how to cut butternut squash and how to cook butternut squash other ways.
- Vegetable Broth: Use this instead of milk for a lighter, less caloric recipe. It gives a salty taste to the dish, and you won’t miss out on any creaminess of a traditional butternut squash risotto.
- Parmesan Cheese: The cheese helps to bind everything together and deliver a creamy consistency. I recommend shredding it on your own. That way, you’re getting pure cheese without any caking agents, that can take away from the melting factor.
- Onions/Garlic: These are the aromatics for our dish and will help to flavor it. Don’t skip them, and don’t use the powdered versions. They really help to elevate the dish.
- Herbs: I prefer sage with the butternut squash. But you can also use rosemary and/or thyme, all of which have wonderful earthy flavors.
How to cook butternut squash risotto
Traditionally, risotto is made by stirring small amounts of hot broth into the rice a little at a time, allowing the liquid to be absorbed slowly. This method involves no stirring, but it comes out as creamy and delicious as the original! The secret is soaking the rice in a mixture made by blending ¼ cup of raw butternut squash with 3 cups of vegetable broth.
Once you soak the rice for 10 minutes, you can drain it and leave the broth aside. Next, toast the rice, onions, and garlic together and add the previously strained broth to the pot, cover, and let it cook.
When the liquid is all absorbed, that’s your cue to turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, butternut squash, and the remaining cup of vegetable broth. Note that it will continue to get thicker as it cools.
Tips for making the best butternut squash risotto
- Do not substitute brown rice. If you use brown rice, you will not be able to extract the starch out of it efficiently enough to create a nice and creamy risotto. You would need to add additional cheese and dairy/butter in order to obtain a creamy textured risotto.
- Small dice the butternut squash. For roasting the butternut squash cubes and for blending it with the broth, the smaller size helps it easily cook to create a creamy texture.
- Reserve some broth to add right before serving if you’re serving your butternut squash risotto after an hour of cooking. The risotto will thicken as it cools. So if you’re serving later, you can stir in some additional broth, a dab of butter and/or more parmesan cheese to bring out its creaminess.
- Remove risotto from heat before adding the cheese. The cheese is going to help thicken the butternut squash risotto. So we want to make sure there’s no more heat added so it doesn’t dry out too much.
popular Substitutions and Additions
- Different Squashes: If you’re looking to mix things up, try substituting the butternut squash with acorn squash or pumpkin for a different flavor and texture.
- Add More Veggies: Elevate the nutritional value and color of your dish by adding other veggies, such as peas, spinach, or diced carrots, into the risotto.
- Herb Variations: Although sage is a great companion to squash, feel free to experiment with other herbs like rosemary, thyme, or parsley to add a different aromatic note to your dish.
- Boost the Protein: Add some protein to your dish by incorporating diced chicken breast, shrimp, or chickpeas for a more filling meal.
- Spice It Up: If you prefer a risotto with a bit of a kick, add a pinch of red pepper flakes or a dash of hot sauce to bring some heat to the dish.
- Nuts and Seeds: Add a crunchy element by topping your risotto with a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds just before serving.
Frequently asked questions
What kind of rice to use for risotto?
The short answer is to use Arborio rice. It’s the most common rice used to make risotto rice. And it’s widely available in markets. But in general, you want to look for high-quality short-grain rice that’s going to lend itself to a smooth and silky risotto.
Can you freeze risotto?
While it’s perfectly safe to freeze risotto, I prefer not freezing any rice in general. I have also read that risotto can become grainy and unappetizing after freezing. If you have leftovers, I would consider making arancini with it, which is basically fried risotto balls – yum!
What to serve with butternut squash risotto?
Risotto is a popular Italian side dish, and this butternut squash risotto has all those Italian flavors plus the warm sweet taste of seasonal squash. That makes it an excellent Thanksgiving side dish with turkey. Aside from that, you can also serve with Grilled Lemon Chicken or Honey Lemon Salmon.
For more squash recipes
- Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
- Butternut Squash Noodles
- Kousa (Stuffed Squash)
- Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
For more grain side dishes:
If you’re hesitant of making butternut squash risotto because of the 40-minute task of constantly stirring, you need to try this new way. Soaking the rice prior to cooking will speed up the risotto cooking. It also extract the starches responsible for giving you the creamy comforting texture that risotto is so well known for. Now you can make this fancy Italian rice side dish easily at home!
If you’ve tried this feel good Butternut Squash Risotto recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!
Butternut Squash Risotto
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss 1 ¾ cup of the butternut squash with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and bake on a baking tray for 25 minutes, set aside.
- Combine remaining ¼ cup of raw butternut squash with 3 cups vegetable broth in a blender and blend until well pureed, pour over the rice and let stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the rice, keeping the broth mixture separately, and let stand for 10 minutes.
- Heat remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a pot over medium high heat; add the sage and fry briefly, about 15 seconds. Add the drained rice followed quickly by the onion and garlic, stir to toast rice, about 1 minute. Add the previously strained liquid, salt, and black pepper to the pot and bring to a boil, reduce to a very low simmer. Cover pot and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 7-10 minutes, stirring 1-2 times.
- Add the parmesan cheese, roasted squash, and remaining 1 cup of broth, stir until cheese has fully melted. Serve immediately.
- To make the sauce more creamy, you can add some milk instead of some of the pasta water.
- Use other types of shredded cheese in place of parmesan cheese if you’d prefer. Gruyere would make a great choice here.
- To make it vegan, omit the Parmesan cheese.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.