This vegan butternut squash risotto with asparagus and spinach is perfect for a comforting dinner. Cheesy, savory and hearty, this risotto looks and tastes fancy, but is super easy to make for a date night as either a main course or a side dish.

Vegan butternut squash risotto

Not too long ago, I published my recipe for a delicious vegan mushroom risotto. And since then, I’ve just been making different risotto varieties non-stop! This dish is so versatile, comforting and always packed full of flavor. Plus, the process of making a dairy-free risotto from scratch really isn’t as intimidating as it seems.

Risotto is a traditional Italian dish that’s made using a process of gradually adding water to short grain rice such as Arborio, and stirring continuously. The result has a thick, creamy consistency as a result of the starches in the rice breaking down as you stir. Usually, risotto is made with cheese and butter, but it’s not difficult at all to veganise and make dairy-free.

Vegan risotto with butternut squash

Give this roasted butternut squash risoto a go, and you will see why I love it so much! It’s definitely the type of meal that’s sure to impress vegans and non-vegans alike.

Why you’ll love this vegan butternut squash risotto

The star ingredient in this dish is definitely the butternut squash, which adds an amazing hint of sweetness. It also caramelises and partially breaks down in the risotto when you stir it in, which makes the texture even creamier. The other key ingredient is asparagus, which adds freshness and an amazing green color. This makes this risotto recipe ideal for fall and spring alike.

Plate of risotto with spinach and asparagus

The other ingredients work together beautifully to create the most amazing savory, umami flavor. The addition of vegan cheese and nutritional yeast adds a distinctive cheesiness, while the lemon juice helps to make the dish more tangy. Overall, the final result is:

  • Incredibly flavorful and comforting.
  • Great for a weeknight dinner.
  • Just as perfect for a date night.
  • Easy to make from scratch.
  • Ready in 40 minutes.
  • Delicious as either a main course or a side dish.
Dairy-free risotto with spinach and asparagus

Also, don’t be intimidated if you’ve never made risotto before! Although it’s not the quickest recipe ever and does require your constant presence in the kitchen to stir the rice, it’s not difficult at all to make correctly, even as a complete beginner to plant based cooking.

Ingredients and substitutions

Ingredients for butternut squash risotto
  • Butternut squash. Other pumpkin varieties and sweet potatoes also work.
  • Olive oil. This will be added to the butternut squash before roasting to really deepen and bring out the flavors.
  • Dairy-free butter. This will be used for cooking the risotto. You can also use more olive oil if you wish.
  • Onion and garlic. These are added right at the start, to help add flavor.
  • Spices: cumin and garlic powder. Adjust the amounts that you use depending on your personal preference.
  • Arborio rice. You can use other short grain rice varieties, such as Carnaroli. This is important because short grain rice varieties have a higher starch content, which will create the creamy texture of the risotto.
  • Vegetable stock.
  • Turmeric to add a vibrant and beautiful orange color.
  • Soy sauce. To make this recipe gluten-free, use tamari instead. The addition of soy sauce helps to add a great umami flavor that risotto is so known for.
  • Nutritional yeast. This ingredient is frequently used in vegan cooking because it helps to add an amazing cheesy flavor to savory dishes like risotto.
  • Apple cider vinegar to add a hint of tanginess.
  • Vegan cheese. Optional, but very much recommended!
  • Asparagus. This is added to risotto dishes very often, helping to add flavor and a great pop of color, too!
  • Spinach. I like to stir in a handful to add some extra greens to this dish.
  • Lemon juice. This is also added right at the end for a tangy freshness. I would recommend using fresh lemon juice from a whole lemon. Adjust the amount you use to taste.
Butternut squash risotto in a frying pan

How to make risotto with asparagus and butternut squash

Prepare the butternut squash

Firstly, cut off the top and bottom 1/2 inch of the butternut squash. Then, use a vegetable peeler to peel the entire squash. Afterwards, proceed to cut it in half vertically, and scoop out the seeds.

The butternut squash is now ready to be diced. I would recommend dicing it quite finely, as this will shorten the roasting time, and also allow it to bread down nicely when stirred into the risotto.

Roast the butternut squash

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Transfer the cubed butternut squash to the tray and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until tender and golden.

Be sure to check out my tutorial on how to make roasted butternut squash for a detailed guide with step-by-step photos.

Make the risotto

Start by melting the vegan butter in a wide, flat-bottomed pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, before adding the cumin and garlic powder and cooking for 2 minutes more, until they soften.

Now add the arborio rice and allow to cook for around 3 minutes to brown the rice slightly. Then, start pouring in the vegetable stock around 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously until it fully absorbs before adding more stock. The whole process should take around 20 minutes,

Once you have used up all the vegetable stock minus 1 cup, add the turmeric, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, vegan cheese, asparagus and the roasted butternut squash. Continue stirring for another 5 minutes, until the asparagus is bright green.

At the last minute, stir in the spinach and lemon juice. Once the spinach wilts, season to taste with black pepper and serve.

Tips for success when making risotto

  • Make sure that the stock is warm before you start adding it in order to shorten the cooking time.
  • Don’t add too much vegetable stock at the same time, as the gradual stirring process is what allows the rice to break down and create a creamy texture.
  • Keep stirring and don’t walk away from the stove during the cooking process in order to achieve the best results. This may be a good time to listen to a podcast or an audiobook!
  • You know that the butternut squash is ready to be served when it’s golden and caramelised. You don’t want to undercook it because then it won’t break down in the risotto and infuse it with more flavor.
Risotto with spinach and asparagus

Instructions for storage and freezing

This vegan butternut squash risotto, just like other risotto dishes, is best eaten straight away. However, you can keep it in the fridge for 3-4 days and reheat on the stove, adding more vegetable stock as you do so. I would not recommend freezing risotto, because this will cause the rice to develop a grainy texture.

Other vegan butternut squash recipes

Have leftover butternut squash? You can save it for later and use in these amazing recipes:

Risotto with roasted butternut squash

If you give this vegan butternut squash risotto a go, be sure to tag me on Instagram (@earthofmariaa) so I can see your creations, and leave your feedback in the comments below together with a star rating – I love hearing from you!

Vegan butternut squash risotto

Get the Recipe: Vegan Butternut Squash Risotto

This vegan butternut squash risotto with asparagus is cheesy, savory, and perfectly comforting! It's perfect for a date night either as a side dish or a main course. You won't believe this meal is entirely dairy-free!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 large butternut squash
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce, or tamari
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup vegan cheese
  • 2 cups asparagus, chopped
  • 3 cups spinach leaves
  • 1 lemon, juice of
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, or to taste

Equipment

  • Conventional oven
  • Baking tray
  • Large saucepan

Instructions 

  • Cut off the top and bottom 1/2 inch of the butternut squash. Then, use a vegetable peeler to peel the entire squash. Afterwards, proceed to cut it in half vertically, and scoop out the seeds. Dice into bite-sized pieces – you will need around 1/2 a butternut squash, or 2 cups, for this recipe.
    1/2 large butternut squash, 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Transfer the cubed butternut squash to the tray and drizzle with the olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until tender and golden.
  • Meanwhile, melt the vegan butter in a flat-bottomed pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, before adding the cumin and garlic powder and cooking for 2 more minutes.
    1 tbsp olive oil, 1 large onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Add the arborio rice and allow to cook for around 3 minutes to brown the rice slightly. Then, start pouring in the vegetable stock around 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously until it fully absorbs before adding more stock. The whole process should take around 20 minutes.
    1 1/2 cups Arborio rice, 5 cups vegetable stock
  • Once you have used up all the vegetable stock minus 1 cup, add the turmeric, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, vegan cheese, asparagus, the roasted butternut squash and the rest of the stock. Continue stirring for another 5 minutes, until the asparagus is bright green.
    1 tsp turmeric, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 3 tbsp nutritional yeast, 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup vegan cheese, 2 cups asparagus
  • At the last minute, stir in the the spinach and lemon juice. Season to taste with black pepper and serve.
    3 cups spinach leaves, 1 lemon, 1/2 tsp black pepper

Video

Notes

Tips for success
  • Make sure that the stock is warm before you start adding it in.
  • Don’t add too much vegetable stock at the same time, as the gradual stirring process is what allows the rice to break down and create a creamy texture.
  • Keep stirring and don’t walk away from the stove during the cooking process in order to achieve the best results. 
Storage instructions
This risotto best eaten straight away. However, you can keep it in the fridge for 3-4 days in an airtight container and reheat on the stove, adding more vegetable stock as you do so. I would not recommend freezing risotto, because this will cause the rice to develop a grainy texture.
Calories: 521kcal, Carbohydrates: 92g, Protein: 13g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 1g, Sodium: 1891mg, Potassium: 919mg, Fiber: 10g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 13490IU, Vitamin C: 47mg, Calcium: 124mg, Iron: 8mg