Butternut squash risotto is an ultra-creamy and cozy one-pot main dish you can make with a few simple ingredients for a special weeknight dinner.
You can make this recipe with or without dairy, it’s naturally gluten-free, and as usual, we’ll show you the simplest way to make it with step-by-step instructions.
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Butternut squash risotto is a fall-inspired recipe made with diced butternut squash cooked in one pot on the stovetop with vegetable broth and arborio rice.
The recipe is creamy, rich, earthy, with sweet notes from the squash. It’s a perfect main dish for a cozy dinner with family and friends.
While it’s true that you’ll need to stir almost constantly to allow the rice grains to rub against each other and slowly release the starch that makes this dish ultra-creamy, it’s also true that this recipe is simple to put together.
And once the ingredients are in the pot, all you have to do is add the broth slowly and keep stirring while the rice and the squash simmer together.
The gentle simmer and slow stirring ensure that the butternut squash gets tender, releasing its flavor, juices, and color into the rice.
At the same time, the rice releases creamy starch that melds with the butternut squash juices.
The result is a perfect symbiosis between the rice grains, the tender butternut squash dice, and an irresistible creamy coating that wraps them both.
We finish this dish with parmesan cheese, butter, and fresh sage leaves to balance the sweetness of the squash, add umami, and a pleasant velvety mouth feel.
You can, of course, make this recipe vegan by using dairy-free parmesan and butter.
You’ll need risotto rice to make a creamy risotto. Arborio rice is the most popular variety of risotto rice, a short-grain rice cultivated in Italy. Other varieties are Carnaroli, Roma, Baldo, and Vialone Nano.
If you can’t find any of these, then opt for rice that says “risotto rice” on the package.
Risotto rice varieties differ from other types of rice in that they contain more starch. If cooked correctly, the starch will leach out of the rice grain, making the risotto ultra-creamy.
You can use whole butternut squash, seed it, peel it and dice it into small cubes, or you can use pre-diced butternut squash.
For this butternut squash risotto recipe, we prefer to chop the squash ourselves because the pre-diced one is generally cut too big.
We also prefer to cook the squash with the rice in the same pot rather than roast the squash separately.
You can substitute pumpkin, buttercup squash, hubbard squash, kabocha squash, or acorn squash for butternut squash.
Onion, garlic, and olive oil
We fry a white onion or shallot with a bit of extra virgin olive oil to make a quick flavor base. Later we add finely chopped garlic to add even more flavor.
Dry white wine is an important ingredient in most risotto preparations because it adds a touch of acidity, which means more flavor.
If you don’t cook with wine, replace it with the same quantity of vegetable broth.
We use store-bought vegetable broth to speed things up; however, you can also make the broth yourself by boiling a carrot, an onion, and a celery stalk in water with a pinch of salt.
We prefer vegetable broth to chicken broth to keep the recipe meat-free.
Fresh sage leaves are the “cherry on top” of this dish. Sage has an autumny flavor and goes well with most orange-colored veggies, including butternut squash.
You can add a couple of leaves on top at the end, raw. Or you can fry the sage in a drizzle of olive oil to enhance its flavor, then add it on top of the butternut squash risotto.
Parmesan cheese plus risotto plus butternut squash equals happy taste buds.
However, you can easily replace the parmesan cheese with a vegan cheese substitute if you are vegan.
Unsalted butter is another crucial ingredient in most risotto. We generally use dairy-free butter in our risotto, but you can use any other butter you choose, as long as it’s not salted.
Salt and pepper
Use sea salt or kosher salt to season the butternut squash and plenty of freshly ground black pepper to add a peppery aroma. We also add extra black pepper on top before serving the risotto.
Peel and dice the butternut squash into 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) dice. Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic. Set aside.
Heat broth in a large saucepan until almost boiling temperature. Keep hot throughout the recipe.
Toast the rice
To a large dutch oven or skillet, add the risotto rice and stir on medium heat for about 1.5 minutes. Transfer the rice into a bowl and set it aside for later.
Note: this step is called “toasting” the rice”. It’s important to ensure that the rice keeps its shape and bite once cooked. Toasting needs to be done in a dry pan; that’s why we need to do it before we add the butternut squash.
Cook the risotto
To the same dutch oven, add the olive oil and chopped onion. Fry gently for 2 minutes until the onion is translucent.
Tip: if you want to make this oil-free, you can fry the onion in a dry dutch oven on low heat, moving it around the pan often. The onions will release natural oils that will prevent the onion from sticking.
Add the diced butternut squash, minced garlic, 1/4 cup vegetable broth, salt, and pepper, and sauté on medium heat for 5 minutes.
Add the toasted risotto rice and stir on medium-high heat. When the pan is hot and the rice starts to stick, add the white wine.
Tip: this step is called deglazing and adds acidity to the dish, making it more flavorful.
Stir until the wine has evaporated completely, then add two ladlefuls of vegetable broth and stir gently till the rice absorbs the broth.
Keep adding two ladlefuls of liquid at a time while stirring almost continuously until the rice is cooked al dente (15 to 18 minutes).
Taste the rice; it should be soft outside but still have a clear bite. The risotto should be creamy, but the rice grains perfectly separated and not mushy.
Tip: there is no need to puree or blend the butternut squash with a food processor or blender. Some of the squash will naturally melt and color the rice without making it too soupy.
Add butter and cheese
Turn the heat off, let the rice cool down for one minute, then add butter and grated parmesan cheese.
Stir until butter and cheese melt in the rice. If the risotto gets too thick, add a little more vegetable broth.
Tip: risotto should have a creamy texture and consistency that is not too thick nor too soupy. You should be able to eat it with a fork.
Serve a ladleful or two of creamy butternut squash risotto per person, positioning it at the center of the plate and letting it spread out on its own.
Top with a couple of leaves of sage and a twist of freshly ground black pepper.
Tip: if you prefer, you can fry the sage in a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, on a nonstick pan, for one minute.
We recommend serving this butternut squash risotto as a main dish, with a side dish of vegetables or a simple side salad.
We like to serve it with:
Alternatively, you can serve butternut squash risotto as a side dish. In this case, we like to serve it with a protein-rich main such as:
How to use leftover risotto?
We have four recipes for your that’ll give you some ideas on how to use leftover risotto.
Crispy risotto cakes are a tasty and fulfilling main dish you can make with leftover risotto and a few other simple ingredients.
Check out our risotto cakes recipe.
Italian rice balls
Italian rice balls are an irresistible recipe made with leftover or cooled-down risotto of any kind coated in crunchy breadcrumbs and fried until perfectly crisp and golden brown.
Check out our Italian rice balls recipe.
Supplì alla Romana (fried stuffed rice balls) are a popular Italian street food made with leftover risotto, breaded and deep-fried, with a heart of melted mozzarella cheese.
Check out our Supplì alla Romana recipe.
Italian fried rice
Italian fried rice (riso al salto in Italian) is the cinderella of Italian dishes. Made with leftover risotto, Italian fried rice was born in a famous Milan restaurant (Ristorante Savini) in the 70s, and it’s now a gourmet dish.
Check out our Italian fried rice recipe.
Let risotto cool down completely, then store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Reheat in the microwave for one to two minutes. The next day the risotto will be sticky and dryer; you might need to add water to it.
We don’t recommend freezing butternut squash risotto.
Butternuts squash risotto has a mildly sweet taste, with a clear butternut squash flavor. It’s earthy, buttery, nutty, and vaguely reminiscent of sweet potato. It’s a very creamy dish with a rich, velvety, satisfying mouthfeel.
More Risotto Recipes
Love risotto? Check out our favorite risotto recipes. They are all super creamy and easy to make:
Butternut Squash Risotto
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 white onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 5 cups (1.5 pounds) butternut squash peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup white wine
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 4 tablespoons butter (or dairy-free butter)
- ½ cup grated parmesan (or dairy-free cheese)
- 1 handful sage leaves (3 or 4 per serving)
- Peel and dice the butternut squash into ¼ inch (0.6 cm) dice. Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic. Set aside.Heat broth in a large saucepan until almost boiling temperature. Keep hot throughout the recipe.
TOAST THE RICE
- To a large dutch oven or skillet, add the risotto rice and stir on medium heat for about 1.5 minutes. Transfer the rice into a bowl and set it aside for later.
COOK THE RISOTTO
- To the same dutch oven, add the olive oil and chopped onion. Fry gently for 2 minutes until the onion is translucent.
- Add the diced butternut squash, minced garlic, ¼ cup vegetable broth, salt, and pepper, and sauté on medium heat for 5 minutes.
- Add the toasted risotto rice and stir on medium-high heat. When the pan is hot and the rice starts to stick, add the white wine.
- Stir until the wine has evaporated completely, then add two ladlefuls of vegetable broth and stir gently till the rice absorbs the broth.Keep adding two ladlefuls of liquid at a time while stirring almost continuously until the rice is cooked al dente (15 to 18 minutes).
ADD BUTTER AND CHEESE
- Turn the heat off, let the rice cool down for one minute, then add butter and grated parmesan cheese.
- Stir until butter and cheese melt in the rice. If the risotto gets too thick, add a little more vegetable broth.
- Serve a ladleful or two of creamy butternut squash risotto per person, positioning it at the center of the plate and letting it spread out on its own.Top with a couple of leaves of sage and a twist of freshly ground black pepper.