Think that risotto is something meant for fancy restaurant tables? Think again! This caramelized onion risotto with vegan bacon is perfect for even the most casual of dinner tables. A comforting Italian classic, this risotto will warm your winter tables from now until spring!
Even though I grew up in a very Italian family, risotto is not a dish I grew up eating. As a result, I assumed it only the most rarefieid of Italian restaurants served it. I cannot actually tell you why I thought this way.
Wait, yes I can. I don’t come from a house where it is considered ‘worth it’ to make a dish that requires standing in front of the stove for extended periods of time. It’s too much work to make risotto! That fancy dish that requires adding in cups of liquid half a cup at a time? Who has time for that!?
You have time for this. I promise. This dish takes under an hour to make. And the standing is good for us! Before you shove all of this risotto in your face. So the effort exerted during the cooking process is completely balanced out. Right? Right. Go with it.
Risotto is the epitome of winter comfort food. It is up there with hearty stews and soups. A bowl of this with a glass of your favorite wine? You can endure the coldest days winter has to offer.
Simple Onion Risotto Ingredients
This list is on the slightly longer side, but the majority of the ingredients are things you probably already have in your cupboards! I love a recipe that does not require excessive trips to the grocery store.
- Olive oil
- Arborio rice- there are several types of rice that work for risotto, but I find arborio to be the variety most readily available at mainstream grocery stores
- Dry white wine
- Vegetable stock
- Kosher salt
- Dried Italian seasoning
- Nutritional Yeast
- Plant-based bacon
But What KIND of Vegan Bacon, Mel?
There are many, many brands of vegan and plant-based bacon out there. There are recipes for vegan bacon made out of everything from mushrooms to rice paper. I have made this recipe both with homemade bacon and store-bought. The brands of vegan bacon I prefer are Lightlife’s Smart Bacon and Benevolent Bacon.
As for homemade bacon, some recipes are wonderful and some are…questionable. If you’re in the mood to make your own, I highly recommend this coconut bacon recipe from A Couple Cooks! The recipe yields quite a bit more bacon than you would need (I keep the leftovers in the freezer!), so sprinkle them over your next meal. The smokiness is a fabulous addition to many dishes. I might even try them sprinkled over the top of some Aglio e olio!
It starts with onion caramelization. They are cooked down first and stirred into the risotto after the rice has completely cooked. I am still working out my favorite method for caramelizing onions, so instead I will leave you with these tips: do NOT use too much oil and cook the onions on very low heat for a longer period of time.
Your onions and risotto will cook at the same time, on two different burners.
To Start: Toast your rice in a shallow pan with some olive oil. Once the rice grows slightly translucent and starts to toast around the edges, add the minced garlic and cook for another minute or so, stirring so the garlic does not burn.
Then, deglaze the pan with white wine. This injects the dish just enough acidity to round out the flavors.
This is when we start adding our liquid. The key to a good risotto is adding in the liquid 1) while it is HOT and 2) a small amount at a time, making sure each bit of liquid is fully absorbed into the rice before adding more liquid. This is how you get cream, silky risotto instead of glop. If you rush, you will get rice glop. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
See? No glop here.
Time to add in liquid. Add in hot liquid half a cup at a time. Again, make sure each half cup is full absorbed before adding more.
How Will I Know When My Caramelized Onion Risotto Is Completely Cooked?
Like pasta, risotto is cooked when it is ‘al dente,’ just like pasta! ‘Al dente’ means “to the tooth,” literally. So when you bite into your risotto, it will be cooked, but still a little firm to bite.
Once cooked, mix in the nutritional yeast, seasonings, vegan bacon, and caramelized onion. To serve, top with a drizzle of additional olive oil and extra vegan bacon.
Vegan Caramelized Onion and Bacon Risotto
- Sauté pan
- Deep heavy-bottomed pan (or Dutch oven)
- ½ cup vegan bacon
For the Caramelized Onion
- 1 teaspoon olive oil extra virgin
- 1 medium onion thinly sliced
For the Risotto
- ¼ teaspoon white cane sugar optional
- 1 tablespoon olive oil extra virgin
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- kosher salt to taste
- ½ cup white wine dry
- 2 ½ cups vegetable stock hot
- 2 ½ cups water hot
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning dried
- Prepare vegan bacon: If you are using packaged bacon, cook until crispy, following package instructions. If making homemade bacon, prepare in advance and set ½ cup aside.
- Caramelize Onions: In a sauté pan, warm 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil develops a sheen, turn the heat to low and transfer the sliced onions to the pan.
- Cook onions over low heat, stirring occasionally (but not too often, or else the onions will not brown!). To ensure even caramelization, cook the onions for a longer period time over low heat. If you would like to aid the caramelization process, you may stir in ¼ teaspoon of sugar at this time.
- Once the onion is caramelized, after approximately 30 minutes, remove from heat and set aside.
- Prepare Rice: While the onions are caramelizing, heat a heavy-bottomed pot (such as a Dutch oven) on a separate burner over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil.
- Once the oil becomes warm, turn up the heat to medium-high and add all of the rice and stir occasionally to toast.
- When the rice becomes slightly toasted, add minced garlic and salt and stir for an additional minute, until garlic becomes fragrant.
- Deglaze the pan with white wine. Stir until all of the white wine completely evaporates.
- Once the wine has evaporated, add the first ½ cup to 1 cup of cooking liquid. Stir semi-often. This will help pull starches from the rice and thicken the mixture.
- Continue to add liquid, ½ cup to 1 cup at a time, waiting until each previous addition is fully absorbed before adding more liquid. Stir frequently. During the cooking process, adjust the heat as needed to ensure that the risotto is always simmering.
- At the 15-20 minute mark, start checking the risotto for doneness. It will be complete when the rice reaches al dente.
- When the rice is cooked, turn off the heat and mix in nutritional yeast and Italian seasoning.
- Gently stir in caramelized onions and prepared vegan bacon.
- Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and top with extra bacon, if desired.
Try this recipe? Let me know in the comments, or tag me on Pinterest and Instagram @kettleandkale!
Happy wintering, everyone.
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