Shortcut Brown Rice Risotto with Caramelized Onions, Butternut Squash, and Broccoli

Butternut Squash Risotto

Warm risotto is classic comfort food, and perfect on a chilly autumn evening. Traditionally, risotto is known for its signature creaminess, and made that way with white Arborio rice.

This healthy departure from classic risotto is not even close to traditional, but I’m hooked. It’s made with brown rice…leftover brown rice! And when I made this discovery, it seemed almost miraculous. It’s wholesome, nutritious, and it’s so easy to throw together after a long day.

It begins with a flavorful base in a hot skillet of sweet onions and garlic, sautéed with butternut squash, and later the broccoli. Once the vegetables are tender, it’s time for the big shortcut. Add cooked (leftover) brown rice to the pan and simmer briefly in the flavors of white wine and vegetable broth. Finish with a splash of nondairy milk. That’s it. Top, if you like, with a crunchy garnish of toasted whole grain breadcrumbs or finely chopped roasted pecans.

Rich and creamy without any added fats, cheeses, or dairy products, it’s simple to prepare, and it’s become my go-to risotto, all wrapped up with a timesaving bow.


1/2 sweet onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups butternut squash, cubed
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
2 cups water
4 cups cooked brown rice (leftover cold rice works best)
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup soy milk, plain unsweetened
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)

Optional Crunchy Garnish:
toasted whole grain breadcrumbs or/and finely chopped roasted pecans


In a large nonstick skillet or large electric skillet, sauté diced onion in a few splashes of the measured water (to prevent sticking) until softened, and then continue cooking until they begin to brown (caramelize) to your liking. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute more. Add the butternut squash and the remainder of the water, and cook for several minutes on a fairly high flame until the vegetables are tender. Then add the broccoli florets, and continue to cook just until the florets turn bright green.

Into the pan of vegetables, add the cooked brown rice, along with the broth and the white wine. Lower the heat if needed to allow the liquids to simmer slowly with the rice and the vegetables for just a few minutes, until mostly, but not entirely absorbed. Stir frequently to keep from sticking to the pan.

Once the broth and the wine are almost completely absorbed, add soy milk for a little creamy finish. Combine briefly (but thoroughly) until the rice mixture is creamy. Remove from heat.

Season to taste, and garnish with toasted breadcrumbs or roasted pecans, if desired. Serve immediately.

Copyright © Vicki Brett-Gach | Ann Arbor Vegan Kitchen

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