This warm and hearty butternut squash risotto recipe is simple to make and gets a creamy, flavorful boost from roasted butternut squash purée, parmesan, and a swirl of sage browned butter. Vegetarian.
Risotto has to be one of the most comforting comfort foods on the planet. It's warm! It's hearty! It's creamy!
And today, it's also butternut squash-y (hip hooray!)
Like any risotto, this recipe takes a little bit of time and attention, but we're working with a pretty basic lineup of ingredients that make this a great blank-canvas recipe for warm and cozy evenings.
Our basic order of operations for this risotto:
- Sauté some onion and garlic, then add a bit of arborio rice and fresh sage.
- Pour in some white wine to deglaze, then add vegetable stock a cup at a time - letting it cook down between each addition - while the rice cooks.
- When the rice is just about done, stir in some butternut squash purée (roast your own or use canned to save time!), butter, and plenty of parmesan.
Pro tip: Finish your risotto with some sage-infused browned butter
If you have a few extra minutes and so inclined (and yes, WE ARE ALWAYS INCLINED, thank you for asking) brown some butter with a few sage leaves over low heat until the butter browns slightly and smells nutty and fragrant. Drizzle the butter over the top of your risotto for a bit of extra oomph.
How should I make my butternut squash purée?
We prefer roasting our own butternut squash for this recipe, but canned purée works great too! We typically make a big batch of squash purée and save it in the fridge or freezer - it keeps things easy (yay for meal prep!) and that way you don't have to roast a whole squash every time a recipe calls for some purée.
Two of our favorite, easy ways to make homemade butternut squash purée:
- Use a whole, fresh butternut squash. Slice the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, then roast cut-side down at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 45-ish minutes or until it's easily pierced with a fork. Let the squash cool, then scrape out the flesh and mash it with a fork or give it a spin in the food processor to purée. See a full walkthrough here! (We also use this method in our goat cheese butternut squash soup!)
- Use frozen, pre-cut butternut squash cubes. No time to cut and prepare a whole squash? No problem! Grab a bag of butternut squash cubes from the freezer section, spread them on a baking sheet with a bit of olive oil and salt, and roast until soft (about 20 minutes). Let cool, then blend in a food processor until smooth. See a full walkthrough here!
Riffs, Substitutions, and Toppings
My favorite thing about risotto: it’s easy to customize! Add whatever veggies or protein you have on hand to stretch this recipe a bit.
No butternut squash?
Substitute pumpkin purée! This recipe makes an excellent pumpkin risotto and canned pumpkin (or homemade pumpkin purée) is a great swap here. You can also use a purée of roasted honeynut squash, acorn squash, or even sweet potato if you like!
Add some veggies:
Top this risotto with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, a quick tomato salad (à la our summer risotto), or roasted vegetables (cauliflower, parmesan roasted broccoli, more squash, or portobello mushrooms are all good).
Add some protein:
If you're not vegetarian, serve your risotto with grilled steak, salmon, or Italian sausage. To make it extra luxurious, sear some shrimp or scallops in a skillet with plenty of butter and serve them on top of the risotto. We also love adding some Instant Pot braised short ribs!
Mix up the dairy:
Parmesan is a traditional choice for risotto, but you can use sharp white cheddar, goat cheese, fontina, asiago, or pecorino cheese in its place if you like.
Can I skip the wine?
Absolutely - just use extra chicken or vegetable stock instead!
Vegan & Vegetarian Diets
Make sure to use a high-quality vegetable stock. Some store brands of veggie stock have a strong, not-so-pleasant aftertaste - look for a stock that doesn't have an overwhelming flavor (so it doesn't compete with the other ingredients) or make your own for best results!
Vegetarians: Make sure to buy parmesan cheese made without rennet.
Vegans: Skip the butter and cheese entirely. Use olive oil or coconut oil instead of butter to sauté the garlic and onion, and swirl in some dairy-free butter or nutritional yeast at the end of the cooking process if you like.
PS - As always, we recommend serving this risotto with a fresh loaf of crusty homemade bread!
This easy butternut squash risotto is perfect for chilly evenings!
FOR THE RISOTTO:
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- ½ large yellow onion, diced
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 2 Tablespoons fresh chopped sage
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup dry white wine (we like chardonnay)
- 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 cup butternut squash purée (see recipe notes)
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
FOR THE SAGE BROWNED BUTTER (Optional, but delicious):
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4-5 fresh sage leaves
FOR THE RISOTTO:
- In a large, wide pot or saucepan, heat 2 Tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Set the remaining butter aside for later!
- Add onion and garlic to butter and sauté until onion is translucent, about two minutes.
- Add arborio rice, sage, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the edges of the rice start to look translucent.
- Add white wine to pan and stir to incorporate. Cook, stirring frequently, until rice has absorbed most of the liquid, about 10 minutes.
- Add 1 cup stock and cook, stirring frequently, for 5-10 minutes or until rice has absorbed most of the liquid. Repeat this process, adding 1 cup of stock at a time and letting the rice absorb it in between each addition, until rice is al dente. Taste the rice in between each addition of stock to see if it needs more time; the final product should have a slight bite to it and not be mushy, and the rice and stock will have formed a thick, starchy broth.
- Stir butternut squash purée into risotto.
- Add remaining butter and parmesan cheese to risotto. Stir until butter and cheese have melted completely and all ingredients are incorporated. Taste and add salt as necessary.
- Transfer risotto to serving dish(es), top with browned butter (instructions below) and serve immediately.
FOR THE BROWNED BUTTER:
- When risotto is just about done, heat butter in a small skillet or saucepan over medium heat.
- Add fresh sage leaves and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-8 minutes or until butter is fragrant and lightly browned and sage is crispy. Keep an eye on the butter as it cooks and turn off the heat as soon as the solids in the butter start to brown - if you cook it too long, it can burn and taste bitter. Spoon browned butter over risotto and garnish with the crispy sage leaves.
How to make butternut squash purée. Cut a butternut squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and roast cut-side down at 375 degrees F for 45-60 minutes or until the skin is easily pierced with a fork. Let cool, scoop the flesh into a food processor, and purée until smooth. Store in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 2-3 months until you're ready to use it. You can also use canned butternut squash purée or canned pumpkin purée. Read the post above for more squash purée methods and tips!
Should I heat my vegetable stock? Traditional risotto is often made with warm or simmering stock, which helps speed the cooking process along. Cold stock can cool down the pan when it's added, which adds a bit of extra cook time while things come back up to temperature. If you have time, you can bring your stock to a low simmer in a separate saucepan and ladle it from that pan to your risotto as you cook. If you don't want to dirty an extra pot, you can place stock in a microwave-safe dish and microwave for 30 seconds or so before adding it to the risotto. We've tested this recipe with all different stock temperatures - and honestly, it doesn't make that big of a difference. So do whatever works for you!
Shred your own parmesan here, and use a high-quality parmigiano-reggiano cheese if you can! Pre-shredded cheese is often coated with preservatives that prevent it from melting smoothly; shredding your own parmesan ensures it will melt right into the risotto!
If your rice is taking a long time to cook, you can add more vegetable stock ½ cup at a time, still letting it reduce between each addition. If you're out of vegetable stock, you can sub water or more white wine.
Additions and Substitutions. Use pumpkin, honeynut squash, or acorn squash purée in place of butternut squash if you like. Use canned pumpkin, butternut squash, or sweet potato purée if you don't want to roast your own squash. Top the risotto with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, or roasted veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, more squash). Add grilled steak, salmon, or Italian sausage, or top with seared scallops for extra protein. Use goat cheese, asiago, or pecorino in place of parmesan.
Can I skip the wine? Yes - just use extra vegetable stock instead of wine if you like.
Vegan & Vegetarian Diets. Use a high-quality vegetable stock here. Vegetarians should look for parmesan cheese made without rennet. To make this dish vegan, omit the butter and cheese. Use olive oil to sauté the onion and garlic, and stir in some dairy-free butter and/or a little bit of nutritional yeast at the end of cooking if you like.
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 310
- Sugar: 3.2 g
- Sodium: 417 mg
- Fat: 11.7 g
- Carbohydrates: 46.8 g
- Protein: 4.1 g
- Cholesterol: 30.5 mg
Keywords: fall, pumpkin, vegetarian
This recipe was originally published in 2014. It was updated in October 2020 with additional photos and notes.