Pumpkin Risotto

Creamy Pumpkin Risotto made super easy in the oven with less than 20 minutes of prep!

Prepare to be the hero Thanksgiving (or anywhere food is served) with decadently creamy Pumpkin Risotto. This new fall favorite is intoxicatingly delicious with its cozy pumpkin flavor, warm spices, earthy crispy sage, nutty Parmesan, toasted pepitas and luxurious browned butter (variations included).  Best of all, this recipe is gourmet enough for special occasions, but easy enough for every day – you seriously will be BLOWN away at how easy it is!  This recipe doesn’t require any chopping or roasting pumpkin or babysitting the risotto over the stove but still emerges mega creamy, flavorful, and absolutely foolproof. This Pumpkin Risotto recipe reheats beautifully (unlike traditional rice), so it’s great for make ahead meals or Thanksgiving meal prep. Basically, it’s the perfect side no one will be able to resist.

Risotto recipes have my heart. Once you see how easy this baked version is, you’ll want to make all the baked risotto recipes!  Don’t miss Parmesan Risotto, Spinach Risotto, Mushroom Risotto, Butternut Squash Risotto, Greek Chicken Risotto and Creamy Chicken Risotto. 

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How to make Pumpkin Risotto Video

top view of pumpkin risotto in a bowl with freshly grated parmesan

easy risotto recipe

I’ve been giddy compiling all of my Thanksgiving Recipes and am excited to add this Pumpkin Risotto to the mix.  It’s sophisticated comfort food at its most addicting. It’s elegant enough for the holidays and date-night in, but it’s also easy enough to whip up any night of the week.  It’s also extremely flexible: skip the crispy sage, pepitas etc. and add bacon, caramelized onions, etc.  Here’s why you’ll love it:

The risotto is delicious.

Obviously.  The pumpkin lends the earthiness, the heavenly browned butter adds the nutty richness, the sage infuses the dish with earthy, slightly peppery notes, the Parmesan accentuates the nutty bite, the spices inject the dish with warm complexity and the pepitas and crispy sage add pops of contrasting crunch to the luxuriously creamy risotto.  Drooling yet?  I think it’s safe to say not only is this Pumpkin Risotto destined to become a new Thanksgiving tradition but one of your favorite weekly side dishes.

The risotto is baked! 

The traditional technique for making risotto calls for stirring small amounts of warmed broth into a large pot of rice a little at a time, which is tedious, hands-on and time consuming. This traditional technique began when Italians cooked risotto in tall, narrow pots which required constant stirring for even cooking.  

While this old-school technique still works, it has been debunked that it is the only way to properly cook risotto by established food authorities such as Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats.  My beloved oven method emerges every bit as creamy and dreamy without all the babysitting! 

The risotto is easy. 

Risotto has a reputation of being temperamental and time consuming, but it is actually extremely easy and forgiving to make in the oven.  The only prerequisite is that you use the correct rice and you can stir – that’s it! This risotto is baked so you don’t have to worry about stirring for 30 minutes, keeping your chicken broth the correct temperature, or stirring to just the right consistency.   It is extremely forgiving and lends itself to adding virtually anything to it.

Additionally, this Pumpkin Risotto recipe uses pumpkin puree so you don’t have to worry about cubing a whole pumpkin. You can if you wish, but in my testing, I could not tell the difference.  The quick and easy pumpkin puree was just as good!

pumpkin risotto recipe with crispy sage and browned butter

What is risotto?

Risotto (from the Italian word for rice, “riso”) is a northern Italian rice dish slow cooked in a broth until delectable creamy consistency – it is essentially creamy rice but NOT mushy rice.   Risotto is often associated with gourmet restaurants, but it is actually the epitome of Italian home cooking and very simple to prepare.  In fact, most Italians will tell you risotto should require no more than 18 minutes to make.

The traditional technique for making risotto calls for stirring small amounts of warmed broth into a large pot of rice a little at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid then stirring in some more.  This method has given home cooks the impression that risotto is too time consuming to make at home BUT my oven version solves all that!

WHAT TYPE OF RICE SHOULD I USE?

The secret to making restaurant quality risotto at home is using arborio riceArborio rice is a short-grained, starchy rice.  When cooked, the rounded grains become creamy and chewy due to the high starch content without becoming gluey or mushy.

CAN I USE A DIFFERENT RICE?

Arborio rice is the most common and most reliable rice for any risotto recipe. It is also easy to find at most grocery stores. You may also use carnaroli rice which is dependable and hard to overcook but can only be found at specialty markets.

Please use only these two varieties of rice.  If you use any other rice variety, your Pumpkin Risotto will not taste the same or have the correct consistency and texture due to the different starch content.

WHERE CAN I BUY ARBORIO RICE?

Almost every grocery store carries arborio rice.  It is often found in a plastic container alongside the other rice varieties.  I use Rice Select which is also sold in bulk on Amazon. You can also purchase smaller quantities of other brands on Amazon.

Pumpkin RISOTTO INGREDIENTS

In addition to arborio rice, you will need a few everyday ingredients to make this Pumpkin Risotto recipe: 

  • Pumpkin Puree:  use pure pumpkin puree and NOT pumpkin pie filling.  Pumpkin puree is 100% pure pumpkin that has been cooked and pureed without any added sugar or spices.  Libby’s brand is my favorite and what I have used in this recipe.  Libby’s is concentrated and tightly packed without excess water.  
  • Parmesan: infuses the risotto with the classic Italian flavor. This risotto recipe calls for ¾ cup Parmesan but you can use less (½ cup) or more (1 cup) to taste. Use freshly shredded Parmesan and never the Parmesan in the green can.  Freshly shredded Parmesan melts and tastes far superior and will elevate your entire risotto.  
  • Chicken broth: use low sodium broth so we can control the salt and make room for adding chicken bouillon, the secret flavor weapon.
  • Chicken bouillon: is a secret ingredient that adds a rich depth of flavor that makes the risotto taste like it’s been simmering for hours.  You can use granulated chicken bouillonchicken bouillon cubes or better than bouillon.   If using cubes, crush and add directly to the risotto, don’t dissolve in water first.
  • Butter:  use unsalted butter so we can control the salt.  The butter will be used to sauté the onions and toast the rice and again to fry the sage leaves in which will become browned butter which is added back the risotto – yum!
  • Olive oil:  use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.  
  • Aromatics:  one yellow onion and a couple garlic cloves are the building blocks of a flavorful risotto.
  • Sage:  fresh sage will be minced and added directly to the risotto before it cooks and you have the option to fry up additional sage leaves for added crunch, flavor and beautiful presentation.
  • Seasonings:  paprika, ground ginger, ground cumin, pepper, and thyme create a warm tapestry of flavor.
  • Pepitas: are a type of pumpkin seed. They should be easy to find with the nuts/seeds at the grocery store or the bulk bins at Sprouts. Purchase roasted salted pepitas if you can.
top view of pumpkin risotto in a pot

Risotto recipe substitutions

  • Skip the crispy sage.  You don’t have to fry up the sage, but I still recommend browning the butter without it. 
  • Skip the browned butter.  While the risotto won’t boast the same dimension of nutty yumminess, you can add plain, cubed butter to the risotto instead of browned butter to finish.
  • Pumpkin:  use 12 ounces fresh, peeled, cubed baking pumpkin, or butternut squash.
  • Broth:  the broth can be from meat, fish, mushrooms or other vegetables but I highly recommend chicken broth because it boasts the most flavor. 
  • Garlic:  use ½ teaspoon garlic powder in place of fresh
  • Onion:  use 1 teaspoon onion powder instead of fresh.  You may also substitute with 2-3 minced shallots.
    Sage:  use 1 ½ teaspoons dried sage instead of fresh (for mixing into the risotto).
  • Pepitas:  garnish with another favorite seed or nut such as pine nuts, pecans or walnuts.

Risotto recipe Variations/Additions

  • Protein: add cooked chicken, ground turkey, Italian sausage or lean ground beef to the broth and bake it with the rice.  You can also stir in cooked bacon, rotisserie chicken, sautéed shrimp or cooked salmon or lobster at the end of cooking.  
  • Vegetables: add any chopped vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, bell peppers, green beans, etc. and sauté them in in the butter and olive oil with the onions and rice.  You can also add faster cooking vegetables such thawed petite frozen peas or spinach or roasted vegetables directly to the risotto at the end of cooking.
  • Spice it up:  sauté a pinch of red pepper flakes in the butter for a kick.
  • Cheese:  garnish with goat cheese or blue cheese.  You can even stir mozzarella, white cheddar, Gruyere, Pepper Jack, etc. directly into the risotto with the Parmesan.
  • Add-ins: you can stir in anything to risotto such as balsamic, kalamata olives, bacon, pistachios, slivered almonds, toasted pine nuts, raisins, etc.

How to make pumpkin risotto

Are you ready to see just how easy this risotto recipe is to make? Let’s get cooking (full recipe measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Step 1: Sauté the onions and toast rice.  First, we want to build the flavor base by sautéing the onions until soft, then adding the rice, garlic, chopped sage and seasonings and cooking an additional 3 minutes.  This will toast the rice to create a protective shell and enhance its nuttiness and bloom the spices to amplify their flavor. 
showing how to make pumpkin risotto by sauteing onions, garlic and spices
  • Step 2:  Stir in broth.  Stir in the chicken broth, chicken bouillon and pumpkin puree.  Bring to a simmer, stir, cover, and transfer to the oven.
showing how to make pumpkin risotto by adding pumpkin and broth to the rice
  • Step 3: Bake.  Bake the risotto for 20 minutes then test for doneness.  Continue to cook an additional 5 minutes if needed or until rice is tender. When you check for doneness, don’t worry if it looks like there is excess liquid, because it’s what will make the risotto incredibly creamy.  While the risotto is baking, toast the nuts and make the browned butter.
showing how to make pumpkin risotto by adding Parmesan to the risotto
  • Step 4:  Toast pepitas.  This step is optional, but I love how toasting the seeds to enhances their flavor.  Simply add the seeds to a dry skillet and toast over medium heat until golden and fragrant. Transfer the seeds to a plate so they don’t keep cooking. 
showing how to make pumpkin risotto by toasting pine nuts in a skillet
  • Step 5:  Make crispy sage and browned butter.   Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a skillet, preferably light bottomed if you have one (so you can keep an eye on the butter).   Add the sage and turn to coat in the butter.  Let the leaves cook for about 1 ½ minutes (no need to flip or stir) or until crispy then transfer to paper towels.  The butter should be browned by the time the sage is done cooking.  Transfer the butter to bowl or liquid measuring cup so it doesn’t continue to cook.  We’ll stir the browned butter into the risotto once it comes out of the oven.    
showing how to make pumpkin risotto by frying sage until crispy in a stainless steel skillet
  • Step 6: Add finishing touches.  When the rice is tender, remove it from oven and stir in browned butter and Parmesan cheese.  Garnish individual servings with crispy sage and pepitas.
up close of a spoonful of pumpkin risotto recipe showing how creamy it is

TIPS FOR THE BEST pumpkin RISOTTO

This Pumpkin Risotto is pretty straightforward, but here are a few tips to ensure success:

  • Use the correct pot.  Use a wide pot, preferably a cast iron Dutch oven, with a tight-fitting lid in order for the rice to cook evenly.  A heavy, cast-iron pot retains more heat. If you don’t have a tight-fitting lid, then you can use foil, but make sure it is TIGHT otherwise the broth will evaporate before the rice is cooked, leaving you with crunchy rice.
  • Use arborio rice.  As detailed earlier, you must use arborio rice for your risotto to be successful.  Arborio rice ensures creamy and never mushy rice every time.
  • Don’t rinse the rice. In contrast to other rice recipes, we WANT the extra starch because that is what translates into creaminess.
  • Don’t skip toasting the rice.  The brief step of sautéing the arborio rice is critical to perfect risotto.  Toasting the rice not only infuses it with flavor, but more importantly, creates a protective barrier around each grain which helps the grains absorb moisture slowly. This allows the grains to maintain their structural integrity and become soft without becoming soggy or exploding from absorbing moisture too quickly.
  • Use low sodium chicken broth. The broth will be reduced and absorbed into the rice so make sure to use LOW sodium chicken broth. You can add salt but you can’t take it away!
  • Bake on.  If your rice is not done (too crunchy) but the broth is gone, simply add more broth and bake until the rice is on the softer side of al dente. 
  • Stir vigorously.  After you add the butter and Parmesan, stir vigorously.  The stirring isn’t just to combine the ingredients but is to stimulate the rice.  Arborio rice becomes creamy as it is vigorously stirred and the starch is released. 
  • Salt to taste.  If your risotto tastes like its missing something – it is probably salt. Salt enhances all of the other flavors. Add additional salt to taste a little at a time if needed.
  • Adjust consistency. Stir in additional chicken broth if desired for an even creamier/saucier risotto.   You might even find the risotto consistency was perfect initially but by the time you’re ready to serve it, it has thickened up, so be flexible and ready to add additional broth.
a bowl of pumpkin risotto recipe being held by two hands

HOW do you store RISOTTO?

To store the risotto, transfer it in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for three to five days.

HOW TO REHEAT RISOTTO

Pumpkin Risotto will thicken in the refrigerator due to the starch in the rice, but you can easily thin it out to and restore it to its former glory.  To reheat risotto:

  1. Microwave:  heat risotto for 1 minute then at 20 second intervals as needed.  Add a splash of broth, milk or water if you would like it saucier.
  2. Stove:  heat risotto over medium heat in a nonstick skillet until warmed through, stirring often. Add broth, milk or water to thin to desired consistency.  You can also add additional butter and salt to taste as the salt will mellow when refrigerated.
  3. Oven:  grease an oven proof baking dish or pot with butter then add the risotto and a few tablespoons broth, water or milk.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until warmed through then give it a good stir.

CAN YOU FREEZE pumpkin RISOTTO?

Pumpkin Risotto is best eaten fresh or refrigerated, never frozen.  Freezing risotto will change its texture – the risotto won’t be as firm or creamy.  If you aren’t a stickler for perfect risotto, then go ahead and freeze.  Let the risotto cool completely before freezing to help preserve some of the texture.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH pumpkin RISOTTO?

Pumpkin Risotto pairs beautifully as a side to proteins such as chicken, salmon, shrimp, pork and steak.  Think of it as a delicious alternative anywhere mashed potatoes would fit the bill.  For example, serve it alongside:

Commonly asked questions

What’s the difference between risotto and rice?

Risotto is a type of rice dish; not all rice is risotto but all risotto is rice. Rice can be any variety of rice and prepared in any preparation. Risotto, on the other hand, should only be made with high starch short grain rice – either arborio or carnaroli – and cooked in broth to create a creamy rice dish.

Do you wash arborio rice before cooking it?

While it is good practice to rinse most rice before cooking it to eliminate extra starch, do NOT rinse arborio rice – we WANT the extra starch to create creamy risotto. Some of the starch is released while cooking and once again while vigorously stirring.  This starch adds body and creaminess to the risotto and gives it the characteristic velvety consistency.

What’s the correct consistency of risotto?

The rice in risotto should be on the softer side of al dente – slightly firm but not crunchy.  The risotto should be saucy but not soupy – more like porridge. If your risotto is too crunchy but the broth is gone, simply add more broth and cook until the risotto is al dente. If your Pumpkin Risotto is too thick, simply stir in additional chicken broth at low heat until it reaches the desired consistency and texture. You can also stir in additional heavy creamy for extra decadence.

Can you overcook risotto? 

Risotto is more forgiving than rice but it can be overcooked, so be sure to check the risotto for doneness after 20 minutes. If the rice is not al dente, then continue to bake just until the softer side of al dente. 

up close of pumpkin risotto in a bowl showing how creamy it is

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top view of pumpkin risotto in a bowl with freshly grated parmesan

Baked Pumpkin Risotto

Prepare to be the hero Thanksgiving (or anywhere food is served) with decadently creamy Pumpkin Risotto. This new fall favorite is intoxicatingly delicious with its cozy pumpkin flavor, warm spices, earthy crispy sage, nutty Parmesan, toasted pepitas and luxurious browned butter (variations included).  Best of all, this recipe is gourmet enough for special occasions, but easy enough for every day – you seriously will be BLOWN away at how easy it is!  This recipe doesn’t require any chopping or roasting pumpkin or babysitting the risotto over the stove but still emerges mega creamy, flavorful, and absolutely foolproof. This Pumpkin Risotto recipe reheats beautifully (unlike traditional rice), so it’s great for make ahead meals or Thanksgiving meal prep. Basically, it's the perfect side no one will be able to resist.
Servings: 6 -8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

BAKED RISOTTO

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sage leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 tsp EACH ground ginger, pepper
  • ¼ tsp EACH paprika, dried thyme, ground cumin
  • dash-⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth, plus more if needed
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon
  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree

ADD LATER/GARNISH

  • 3/4 cups Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • ¼ cup roasted salted pepitas
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 15 sage leaves, more or less depending on size

Instructions

Risotto

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Melt butter in olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or 3.75 qt. braiser (or large oven proof heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid). Add onions and sauté until softened, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add the rice, garlic, chopped sage and all seasonings (salt through cayenne) and cook for 3 minutes, stirring to make sure the rice is evenly coated in the butter.
  • Stir in chicken broth, chicken bouillon and pumpkin puree.
  • Bring the pot to a gentle simmer, stir, cover, and transfer to the oven. Bake for 16 minutes then test for doneness. Continue to cook an additional few minutes if needed or until rice is tender. (Don’t worry when it looks like there is excess liquid, the liquid is what makes the risotto extra creamy.) While the risotto is baking, toast the pepitas (optional) and make the browned butter (see below).
  • When rice is tender, remove the pan from oven and add the browned butter and Parmesan. Stir vigorously to release the starch/make it extra creamy. If you’d like a saucier risotto, stir in additional chicken broth. Taste and be prepared to season with additional salt (about 1/4-½ teaspoon), it can taste bland without it. Season with pepper and or/cayenne pepper to taste.
  • Garnish individual servings with toasted pepitas, crispy sage and freshly grated Parmesan

Toast Pepitas (Optional)

  • Add pepitas to a small, dry skillet (preferable light bottomed/stainless) and heat over medium heat. Toast until fragrant, watching closely so they don’t burn, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Browned Butter and Optional Crispy Sage

  • *You can skip the sage and just brown the butter if you wish
  • To the now empty skillet, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat.
  • Add the sage and gently stir so they are coated in the butter.
  • Cook for 1 ½ minutes or until crispy (without stirring) then immediately transfer sage to paper towels.
  • The butter should be browned at this point. Pour the browned butter into a heat proof bowl/liquid measuring cup so it doesn’t continue to cook. Reserve to add to the risotto once it’s cooked.

Video

Notes

Arborio rice:  You must use arborio rice for your risotto to be successful.  Arborio rice ensures creamy and never mushy rice every time. Also, don’t rinse the rice.  Almost every grocery store carries arborio rice.  It is often found in a plastic container alongside the other rice varieties.  I use Rice Select which is also sold in bulk on Amazon. You can also purchase smaller quantities of other brands on Amazon. 

Weekday/Lazy Day Pumpkin Risotto 

If you have a Pumpkin Risotto craving and don’t have fresh ingredients on hand and/or don’t want the extra steps, you can use ground sage, garlic powder, onion powder and skip the crispy sage.  You can also skip browning the butter and adding cubed butter instead.  If you’re making this recipe for a special occasion, however, I highly recommend following the original recipe.  Here’s are some lazy day substitutions:
  • Skip the fresh sage.  Add ¾ teaspoon ground sage instead.
  • Skip the crispy sage.  You don’t have to fry up the sage, but I still recommend browning the butter without it. 
  • Skip the browned butter.  While the risotto won’t boast the same dimension of nutty yumminess, you can add plain, cubed butter to the risotto instead of browned butter to finish.
  • Garlic:  use ½ teaspoon garlic powder in place of fresh
  • Onion:  use 1 teaspoon onion powder instead of fresh.

Make Ahead

This Pumpkin Risotto can be made ahead because it reheats very well. Take care to just cook the rice al dente then reheat per one of the methods below, adding additional liquid to thin as needed.

How to store and reheat

  • To store: transfer risotto to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for three to five days.
  • To freeze: I do not recommend freezing risotto because it will change its texture – the risotto won’t be as firm or creamy.  If you aren’t a stickler for perfect risotto, then go ahead and freeze.  Let the risotto cool completely before freezing to help preserve some of the texture.
  • To reheat in the microwave: heat risotto for 1 minute then at 20 second intervals as needed.  Add a splash of broth, milk or water if you would like it saucier.
  • To reheat on the stove: heat risotto over medium heat in a nonstick skillet until warmed through, stirring often. Add broth, milk or water to thin to desired consistency.  You can also add additional butter and salt to taste as the salt will mellow when refrigerated.
  • To reheat in the oven: grease an oven proof baking dish or pot with butter then add the risotto and a few tablespoons broth, water or milk.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until warmed through then give it a good stir.
 
 
 
 

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4 Comments

  1. Mike Norman says

    Quick question on the total cooking time. At the top of the recipe, it says the total cooking time is 5 hours & 30 minutes. Am I missing some additional steps, since it is only baking for 16+ minutes? Thanks – I’m excited to try this one out very soon!

    • Jen says

      Hi Mike, it was a typo and has since been corrected, sorry about that! Please try clearing your cache and then it should show up properly. Thanks!

  2. JOHN says

    Could this be made in an Instant Pot Rice and Grain cooker?

    • Jen says

      Hi John, unfortunately I haven’t tried it but I think it can be done. Good luck!

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