Butternut Squash and Brown Rice Risotto

Butternut squash risotto close upThis long weekend has been full of cooking and baking experiments. Quite a treat after my recent propensity to stick with tried true and easy. Among the treats created were a cheesecake (recipe tomorrow I hope), some tea-infused truffles (no recipe as they weren’t quite up to par, but still not exactly a waste of chocolate) and tonight’s success, butternut squash and brown rice risotto.

I love risotto, hate making it, and am loathe to order it out due to white rice and frighteningly unknown amounts of cream. So my mission today was to create a risotto using brown rice instead, despite the extra cooking time. Just to make it challenging, I decided to create a recipe out of thin air (and quick glances at about 10 butternut squash risotto recipes on the web) and my memory.

The result earned me an extra special, “Mmmmmmmm” from Luis, so I think this one goes down as a success. Here’s what I did:

Butternut Squash and Brown Rice Risotto – makes 3 main course servings


  • 2 Tbs. olive oil (divided)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ butternut squash (2 lb)
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 3 shakes chile flakes
  • ½ tsp. cumin seed
  • 1 cippolini onion
  • 1 c. short grain brown rice
  • 5 c. broth
  • 14 dried sage leaves
  • ½ c. white wine
  • 1 Tbs. heavy cream
  • ½ tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • ½ c. parmigiano reggiano


1. Cut squash in half, remove seeds and strings to a sauce pan. Add water and bouillon (if using, other wise, add broth of your choice) to sauce pan and bring to a very low simmer. (Make sure your broth is not overly salty, as it will be a very dominant seasoning.)
2. Reserve half the squash for another use. Trim and skin the remaining half and cut into 1 centimeter cubes.
3. Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil (lemon infused if you have it), add garlic and fry for 30 seconds, then add squash cubes. Cook covered, over medium heat until just soft. You may wish to add a ladle-full of broth to speed the cooking process.
4. While squash is cooking, heat remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil and 1 Tbs. butter. Add cumin seeds and chile flakes and let sizzle 15-30 seconds.  Add onion and cook until it is translucent.  Then add the rice and cook until rice begins to whiten.
5. Add broth to cover the rice (1-3 ladles full). Cook at a brisk simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally. When the squash is ready, add 1/3 of the cubes to the rice.
6. Let rice cook until it absorbs almost all the broth, then add 1-2 ladles-full until rice is just covered. Continue this way, simmering, adding broth, stirring occasionally until the rice is almost to your desired texture. Using brown rice, this may take an hour. (You do not have to stir constantly, just check every couple minutes until the rice is close to done, then stir more frequently).
7. While rice is cooking, chop thyme, lemon zest, grate cheese and prepare a salad.  Fry the sage leaves in olive oil for a garnish.
8. When rice is nearly done, add wine and let cook down, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth, if desired, along with reserved squash, cream, lemon zest, thyme and parmesan. Stir until the risotto reaches your desired consistency. It should be creamy and a lovely orange color with the rice still somewhat firm to the tooth.  Serve and garnish with sage leaves!

butternut squash au natural dinner as plated

Enjoy with salad, rustic bread and wine!

This entry was posted in Food, Main dishes, Recipes, Vegetarian. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Butternut Squash and Brown Rice Risotto

  1. Pingback: Luis Villa’s Blog » yummmmmm.

  2. enjanerd says:

    That looks fabulous! I’m constantly impressed with these dishes you just make up.

    Sorry I missed you guys when you were in town. Hope you had a good Christmas and New Year’s too! 🙂 -j.

  3. jjv says:

    oh, that *does* look good.

  4. Lottie says:

    Your recipe looks fabulous, though I’m trying to make sense of the 1 cup rice & 5 cups broth. Do you divide the broth, 3 cups broth for the rice and 2 cups in which to cook the squash? Do you simmer the squash in the broth you’re ladling over the rice? Will brown rice really absorb up to 5 cups broth without turning to mush?



  5. Hi Lottie,

    I’m sorry for the confusion. In this recipe, almost all the broth does go to the rice. You will have three pans going at once, the broth with squash seeds/strings, the squash cubes and the rice. Because you are cooking the brown rice with the lid off, a lot of the moisture will evaporate instead of turning the rice to mush, the same as with white rice risotto. I did need close to the full 5 cups when I made this. If you prefer to use less broth, you can cook the rice partially with the lid on and then do the stirring constantly thing at the end. Good luck!


  6. Sam says:

    Yo Krissa, I found this as the first hit for “brown rice risotto recipe” on google, and I must say, it was divine, and the recipe is nearly foolproof, since it was my first attempt at risotto ever. thanks one million!

  7. Thanks, Sam! I’m glad it worked for you. I try to make the recipes I post here usable. It’s nice to find out I succeeded. Enjoy winter squash season.

  8. Julie says:

    Thank you for this wonderful recipe! I added toasted walnuts and dried cranberries for a little crunch and sweetness. I wonder if this dish can be frozen???

  9. Hi Julie. I haven’t tried to freeze the risotto, but I’m guessing that if you cheese instead of cream, it might freeze just fine. Or, if you make it with everything but the cheese and then re-heat it adding the parmesan and cream or goat cheese, that would probably work, too. Let me know if you try!

  10. Monica says:

    Krissa, could you provide the list of ingredients for your Rissotto, please? The ingredient list has collapsed and every line is on top of the next one. Sorry, I do not mean to bother but I really one to try this recipe.
    Thanks a lot, Monica

  11. Landon says:

    Amazing recipe … I didn’t follow exactly, simplyfied it a bit for “male” cooking styles … but it came out great … thanks for being the first result on my google search …

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  13. Roger says:

    Still near the top of the Google results for “brown rice” risotto. Found it, made it, love it. Will be out scouting for short-grain brown rice. Hats off!

    A few points, though:
    –what does one do with the cippolino? I sauteed it in the rice pan after frying up the cumin and before adding the rice–much as with other risotto recipes.
    –same question, re: sage leaves. In with the squash cubes?
    –I knew to add salt and pepper, but you might want to mention them for the literal-minded among your readers.

    But those are nits. Anyone who can improv a dish like that, write it out and have *me* make a success of it the first time is doing something right.

  14. Brown says:

    This looks and is coming our wonderful with some modifications to suit a dairy-free diet. (cooking it now). I’m unclear what to do with the 14 sage leaves though as I don’t see them indicated in the instructions. Thanks! Jill

  15. Carol says:

    When and where is the onion added?

  16. Hi Jill – the sage leaves are mostly for garnish. You can fry them in oil for a crispy bite on top, or just scatter them on the risotto, or leave them out all together if you don’t like sage as much. Thanks!

    Hi Carol – that’s a find. I’m surprised no has asked before! I add the onion to the cumin/chile flake fix after they have sizzeled for 15-30 seconds. Then I cook the onion until it is translucent and then add the rice. Thanks for the catch, I’ll update the recipe.

  17. Jeff says:

    I made this dish tonight and it was amazing! I used a little more cream and parmesan and different garnishes, but it was fantastic. I of course didn’t read all the way through before starting and realizing the brown rice would take an hour instead of normal Arborio’s 20-25 minutes (duh). I pulled it off the heat a little early to satiate the hungry family, but it was still so flavorful even when very al dente 😉 Thank you!

  18. Natasha says:

    What about the seeds in the broth? Do you remove the seeds, having used them only for flavoring, or are they supposed to be part of the finished product?

  19. Hi Natasha,

    I strain the seeds and strings out from the broth as I pour it into the risotto. They are there to add flavor, but that’s it. I hope you enjoy(ed) making it!


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