Is risotto gluten-free? Learn the basics of making risotto, a traditional Italian dish with tons of flavor, and find out whether this meal is gluten-free.
Risotto is a staple in fine Italian cuisine. It’s creamy, rich, and full of flavor, thanks to a simple combination of gourmet ingredients. If you’ve never tried making risotto before, we’ve got everything you’ll need for getting started in this post.
Today, we’re covering the basics of risotto – what’s in it, where it comes from, how to make it, and whether it’s compatible with a gluten-free diet.
What’s in Risotto?
A typical risotto recipe includes just a few ingredients, but choosing the right ones is a must for the best-tasting outcome. Most chefs make risotto using a combination of the following ingredients.
You’ll find this short-grain variety of rice in several classic Italian dishes, but making risotto is Arborio rice’s most popular use. Arborio rice gets its name from the part of Italy where it originated, but it’s now grown in several other parts of the world as well. One key characteristic that sets Arborio apart from other types of rice – and makes it perfect for risotto – is its creamy texture when fully cooked.
Compared to low-grain rice and other common rice varieties, Arborio is a little bit chewier, which makes it even more ideal for risotto. When eating well-crafted risotto, you can’t help but savor every bite for as long as possible. Using slightly chewy rice like Arborio makes the dish last even longer, which is exactly what we want out of our risotto!
If you follow a gluten-free diet due to allergies, intolerances, or personal preferences, you’re in luck when it comes to risotto – Arborio rice is naturally gluten-free. However, we’ll discuss some other considerations for gluten-free eaters when making risotto later in this post.
Dry White Wine
Cooking with alcohol is always a blast, and making risotto is no exception. When cooking risotto at home, you’ll use around a cup of white wine per batch.
Choosing the right wine can make or break the taste of your risotto, as any seasoned chef will tell you. Many pro cooks recommend only cooking with a wine you’d drink, which means skipping the low-grade cooking wine in favor of something a little higher-end.
If you pick up a bottle of white wine before cooking risotto, feel free to sip on the rest of the bottle during the cooking process and while you eat. A glass of wine (or two) with risotto really completes the meal, and we won’t judge you if you’ve already had a glass before dinner, too.
Grated Parmesan Cheese
This is one of the ingredients you can’t skip when making risotto. During the cooking process, the grated parmesan melts into the creamy Arborio rice, making every bite rich and decadent.
You’ll need about two cups of grated parmesan for a large batch of risotto, so we recommend picking up a sizable bag of cheese from the store before cooking.
The quality of your parmesan cheese makes a massive impact on the flavor of your risotto, so it’s best to invest in high-quality cheese. Premium grated parmesan is a bit more expensive than the type that you find in a big green canister, but that extra expense is worth it for incredible risotto.
Vegetable stock gives your risotto extra flavor and adds to the richness of each bite.
This is one ingredient in a typical risotto recipe that gluten-free eaters need to know because it isn’t always gluten-free. Some forms of vegetable stock contain small traces of wheat and other glutinous grains, so it’s best to check labels before making risotto at home.
Additional Ingredients for Risotto
Our delicious tomato risotto recipe features all of the ingredients listed above, as well as a few more for extra flavor. We recommend adding shallots, tomatoes, and fresh basil to give your risotto some extra life and color. The acidity of the tomatoes pairs perfectly with the slightly sharp and rich parmesan, and the shallots and basil add herbaceous undertones to each bite.
Now that you know what’s in risotto, let’s determine whether this dish is truly gluten-free.
Gluten-Free Diets: A Refresher
Before we give you the verdict on whether risotto is gluten-free, let’s first catch up on what a gluten-free diet is.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, oats, and rye. Several diseases and conditions make this protein harmful, including:
- Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to your intestinal lining when you eat gluten. This is one of the more serious causes of gluten intolerance, and people with celiac are usually very careful in avoiding gluten.
- Gluten sensitivity is a lower-grade intolerance of gluten than celiac’s disease, but it still makes avoiding gluten necessary. For people with gluten sensitivities, wheat and other glutinous grains cause symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, and headaches.
- Wheat allergies cause reactions that range from mild to severe when an allergic person eats wheat or another glutinous grain. These allergies are very different from autoimmune disorders like celiac disease, but people with allergies and conditions like celiac often eat similar diets.
Which Grains Are Gluten-Free?
While several grains contain gluten, plenty of others do not. These gluten-free grains fit into the diet of someone with a wheat allergy, a gluten sensitivity, or an autoimmune disease like celiac. They include rice, certified gluten-free oats, quinoa, flax, millet, tapioca, amaranth, and corn.
As you probably noticed, rice is one of the grains on that list – and it’s also the main ingredient in risotto. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all risotto recipes are gluten-free. Let’s take a look at a few ways that risotto might contain gluten.
- Some risotto recipes include meat, which sometimes has traces of gluten. If you’re cooking risotto with meat and eating a gluten-free diet, it’s best to check the labels on your meat packaging to make sure it’s certified gluten-free. Some factory-farmed meat gets injected with wheat to change its look and flavor, which means that meat isn’t gluten-free.
- Some types of broth contain yeast extract. The vegetable stock or broth in your risotto is another ingredient that you may want to check if you’re gluten-free. Some broth contains yeast extract, which isn’t an ingredient that gluten-free eaters usually consume. While yeast extract technically doesn’t contain any gluten, it’s derived from wheat, which makes it a potential trigger for symptoms.
- If you have a severe gluten allergy and order risotto at a restaurant, it’s best to let the kitchen staff know that you need special precautions taken when preparing your food. Meals made in restaurant kitchens may contain traces of gluten due to cross-contamination, which makes it especially important to make your allergies known.
Overall, the best way to guarantee that your risotto is gluten-free is to make it at home with ingredients you trust. Homemade risotto tastes amazing when cooked with care, and you don’t have to miss out on any flavor or quality when you use gluten-free ingredients.
Tips for Making the Best Risotto Ever
Whether you’re already familiar with the cooking process for risotto or a newcomer to this Italian classic, follow these tips for the most delicious risotto you’ve ever had.
Garnish Your Risotto With Fresh Basil
We’re big on plating and presentation here at Jow, which means we love garnishes. While they’re not always eaten with the rest of the meal, garnishes add flavor and flair to your home-cooked dishes and can really level up your presentation game.
One of our favorite garnishes for risotto is fresh basil, which pairs perfectly with the flavors of parmesan, tomatoes, and Arborio rice. Try chopping up a few sprigs of fresh basil and scattering them across each bowl of risotto.
Throw in Some Chopped Tomatoes
Tomatoes aren’t always in risotto, but they’re one of our favorite additional ingredients for this Italian dish. Adding tomatoes to Italian recipes just seems to work every time, and risotto is no exception. Along with the white wine, tomatoes add acidity, which makes the flavors of the rice and cheese stand out.
Use the Right Amount of Vegetable Stock
Veggie stock is an essential ingredient for delicious risotto, but it’s important not to overdo it. Too much stock makes your risotto overly salty. There’s already plenty of salt in the dish, thanks to the addition of grated parmesan. We recommend using one-fourth of a bouillon cube per small batch of risotto to get exactly the right amount of stock.
Risotto is hands-down one of our favorite Italian dishes, and while it’s not vegan, it is often vegetarian. It’s rich, satisfying, and easy to make, and you’ll feel like a professional chef when you’re finished cooking.
If you’re gluten-free, you can still enjoy home-cooked risotto by making sure that all of the ingredients in your recipe don’t contain any traces of gluten. Luckily, risotto ingredients are usually gluten-free, including all ingredients used in our yummy tomato risotto recipe.
For more creative recipes, tips, and ideas, head over to our cooking page.