I struggled for years with risotto – not the dairy-free part, just the technique. It has been especially tricky with our stove as the elements seem to swing wildly between off and boiling hot regardless of the temperature setting. But then I discovered baked risotto. This magical dish comes together so easily, all in one pot, and cooks in the oven, no stirring required! Yes, it comes out wonderfully creamy and my version is even dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free and soy-free.
Of course, we loved this dairy-free baked risotto so much that I decided to make it a meal with my new favorite flavor add in, al fresco all natural Chicken Sausage. We most recently tried the Sweet Italian Fully Cooked Dinner Sausage and I couldn’t believe the flavor. This is the type of lean, nutritious topping that can make a healthy cheese-free pizza taste beyond delicious! But I knew you didn’t want to see another cheeseless pizza, so instead I used this …
… to make a show-stopping, creamy, lightly cheesy (yes, seriously!) Italian-style dairy-free baked risotto. Trust me, this is one you are going to want to trial. And to answer your questions:
Can you taste the coconut? No, honestly if you weren’t preparing it, you most likely wouldn’t believe there was any coconut milk used. It bakes in with all of the delicious savory flavors and actually adds a light complimentary sweetness to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. It’s also key for the creaminess (remember, full-fat real coconut milk, not watery coconut milk beverage!).
Must I use nutritional yeast? You can omit it, but trust me, it’s better with it and it’s possible that the lemon will be a touch strong without it. Nutritional yeast adds a pleasant, luxurious hint of cheesiness without overpowering. Because you get quite a bit in a package, this stuff is actually a relatively cheap seasoning and shelf-stable, too. I’d invest in some unless you have to avoid it.
Can I reduce the fat? The al fresco Chicken Sausage is already quite lean (just 7 grams of fat per link and a whopping 14 grams of protein!), so no need to make any swaps there. You can just lightly heat the dinner sausage in cooking spray (it’s already fully cooked), if preferred, I just find the results are a bit better with the oil, and the rice benefits from a light coating of oil. In terms of the coconut milk (which contains most of the fat), I do not recommend swapping it for milk beverage. Regular, full-fat coconut milk (in cans or mini aseptic packages) is what gives it the creamy finish. I’m already using the minimum for our personal cravings, but if you absolutely must, you can reduce the coconut milk by up to 1/2 cup. You will need to increase the broth / stock by about 1/4 cup, possibly more. This does require some testing in your own oven. It’s best to start with less as you can check-in at around 30 minutes and add a little more if needed.
This post is sponsored by al fresco all natural, but I have been buying their chicken sausage for years because it is gluten-free, most varieties are dairy-free (Even the ones with butter flavoring according to the company! Just not the obvious “cheese” varieties), it’s convenient, and the virtuous ingredients can’t be beat for premade. In this dairy-free baked risotto, I use the full-cooked dinner sausage, but I also love their fresh chicken sausage, all of which are dairy-free (at last check). The Sweet or Hot Italian-Style can be used in this recipe – simply cook them in to oil while breaking-up until cooked through and nicely browned.
More Reader Raves: Creamy Italian-Style Baked Risotto
Kristen shared her feedback for this recipe on Facebook:
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this recipe!!!! We make this religiously. It even heats up well for leftovers !
Special Diet Notes: Creamy Italian-Style Baked Risotto
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, and generally top food allergy-friendly.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 ounces (2 links) al fresco Sweet Italian Style Chicken Sausage (fully-cooked), sliced ¼-inch thick and optionally cut into half moons (can sub a vegan sausage, if desired)
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1¾ cups low-sodium chicken broth or stock
- ⅓ cup sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 cup full fat coconut milk (NOT milk beverage!)
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt, divided
- ⅛ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh oregano or basil, sliced (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
- Heat the oil in an oven-safe pot (9 to 10 inches wide works well) over medium heat. Add the Al Fresco dinner sausage and saute for about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm.
- Add the rice to the pot and saute for 1 minute, to coat it with oil and lightly toast. Add the chicken broth / stock and deglaze the pan. Add the coconut milk, sun-dried tomatoes, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and the onion powder, and stir to combine.
- Cover and bake for 35 minutes.
- Immediately uncover (there will be some liquid at top) and stir in the cooked sausage, fresh oregano or basil, if using, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt (or salt to taste).
- Serve with freshly ground black pepper and crushed red pepper for everyone to add, to taste.