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.
Hi! My name is Gabby and I’m 20 years old. I’m usually pretty awful at cooking but I decided to try your recipe because I’m lactose intolerant. I bought the ingredients today and made it for my family and it’s delicious!! I have never fell in love with a recipe before. I used every ingredient you said to minus the optional stuff and I cooked it for the same amount of time. It worked so well! Super creamy!
Hi Gabby, I’m so happy that you enjoyed my recipe! Thanks so much for your feedback and I hope my site continues to be helpful for you!
Can u use almond or rice milk instead? I don’t like the coconut flavor
Hi Shannon, no unfortunately this swap won’t work. My recipe uses full-fat coconut milk which is MUCH richer than milk beverage. It doesn’t taste like coconut, I promise! The flavors meld very well and none of our coconut super-tasters could detect it.
What gives it the creamy cheesy look to eat ?
The coconut milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and seasonings.
I’m seriously impressed that you made a delicious risotto without dairy!!! I eat dairy, but would love to try this to cut back. Looks so creamy– good stuff!
Yes! Life is all about variety, so trying creative new dairy-free recipes can be delicious for all I think 🙂
Having labored through many a risotto preparation, I am SO loving this baked technique…brilliant! And all of the flavors in your dish are such an awesome combination!
Thank you Sonali – it really is so much easier!
I love risotto, but it’s so much work! never thought to bake it, but can’t wait to try. Also excited for another use for the new container of nutritional yeast I bought to try!
Excellent! I hope you have some fun experimenting with the nutritional yeast, too, Jessica. It makes a great “seasoning” in my opinion (I don’t like using too much as it can overwhelm).
I was wondering if h could use a sushi rice instead of the risotto rice?
Hi Amber, not if you want to make risotto 🙂 Sushi rice is a different rice grain, intended to produce sticky rice. Arborio is specifically for risotto and creating a creamier rice. It’s pretty easy to locate, even at mainstream grocers.
I’m sorry if this is a silly question, but I can’t find where you add back in the sausage- before you bake or after it comes out of the oven? Did I miss it in the instructions? Thx!
Not silly at all! My poor clarification – after baking – I’ve fixed the instructions so it should be quite clear now. Thanks Erin!
I had a funny experience when I started trying to teach myself how to make risotto. I got on a kick about trying different types, and finally my husband said “I love you, but if I see another pot of risotto I’m going out to dinner”. LOL Overload! But if I’d had this baked recipe, I think he would have felt differently about it!
That is too funny Dee Dee! I think we all get on those kicks, especially when testing out recipes. Thanks for sharing 🙂
My family can’t get enough risotto! I bet they would love this recipe!
What a clever–and delicious–recipe!
Brilliant! This is a “must-make” recipe for sure! Sharing …
Thank you Shirley – and I think you would love it!
I love that sausage! We do eat it often. I’ve been craving risotto but hadn’t come up with what flavor I wanted to try next. I just found it!
So glad I could inspire Christie 🙂 I’m actually wanting to use the Jalapeno version of al fresco in a version of this risotto (southwestern!) soon, too.
risotto with coconut milk….. it’s new for me and sounds wonderful ..I think I should give a try !
You should! Amazingly creamy and not coconutty at all, actually.
I prefer baked risotto too, so much easier than standing over the stove stirring forever! This looks great, I need to keep an eye out for that sausage.
Yes, there is no going back once you discover BAKED risotto in my opinion, too! Thanks Sara.
I haven’t made a risotto for a while, this sounds SO GOOD. I love the sun dried tomatoes…
Just a quick modification and this one is right up your alley Kristina – I promise you’ll love it 🙂
I have had a rough time with making Risotto too. It either gets too sticky or too dry. This is a great recipe and great tips.
I’ve been meaning to try a baked risotto recipe. This one looks like a great place to start :)!
You won’t look back once you’ve tried a baked risotto Brandon – nearly foolproof!
O yum! Well I’m a huge risotto fan over here and this one looks fantastic. I can’t believe it’s dairy-free!
It looks so creamy! Can’t wait to try.
It’s wonderfully rich and creamy – you’d love it Sarah!