Is Risotto Gluten Free? 3 Gluten Free Risotto Recipes

A bowl of gluten free risotto for a healthy life

Risotto, a popular Italian dish, is loved by millions of people worldwide. But is risotto gluten-free? The answer may need a little more explanation, and we are here to provide that.

Risotto, a popular Italian rice dish, is loved by millions worldwide. But is risotto gluten free? If you have been on a gluten free diet due to celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you may want to know about the ins and outs of this most sought-after dish. 

Even if you are not medically required to avoid gluten but belong to the 25% of Americans following a gluten free diet, this guide is there to help. Read on to know what risotto is made of, risotto nutrition facts, gluten free risotto recipes, and much more.

Is risotto gluten free and healthy? 

Risotto is a creamy, starchy dish made of arborio rice, chicken or vegetable broth, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and other ingredients. Now, if you are wondering, “is arborio rice gluten-free?” The answer is yes, it is.

Let us understand this in a little more detail:

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein [1]PubMed: What is gluten? naturally found in grains like wheat, triticale, rye, and barley. It may sometimes even be artificially added to provide some foods with a stretchy texture. It is most commonly present in foods like baked goods, pasta, cereals, candies, and crackers.

For people with celiac disease, consuming gluten can cause serious damage to the intestine. Even a very small amount of gluten is enough to cause mild to severe health problems. 

Foods like rice, corn, and oats do not contain gluten. Yet dishes cooked using these may also find gluten sneaking in through the addition of broth, yeast or yeast extract, sauces, and so on.

What exactly is risotto?

Risotto is a traditional Italian dish of creamy texture, cooked with rice and vegetable or chicken broth. The delicious dish uses starchy, short grain arborio rice. The dish also contains onions, butter, hot vegetable or chicken stock, white wine, vegetables, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and different aromatics. Other rice varieties that can be used to prepare this Italian dish are Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice.

This warm and comforting creamy arborio rice dish is super easy to make and can be prepared in less than an hour. It is best enjoyed hot. However, that’s not the only way to enjoy this dish. Mix the leftovers with an egg, roll them in breadcrumbs, and fry these risotto balls to serve them as a side dish.

Risotto and Gluten

Rice is 100% naturally gluten-free. And yet, you can’t rest assured that risotto will always be gluten-free. Reason: cooking risotto requires chicken or vegetable broth that can contain traces of gluten. Moreover, other ingredients present in risotto, such as meat, spices, etc., may or may not have gluten. 

What is risotto’s nutritional value?

Is risotto healthy? Risotto is a carb-rich meal, but its nutrition will vary with the ingredients used for its preparation. For instance, if you cook it with a lot of butter and cheese, such recipes will be high in saturated fats. Since short and starchy rice is the primary ingredient of risotto, the dish will be missing out on protein from grains unless you decide to cook it with protein-rich vegetables.

According to the USDA’s [2]U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE: Rice, white, with cheese and/or cream based sauce, fat added database, the creamy rice dish (100 g) made with cheese or cream sauce has the following nutritional profile:

  • Calories: 166
  • Fat: 7g
  • Sodium: 322mg
  • Carbohydrates: 20g
  • Fiber: 0.3g
  • Sugars: 0.1g
  • Protein: 5.2g

Carbs

According to the USDA database, 100 grams of risotto contains nearly 20 grams of carbohydrates and 166 calories. However, the carb count is usually higher in commercially prepared risotto recipes. The same goes for the calorie count, which can be on the higher side for other recipes. 

Protein

As aforementioned, risotto lacks the protein of grains such as wheat, oats, barley, etc. Hence, it is not a significant source of protein unless you cook it with protein-rich vegetables, lean meat, or seafood. A plate of 100 grams of homemade risotto offers just 5 grams of protein.

Fats

The nutritional profile derived from the USDA states that a 100 gram serving of home-cooked plain risotto provides 7 grams of fat. This fat is a mix of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats.

Vitamins and Minerals 

Risotto is not a significant source of vitamins and minerals. However, risotto cooked with cream, butter, or parmesan cheese provides nearly 263 mg of calcium [3]U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE: RISOTTO. If you cook it with spinach, mushrooms, butternut squash, kale, and leafy greens, it may provide you with significant iron too, i.e., 0.63 mg per serving. 

Guide to eating gluten-free Risotto at a restaurant

If you are ordering risotto in a restaurant or from a food delivery service, you can make sure it is a gluten-free meal by:

  • Double-checking the ingredients by checking with the chef or the owner of the restaurant
  • Asking the restaurant what kind of broth they have used since many products contain traces of wheat from cross-contamination.
  • Ensuring that the restaurant has not used wheatberries or pearled barley in the dish.
  • Making sure that the rice they have used is labeled gluten-free. Rice grown near other grains or transported with them also has risks of cross-contamination.
  • Ensuring no malt vinegar has been added to the dish since it contains gluten.
  • Ensuring no other gluten-containing ingredients such as bread crumbs, condiments, soy sauce, etc. are used to prepare the dish.

3 quick gluten-free risotto recipes

If you have been curious about trying your own gluten-free risotto or different types of risotto, there are many recipes to count on. From classic risotto to mushroom risotto, here are some quick, gluten-free risotto recipes for you.

1. Classic risotto

Making this risotto calls for basic gluten-free ingredients, such as rice, dry white wine, and Parmesan cheese. It is easy to prepare and takes 45 minutes to cook.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter 

½ cup dry white wine or apple juice(optional)

1 ½ cups arborio rice

½ cup chopped onion

1 cup water

2 cups chicken broth 

¼ cup Parmesan cheese (finely shredded)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method to prepare 

  1. Melt butter in a pan or skillet. Saute onions in it by cooking them for 2-3 minutes or until tender.
  2. Add dry white wine to the pan and cook on medium heat until the liquid has evaporated. Now add the rice and cook uncovered for 5–6 minutes, stirring in between.
  3. Take water and warm it before mixing it with the broth. Then, pour 1/2 cup of this mixture into the pan. Cook uncovered until the liquid is absorbed. 
  4. Now add the remaining mixture and cook again until the rice is tender. Stir in some cheese, salt, and pepper.
  5. Turn off the heat and serve immediately.

Tips

  • Add peas to make it protein-rich. 
  • Add some fresh parsley for extra flavor.
  • To ensure you prepare the gluten-free dish, read the ingredient labels and make sure the products are certified gluten-free.

2. Gluten-free risotto with mushrooms

If you have gluten intolerance or follow a gluten-free diet, this healthy, gluten-free risotto recipe is your savior. This protein-rich, dairy-free risotto is made with mushrooms in less than half an hour.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups arborio rice (uncooked)

16 oz. sliced mushrooms

½ cup sliced scallions 

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

3-4 cups vegetable broth (low sodium)

Salt and pepper to taste

Method to prepare 

  1. Add oil to your instant pot before placing it on the sauté setting. 
  2. Saute onions and mushrooms in it until tender. Add the white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper and cook for another 3 minutes.
  3. Add the vegetable broth along with the uncooked rice. Stir and cook for 5 minutes before adding the rest of the broth and closing the lid of the pot.
  4. Switch from sauté to high-pressure mode and cook for 5 minutes. 
  5. Scoop it from the pot into a bowl and serve immediately. 

Tips 

  • Add some chives or parsley into the pot while cooking. Later, use them to garnish the dish.

3. Gluten free chicken and bacon risotto

This complete meal is loaded with not just rice but chicken, bacon, parmesan cheese, and spinach. It is rich in protein, calcium, and iron.

Ingredients

3.5 oz. bacon rashers

17 oz. skinless, diced chicken breast 

14 oz. baby spinach

16 oz. chicken stock

16 oz. vegetable liquid stock

1/4 cup parmesan cheese (shredded)

17 oz. uncooked arborio rice

3/4 cup white wine

1 sliced onion

3 crushed garlic cloves 

3 tbsp. olive oil

Method to prepare 

  1. Add oil, onion, and garlic to a large pan and cook the onions for a minute. Now stir in the chicken and bacon and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  2. Pour in the wine along with the rice and cook until the liquid is absorbed.
  3. Combine the vegetable stock and chicken stock. Now pour 1 cup of the mixture into the pan and cook until the stock is absorbed.
  4. Add the remaining stock and cook until the rice is tender.
  5. Just before serving, stir in cheese and baby spinach.

Gluten free substitutes for risotto

Arborio rice, the main ingredient in risotto, is naturally gluten-free. However, if you want to use other whole grains instead of rice, ensure they have a gluten free label. Some options you can rely on include gluten-free quinoa, amaranth, millet, or buckwheat. These grains are healthy and provide similar nutrients as rice. If you are a fan of lentils, you can substitute rice with green lentils.

Conclusion

If you have gluten intolerance or sensitivity, you may wish to eat gluten-free risotto. But is risotto gluten-free? Although risotto is made from rice, which is 100% gluten-free, the presence of other ingredients causes gluten to sneak into this creamy and delicious traditional Italian rice dish. So, read your labels and make sure the ingredients contain no gluten. If you are eating at a restaurant, ask the chef to ensure the risotto dish you are about to eat is entirely gluten-free.

References

References
1 PubMed: What is gluten?
2 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE: Rice, white, with cheese and/or cream based sauce, fat added
3 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE: RISOTTO

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