Leek and pea risotto is delicious served in the springtime either as a healthy side dish or as a main meal. It has a naturally creamy texture due to the starchy rice but this dairy-free risotto is vegan and gluten free. This easy recipe is ready to eat in 30 minutes, so it's great for a healthy vegetarian midweek dinner.
What you'll love about the recipe
- Comforting, creamy and delicious, this Italian style rice dish has the delicate sweet flavours of peas and leeks
- Leek and pea risotto is an easy to make, one-pan recipe. Using a stock cube means you can just add boiling water from the kettle rather than needing an extra pan of stock on the stove
- A budget friendly main meal or side dish. Using pudding rice keeps the costs down lower
- The basic recipe for this leek and pea risotto is dairy free and gluten free. It's also low in saturated fat. Optionally, you can add butter or parmesan to serve if you'd prefer
- Leeks and peas are both super healthy and packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals
You might also like this smoked haddock and spinach risotto.
Leek. One medium-sized leek will be sufficient for this leek risotto. Slice the leek finely so that it cooks down well and amalgamates into the rice. I have tried the recipe using frozen leeks and it worked quite well, but the frozen leeks are a little chunky so I prefer to use fresh.
Note: If you want tips on how to wash a leek thoroughly, there's a tutorial in this sauteed leeks recipe.
Frozen peas. You don't need to defrost the peas in advance of making the recipe, they can just be defrosted with hot water before adding to the pan.
Olive oil. I like the flavour of olive oil in this leek and pea risotto, but you could use another healthy cooking oil if you prefer.
Short grain rice. Of course you can use proper risotto rice for this recipe. Both arborio and carnaroli rice are widely available and ideal for making a risotto. However, I often use short grain pudding rice, as it gives the same creamy consistency and is a lot cheaper. It is important to use a short grain rice to make leek and pea risotto as it absorbs plenty of liquid. This is what gives an Italian style risotto it's creamy texture.
To make the recipe even healthier, you could use brown short grain rice but it's not very widely available.
Vegetable stock cube. I've purposely recommended a stock cube for this easy risotto recipe as it means you can just top up the pan with boiling water. You could also use a concentrated stock pot in the same way. If you are not vegan, you could also use chicken stock if you prefer.
Thyme. I used fresh thyme leaves, but you could also use dried if you prefer. Or replace the thyme with your own favourite herbs.
Seasoning. You may not need additional seasoning depending on the stock that you use. I like to add a squeeze of lemon at the end for additional seasoning, but it's not essential.
How to make leek and pea risotto
Use a pan with a lid, or one that you can cover once the risotto is made. You could use a non stick pan, but it's not essential.
Heat the pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Fry the sliced leek for 5 minutes until it's starting to soften and go translucent.
Turn the heat down low. Add the rice and thyme to the pan. Stir well so that the rice is coated in the oil.
Boil the kettle and add a couple of ladlefuls of boiling water (about 160ml) to the pan. Stir regularly to ensure the rice doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. After about 5 minutes, most of the water will have evaporated. Add another ladleful of boiling water and repeat the process for a total of 3 times (a total of 15 minutes). Don't let the pan boil completely dry, if you need to add a little more water, do so.
Run the peas under hot water to defrost, and add to the pan. Then add a further ladleful of boiling water, and this time stir constantly. The risotto rice will start to go quite creamy as the starch breaks down. Once the water has nearly evaporated, check that the rice is just cooked, it should still have a slight bite to it (al dente).
Clamp a lid on the pan, and allow it to sit for a further 5 minutes. This will allow any final stock to be absorbed and improve the flavour and texture of your leek and pea risotto.
Check for seasoning, and stir in the lemon juice if using. The dairy free risotto is now ready to serve, but if you prefer you can add a knob of butter or a tablespoon of parmesan. If you'd prefer not to use vegan parmesan you could also add a little nutritional yeast for a slight 'cheesy' flavour.
- I've tried to be specific about the cooking time and volume of liquid, but this will vary a little according to your pan, your rice and the heat. So keep a close eye on the risotto as it's cooking and add a little more or less water as needed. You should be able to see some liquid in the pan, but only just to the level of the top of the rice. And by the end of the rice cooking, you'll want nearly all of the liquid to have evaporated.
- It's important that the water or stock that you add is boiling or very hot. Otherwise, you'll cool the contents of the pan every time you add more liquid. If you want to use homemade stock, keep the stock hot in a second pan.
- If you'd like to add wine to flavour your leek and pea risotto, add a small glass of white wine before the first ladleful of water. The wine can be added cold.
- If you want a 'soupier' risotto you can also add a little extra stock at the end of cooking.
- You can also vary the herbs in this rice dish to suit your taste. Fresh tarragon would go well, and you could also make a pea and mint risotto. Basil is also lovely and goes perfectly with these springtime vegetables.
Serving and storage
You can serve this leek and pea risotto either as a main course or as a side dish. I like to serve it with some oven baked salmon, or with a big, crisp green salad and a few crunchy walnuts. The recipe will serve 2 hungry people as a main course or 3-4 as a side dish.
I think dairy free risotto is at its nicest and creamiest when freshly made, but you can reheat leftovers. Reheat on the stove until piping hot with a little stock to ensure the rice doesn't dry out or stick to the pan.
Take care of leftover rice to ensure that it is cooled and refrigerated quickly. Either eat within a day or freeze in a sealed container for up to 3 months. The frozen risotto will not be quite as good as when freshly cooked.
Frequently asked questions
It is a bit of a myth that risotto needs to be constantly stirred for the whole time that it is cooking. But it's definitely not the kind of recipe that you want to start and then get distracted by your phone. In the early stages of cooking it needs stirring regularly to ensure that the rice doesn't stick on the bottom of the pan. And for the last 5 minutes, stir constantly to ensure you have a smooth and creamy risotto.
Risotto, properly made with short grain rice, is naturally creamy without the addition of cream or dairy products. The creaminess comes from the starch in the rice. As the rice is stirred, the starch is released, especially as the rice comes towards the end of its cooking time. It's really easy to make a good vegan dairy free risotto without butter, cream or cheese.
This leek and pea risotto uses 125g of rice and serves 2-3 people. It really depends on the size of your appetite, and whether you are serving anything else with the risotto. This recipe has relatively high volume of vegetables with the leeks and peas which also makes the risotto go further. I'd say the most you'd want for 2 people would be 150g, even if you are feeling quite hungry!
Other healthy rice recipes
You might also like these other rice dishes, both of which are made with brown long grain rice, and are quick and easy to make.
Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a rating and/or comment at the bottom of the page. Your feedback and questions are much appreciated.
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Leek and Pea Risotto
- saucepan with lid
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium leek washed and finely sliced
- 180 g frozen peas
- 125 g short grain rice
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 500 ml boiling water
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
- squeeze lemon juice optional
- Place a large lidded pan on a medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the leeks to the pan and fry for 5 minutes until starting to soften and brown.
- Reduce the heat to low. Add the rice, thyme and crumbled stock cube to the pan and mix well.
- Add 2 ladles of boiling water. Simmer gently for 5 minutes stirring regularly.
- Add 1 ladle of boiling water. Simmer gently for 5 minutes stirring regularly.
- Add another ladle of boiling water. Simmer gently for 5 minutes stirring regularly.
- Run the peas under hot water from the kettle to defrost them. Add the peas to the pan of risotto.
- Add 1 ladle of boiling water. Stir constantly for 5 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat, cover and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
- If liked, you can add a little more olive oil, butter or parmesan cheese. Check the seasoning, and add a squeeze of lemon juice if liked. Give the risotto a final stir and it's ready to serve.
- I used an 80ml ladle to add the boiling water. If necessary, adjust the quantities of water slightly - you don't want the rice to burn dry on the pan, and neither do you want it to be awash.
- If you want to use a ready-made stock rather than a stock cube, heat it up in a separate pan. The stock should be boiling hot each time you add it to the risotto.
- Herbs can be varied to suit your taste. Try fresh tarragon or basil. Or a pea and mint risotto is also delicious.
Please note nutritional information is per serving and is provided for guidance only.