Is Risotto Gluten-Free? Here's What a Dietitian Has to Say

Your guide to some of the most frequently asked questions about risotto, expert tips to make the best risotto and recipes for you to try at home.

a recipe photo of the Basic Risotto served in a bowl
Photo: Alexander Shytsman

Originally from Northern Italy, risotto is a traditional rice dish slowly cooked with broth for a creamy consistency. One of the most common questions about risotto is if the dish is gluten-free. The answer? Most of the time. Risotto is often made from starchy, short-grain rice called Arborio, but Carnaroli or Vialone Nano are other rice options. Along with the rice, other ingredients, such as vegetables, meat, cheese and herbs, are often mixed in. Since the base of risotto is rice, which is naturally gluten-free, shouldn't your risotto also be gluten-free? Yes, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

Pictured Recipe: Basic Risotto

What Is a Gluten-Free Diet?

A gluten-free diet excludes gluten and gluten-containing products. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). There's a lot of buzz around gluten-free diets and health recently, but following a gluten-free diet isn't necessary for everyone. Those diagnosed with celiac disease, an immune reaction to consuming gluten, must avoid gluten. But for others, it's important to consider your nutritional and health needs before deciding to choose a gluten-free diet for yourself.

The presence of gluten in a dish isn't always obvious. If you're following a gluten-free diet, be sure to ask the chef or server at a restaurant if the dish has gluten or read labels to see if a product contains gluten before purchasing.

When Can Risotto Contain Gluten?

Risotto is made from rice, which is naturally gluten-free, but there are some additional factors to consider to ensure your dish doesn't contain gluten.

First, you need to look at the broth used to cook the risotto. While broth is typically gluten-free, bouillon stock cubes can contain flavorings and preservatives that have gluten. Additionally, risotto tends to be a lovely base for all sorts of mix-ins, like various vegetables, meats and cheeses—so if you're ordering risotto out at a restaurant, be sure to double-check that anything added to the dish is gluten-free.

Is Risotto Healthy?

Risotto is not only delicious, but it also can be an incredible base for creating a nutrient-packed meal. Many of your favorite vegetables, like mushrooms, peas and spinach, make tasty additions to risotto.

Beyond rice, broth and vegetables, risotto may also be made with spices, meat, seafood, cheese or butter added. Rice, the base of risotto, is a high-carb food, a macronutrient that's an essential fuel for the body, though the white rice used is not a whole grain. If you have type 2 diabetes, you'll want to make sure the carbohydrate content of the risotto fits within your carb goals for that meal.

Risotto is also often made with cheese and butter, which are high in saturated fat. Consider adding vegetables and lean protein to your risotto for more protein, vitamins and minerals.

Recipes differ, and the nutritional info for a risotto made at home versus one you get at a restaurant can also vary drastically. Plus, what you add to your risotto also impacts its nutrition.

However, as a very basic starting point, according to the USDA, a 1-cup serving of basic white rice risotto with cheese may provide:

  • Calories: 339 calories
  • Protein: 11 grams
  • Total Fat: 14 g
  • Saturated Fat: 6 g
  • Carbohydrate: 41 g
  • Fiber: <1 g

Gluten-Free Risotto Recipes

Risotto is known for being a labor of love. To get that creamy consistency, it requires slowly adding broth as the rice absorbs it, which can amount to a fair bit of time in front of the stove.

All that standing over the stove and stirring creates pretty incredible results. Risotto is creamy and satisfying. And it can be really healthy, too. Here are some gluten-free and nutritious risotto recipes to get started with at home:

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is risotto a type of pasta?

Risotto is not pasta. Risotto is a hearty, creamy rice dish from Northern Italy that's made with short-grain Italian rice. While pasta is made from wheat containing gluten, risotto is made with naturally gluten-free rice.

2. What type of rice is gluten-free?

All rice—white, brown and wild—is naturally gluten-free. Even sticky rice, which is popular in Southeast Asian cuisines and sometimes called "glutinous rice," is actually gluten-free. Rice can be susceptible to cross-contact, especially rice purchased in bulk bins at stores. If you need to avoid gluten, purchase bagged rice that is labeled gluten-free.

3. Is risotto dairy-free?

Typically risotto is made with butter and Parmesan cheese. However, it's possible to make dairy-free risotto by skipping the addition of butter and cheese—just opt to use oil rather than butter, and top the dish with dairy-free cheese or skip it altogether.

The Bottom Line

While the rice in risotto is gluten-free, it's important to consider if the ingredients added to the dish are also gluten-free. If making risotto at home, be sure to check the labels on your ingredients, and when ordering risotto out at a restaurant, double-check with the server that all ingredients in the dish are gluten-free as well. An easy, basic risotto recipe is a wonderful base to make a creamy, hearty gluten-free dish that just might become a favorite in your weekly meal plan.

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