Easy Chickpea Saffron Risotto has all the hallmarks of creamy, supple Italian risotto without the labor-intensive activity. You know, those 25 minutes spent continuously stirring a steaming pot. Instead, a stress-free, unique method ensures that every mouthful has perfect chewy, tender grains of rice. The kernels are wrapped in a velvety saffron sauce studded with plump chickpeas, juicy tomatoes, and fresh thyme.
Have you ever tried to cook classic risotto? Somehow I never have been able to achieve that 2-minute window where the proper amount of starch from the rice is released, and the grains are firm but not crunchy. That’s why I am so excited about this recipe. Not only is the texture ideal, but the cooking process is so much easier.
I am sure some Italian nonna’s would disapprove of the choice of short-grained brown rice in this recipe, but wait until you taste it. Making the dish healthier with whole grains and plant-based ingredients has only made the dish better.
Short-grained pearls of rice are cooked in advance with just the right ratio of water. Next, the al dente rice is added to a skillet of sizzling veggies, garlic, and fresh thyme. Wine or kombucha is stirred in, and then the rice finishes cooking in a flavorful saffron broth. Finally, cashew cream cheese is melted in at the end to capture the rice starch. Now you have a rich, creamy, gone to heaven risotto.
You won’t even have to eat the risotto out of the pan before it seizes up like some traditionalists recommend. That’s because the fluidity of the recipe is calculated to add in 10 minutes of resting time while you and friends settle into chairs. The first big spoonful of Chickpea Saffron Risotto sags perfectly on the plate. From there, it won’t last long.
Easy Chickpea Saffron Risotto
- 1 cup plus 3 level tablespoons short grain brown rice
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 tsp. Spanish saffron threads
- 1/2 cup champagne or unflavored kombucha
- 2 TB olive oil
- 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced carrot
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 whole bay leaves
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/4 tsp. red chili flakes, optional
- 3/4 cup tiny tomatoes or seeded, diced vine-ripe tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas
- 3 cups vegan chicken broth
- 1/4 cup cashew cream cheese, preferably homemade*
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 TB fresh thyme leaves for garnish
- Bring water to a boil and stir in carefully measured rice. Cook at a simmer for 30 minutes.
- Pour champagne or unflavored kombucha in a small dish and add saffron threads to soak.
- Heat olive oil over medium low heat in a large non-reactive skillet. Saute onion, carrot, thyme, bay leaves and salt until veggies soften.
- Add garlic and stir a moment until fragrant. Stir in cooked rice. Add saffron liquid and cook a few minutes to season rice. Add chickpeas, tomatoes and broth to skillet. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer 10 minutes until rice absorbs some of the liquid. Risotto will still be soupy.
- Stir in cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Place skillet with risotto on hot pad at table. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and cover. Let rest a couple minutes to thicken before serving.