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This creamy pumpkin risotto recipe with crispy sage is laced with warm spice to accentuate the winter squash, and is aromatic with savory garlic and herbs. Butter, half and half, and Parmesan make it decadent while white wine cuts through the richness. It’s a lovely addition to a holiday spread!

front view of bowl of pumpkin risotto with vintage spoons on dark wooden table

With pumpkin, a hint of nutmeg, and a rich texture, this dish is definitely special enough to add to a holiday meal.

But don’t wait for Thanksgiving or Christmas to make it! This is also a cozy side dish (or pair it with a big green salad to make it a full meal) anytime during cold weather months.

I first learned how to make crispy fried sage from my grandmother a couple years ago. She said that one of her friends had told her the method and she couldn’t wait to try it. I happened to be in town visiting, and she was thrilled because she knew I’d be as excited to make it as she was; and she was right!

fried sage in white dish with ferns around
This is the crispy fried sage my grandmother and I made. I photographed it in her garden because she has the most beautiful gardens. Crispy sage is even delicious eaten on its own like this!

As described by my grandmother, all you have to do is heat up a little bit of olive oil or butter in a skillet, add the sage when it’s hot, and fry on both sides until crisp, about 30 seconds per side. With minimal effort, this not only adds a touch of elegance to a dish and makes it feel really special, but it also adds a ton of flavor.

I’ll be honest, sage isn’t normally my favorite herb, but I absolutely love it fried! The herby sage flavor mellows pleasantly, and it takes on a deliciously crisp texture.

I like to fry sage in salted butter, but you can use unsalted butter or olive oil and add a touch of flaky sea salt on top. I think my grandmother would be proud!

pumpkin risotto with white wine

What is the Trick to Risotto?

Risotto can get a bad rap for being a finicky dish. But really, it’s just a little needly. Attention-hungry, if you will. Follow these easy tips and your risotto will come out great every time!

Here are my best tips for making risotto:

  1. Read the entire recipe through and having all your ingredients prepped before starting.
  2. Stay with it and stir frequently.
  3. Add the warm liquid a little bit at a time.
holiday pumpkin risotto with serving bowl and individual bowl

The Best Creamy Pumpkin Risotto Recipe

Pumpkin Risotto Ingredients

In these sections I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas. For the full recipe (including ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.

Crispy Sage Ingredients:

crispy sage ingredients
  • Salted butter – this is for pan-frying the sage; if you prefer, you can use olive oil or unsalted butter and add a pinch of flaky salt on top of the sage after it’s fried
  • Fresh sage leaves – look for pretty whole leaves on the larger side because they will shrink up a little when you cook them

Pumpkin Risotto Ingredients:

pumpkin risotto ingredients
  • Chicken stock – or vegetable stock to keep this recipe vegetarian
  • Extra-virgin olive oil – we use a combination of olive oil and butter as the base for our risotto to sauté the onion and garlic and to toast the rice
  • Butter – adds richness
  • Yellow onion and garlic – these aromatic vegetables add depth of flavor and complexity
  • Fresh thyme – this adds a bright, herby flavor; if you don’t have fresh thyme, you can use 3/4 teaspoon of dried thyme leaves instead
  • Arborio rice – a short-grain high-starch rice
  • Dry white wine – such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio
  • Pumpkin puree – canned pumpkin is fine, just make sure it’s not pumpkin pie mix
  • Salt and black pepper – these pantry-staple seasonings make sure our risotto isn’t bland
  • Half and half – for rich flavor and creamy texture
  • Nutmeg – using freshly-grated nutmeg makes all the difference
  • Parmesan cheese – if you can, get a block of Parmesan and grate it yourself for the most intense flavor

How to Make Pumpkin Risotto

How to Make Crispy Fried Sage

Heads-up, this is a lovely garnish that’s easy to make in a matter of minutes, and elevates just about any fall or winter meal!

frying sage

Add the butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add the sage leaves and cook until crispy, about 30 seconds to 1 minute per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Heat the Stock

heating broth

In order for the risotto to absorb the stock, the stock needs to be warm.

Add the chicken stock (or vegetable stock to keep this dish vegetarian) to a medium-large saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer over low heat, and keep the broth warm throughout the entire cooking process.

How to Make Pumpkin Risotto

how to make pumpkin risotto
  1. Add the oil and butter to a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the onion and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
  2. Stir in the rice and cook for 1 1/2 minutes, stirring frequently, to toast the rice. Stir in the wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape and brown bits up from the bottom, cooking until the wine has evaporated, about 1 minute.
  3. Stir in the pumpkin puree, salt, black pepper, and about 3/4 cup of warm stock. Turn the heat down to low.
  4. Continue adding about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of warm stock as the rice absorbs the liquid, while stirring occasionally (but stirring much more frequently towards the end of the cooking process). It takes about 30 minutes for the rice to cook and absorb all the stock.

Add the Finishing Touches

finishing touches on risotto
  1. Once the stock is absorbed, stir in the half and half and cook until creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. 
  2. Remove from the heat. Stir in the nutmeg, and then 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.

Storage and Reheating

First I have to say, risotto is one of those dishes that’s best eaten as soon as it’s ready! The sublimely creamy texture is at its peak.

However, sometimes you just have leftovers! If you have leftover risotto, you can store it in a covered container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. I recommend putting the risotto in an airtight container; once it’s cooled to room temperature, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top, and then cover with the container’s lid and pop it in the fridge or freezer.

You can reheat risotto either on the stovetop or in the microwave, but you’ll need around 1/4 cup of liquid per 1 cup of cold risotto. And just like when you first made it, be sure to stir frequently when you reheat risotto!

Variations

  • Goat cheese – For pumpkin risotto with goat cheese, omit the Parmesan, and instead use 3 ounces of goat cheese. You can buy crumbled goat cheese, or use a log of goat cheese and crumble it yourself.
  • Bacon – Pumpkin risotto with bacon is absolutely delicious. Bacon adds another layer of complexity and a subtle smoky flavor. To make this dish with bacon, omit the oil and butter. Cook 4 slices of beef bacon (or any type of bacon you like), and use 4 tablespoons of rendered bacon fat to cook the onion. Reserve the bacon and serve it crumbled on top.
bowls of pumpkin risotto with real pumpkins and pinecones around

Pumpkin Risotto Recipe FAQs

What is Arborio Rice?

Arborio rice is an Italian high-starch short-grain rice named after the town of Arborio in Italy (you can read more about Arborio rice on Wikipedia). It’s known for having chewy-textured grains and a creamy consistency.

Can You Make Risotto Without Wine?

Yes! You can absolutely make a delicious risotto without wine.

Many risotto recipes call for wine because its acidity helps to balance the flavor and cut through the richness of the dish. Because let’s face it, recipes for risotto don’t usually skimp on creamy, decadent ingredients, such as butter, cream or half and half, and cheese!

Also, I read on Reddit that the acidity in wine helps to break down the starchy coating of Arborio rice, which does 2 things: 1) helps the rice absorb the stock or other cooking liquid, and 2) creates a creamy texture.

So, now that you know you can make risotto without wine, the question is what to use instead? In this recipe, I recommend using 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar + 7 tablespoons water OR 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice + 7 tablespoons water.

pumpkin risotto topped with parm cheese and crispy sage

What Kind of Cheese is Good in Risotto?

I’d almost go so far to say that a better question might be “what kind of cheese isn’t good in risotto?” Texturally, both hard and soft cheeses work well. As far as flavor goes, I prefer an aged cheese with a sharp bite; but that’s just personal preference!

Here are a few types of cheese that are great in risotto if you want to use something other than Parmesan:

  • Pecorino Romano
  • Gruyère
  • Comté
  • Sharp white cheddar
  • Goat cheese

What to Serve with This Pumpkin Risotto Recipe

bowl of creamy pumpkin risotto with parmesan cheese and sage

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Pumpkin Risotto with Crispy Sage

Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
This creamy pumpkin risotto recipe with crispy sage is laced with warm spice to accentuate the winter squash, and is aromatic with savory garlic and herbs. Butter, half and half, and Parmesan make it decadent while white wine cuts through the richness. It's a lovely addition to a holiday spread, but also the perfect cozy side dish during cold weather months.

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Ingredients
 

Crispy Sage:

  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 16 fresh sage leaves

Pumpkin Risotto:

  • 4 1/2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock to keep this recipe vegetarian
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 4 large cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio (see Notes for substitution)
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese freshly grated (divided)

Instructions
 

For the Crispy Sage:

  • Add the butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add the sage leaves and cook until crispy, about 30 seconds to 1 minute per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

For the Pumpkin Risotto:

  • Add the chicken stock to a medium-large saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer over low heat, and keep the broth warm throughout the entire cooking process.
  • Add the oil and butter to a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the onion and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in the rice and cook for 1 1/2 minutes, stirring frequently, to toast the rice. Stir in the wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape and brown bits up from the bottom, cooking until the wine has evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in the pumpkin puree, salt, black pepper, and about 3/4 cup of warm stock. Turn the heat down to low.
  • Continue adding about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of warm stock as the rice absorbs the liquid, while stirring occasionally (but stirring much more frequently towards the end of the cooking process). It takes about 30 minutes for the rice to cook and absorb all the stock.
  • Once the stock is absorbed, stir in the half and half and cook until creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Remove from the heat. Stir in the nutmeg, and then 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Transfer the risotto to a serving dish. Serve garnished with the remaining grated Parmesan and the crispy sage.

Notes

  • White Wine Substitution: In this recipe, you can omit the wine and use 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar + 7 tablespoons water OR 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice + 7 tablespoons water.
  • Storage: First I have to say, risotto is one of those dishes that’s best eaten as soon as it’s ready! The sublimely creamy texture is at its peak. However, sometimes you just have leftovers! If you have leftover risotto, you can store it in a covered container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. I recommend putting the risotto in an airtight container; once it’s cooled to room temperature, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top, and then cover with the container’s lid and pop it in the fridge or freezer.
  • Reheating: You can reheat risotto either on the stovetop or in the microwave, but you’ll need around 1/4 cup of liquid per 1 cup of cold risotto. And just like when you first made it, be sure to stir frequently when you reheat risotto!

Nutrition

Calories: 360kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 32mg | Sodium: 545mg | Potassium: 317mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 5124IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 170mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Creamy Pumpkin Risotto, Pumpkin Risotto, Pumpkin Risotto Recipe, Pumpkin Risotto with Sage

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Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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