Parties, conversation, even your dancing. There are few things that are not made better with a splash of white wine (or two). Some might think that a nice risotto is also on that list. However, they’d be wrong. The truth is that you don’t actually need white wine to make risotto (or to be a good dancer). So, if you have run out or just couldn’t resist having that last half a glass the night before, don’t worry. In this article we are going to give you some great suggestions for a substitute for white wine in risotto.
Substitutes For White Wine in Risotto
Risotto is a creamy rice dish that takes a little time to prepare. When cooked correctly you’ll get soft white rice in a smooth sauce. The sauce itself is formed partly by the liquid that you use to cook the risotto in, and the starches released by the rice.
If you’ve ever stirred regular white rice whilst boiling it you may have ended up with a stodgy, starchy mess. This is because agitation of the grains causes them to release their starch. In a risotto this is exactly what you are trying to achieve.
Whilst you can make risotto with regular rice, it is far better to use a rice created specifically. The best rice for risotto is arborio rice. It has shorter grains and is a lot rounder in appearance. It looks much more like sushi rice than regular basmati or long grains rice, and is jam packed full of sticky starchiness that just can’t wait to get out.
We can get a clue as to other ingredients by looking at the taste profile of wine. You would never use sweet white wine in Risotto. Dry white wine is the order of the day in normal circumstances. We would normally go for something like a nice Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, or Chablis. If you aren’t sure what to use then check on the bottle, as long as the word ‘dry’ is there you should be good to go.
White wine works so well because it has a slightly acidic elements that adds just the tiniest trace of sharpness to your dish. Let’s explore some of these elements: –
1. Grape Juice
Alcohol boils off during the cooking process so this is not where the flavor actually comes from. Do you know what non-alcoholic wine is called? That’s right, grape juice. Grape juice makes a great substitute for white wine in risotto. Use an equal amount of grape juice in place of wine.
One sure fire way to introduce an acidic element in your dish is to use vinegar. But this comes with a disclaimer. Use it very conservatively. Unlike with our previous suggestion you don’t want to use anywhere near the same amount as you would have done with white wine. Obviously the sharp and acidic element is much stronger in vinegar. Y
ou will no doubt be using stock to cook. Add just enough vinegar to the stock to enable you to detect the faintest hint of acidity. This should allow you to sufficiently flavor risotto without the wine.
3. White wine vinegar
White wine vinegar is basically stale white wine, so there will still be a hint of the flavor elements you need in your dish. As with the above vinegary suggestion, be sparing with how much you use. We recommend using half as much as you would have done with wine and topping it up with water. So, if you need half a cup of wine normally, use a quarter cup of vinegar and a quarter cup of water. Simple.
The main tip we can give you here is to pick a stock that matches the type of risotto that you are making. If it has a fish or seafood element then use fish stock. If you are having a lighter meat, then chicken stock should fit the bill nicely. Vegetables can sometimes be a little bland however, so we like to add some extra flavor by using beef stock.
5. Lime or lime juice
Lime is perfect. It is not quite as sharp as Lemon and is full of fresh flavors and smells, much like white wine! The best bit is that you do not need a great deal in order to impart a zesty freshness to your dish. Remember that Lime is still an acid however, so just like vinegar use it sparingly.
6. Other Fruit Juices
Most fruit juices are acidic. As long as you don’t pick anything too sweet you should be able to find something that works. We recommend using something slightly tart like apple juice.
Tips and tricks
Regardless of how your risotto tastes it’s the texture that makes it. The trick to a good risotto is all about stirring to release those creamy starches.
Our suggestions for white wine substitutes in risotto are all interchangeable and adaptable. Why not combine a few to get the best flavor. Fish stock mixed with lime juice, or a splash of apple juice with a spoonful of vinegar will all work.
Little by little
We mean this is two ways. If you’ve ever cooked risotto before you will know that you have to add the cooking liquid a little at a time in order to get the best consistency. This is also true of your flavoring element. Remember once a liquid is in a dish it can’t be taken out, but you can always add more. So, with our alternatives to white wine in risotto, start small and work your way up until you nail the flavor that you want.
Use butter to loosen
We’ve all been guilty of over cooking risotto with white wine, and without. If you’ve gone a little far and it has turned ‘heavy’ a small knob of butter or a spoon or two of olive oil will get those grains nice and smooth again.
Find a substitute for white wine in risotto is probably easier than you think. If you consider the quantities involved you aren’t using that much wine anywhere and are only looking for a hint of flavor. Just use your replacement sparingly and tweak it to get the taste you love. Do you have any other suggestions? Leave a comment below and I’ll see about it making its way onto my list.