Hearty Vegan Delight: Italian Sausage, Kale, and Mushroom Risotto

Italian Sausage, Kale, and Mushroom Risotto

Welcome back to the kitchen, where we’re about to embark on a recipe that celebrates the vibrant flavors of Italy without compromising on our commitment to plant-based goodness. Today’s star is a Vegan Italian Sausage, Kale, and Mushroom Risotto – a dish that’s not only delicious but also a testament to the creativity and versatility of vegan cooking.

This recipe was inspired by a story that photographer CJ Harvey posted on her Instagram years ago while photographing for various bands on the road. It is the first risotto I have ever made, and it quickly became a family favorite. The base of this recipe is a more traditional mushroom risotto that is topped with spicy vegan Italian sausage and sautéd kale and finished with fig balsamic vinegar. Once you divide the mushroom risotto into four bowls it is topped with the sausage kale mixture, drizzled with chili oil, and sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper.

I was always nervous about cooking risotto. I would watch cooking challenges on the Food Network where guest chefs blasted contestants for the texture and consistency of their risotto. I thought I didn’t stand a chance if a professional chef couldn’t even get risotto right. Once I was brave enough to try it, I found that cooking risotto can be a delightful yet slightly challenging culinary experience.

Cooking risotto can be a delightful yet slightly challenging culinary experience. The key to a perfect risotto lies in technique, timing, and the quality of ingredients. Here are some tips to help you master the art of making a creamy and flavorful risotto:

  1. Choose the Right Rice: Opt for short-grain, starchy rice varieties such as Arborio. This type of rice releases starch gradually during cooking, creating the desired creamy texture.
  2. Use High-Quality Broth: The broth is a crucial element in risotto, so use a high-quality vegetable broth. I like to use Imagine Foods low sodium vegetarian no-chicken broth. Keep it warm in a separate pot to ensure a consistent temperature throughout the cooking process.
  3. Sauté Ingredients Properly: Begin by sautéing aromatics like onions or shallots in butter or olive oil until they are translucent. This adds a flavorful base to the risotto.
  4. Toast the Rice: After adding the rice, toast it for a couple of minutes until it becomes slightly translucent. This helps to seal the exterior and prevents the rice from becoming mushy.
  5. Deglaze with Wine: Adding a splash of dry white wine after toasting the rice not only enhances the flavor but also helps deglaze the pan, creating a clean canvas for the broth. I used dealcoholized red wine at the end to add some flavor to this recipe.
  6. Add Broth Gradually: Pour in the warm broth one ladle at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before adding more. Stir continuously to encourage the release of starch and achieve a creamy consistency.
  7. Stir with Patience: Stirring is a crucial step in risotto making. It helps release starch, creating the desired creaminess. Be patient and stir consistently but not excessively; the rice needs time to absorb the liquid.
  8. Add Ingredients at the Right Time: Add ingredients like vegetables, proteins, or herbs at the appropriate stage of cooking. Delicate vegetables might be added later, while heartier ingredients can go in earlier.
  9. Test for Doneness: Taste the risotto regularly to check for doneness. The rice should be al dente, with a slight bite to it. If it’s too firm, continue adding broth and stirring.
  10. Finish with Cheese and Butter: For that luxurious finish, stir in vegan Parmesan cheese and/or a knob of vegan butter off the heat. This adds richness and enhances the overall flavor.
  11. Serve Immediately: Risotto is best enjoyed fresh off the stove. Serve it immediately to savor the creamy texture and robust flavors.
  12. Experiment with Flavors: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different ingredients and flavor combinations. Whether it’s a mushroom risotto, saffron-infused risotto, or a plant-based meat variation, the possibilities are endless.

Remember, practice makes perfect, and don’t be discouraged if your first attempt isn’t flawless. With time and experience, you’ll become a risotto maestro.

Italian Sausage, Kale, and Mushroom Risotto

Whether you're a seasoned vegan or just dipping your toes into plant-based cooking, this Italian-inspired risotto is a must-try. Bursting with savory goodness and wholesome ingredients, it's proof that plant-based meals can be just as indulgent and satisfying as their traditional counterparts.
Servings 4 people
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


  • dutch oven
  • Skillet
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil divided
  • 1 Tbsp garlic minced
  • 8 oz baby bella mushrooms sliced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth divided
  • 1 ½ tsp salt divided
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 4 links vegan Italian sausage
  • 1 bunch dino kale chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fig balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp vegan butter
  • splash red wine
  • juice of half a lemon
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • chili oil for serving


  • Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy bottom pan and saute garlic for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
  • Add mushrooms to Dutch oven and saute 2-3 minutes.
  • Add rice to the pot and stir to incorporate with the rest of the ingredients.
  • Add ½ cup of vegetable broth and stir.
  • Add 1 tsp of salt, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves and stir.
  • Add another ½ cup of the broth and stir. Continue to add broth ½ cup at a time until risotto is al dente, using water if needed.
  • While risotto is cooking heat a medium skillet over medium heat and heat oil if desired. My Italian sausage does not need oil to cook. Crumble Italian sausage into skillet and saute until browned.
  • Add kale to the skillet with remaining olive oil and salt. Saute until kale is mostly wilted and then drizzle with vinegar and remove from heat.
  • Once risotto is al dente stir in lemon juice and remove bay leaves.
  • Add butter and a splash of red wine to the Dutch oven and stir to combine.
  • Serve risotto topped with sausage mixture, freshly ground black pepper, and chili oil.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American-Italian Inspired
Keyword: entree, Plant-based Meat, vegan

Did you make this recipe?

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