What started out as a post about making a really creamy risotto (which don’t get me wrong, it is) completely changed when I opened the wine cabinet. I was out of white wine. Red wine…no problem! Talk about a food blogger conundrum. Sure, I could have trekked to the store but it’s Chicago and it’s cold. So I did what we do.

I pivoted.

I knew I could use lemon juice but I also knew that I didn’t really want the risotto to have even the mildest hint of lemon. And then…”aha moment”. Lemon is an acid. And so is vinegar. And guess what?

It works. I may even like risotto with apple cider vinegar better than white wine! It has just the right amount of tang, nuance and balances the chicken stock and parmesan in the best way.

I think you’re going to like it too.

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Risotto myth busters

The key to risotto is patience and a few key tips.

We’ve already busted the first myth around risotto-making. You don’t have to use wine. And there are a few more:

Pan. You don’t need a fancy risotto pan or even a pan with sloped sides like a braiser. I used my deep, flat sided All-Clad skillet. It has the perfect amount of surface area to toast the rice and allows the rice to cook evenly to a great texture.

Stirring method. Most risotto recipes will tell you that you have to babysit the risotto stirring until your arm is going to fall off. Yes, you are going to stir what feels like “a lot” but not for 20 minutes straight. Plus, as the rice cooks, you’ll stir less as it needs time to cook and absorb the stock.

Cover to cook. Make sure the pan you select has a lid. While risotto is typically cooked in an open pan on the stove, I have found that covering the risotto towards the end of the cooking time creates more moisture in the pan and a creamier dish.

The Key to Perfect Risotto

It boils down to math. Typically, the ratio for risotto is 1 cup rice : 4 cups stock. This recipe calls for 5 cups of stock which adds a creamier texture and also allows you to make risotto ahead of time. So good, right?

Ingredient call outs

Ingredients for risotto without wine include apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is the best substitute for wine in risotto.

I mentioned earlier that this risotto is made from a simple list of ingredients. It’s also a short ingredient list. That being said:

Choose the highest quality ingredients your budget allows.

In addition to aromatics of white onion and garlic, here are quick highlights of what you’ll need:

  • Arborio rice. I tested this recipe with arborio rice. You can use carnaroli rice but I don’t recommend you swapping in jasmine, basmati or even Uncle Ben’s. You’ll be disappointed because you won’t make risotto, just overcooked rice.
  • Unsalted butter. Used in two different steps of the recipe, unsalted butter allows you to control the salt levels in the finished dish.
  • Apple cider vinegar & water. The apple cider vinegar brings the perfect amount of acid and a rich, sweet complex flavor while the water dilutes it just a tich so the flavor doesn’t overwhelm the entire recipe.
  • Parmesan cheese. A wedge of the best Parmesan you can find, freshly grated. There is no skimping here. That means no green can parmesan, my friend. Save it for my mom’s baked chicken parmesan.

How to make risotto using vinegar

Sauteing onions for risotto
Saute onions in butter and garlic (2).
Toasting rice for risotto in skillet with wooden paddle
Toast the risotto in the sauteed onions and garlic -my onions got a little too brown fyi! (3).

Cooking Process

  1. Heat a pan of chicken stock to gently simmering. You’ll keep this simmering throughout the cooking process.
  2. Use a wide pan over medium heat to saute chopped onion in butter and olive oil. Try not and brown the onion too much (as I did here) – you want them translucent and pretty. After about 5 minutes, add in the minced garlic and saute just until you smell it.
  3. Pour in the rice and toast for 3-4 minutes. Be sure to stir it around so it toasts on all sides. Add in the vinegar/water blend and simmer until the pan is almost dry. 
Adding vinegar to toasted rice in skillet for risotto
Pour in apple cider vinegar and water and cook until the pan is almost dry (4).
Adding first ladle of stock to toasted risotto
First ladle of stock added (5).
Stainless skillet of risotto halfway cooked with wooden paddle
Halfway through cooking and adding stock.

Stirring process

  1. Add in the vinegar/water blend and simmer until the pan is almost dry. 
  2. Add 1 ladle (4 oz size) of stock to the pan and stir the rice into the stock and cook for 2-3 minutes until absorbed.
  3. Repeat adding ladles of warm stock to the risotto until you have completed about 5 rounds of additions. Stir several times throughout the time but you don’t have to stand over it religiously.

Stirring Tip

You don’t have to stir the whole time. The reason for stirring is as the grains bump up against each other they release more starch which makes the risotto creamier.

Step before adding lid to pan of risotto
During the last two rounds of stock, cover the pan with a lid for a minute or so.
Almost finished pan of risotto in stainless skillet
Time to remove the risotto from the heat.
  1. During the last two additions of stock, stir and then cover for about a minute.
  2. Stop adding stock when there is about 1 cup (2 ladles worth) of stock in the pan and remove the risotto from the heat.

Pro tip

Each ladle of stock should take about 2-3 minutes to absorb into the rice. Adjust your heat accordingly.


Pat of butter being stirred into cooked risotto with wooden paddle close up
Stir in the rest of the butter…
Pat of butter and parmesan being stirred into pan of cooked risotto
…and then finish with parmesan cheese. So easy!

You have options here depending on when you plan to serve the risotto. Because you want to serve risotto when it’s hot and creamy, follow these suggested timing tips:

To serve immediately:

  • Off the heat, add the remaining butter and most of the grated cheese and stir in until thoroughly mixed in.
  • Add in the final amount of warm stock and stir. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately with more cheese sprinkled over.

To make ahead / serve later:

  • Off the heat, add the remaining butter and most of the grated cheese and stir in until thoroughly mixed in.
  • Refrigerate the risotto (if serving much later in the day). Or —if the other dishes you’re serving aren’t quite ready, cover the pan and rest on the stovetop.
  • Add in the final amount of warm stock and stir. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately with more cheese sprinkled over.

Storage and freezing tips

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Reheat with a little chicken stock in a pan over low heat until warmed through. Add more stock to get to your desired texture.

I don’t recommend freezing risotto.

Made this recipe?

I’d love it if you’d share your review and leave a star rating and comment!

Stainless skillet of risotto being stirred with wooden paddle
5 from 2 votes

How to Make Risotto without Wine

You read it right! You can make homemade risotto without wine and actually without lemon juice! Get ready because you're going to learn how to make the best risotto using an unexpected pantry ingredient —apple cider vinegar. And, your whole family including this kids is going to love the depth of flavor and texture.
Prep Time:10 minutes
Cook Time:20 minutes
Total Time:30 minutes
Servings 4



  • Heat the stock in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. You want it gently simmering,not boiling.
    5 cups chicken stock
  • In a wide pan for medium heat, add 1 Tablespoon of butter and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté the onion for about three minutes. You don't want to brown the onion, just cook until translucent.
    At this point, add in the garlic and quickly sauté for about 30 seconds or until you can smell it.
    1 T olive oil, 3 T butter, 1 cup onion, 3 cloves garlic
    Sauteing onions for risotto
  • Pour in the rice and stir with a wooden spoon to toast, about 3-4 minutes. Watch your heat so the onion doesn't brown.
    1 cup arborio rice
    Stirring risotto in onions to toast
  • Pour in vinegar and water and saute for 2 minutes until the pan is almost dry. Don't rush this part – lower the heat if the vinegar is cooking away too quickly.
    1/4 c apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup water
    Adding vinegar to toasted rice in skillet for risotto

Stirring process

  • Using a 4 oz. ladle (1/2 cup), add in 1 ladle of stock along with the salt and pepper. For the first few rounds of additions, stir pretty continuously with a wooden spoon, until the stock is absorbed by the rice and the pan is almost dry. This should take about 2-3 minutes per ladle of stock.
    The key to stirring is so the grains bump up against each other, and release more starch which makes the risotto creamy.
    1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper
    Adding first ladle of stock to toasted risotto
  • Repeat with each ladle of stock. When you get to about the 6th addition of stock, you don't need to stir as much. This is where I'll cover the pan for about 1 minutes to release some steam into the risotto before adding the next ladle full.
    Stainless skillet of risotto halfway cooked with wooden paddle
  • Stop adding stock when you have about 1 cup of stock left in the warming sauce pan. Reserve this stock for right before serving or if you're making the risotto ahead of time.
    This whole process should take about 20 minutes.
    Step before adding lid to pan of risotto


  • Remove the risotto from the heat. Stir in the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter and stir until melted. Stir in the remaining warmed stock if you're serving immediately. Taste for seasoning.
    Stir in the parmesan cheese until incorporated and correct for seasoning.
    1/2-1 cup Parmesan cheese, fresh chopped parsley
    Pat of butter and parmesan being stirred into pan of cooked risotto

If making ahead

  • After finishing risotto with butter per the above instruction, refrigerate the risotto in a airtight container. Right before serving, heat the remaining cup of stock. Add the risotto to a clean pan and gently warm over low-medium heat. (If you're worried about the risotto sticking to the pan, feel free to melt a little butter first or add in a touch of stock. Stir in warmed stock and finish with more parmesan and seasoning, if needed.


Make ahead 
Reserve 1 cup of stock to add at the end either right before serving or to reheat/ make ahead. 
For reheating leftovers
Heat risotto in a pan or skillet with a little stock to loosen up to your desired texture. Stir occasionally until warmed through.
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!
5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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