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Pumpkin Risotto

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In October I’m often drawn to serving something in little pumpkins, this time it’s Pumpkin Risotto. The pumpkins look cute and when served on a black plate it creates a deliciously dramatic affect.


Since rice is naturally gluten free it makes sense that anyone on a gluten free diet would want to try ‘all the dishes’. The list is long but for me it includes classic dishes like Spanish paella, Creole jambalaya, Thai coconut rice, French rice pilaf and of course Italian risotto.


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The Risotto Method

Risotto is made with short-grained Arborio rice, sometimes labeled risotto rice. The technique for making risotto involves stirring small amounts of hot stock into the rice during the entire cooking time. The liquid is absorbed slowly allowing the rice to release its starch creating the rich, creamy consistency desired.


A close up of sugar pumpkins filled with Pumpkin Risotto
Pumpkin Risotto served in sugar pumpkins -photo credit Jim Little



  • -use the stopwatch setting on your kitchen timer
  • -keep the stock warm and have extra in case you need it
  • -pay close attention at the beginning and adjust the heat as needed
  • -stir frequently

Once you’re comfortable with the risotto method you can look for interesting recipes or create your own variation.

Sugar Pie and Jack-Be-Little Pumpkins

As the name implies, Sugar Pie pumpkins are often considered the ideal pumpkin for making pie. However, I like to find the smallest ones for serving whole filled with soup or a rice concoction. The tiny Jack-Be-Little pumpkins can also be used for a smaller portion. Although they are most often used as a decoration they are edible and make a gorgeous side dish for any autumn meal.

A plate of mini pumpkins filled with Pumpkin Risotto with fall leaves on the table in front of them.
Pumpkin Risotto served in mini pumpkins -photo credit Jim Little

Pumpkin vs Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is hands-down my favourite squash. I often have one in my pantry and use it many different ways. This risotto can be made with butternut squash but I chose pumpkin because I wanted to serve it inside pumpkins. Either way it is a delicious autumn side dish.

Tools and Techniques

Every kitchen needs some basic tools starting with a good knife (this 10 inch Chef’s knife is my choice), a sturdy cutting board and a good quality set of pots and pans. To make risotto I use the large saucepan from my set.

Cutting Winter Squash – Squash that has hard skin like pumpkin and butternut can be difficult to cut. Microwave the whole squash for one minute to soften the exterior and it will be much easier to cut. Even one minute partially cooked the mini pumpkins but I was going to cook them right away so I didn’t worry about that.

Removing Squash Seeds – I use my grapefruit knife and grapefruit spoon. to remove the seeds and string from inside winter squash. They both have a serrated edge that catches the sides of the squash better than any other tool I’ve tried. If you have a rarely used melon baller in your drawer you can try that too.

Let me know in the comments below if you have a favourite rice dish or if you tried this risotto.

More Rice Recipes

Spanish Paella with Seafood

A paella pan filled with Paella with Seafood
Paella with Seafood -photo credit Jim Little

Thai Jasmine Coconut Rice

A bowl heaped full of fragrant Thai Jasmine coconut rice.
Thai Jasmine Coconut Rice -photo credit Jim Little

Saffron Rice

A dish of fragrant Saffron Rice
Fragrant Saffron Rice -photo credit Jim Little

Indian Rice Pilau – I call it Fruited Rice Pilaf with Pine Nuts

Fruited Rice Pilaf with nuts.
Fruited Rice Pilaf -photo credit Jim Little



5 small sugar pumpkins, about 10 oz each
4-5 cups unsalted, gluten free chicken stock**
2 Tbsp butter (first amount)
½ onion, finely chopped
½ cup finely grated fresh pumpkin
1¼ cups Arborio rice
2 Tbsp butter (second amount)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
EXTRA – oil, salt and pepper as needed


Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut 1 pumpkin in half. Peel and grate ½ cup for risotto. The remainder of this pumpkin can be baked with the whole pumpkins or reserved for another use.
Cut tops off remaining 4 pumpkins, about 1-inch down from the stem. Remove seeds and string.
Rub pumpkins, including the top, with a bit of oil.
Generously salt and pepper the interior of each pumpkin.
Place empty pumpkins on baking sheet and bake in preheated oven 40-50 minutes until the flesh is soft.
While pumpkins are cooking bring chicken stock to a simmer and leave on low heat.
In a sauté pan melt first 2 Tbsp butter.
Add onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add grated pumpkin and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add rice and stir well until rice grains are coated with butter.
Add first ½ cup hot stock and set a stopwatch* to start timing. Stir the mixture until the liquid is absorbed.
Adjust the heat to a low simmer so each addition of liquid is absorbed in 2-3 minutes.
Continue adding stock ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently.
Taste for doneness at 18 minutes. Continue adding stock until the rice is done and has a nice, creamy texture. Al dente the Italians would say.
Remove from heat and stir in remaining 2 Tbsp butter and Parmesan cheese.
Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Spoon risotto into cooked pumpkins and add pumpkin lid. Reheat in oven if needed. Serve warm.
*I use a stopwatch setting to monitor the entire cooking time so the minutes continue counting up through the final tasting process. If it takes 30 or 35 minutes until it’s done I know I wasn’t paying close enough attention and adjusting the heat at the beginning of the process. Good luck!
**Using a salted chicken stock may make the risotto overly salty, especially if it takes longer than 20 minutes to complete the cooking.


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