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Crunchy Risotto: What Caused It & How to Fix It

If you’re craving a creamy risotto but keep ending up with a crunchy mess, here’s how to turn it around.

Risotto is one of my favorite Italian dishes. Rich, creamy, cheesy, with just the right amount of bite. One of those classic dishes that can instantly transport you to another place. 

But what happens when risotto goes wrong? A common issue home cooks have with cooking risotto is achieving the perfect texture. Often, the risotto turns out crunchy, rather than smooth and silky. I’ve been there, and I know it’s no fun when you put all this time and resources into a dish just for it to fall flat on expectations.

There are a few different reasons risotto can turn out crunchy. Luckily, this cooking mishap is very fixable. So, don’t throw out your crunchy risotto just yet! 

What Causes Crunchy Risotto

More often than not, crunchy risotto is caused by undercooking the rice.

Risotto takes longer to cook than traditional rice cooking instructions. Properly cooking risotto requires near-constant attention, stirring frequently and adding the liquid in parts throughout the process, rather than all at once. 

This brings me to my next point: you may have used the wrong type of rice. To make risotto, you should be using medium-to-short-grain white rice with a high starch content to achieve that ideal creamy texture. (We’ll get to the best varieties to use in a moment.)

If you use long-grain rice or brown rice to make risotto, for example, it may cause issues with the texture. Even if you use rice marketed as risotto rice, some cheap brands are overdried and won’t properly absorb moisture.

Another reason risotto turns out crunchy is if you’ve burned it. Many risotto recipes instruct you to lightly toast the rice at the beginning. This step adds a slight nutty flavor and helps the rice granules hold their shape through cooking. However, if you toast the rice a little too much, it may burn and turn bitter and crunchy.

It’s also possible to burn risotto later on in the cooking process. If the rice absorbs all of the available liquid and you don’t add more liquid to it, the risotto will stick to the pot and burn; this is another possible cause for crunchy risotto. 

How to Fix Crunchy Risotto

If the reason behind your crunchy risotto is undercooked rice, you’re in luck because that’s an easy fix: add more liquid.

The ratio for risotto rice is traditionally 3:1—three parts liquid to one-part rice by volume. This is a good general guideline to follow, but keep in mind sometimes you’ll need even more liquid in order to fully cook the rice.

So, if your risotto is still crunchy after adding all of the liquid in the recipe, you can still try to add more. I recommend adding about ¼ cup at a time and stirring until it’s almost completely absorbed. Take a taste after each addition to see if the texture is improving. Repeat this process until the risotto is no longer crunchy and you’ve reached the desired consistency.

Remember that cooking risotto takes time, and you can’t rush the process. It often takes 35 minutes or more for the rice to absorb enough liquid to cook through to the proper texture. If you’re adding cold liquid rather than warm liquid to the risotto, keep in mind this will significantly slow down the cooking process as well.

If you’ve been patient and followed these steps and your risotto is still crunchy, it may be due to the type of rice used. I’d recommend that you check that you are using high-quality carnaroli or arborio rice. If not, unfortunately, you may need to start over and invest in better-quality rice.

More Risotto Tips

Using the right variety of rice is crucial for a dish like risotto. Carnaroli rice is considered the gold standard and is the main option in Italy, the birthplace of risotto. Arborio rice is a similar variety that’s more widely available and less expensive than Carnaroli. Be aware that arborio rice varies greatly in quality, and some cheaper brands may not work as well for risotto. 

A standard long-grain white rice won’t work for risotto—neither will jasmine or basmati which are both long-grain varieties. Generally shorter grains of rice contain more starch, and the high starch content contributes to the creaminess of the dish. This is why you also should never rinse the rice before cooking risotto—you want to keep all those extra starches. Stirring frequently also helps activate the starch and aids the creamy texture.

The two main ingredients in risotto are rice and liquid. We’ve talked pretty extensively about the rice, so now let’s discuss the liquid. For a flavorful risotto, you should use stock or broth. Water works too, but you’ll get so much more flavor from a chicken, seafood, or vegetable broth. 

Now, I’ve already warned you not to undercook your risotto, but it’s equally important not to overcook it. Risotto should be cooked al dente—it should still have a little bit of texture and bite to it. If you overcook risotto, it can turn mushy. You should still be able to feel the individual rice granules without them turning into one big pot of mush. 

Lastly, risotto is traditionally finished with finely grated cheese—usually Parmesan—and butter. This is added at the very end of the cooking process to add richness, creaminess, and hints of saltiness and nuttiness.

After finishing your risotto, you are looking for all’onda consistency, which essentially means it should flow like a wave. Not too liquidy like a soup, but not too dense and dry either—more like a thick porridge consistency. 

What to Remember

In conclusion, the most common cause of crunchy risotto is undercooked rice, and it’s an easy fix: a combination of liquid, time, and patience. Simply add more liquid a little bit at a time and continue to simmer and stir the rice until it’s al dente (adding more liquid as needed).

Also, remember the type of rice plays a big role in risotto. So, for best results, make sure you are using high-quality rice with high-starch properties.

Know your author

Written by

Kelly Ryan is a professionally trained recipe developer and food photographer based in northeast Ohio. She is the creator behind Butter & Thyme, a food blog focused on nostalgic comfort food recipes. Follow Kelly on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook.