Korean Doenjang Risotto
This creamy Korean doenjang risotto adds distinct Korean flavors to a traditional Italian rice dish. The Korean soybean paste gives this savory mushroom risotto another punch of instant umami. To balance the earthy flavors and for some added zing, we finish the dish with a light sprinkle of fresh lemon zest.
I never tried making risotto for the longest time because I always heard stories of how difficult and tedious it is to prepare this dish, to get that perfectly cooked and creamy risotto.
I made my first risotto using the highly rated New York Times Cooking “Mushroom Risotto with Peas” recipe and was really pleased with how it turned out. It was creamy and velvety, just the way a risotto should be. I loved the earthiness from the mushrooms and subtle sweetness from the green peas.
Of course, I had to add some Korean flavors to make it my own. The mushrooms and freshly grated Parmesan already make this risotto particularly savory. However, I decided to add a small dollop of doenjang at the very end for another punch of flavor. It also gives the risotto instant umami.
While it may be a seemingly odd fusion of cuisines, it kind of reminds me of a more luxurious and rich Korean rice porridge, juk (죽). The soft, plump rice is lightly blanketed in a creamy and savory sauce.
I like to enjoy this creamy comfort food with a simple oven-baked salmon.
Doenjang (된장) is a fermented Korean soybean paste that is salty, savory, and a bit tangy. Although it has a distinctly pungent smell, it gives dishes deep, savory flavors and tremendous umami.
This paste is one of the staple condiments found in almost every Korean household. It is healthy and rich in minerals, vitamins, and gut-healthy probiotics. Japanese miso paste is similar, but is a bit sweeter and milder in taste.
Doenjang jjigae is probably the most widely known Korean dish made with doenjang.
Tips for making risotto
Risotto is not difficult to make, but it does require you to be at your stove top throughout the cook time. Here are some easy tips to more seamlessly create that perfect risotto.
Rice for Risotto
It is best to make risotto with starchy, short-grained rice, such as Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano. I have tried using both Arborio and Carnaroli. Carnaroli is supposedly harder to overcook and so maybe easier to work with. However, I find Arborio to also be just fine. It was also easier for me to find Arborio rice at most grocery stores. You need to use high-starch rice to get that creamy risotto texture.
The rice is toasted in the skillet before any liquids are added. This helps to prevent the rice from falling apart as it cooks. It also gives it a nutty, toasted flavor.
Use a wide skillet and keep it at a simmer
Using a wide skillet will help the rice form a thinner layer for even cooking. Make sure to keep it at a low simmer. This will give the broth time to be soaked up by the rice instead of getting boiled away.
Dry white wine
After the rice is lightly toasted with the sauteed shallots and mushrooms, it is cooked with a splash of dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio. It gives the dish a crisp yet floral acidity that adds complexity and amplifies the rich umami flavor in this dish. Another plus is that you can enjoy the leftover wine with your meal.
For deeper flavor, use a flavorful broth. It can either be chicken or vegetable broth, depending on whether you want a vegetarian dish. It is important to have the broth warmed so that the rice can seamlessly continue cooking as you stir it in ladle by ladle.
Simmering broth is added one ladleful at a time as the rice cooks. This, in my opinion, may be the most tedious part. You’ll be stirring often for about 20 minutes until the rice is cooked through. Start taste testing the rice at 15 minutes and continue cooking until the rice is just slightly al dente.
Stirring is important. It helps the rice release starch and create that signature creamy risotto texture. However, try not to over-stir as it could result in a gluey, sticky risotto. I recommend stirring maybe every 30 seconds, making sure that the rice does not stick to the bottom of the skillet.
I like to add the usual freshly grated parmesan and chopped parsley. It’s also common to stir in a generous knob of butter at the very end to make it extra rich and creamy. And as you now know, I also like to add some lemon zest to my risotto. The bright yet subtle acidity helps to create some contrast that gently cuts through the deep savory and rich flavors.
Mise en place
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If you make this Doenjang Risotto, I would love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to leave a comment and/or recipe rating at the bottom of this page. And if you have a photo of your food, be sure to tag me on Instagram!
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- ½ cup shallots, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp garlic, crushed
- 12 oz mushrooms, sliced (e.g., oyster mushrooms, enoki, portobello)
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, heated to simmer
- ½ cup dry white wine (e.g. pinot grigio)
- 1½ cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 tsp doenjang
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- TT freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp lemon, zest
- Bring broth to a low simmer in a medium saucepan.
- Heat the EVOO in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes or until shallots are translucent.
- Add the mushrooms and stir for about 2 minutes or until mushrooms are cooked through. Stir in the thyme for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Lightly season the mushrooms with salt.
- Add the rice and let it toast for about 2 minutes. You will hear it crackle. Add the wine and stir until the wine is gone.
- Make a thin, even layer of the rice mixture in the skillet, and stir in just enough of the simmering stock to cover the rice.
- Stir quickly until the stock is almost all absorbed by the rice. Add another ladle or two of broth and let it continue cooking, stirring every 30 seconds for about 15 minutes and adding more stock when it is mostly absorbed.
- Add the peas, doenjang, and more stock. Stir for another 5 minutes, taste testing the rice to your desired doneness (or just slightly al dente).
- Remove the skillet from the heat, and stir in another ladleful of stock with the parsley and Parmesan. (Reserve some of the parsley and Parmesan for the next step).
- Ladle into bowls and season with freshly ground pepper, lemon zest, and the remaining parsley and Parmesan. Serve immediately.