Lemon and Thyme Risotto

This lemon and thyme risotto, with its luxuriously creamy texture and lovely lilt of lemon, may seem as though it took all day to make. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Shhhhhh. No need to tell anyone else that. It can be our little secret.

A white bowl filled with risotto and topped with a sprig of thyme and some lemon zest

As author Richard Bertinet explains, there’s an idea that risotto is complicated because you need to stand over the pan and stir. True, it does require stirring, although the complicated part couldn’t be further from the truth. Although given the risotto’s luxuriously creamy texture and lovely lilt of lemon, it may seem as though it took all day. Shhhh. No need to tell anyone the contrary. Originally published Apr 9, 2012.

Renee Schettler Rossi

Lemon and Thyme Risotto

  • Quick Glance
  • (4)
  • 30 M
  • 30 M
  • Serves 4 to 6
5/5 - 4 reviews
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Chop the onion into small dice—you want the onion to disappear into the risotto, so don’t make the pieces too big. Place the egg yolks in a bowl. Grate the Parmesan. Zest the lemons and squeeze the juice. Reserve a few strips of lemon zest for the garnish. Pick the thyme leaves from their stalks, but leave a couple of sprigs whole for the garnish. Place your pan of stock onto the stove, bring to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer.

Place the butter, oil, onion, and a pinch of salt in a wide pan over medium heat. Cook the onion very gently for about 4 to 5 minutes, until soft but not colored. It is really important with a risotto not to brown and burn your onion. This is a delicately flavored dish and the bitterness of burned onion will flavor the whole thing. (Keeping the onion in the center of the pan, rather than spreading it out, runs less risk of scorching. Placing it in a cold pan, without heating the oil first, also helps.)

When the onion is soft, add the rice and stir very well to coat every grain. The pan will be getting quite hot and dry now, so add your white wine, sprinkling it in carefully around the pan—this evenly distributes the wine and helps it to reduce and evaporate more quickly. Add half of the lemon juice and half of the zest and cook for 1 minute. Keep stirring gently. You will hear the wine “singing” as some of it reduces in the pan. This will probably take about 2 minutes, and then the rice will look dry again.

Now you are ready to add your hot stock, a ladleful at a time. After every ladleful, stir well, really scraping the bottom of the pan, until the stock has almost disappeared into the rice. Then add another ladleful, keeping the rice moist all the time—don’t let it get dry in between ladlefuls. After about 15 minutes of adding stock and stirring in this way, start to taste—be careful, since the rice will be very hot. The rice needs to be tender, but still have some bite to it. Your risotto should take no more than 20 to 25 minutes from start to finish.

When you feel that it is almost there, take the pan off the heat.

Quickly mix the cheese, as much thyme as you please, and the remaining lemon juice and zest into your bowl of egg yolks, and then beat this into your risotto as energetically as you can. The risotto should be nice and relaxed and creamy. If it feels a bit too thick, whisk in a little more hot stock. (Rice retains a lot of heat, so you can relax and not rush to finish it off.) It should be creamy and slightly soupy, so if you think it’s too stodgy at the end, you can just add some more hot stock until you are happy with the consistency. Taste and season if you need to. However, remember that if you’re using store-bought stock, it may be very salty anyway, as is the Parmesan, so you may not need much salt.

Spoon the risotto into wide bowls and garnish with the reserved lemon zest and thyme. [Editor’s Note: Leftover risotto? One of our recipe testers forms the cold risotto into oblong little orbs of sorts, coats them in fine bread crumbs, and fries ’em up. Gotta say, we love that idea. And we think you will, too.]

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

I can’t find one thing I would change with this recipe. It’s very well written. I think even a novice risotto maker could follow these directions. It feels like the author is taking you by the hand and walking you through the steps of making this perfectly. I can’t complain about the end results, either, as my daughter and I agreed it tasted heavenly. We loved the brightness the lemon juice and zest gave, as well as the creamy texture that was helped along by the egg yolks (who’d a thunk it?) and Parmesan. Of course the onions, veggie stock, wine, butter, olive oil, and thyme led to some great flavor as well. We used Arborio rice, since that’s the only kind of risotto rice we can find here. I served it with a roasted turkey (wanted some leftovers for turkey pot pie later in the week and some turkey salad for my lunches at work), green beans, fries for the guys, cranberry sauce, and some biscuits. We’ll definitely be making this one again.

I agree with the author that risotto is one of the easiest ways to prepare rice. But even if you disagree, you can be assured of success with this recipe, thanks to the very detailed, well-thought-out instructions. And you’ll be rewarded with a risotto that’s bright and fresh, yet rich at the same time. The thyme adds the perfect herbal compliment to the lemon. This recipe makes a pretty big batch — we got six servings out of it. It was wonderful as a platform for sauteed shrimp. In the future, I wouldn’t hesitate to swap out the vegetable stock for chicken stock, or even a seafood stock, depending upon what I was serving with it.


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  1. This was waaaay too lemony for my family. Added some extra Parmesan and cream and was better. I’d just use one lemon if I was to make it again

    1. Thanks for letting us know, faith. Lemons can vary so much in size, juiciness, and flavor that it’s often tricky to tell just how potent they’ll be. That was very smart to mellow the flavor with additional cream and cheese, and a good trick to keep up your sleeve. We’d love to hear how it turns out for you next time with less lemon.

  2. Oh, boy! This looks so delicious. I’ve never made a risotto with egg yolk! I need to try this. Can’t wait — thanks so much for posting!

  3. Yum, I thought I’d like it and I did! Had to use some dried thyme as I discovered I was out of fresh just as I began cooking. Added it at the beginning of the cooking process instead of the end. Loved the lemony kick and I dare say this replaces sun-dried tomato risotto as my most favorite version. My 12-year-old daughter loved it as well and roasted some carrots to go along with the dish. Very satisfying dinner on a chilly night!

    Plate of lemon-thyme risotto with two seared carrots on top all on a marble counter

    1. Magnificent, Kristi! So incredibly happy to hear you and your daughter loved it as much as we do! We really appreciate you taking the time to let us know and look forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…

  4. Absolutely delicious! Pure, understated flavors that transport me to Italy. I have never been able to replicate this type of meal at home … until now. Thank you!

    1. Zoe, lovelier words have never been spoken! So glad to hear that you enjoyed your “trip” to Italy.

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