Cherry & Apple Risotto: a Jazzy Holiday Dish for your Gluten-Free Loved Ones

With the holiday rush, I like to work with side dishes that celebrate the season and are naturally gluten-free (and free and easily tweaked to eliminate many other allergens.  This dish should have many ingredients any home would have on hand for the holidays (except maybe dried cherries) and goes well with a variety of dishes.

I love risotto, I post about it a lot, but it is a great alternative to pasta and is naturally gluten-free.  Most people have risotto in their pantry and don’t need to hunt around for a gluten-free pasta to welcome their food allergy guests to the table.

Though this dish contains fruit, I tried to put a hearty and savory spin on it with a little heat via chili flakes.

This can easily be made vegan by using water or vegetable broth (I suggest water given the cherries and veggie broth may not work that well together).  I served this with sugar-snap peas, but grilled zucchini, mushrooms or eggplant go perfectly with this dish.

If you are a meat lover, I suggest pairing this dish with duck or a pork loin rubbed generously with a nice cinnamon-based rub.


1 cup risotto rice

3 cups chicken stock

½ cup white wine

½ large onion

2 large cloves garlic

½ cup dried cherries, chopped

½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (try using pumpkin seeds if you are allergic to tree nuts)

2 small or 1 large apple(s), diced (I use a firm apple, like a Cortland or a Granny Smith, as McIntosh apples tend to break down and turn to apple sauce during cooking)

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

olive oil

a few dashes of chili flakes

salt and pepper to taste

I recommend measuring and chopping everything before you begin cooking.  Risotto needs a fair amount of attention.


Left: prepping the onions Middle: when the risotto is ready for a new addition Right: prepped ingredients ready to throw in the pan

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add a little olive oil and one tablespoon of the butter.  Add the onions and garlic, cook for a few minutes, until soft and translucent.

2. Add the risotto rice.  Cooking, stirring constantly until the rice is translucent around the edges.  Then add the white wine.  Stirring frequently, allow most of the liquid to be absorbed by the rice before starting to add the stock.  Add the chili flakes.

3. Add the stock in ½ cup increments, allowing each addition to be absorbed by the rice before adding the next increment.  You don’t have to stir constantly, but you do need to keep your eye on the risotto and make sure that you are stirring regularly.  The rice is ready for another addition when you pull your spoon through the mixture and the space is not filled immediately by the risotto. 

4. After the first ½ cup of stock has been absorbed and you are adding the second increment of stock, add the apples and cherries to the mixture.

5. After all the stock has been added and the risotto is soft: add half the walnuts, half the green onions, the remaining butter and the Parmesan cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

6. As you plate the portions, sprinkle the remaining walnuts and green onions over each portion.

This recipe serves four generously as a main dish or six side dishes.


This risotto pairs well with a lot of dishes, but I recommend adding some heat to any accompaniment, to balance the natural sweetness of the cherries.


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