Smoked salmon risotto with feta is an impressive dinner that isn’t as hard to make as you might think. Creamy Arborio rice features pockets of semi-melty feta and is topped with salmon slices for a flavorful main dish take on risotto.
Risotto is one of those dishes that I’ve always relegated to the special occasion or night out category. Which on the surface — makes sense! It tastes pretty luxe and it has a bad rap for being fussy and time-intensive.
And while yes, there’s a fair amount of stirring involved, it really isn’t overly complicated or finicky. And I mean…all the while your head is over the pot of olive oil/butter/onion/garlic/white wine/chicken broth/rice. There are worse aromas to have to hang around for a period of time.
I first made this particular smoked salmon risotto for Christmas Eve dinner for two at home, when my Italian heritage barely skated by with the feast of seven two fishes (the other being baked clam dip). In the years since, it has become one of our favorite date night at home dinners.
Reasons To Love This Recipe
- An extra source of protein transforms a sometimes side dish into a hearty main dish. Adding the salmon slices to the risotto at the end means you can add as much as you like and ensures leftover portions will remain fish-free for reheating.
- Classic risotto flavors get bumped up several notches with tangy feta pockets and smoked salmon. This recipe has a little of everything going on flavor-wise.
- There’s a built-in plan for leftovers! Risotto isn’t known to reheat well (let alone salmon risotto), but this recipe for leftover risotto cakes is a game-changer. Pan-fried or air fried, these cakes breathe new (delicious) life into leftover portions.
- Arborio rice: This variety of rice is essential for risotto. Arborio is a plump, short-grain rice variety that is very starchy. All this starch is what makes it thick and creamy once cooked, bringing that classic risotto texture.
- White wine: Go with a drier variety such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or Chardonnay as there’s no need for sweetness. And it doesn’t have to be a pricey variety at all, just something you may or may not enjoy sipping on while stirring.
- Parmesan: Parmesan you grate/shred yourself is my preference for the best flavor. You can find this variety in the deli section of the supermarket. Pre-grated from that area would be the next best. I do not recommend the shelf-stable varieties as they lack flavor and are dry. Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or other hard Italian cheese can be substituted in.
- Feta: Feta is unexpected in risotto but it provides salty/tangy bursts through that mesh well with the creamy richness. Since it’s not a full-melting cheese, you’ll hit pockets of it throughout.
- Smoked salmon: Use your preferred variety. I’m partial to a cracked pepper and garlic kind seen in these pictures, but you have room here to play as the rest of the flavors (barring the feta) aren’t exactly bold.
This salmon risotto recipe utilizes two saucepans: one medium-sized one for the broth and a larger one for the risotto. The first step is to bring the chicken broth to a simmer (not a boil). It’ll be added into the risotto pan bit-by-bit later on.
- To the larger pan set over low-medium heat, add the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter. Swirl them around the pan as they melt, then add the onion. Cook for three minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for another minute.
- Next add the dry, unrinsed Arborio rice to the saucepan and give everything a stir. Toast the rice for one minute.
- Now stir in the white wine and let everything simmer for a minute or two until absorbed.
- Here comes the broth: add approximately one-half cup of broth to the pan with the rice and stir until the broth as been absorbed.
- Add another half-cup of broth and stir until absorbed. And repeat, and repeat…
- And repeat…
Here’s a good time to say that you don’t have to stir until your arm falls off. Use a sturdy spatula or spoonula and focus on bringing up the rice that’s on the bottom of the pot so it doesn’t stick or get burnt, and move it all around. You don’t have to stir quickly, either. Just consistently. Basically you want to focus your efforts on the rice not sticking to the pot and keeping everything in motion.
And if you take a quick break to refill your water glass or close all the kitchen cabinets your dog managed to open while you were busy cooking? This smoked salmon risotto will be alright.
- Once all of the chicken broth has been worked in, you should have a pan of plain risotto that manages to be creamy yet not mushy.
- With the pan off the heat, add the feta, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and remaining one tablespoon of butter.
- Stir everything well until the Parmesan and butter are melted. The feta crumbles will not melt all the way. Serve immediately topped with smoked salmon slices.
- To easily estimate what four ounces (one-half cup) of broth is, measure the capacity of your ladle before beginning to cook. My ladle can hold two-thirds of a cup of liquid up to the brim, so I eyeballed a little less than that to estimate one-half cup. It doesn’t need to be ultra precise.
- Don’t rinse the Arborio rice. Rinsing this variety of rice would remove much of the starchiness we rely on to make risotto stick-together creamy.
- Stir with broad strokes, focusing on bringing up the rice along the bottom of the pot and working it into the rest. You don’t have to stir so quickly you make your arm sore, rather stir to keep everything in motion so it doesn’t have the opportunity to clump up and stick together. Stopping for a few seconds to get some water or quickly attend to something won’t bring the whole thing to ruin.
- I recommend topping the risotto with smoked salmon rather than mixing it in. That way you can add as much (or as little) as you please, or omit entirely for a serving if someone in your crowd doesn’t eat seafood.
Feta cheese does not melt that well, but gets soft and creamy around the edges. Semi-melty, if you will. That means that you will bite into tangy bursts of feta as you enjoy this smoked salmon risotto, which is quite alright with me.
Make sure your chicken broth is consistently at a good simmer as a lower temperature will impede its absorption by the rice. With broth temperature it’s better to go a bit higher than necessary than lower. Otherwise ensure you’re using enough chicken broth, have given it enough time, and are stirring well.
Risotto isn’t the best when it comes to reheating leftover portions as it thickens up considerably and loses its creaminess. That said, you can reheat it in a pan with a heavy drizzle of chicken broth, or use it to form leftover risotto cakes. It holds together VERY well to form a patty, which is then coated in breadcrumbs and pan- or air-fried for a seriously delicious appetizer or snack.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Smoked Salmon Risotto with Feta
- 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion finely diced (to yield a little less than 1 cup)
- 4 cloves garlic minced or pressed
- 1 ½ cups (270g) Arborio rice
- ½ cup dry white wine (4 oz)
- ½ cup (73g) crumbled feta, plus more for serving
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 oz smoked salmon, thinly sliced (more if desired)
- Pour chicken broth into a small-medium saucepan and set over low heat. Bring it to a low simmer. Keep an eye on it as you cook to make sure it stays simmering and well-heated.
- Add one Tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil to a large pot set over low-medium heat. Swirl the pan around as the butter melts, then add the diced onion. Cook onion for 3 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
- Add the dry Arborio rice to the pan and stir to coat. Toast the rice for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
- Pour in the wine and give everything a good stir. Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes until the wine is almost all absorbed by the rice.
- Add about a half-cup of the hot chicken broth to the pan with the rice and continuously stir until the rice has just about fully absorbed the broth. This will take several minutes.
- Repeat the above step, adding half-cup broth and stirring, until all of the broth has been added. Focus on stirring consistently (it doesn't have to be a fast stir) and bringing up the rice that's on the bottom of the pot and mixing it into the rest of the rice.
- Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the Parmesan, feta, salt, pepper, and remaining one Tablespoon butter. Once the Parmesan and butter have melted, portion out servings into bowls. Top with smoked salmon slices and extra feta and serve immediately.
- Do not rinse the Arborio rice! Doing so would remove much of the starchiness we rely on to make risotto stick-together creamy.
- When stirring, focus on bringing up rice from the bottom of the pan so it doesn’t burn/stick. You don’t have to stir quickly, rather stir consistently to keep the rice in motion. Stopping the stirring for a quick bit to do something brief like refill a water glass is okay and won’t ruin everything.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.
Base risotto recipe adapted from Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis (affiliate link). I love this cookbook for when I’m feeling like something Italian-inspired but don’t want to put in a lot of fuss or go traipsing off to the speciality Italian store for ingredients.