Risotto is always a dish to impress and the best thing about this saffron risotto with shrimp is just how elegant it is. In fact, saffron risotto is considered one of the more authentic variations, and could likely be the actual first flavor of risotto in Italy!
This recipe, like all of the risotto recipes on this site, follows my perfect risotto method. This is the only way I make a risotto and continually earns rave reviews from everyone who tries it. Of course, the shrimp here is an add-on so you can leave it or use a different protein if you wish.
And if you are wondering if this dish will break the bank because saffron is expensive, don’t worry. You will only need to use a pinch to flavor and color an entire cup of rice. In fact, you’ll spend more money on the rice if you use a quality one recommended below.
How To Make A Classic Saffron Risotto
As mentioned earlier, there are a few rules I have when making risotto, and they may differ from what you’ve heard in the past. For example I use a 6:1 ratio of stock to rice since it makes the rice more flavorful even if it takes a little longer. I also substitute the dry white wine many recipes call for for a fortified wine like vermouth or Lillet (ideally).
- 175 grams Rice (1 cup) – You will need to use a proper risotto rice for this recipe. Arborio rice is the easiest to find, but I highly recommend Carnaroli if you don’t mind ordering it online.
- 3 tbsp Olive Oil
- 2-3 Shallots – Finely diced
- 250 ml Lillet Blanc – Or a dry vermouth if you cannot find Lillet.
- 1.5 Liters Chicken Stock (6 cups) – Homemade preferred, but if you must store bought will work in a pinch.
- 75 grams Butter – I recommend a European butter, or one with a fat content above 82%.
- 50 grams Hard Cheese – You can use Parmigiano, Pecorino, or any hard salty cheese you like. I’ve been using Gran Biraghi recently as it was on sale and tastes like other expensive cheeses (at least when used in risotto).
- Shrimp – I use 5 shrimps per person, so as this saffron risotto recipe serves 4 you would need 20 shrimps.
- Seafood Seasoning – Since the shrimp are just an add-on to the actual star of the show, I just used some Old Bay. You could use an Italian or Greek seafood blend if you like.
I like to use a large steel pan when making risotto. Not to worry, if done correctly nothing will stick at all! Heat up your pan on high until you get the Leidenfrost effect (that’s where the water beads up and hops around before steaming away). Then reduce the heat to medium and add the oil. Swirl it around the pan until the bottom is completely coated, then add the rice. Mix the rice around so each piece gets a nice oil coating.
Then add the shallots and stir them in.
After the rice gets nice and toasty add in the Lillet Blanc and stir it around. Because it is alcohol it will steam up quite rapidly so make sure you aren’t leaning directly over the pan when you pour it in.
You can’t have saffron risotto with saffron. And if you can’t find it in a store you can buy saffron online. I usually pick up a jar when I go to Turkey since Iranian saffron is the best in my experience, but that might be hard to find in America so Spanish saffron will do nicely as well.
As the wine begins to heat up and reduce add a pinch of the saffron to the rice mix. Yes, the photo above shows that I added a lot more than necessary. You really only need 5-10 threads – but the more you use the stronger the flavor and I think it’s worth it to go all out.
Next it is time to add the stock. Start with a half cup (125 ml) and stir the pan around until it is absorbed. Then add a quarter up (60 ml) at a time while stirring gently. Do this until there is about a half cup of stock left in your bowl.
By this point you will notice just how yellow your saffron risotto is becoming. You might find some people recommend adding a tiny squirt of tomato paste when making saffron rice dishes, but here you don’t need to do that. If you use high quality saffron (and enough of it) your final dish will be yellow as an authentic Spanish paella.
When you have a half cup of liquid left in the bowl, turn off the heat. Add the liquid and stir it into the rice. The pan will still be extremely hot so the rice will continue to cook, but you do NOT want to overcook risotto. It should spread slowly like lava. If you can mold it, or it stays in a mound then it is overcooked.
Add butter and let it completely melt into the risotto. Yes it might seem soupy but trust me when I say it will come out perfectly. There’s one more step and then you are done making this perfect saffron risotto!
Once the butter is melted add in your cheese and stir everything in. Voila! That is it. Now you can work on the shrimp portion of this recipe.
Toss the shrimp in a little of your chosen seafood seasoning blend.
Sauté the shrimp in a pan of butter until cooked through. This step only takes 20-30 seconds or so depending on your heat level as shrimp cook extremely fast. Remember, you don’t want the ‘O’ to close.
Finally you can plate your saffron risotto with shrimp. Spoon a bit of the risotto into the middle of your plate and let it spread naturally. Then top with 5 shrimp. I garnished here with a little flat leaf parsley but you can do whatever you see fit.
I also drizzled the final saffron risotto with shrimp recipe with a little parsley oil right around the edge of the plate. It absolutely does not need to be added when you make this yourself, it was just something I had on hand and decided to go for. Since it is visible in the photo it’s better to explain now than get comments asking why it is so oily.
How To Store Risotto Leftovers
The best way to store this shrimp risotto is to use an airtight container and place it in the refrigerator. I love using these deli style containers as they make portioning leftovers super easy, as well as being extremely useful for meal prepping.
To reheat just add a tablespoon or two of water and microwave until hot. You might need to stir the rice halfway through heating depending on how much there is and how high everything is piled.
Leftovers are fine for 2-3 days; After that the rice pulls away from the starchy sauce and you will end up with a dry, somewhat hard dish. So plan on eating the leftovers fairly quickly. Since this risotto recipe has shrimp involved, I would recommend not storing them as they will turn to rubber if you microwave or otherwise try to reheat them.
More Risotto Recipes You’ll Love
- Mushroom Risotto
- Lemon Asparagus Risotto
- Saffron Risotto With Duck Breast
- Chanterelle Risotto
- Rabbit Risotto With Confit Oyster Mushrooms
- Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Saffron Shrimp Risotto
- 175 grams Rice 1 cup – You will need to use a proper risotto rice for this recipe. Arborio rice is the easiest to find, but I highly recommend Carnaroli if you don’t mind ordering it online.
- 3 tbsp Olive Oil
- 2-3 Shallots Finely diced
- 1 pinch Saffron I used about 20-30 threads but you can get away with fewer if you must.
- 250 ml Lillet Blanc Or a dry vermouth if you cannot find Lillet.
- 1.5 Liters Chicken Stock 6 cups – Homemade preferred, but if you must store bought will work in a pinch.
- 75 grams Butter I recommend a European butter or one with a fat content above 82%.
- 50 grams Hard Cheese You can use Parmigiano, Pecorino, or any hard salty cheese you like. I've been using Gran Biraghi recently as it was on sale and tastes like other expensive cheeses (at least when used in risotto).
- Shrimp I use 5 shrimps per person so as this saffron risotto recipe serves 4 you would need 20 shrimps.
- Seafood Seasoning Since the shrimp are just an add-on to the actual star of the show I just used some Old Bay. You could use an Italian or Greek seafood blend if you like.
- Heat up your pan on high. When hot reduce to medium and add the oil. Swirl to coat the bottom. Add in the rice and stir it around. Add in the shallots and stir those around as well.
- When the rice has gotten nice and toasty pour in all of the Lillet (or other fortified wine) and let steam up. Stir the pan around until it is nearly evaporated.
- Add a half cup of stock and mix it in, then continually add a quarter cup at a time as the previous amount nearly evaporates until you have just a half cup left in your bowl. Turn off the heat and add the remaining liquid.
- Add in the butter and stir the risotto around until the butter is completely melted and incorporated. Then add the grated cheese and stir that in as well.
- Toss your shrimp with the seasoning blend and quickly saute (about 20-30 seconds) on high heat in butter or oil.
- Spoon some of the saffron risotto on a plate and let it naturally spread. Top with 5 shrimps and garnish with some parsley if you with. (I also drizzled around a little parsley oil, but that is entirely optional if you happen to have it on hand).