Creamy Mushroom Spinach Orzo

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This creamy mushroom spinach orzo is a fast, one-pot recipe for busy nights! It’s plant-based and features cashew cream in place of dairy. Spinach and mushrooms add texture and nutrition to the recipe.

A zoomed in photograph of a bowl of creamy mushroom spinach orzo, which is accompanied by a fork.

I made this creamy mushroom spinach orzo a couple of weekends ago, and I fell in love with the recipe right away. It was a welcome reprieve from my cooking slump!

The recipe is greatly inspired by Sheela Prakash’s one-pot mushroom and spinach orzo for The Kitchn. Prakash is an awesome recipe developer with a knack for Mediterranean flavors. She’s also got a talent for one-pot meals.

One-pot recipes are what I need and crave often these days. This orzo fits the bill. You sauté mushrooms until they’re tender and reduced in size, stir in orzo and liquid, and allow everything to cook. You’ll need to stir the orzo a couple of times: think of the mixture as being like a risotto (orzotto?).

Once the orzo has cooked through, it’s a creamy, satisfying dish that can be either a side or a main. To make it a more filling main, you can pair stir in some some chickpeas or white white beans. As a side dish, it’s lovely with baked tofu or balsamic tempeh.

No matter what, I can vouch for a generous sprinkle of cashew parmesan on top.

A white bowl with a pale brown rim has been filled with a mixture of small pasta and greens.

A creamy pot of orzo—without dairy

Prakash’s orzo recipe calls for milk as a simmering liquid. What makes this vegan mushroom spinach orzo creamy is the use of cashew cream.

I know that I probably overuse cashew cream in my recipes, but I just can’t help it. Nothing creates more luxurious texture or is as mildly flavored as cashew cream. Non-dairy milks are great, but they’re not always creamy enough for pasta or soup. Coconut milk is very creamy, but it’s a flavor that I only like in small doses. And from a nutrition standpoint, I like that cashew cream has less saturated fat than coconut milk or cream.

You can make cashew cream with either a food processor or a powerful blender.

Can I substitute cashew cream?

If you don’t have cashew cream, or if you have a nut allergy, I recommend a vegan creamer for this recipe. There are a lot of creamer options available these days, made from different bases. Choose one that’s unsweetened, so that the savoriness of the mushroom spinach orzo will shine through.

You can also use an equivalent amount of full-fat coconut milk or silken tofu “cream” (just silken tofu that’s been blended or processed till creamy).

Mushroom spinach orzo ingredients

Orzo

Orzo is the star of this recipe, of course. You can use whatever orzo is accessible and appropriate for you. If you avoid gluten, there are gluten-free orzo options available.

One thing to keep in mind is that orzo can vary in size and thickness. I like a traditional kritharaki that I buy locally. You can also find a spelt kritharaki online. These versions are a little smaller in shape than some of the Italian orzo I’ve used in the past, so they cook more quickly.

So as you simmer the orzo for this recipe, keep in mind that cooking times might vary. Keep tasting the orzo once you think it’s ready for the appropriate doneness. You’re aiming for al dente, but tender.

Mushrooms

I generally use sliced white or button mushrooms in my cooking, though I also love shiitakes. You can use white mushrooms, shiitakes, chopped portobello mushroom caps, or baby bella mushrooms in the recipe.

Shallot & garlic

I love the way shallots taste, especially in pasta. I chop up and use two for the mushroom spinach orzo. A small, diced onion would be a perfectly good substitute!

For garlic, feel free to substitute garlic powder if you’ve run out of heads of garlic. And, as with most of my recipes, you can feel free to add more garlic if you like (I tend to be conservative with it).

Spinach

I usually stock up on baby spinach in my grocery hauls, so that I can use it in both salad and hot recipes. But regular, chopped spinach will also work well.

In place of spinach, feel free to use another leafy green that you have. Chard and kale would both work really nicely in the recipe. So would broccoli rabe, which is one of my favorite dark, leafy greens.

Vegan broth

I keep both vegetable broth and vegan no-chicken broth in my pantry. I prefer the no-chicken broth for this recipe. Lately, I’ve been substituting Yondu for broth, especially when I run out of the latter. I love its umami-rich flavor, and it would be a good substitute for the broth in this creamy recipe.

Cashew cream

The creaminess of the creamy mushroom spinach orzo! All-purpose cashew cream is my go-to.

A white bowl has been filled with creamy, plant-based orzo and vegetables.

Optional additions

As I mentioned above, chickpeas and white beans would be good means of adding plant-protein to the mushroom spinach orzo. Diced, smoked tofu would also be nice, and so would a big scoop of cooked lentils.

I’d love to try this recipe with chopped, sun-dried tomatoes, crumbled cashew cheese, tofu feta, and pitted olives. It would also be fun to stir in additional veggies, like green beans or zucchini.

Storing leftover mushroom spinach orzo

The leftovers of the mushroom spinach orzo keep very nicely, but they tend to get a little gluey as they sit in the fridge. To loosen the orzo up before serving, simply place your portion in a pot, add a splash of broth (and a little extra cashew cream, if you like) and stir over low heat until the orzo is warm.

You can also freeze leftovers of the orzo for up to four weeks.

More one-pot creamy dinners

After I made this recipe, and as I was enjoying the leftovers, it occurred to me that I have a weakness for creamy, one-pot meals. Here’s a handful of favorites:

  • One-pot Italian quinoa & lentils
  • Creamy vegan skillet lasagna
  • Creamy cauliflower turmeric kale soup
  • Cauliflower corn chowder
  • Creamy Tuscan white bean kale soup
  • Creamy curried quinoa
A round, white bowl has been filled with orzo and spinach. It's resting on a bright white surface.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms (2 1/2 cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces orzo (about a cup)
  • 3 cups vegan no-chicken broth (substitute vegetable broth)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose cashew cream (substitute unsweetened vegan creamer)
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 cups  baby spinach (or chopped, regular spinach)
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice (to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • cashew parmesan cheese (optional, for topping)

Instructions

  • Add the olive oil to a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the shallots and mushrooms. Sauté, stirring every few minutes, for 8 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft and completely reduced in size. Stir in the garlic and cook for one more minute, stirring constantly.
  • Add the orzo, vegan no-chicken broth, and cashew cream to the pot. Add 1 teaspoon salt if you're using a reduced sodium broth, or 1/2 teaspoon if you're using regular broth. Bring the mixture to a boil. 
  • Cover the pot and simmer the orzo for 10 minutes, stirring every 3-4 minutes. After 10 minutes, uncover the orzo and stir in the spinach in handfuls. Continue to cook, stirring the pot every minute, for 5-8 more minutes, or until the orzo is tender and the spinach has wilted into the orzo. If you need to add a splash of extra broth to loosen the orzo up, you can do that.
  • When the orzo is fully cooked, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper. Stir, taste, and add additional salt, lemon, and pepper as needed. Serve.

Notes

Veganized from Sheela Prakash’s recipe, published in The Kitchn.
A bright white ceramic bowl has been filled with creamy, cooked small pasta and vegetables.

It’s no secret by now that I’m getting my bearings with cooking, after months of feeling at odds with it. I have no idea how long that process will take.

What I do know is that I made this orzo without thinking too much about it—I’d seen the recipe on The Kitchn at some point in the last few weeks and made a mental note to try something similar, veganized—and it surprised me with how simple and delicious it was. My mom was happily surprised by it, too.

Maybe it’s a sign of more easeful meals to come. I hope so, but I’ll be gentle with myself if not. And I’ll keep making orzo 🙂

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