Inspirational Sunflower Seed Risotto

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Inspiration is a perplexing creature. As someone who relies on a constant stream of ideas to do what I do, having an endless supply is rather essential.

Of all the questions I am asked, the most common of them all is where my inspiration comes from.

The funny thing about this is, I can’t really give a straight answer because I get ideas from everywhere. Literally. Yes of course there are the obvious places like cookbooks, the farmer’s market, my vegetable garden, but I’ve had ideas strike me like lightening while listening to music, smelling a certain scent wafting on the breeze, the colours in a particular vintage dress. My main motivation for writing a cookbook actually came from a postcard I found randomly, which pictured a faceless girl picking wildflowers. Nothing to do with food. At this point I’ve learned that the most important thing for me is to put myself in the way of beauty as often as possible, keep an open mind, and not do discount any sources or ideas as weird, because the best things most often come out of the seemingly strange.

I will say that one thing that consistently brings me a lot of inspiration, is just talking to other people who really love food. Sometimes getting out of my head and into someone else’s, or at least hearing about their experience with a particular dish or special ingredient can help jumpstart a flood of ideas. For instance, the last time I was in Amsterdam teaching cooking classes, one of the attendees came up to me at the end of the day and told me about a very exciting meal she had eaten in Copenhagen, of all places. It was a risotto made out of sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds! At first this sounded totally bizarre, but then again, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this seriously inspiring idea ever since. I knew that sunflower seeds were about the same size and shape as grains of rice. They were nearly the same colour. But how would they taste? How would they become creamy? What is it like to boil them?

When I googled it, all the recipes called for a pressure cooker, which makes sense for those that aren’t familiar with the awesome power and health benefits of soaking. I knew that that spending the day in a warm bath would make the sunflower seeds totally relaxed and willing to tenderize in a sultry spa of caramelized alliums for dinner that evening. Also, I don’t own a pressure cooker.

So setting out to make this, I anticipated a week’s worth of trial-and-errors, a pile of dirty dishes and a lot of semi-edible sunflower seeds. But I treated the seeds very much like I would treat rice in a risotto and after one (one!) attempt, it was pretty darn near perfect. And pretty darn inspiring.

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To say that this recipe is totally surprising is an understatement. The sunflower seeds are tender and chewy, with just the slightest bit of tooth still left – not unlike the real deal. It’s remarkably simple to make with just a few common ingredients, truly delicious and deeply satisfying. You can make it suit any season as the seeds create a foundation to build upon no matter what time of year you’re enjoying. Since we are finally getting some lovely fresh spring produce here in Denmark, I chose to go that route. I found some beautiful young rainbow carrots, peas in their pods, white and green asparagus and some super fresh watercress. This would be equally lovely with sautéed mushrooms, roasted root vegetables, pumpkin or squash.

I am sure you’re wondering how the seeds get creamy from cooking, and the truth is they don’t – you’ll need to help them out a little. When cooking a rice-based risotto, starch emerges from the grains as they cook, and magically melds with the broth to create a velvety texture. To mimic this I simply blended some of the soaked seeds with equal parts water and added it back into the mix at the end of cooking, the results astounding. This makes the risotto rich and creamy without any starches or carbohydrates.

But what shocks me most of all is how darn flavourful the dish is with such minimal ingredients. The caramelized onions and garlic are really all you need (in this dish, as well as life, I wager) although herbs would be a welcome addition; dried ones during cooking or fresh ones stirred in at the end. My version uses watercress as a finishing touch and is totally lovely with its peppery bite, but I will leave the brilliant blank canvas for you project your own inspiration on to.

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Everyone Loves the Sunflowers
Easy-to-find, inexpensive, and nutrient-rich, sunflower seeds are one of my favourite additions to a number of dishes that I make, from breakfast to dinner and snacks in between. They are delicious toasted or soaked, blended up into seed butter or even milk!

Sunflower seeds are one of nature’s highest sources of vitamin E, the body’s primary fat-soluble antioxidant. Vitamin E is important for overall health, as it functions as a free-radical neutralizer and prevents damage to fat-containing structures and molecules, such as brain cells, cholesterol, and cell membranes. When the fats in cell membranes become damaged, the function of the cell itself can be compromised. This is why researchers have studied whether diets low in Vitamin E are associated with many diseases associated with aging.

Sunflower seeds are so high in vitamin E, that just one serving of this risotto contains over 100% of your daily recommended intake!

Because sunflower seeds have such a high (and healthy!) fat content, it is best to store them in a tightly sealed glass container in the refrigerator. Keeping them cool will help preserve their delicate, nourishing oils, which can then in turn nourish you! They will also last much longer stored this way. If you purchase shelled sunflower seeds in bulk make sure to sniff the bin first: it should smell fresh and nutty, without any traces of sourness, which can indicate that the fats have become rancid. And always have a good look at the seeds to ensure that they are not discoloured or damaged.

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Where do you get your inspiration from? How does it come to you? What have you been inspired by lately? Tell me! Especially if it’s about food…

Wishing you an inspired day! Love always,
Sarah B

105 comments

  1. Jay

    I’m confused by the wording “Blanch the vegetables in the same pot of salted water”.

    Which pot of salted water? If I follow the earlier instructions there is only a pot full of sunflower seed risotto. Am I supposed to put the vegetables in there? Or am I supposed to take out the risotto an add water instead? Really confused.

  2. Nadeen

    Hmmm – I have just this week turned to Vegan eating and stumbled across this recipe. Although I hate sunflower seeds (they give me stomach cramps), I do see the value in their nutritional content. But perhaps if the seeds are cooked, they will be easier to digest. Only one way to find out! I am going to try this out, but to get the creamy sauce, I am going to mix in some home made hummus. Its my favourite thing to do with vegan stews at the moment. Here I go…..

  3. Imogen & Thomas

    DELICIOUS!!! We just enjoyed this amazing dish and we LOVED IT!!! It is truly the BEST RISOTTO we have ever eaten! And I, Imogen, was in my non-vegan days a real risotto maniac, everything with cheese and so on … I am thankful for this delightful “eating”-experience, so easy to make and so satisfying.

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  5. jaime / the briny

    i have been all about some sunflower seeds lately, mostly by way of making milk with them and throwing the pulp in all kinds of things. i’m convinced they’re a little bit magic, and this creative risotto is cementing that for me! i’m so glad you shared it. you’re a special kind of awesome, sarah — thanks for doing what you do!

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  7. Joelle

    I made this tonight with roasted mushrooms and sauteed chard and it was delicious. It was too salty though! That might have been my vegetable stock or maybe I didn’t rinse the seeds well enough. Either way, we both loved it and it will be a keeper (with less salt). This was my first try of one of your recipes and I’ll definitely be back for more. A fellow Canadian recommended your site. So glad he did!

  8. kathy Mac

    I can’t wait to make this! I saw it on a restaurant menu and thought, Hmmmm. I’m going to do a wild mushroom ragout on top

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  10. Margaret Tuite

    I made this yesterday for a dinner party and it was delicious, along with the beluga lentil salad recipe. And easy to make. It is elegant, tasty and nutritious and adaptable according to seasons. Superb. Thank you for the lovely recipes and the great cookbook. Keep them coming! I’ve made the beluga lentil salad with cashew yoghurt tzatziki also and it is very good.

  11. Anita

    I just made this and wow I must say it was incredible! I’m not going to lie I did add some parmesan to the mix but that’s just due to my pure love for cheese…. even without the flavours are all still amazing. Thank you as always 🙂

  12. Amy

    Hi Sarah,

    I made this last night and it was beautiful – thank you for your inventive and delicious food 🙂

  13. Kate

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was absolutely amazing!! I cannot say how awesome it was! So tasty and a great winter’s night meal. I even got my sister hooked, who is very skeptical on trying new things! Thank-you so much for sharing such nutritional and delicious recipes!!!

  14. brainfeed.me

    this looks absolutely gorgeous! i cannot to incorporate this recipe to my list of recipes! being this dish a brain booster it will perfectly match the others! thank you!

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  16. Brenda Bradshaw

    Hi, Sarah! Thanks for another AWESOME idea!! I will be making this soon. I have a challenge for you. I once enjoyed tacos at a raw vegan restaurant in Paoli, PA, which used sunflower seeds to make the taco “meat”. It was absolutely AMAZING!!! Could you play with this a bit to post your version of the same thing – sunflower seeds as crumbled “hamburger meat” for recipes?? If anyone can do it – YOU CAN! Thanks, Brenda 🙂

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  18. Agnes {Cashew Kitchen}

    This truly is inspiring! 😀 I had no idea sunflower seeds could work so well in a risotto. If I haven’t seen your recipe I probably would never have tried it. I find that sunflower seeds sometimes can taste quite bitter, but the soaking and slow cooking probably does the trick 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
    Best,
    Agnes

  19. Jasmin

    You are absolutely right, Sarah – everybody love sunflower seeds and I’m not exception. I will have to try this recipe asap, it’s so tempting…

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    • Krissy

      Sarah got the idea for this dish from someone else who ate it in a restaurant if you read the post. She didn’t invent this dish so why do you assume that blogger stole it from her? And the bread is a popular Danish bread so again not an exclusive Sarah recipe. Me thinks you protest too much.

  21. Jennifer

    Food in itself is comforting, but your Sunflower Seed Risotto really nailed it. I just love it when a dish warms not just the tummy but our hearts as well. The name says it all, this dish is pretty inspirational!

  22. Katie

    Oh my goodness me! I just made this and it was absolutely stunning. Sunflower seeds in a risotto – what a revelation! Thanks for sharing this wonderful dish and your inspirational notes. The pictures are beautiful. I used broad beans, asparagus and carrots plus a sprinkling of fragrant lemon thyme – it was one of the tastiest bowls that I’ve eaten this year.

  23. Anneke

    This recipe is amazing, I nearly licked my plate clean:) it was sooooooo GOOD! And totally satisfying – I’d prefer it over real risotto any day! Thanks a million Sarah, only you could come up with something this genius and well balanced!

  24. Charlotte

    Hi Sarah,
    My mum and I made this last night and are both now in love with this recipe. I can honestly say that it was the best meal I have ever eaten.
    You are so amazingly creative! My mum really enjoyed meeting you a few months ago, and you signed your book for me with the loveliest message – it was the best engagement present, so thank you.
    I enrolled in a course in nutrition yesterdsy, so this celebration dinner was the perfect end to a very inspiring day for me. Keep the inspiration coming!
    Charlotte x

  25. Janey

    I think I’m gonna love this recipe for sunflower seeds. It’s really nutritious and light on the stomach. Thank you for sharing this recipe, I can’t wait to make one in my kitchen.

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  27. Jane

    Hi Sarah! I’m still getting over the overwhelming awesomeness of your quinoa risotto . Can not wait to try this! I’ve literally been cooking my way through your book and have never enjoyed being in the kitchen as much since receiving it. What an amazing work of art; truly a beautiful gift ! Thankyou from a serious and grateful admirer.

  28. Mona

    Just made this risotto tonight even though my boyfriend and I are not normally a fan of risottos, but this version with sunflower seeds was absolutely delicious. Thanks Sarah for sharing such inspirational ideas!

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  31. Ramona

    Just finished cooking this recipe and had to write a comment to you because it is absolutele delicous!!! Thank you

  32. Lori

    Made this last week for all the family and it was a delicious. Everyone was shocked to hear it was made from sunflower seeds. I topped it with green asparagus and shelled edamame.

  33. Sara

    After recent trip to OHI-San Diego, CA (full-on cleanse) I increased my raw intake maybe 25%… following their diet guidelines w. sunflower seed/sesame seed based recipes this fits right in! so happy, look forward to trying this! My latest inspiration was with sesame seed milk: I combined it w. leftover wild rice, decaf coffee, dates, honey, stevia, carob for a yum pudding… with good ingredients already in kitchen I find it’s becoming way easier to make food up. My pudding isn’t perfect… but I devoured it 😉

  34. Simone | Simone's Kitchen

    Ah there it is! After your enthusiastic story of the sunflower risotto I had to check the recipe of course. It was really lovely to meet you this week and taste all the great food. You’re a true inspiration! And I’m definitely gonna make this!

  35. Berta

    This is not going to be very helpful to you, but for me it’s been your cookbook! I’ve glanced/read through it three since I got it two weeks ago and each time it fills me with energy and ideas to create food that will nourish me and anyone of family and friends not afraid to try it!

  36. Jessie Snyder | Faring Well

    YOUR COOKBOOK. I cannot tell you what a source of inspiration it has been for me to try new things, or similar things in different ways. Just incredible. I also love looking at restaurant menus to get ideas for dishes, those are always inspiring! <3

  37. Maike

    Wowsers, thanks much for that input! I am currently living on sundflower seeds since they are the less expensive seeds that you can get here in Namibia. So this is what inspires and tickles the creativity – tight budget and yet making some amazing wholesome tastebud-pleasers. Guess the risotto is on the menu this weekend!

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  40. Eve

    Very excited to try this, as I am excited to try all of your recipes. I’ve been glued to your cookbook since it’s arrival. I actually squealed like a pre-teen girl at her first boy band concert when I saw it on my doorstep. I then proceeded to do random dances throughout the day, in anticipation for my baby to be in bed and for me to dig in. Anyway, it’s totally awesome. But you know that. I am planning my engagement party for the fall and your book has been huge inspiration. What is more inspiring than the seasons themselves? That being said, I am often, often, often inspired by memories. Certain tastes and textures take me back to my childhood ALL THE TIME. I’m always saying “This tastes like… or this reminds me of…” And then I usually take that memory, morph it and create it into something that more suits my lifestyle these days.
    Happy Day Sarah B, you rule the most. 🙂

  41. Eileen

    Wow, what an inspired idea! I would never have thought to try a risotto using sunflower seeds like this. Definitely going to have to give it a try!

  42. Molly Collins

    Two weeks ago I got married, and we did all the food ourselves. My inspiration usually comes from colors of food, actually. The taste is (usually) a great surprise! So for our wedding we pulled inspiration from a movie we both liked (Chef), from your blog (!), Pinterest, the season, and then the wonderful colors we saw at the market. Our appetizers were fresh fruit skewers, raw veggies with yogurt/dill dip, and beet pickled eggs (so beautiful!). Our main dish was cubanos, with homemade potato chips (very very laborious but worth it in the end), marinated mango salad with rose petals (your recipe – quite loved by all the guests), and a large green salad with lemony fiddle heads, purple cauliflower, pickled rhubarb, spiced pecans and edible flowers with papaya poppy seed dressing. The dessert was made by my sister in law – raspberry rhubarb hand pies. We got so many compliments and everyone LOVED the food. It made my heart sing to see everyone’s plates full, everyone laughing, drinking, and relaxing. It was truly an inspired event, not just a meal, and it has inspired me to get back in the kitchen and keep doing what I love. 😀

  43. Becky

    Love the recipe! I was wondering if you had a kombucha recipe and if so could share the secrets behind making some great kombucha.

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  45. Nina

    Dear Sarah, thank you so much for this amazing recipe. I’ve already tried it, together with rose champignons, it was a dream! And of course very inspirational, like all your recipes. My biggest source of inspiration are my memories, back to the small kitchen of my grandmother and all her wonderful meals. Greatings from Hamburg, Nina.

  46. Stephanie

    Wowza.
    I just made this using porcini mushrooms, leek & spinach. FREAKING DELICIOUS. I also added a splash of apple cider vinegar in the cooking as my ‘white wine’ and it really lifted the dish. Yum. Thank you.

  47. Hoody

    I made this today!! I think haveing a good vege stock is key, I used the thermomix vege stock recipe.
    I added oven baked carrot and beet strips, pan fry thyme mushrooms, parsley instead of watercress and slices of preserve lemons. I wouldn’t use the sunflower cream next time as I found all the flavour of the vege stock is lost. Your such an inspiration SB.

  48. Caroline

    Hi Sarah! Can I just say that I love you!? Seriously, I have never made a comment, or maybe once or twice a couple years ago, but it’s high time I say something right and proper. Because your recipes and your stories and all the information you share, and of course your photos, inspire me so much. I have been a food blog addict for a good number of years, and yours is by far the best one out there, in my opinion. Anyway, I am amazed by what you do- I am in the process of trying to heal my leaky gut, which means my beloved risotto isn’t really an option. I am SO excited to try this recipe, my mind is honestly blown. Of all the creative ideas I have seen, this is truly brand spanking new. Cauliflower rice is so yesterday! Anyway, I love your enthusiasm and passion, it shines through everything you do, and your advice of putting yourself in the way of beauty is so spot on. Thank you for inspiring me. I’ve decided to start a food blog of my own- who knows if it will be any good, but following you over the years has made me realise that my little hobby of playing around in the kitchen is actually the thing I get most excited about, giddy really, and it would be foolish not to do something with it, or at least to try. So thank you for just putting yourself all in and out there, because it has inspired me to stop thinking and start acting, for the first time in my life. Also, I have to say, I love your cookbook. Seriously, I am kind of a food blog nerd, and I know that lots of other bloggers have had book deals, but I am convinced that yours is by far the most creative, and is manifestly the result of years of passion and hard work. So I just thought I’d put that out there. I’ve always shied away from comments sections, social media, etc, but I had an epiphany a little while ago, that it is actually a wonderful thing to share things with the world, and you have been so busy sharing all this time that it’s high time I said something back, because I’ve been learning and inspired by you for a very long time. To me, you’re kind of like a pop star. Honestly. Okay. I am also a grown woman with children, so it’s now time for me to go back to acting serious and stop gushing…. :P. But seriously, lots of love from a big admirer, Caroline.

  49. Jane

    hi Sarah

    I love your work, and your book. What an amazing idea this is.

    Last year I had the most amazing lunch at 11 Madison Park in Manhattan, and one of the dishes was a whole sunflower, which had been scraped, and its petals removed, and it had been (I think) poached and then shallow fried. It was served with a sorrell sauce. It blew my mind, it was nutty, and filling like a root vegetable. You should try it maybe. xo

  50. Jo Davies

    So excited! Have had sunflower seeds on my mind for two days and now I know why… I’m so looking forward to making this. Gorgeous writing and photography, thank you for your inspiring posts xx

  51. Hannah

    Wow what an unusual but delicious idea! I’ve been hankering for risotto lately but not the arborio (it’s Winter in New Zealand and a warm risotto is so comforting). Dinner tonight: sorted.

  52. Tarin Lindsey

    Wow it is a nice day for me with this natural health post with this lovely recipe.Your Sunflower Seed Risotto is so yummy with this heavenly combination of fresh sunflower . It looks delicious and nutritious and I love it. All I can say, this is totally perfect and for sure my family love this. I cannot wait to try and taste this . Feeling excited to serve this. Thanks for your blog. Excellent!

  53. Joanna

    My 2 year old son has many, many allergies (he has a list of foods he can eat rather than ones he can’t) and sunflowers is one of his foods! I am thrilled to see this inventive recipe. Thank you for all of your creativity and hard work.

  54. Joy

    Mind – blown. Genius! Do you think this would still work with barely sprouted sunflower seeds (just starting to grow a root tail)? Thanks for sharing this awesome recipe. Got your cookbook too… which is Epic.:)

  55. Dani

    Ahaha, I bet that place in Copenhagen was Relea! I went there last summer with my husband and we had dinner there on our wedding anniversary and guess what I had?! 😀 Since then I´ve been thinking about how the heck they made this sunflower risotto so unbelievably delicious! Well, now I know. Thank you!

  56. Katie

    “Put myself in the way of beauty”….so inspiring. And this is a plant-powered dish if I ever saw one! And it’s genius to blend some of the sunflower seeds and mix back in to create creaminess.

  57. Gunhild

    Inspiring!! I’ve read that sunflower seeds contain a lot of cadmium, and therefore should be avoided in large amounts. What are your opinion on this?

  58. Danielle

    Question: when soaking the sunflower seeds, what do you mean by “pure” water?

    Looks delicious and I can’t wait to try it! Keep up the good work!

  59. Moran

    Wow! I can’t even remember when I saw such a unique idea!
    So much fun stumbling upon such creative cooking. Thank you as always.

    Moran

  60. lynsey | lynseylovesfood

    Wow. Totally inspirational. I find sometimes I sit in amazement over recipes I find on the web, pin them, and just adore them from the screen but never actually make them. I am so intrigued by this, I cannot let this happen here. Thanks for sharing Sarah. xo

  61. Ingrid - For the Love of Pie

    Hey Sarah,

    What a nice article. I really liked it. I draw my inspiration often from Instagram, Pinterest, but also from products I see at the market, or at parties for instance. Just like you, everywhere. I have a notebook with me at all times to write ideas down. In case I forget it again ;). Hope to see you this week in Amsterdam!

    Love,
    Ingrid

  62. Marieke

    Oh, it looks so creamy! I love love love risotto, so I’m definitely going to try this. I’m also very excited about your cooking session tomorrow!!

  63. Steph

    What a great idea! Sarah you constantly inspire me and amaze me with everything you make and it’s exactly why I have always loved following you! Sure there are many ways to eat more healthy and make better alternatives but if I’m looking for inspiration for completely different ways of eating the things I always eat, you are the girl for it! Can’t wait to try this one out, thank you 🙂

  64. Catherine

    Well another great post! I gave your book as a present to two of my friends here in Brisbane as I just couldn’t keep you a secret anymore. You’ve been a source of inspiration for the last 8 years since living in Australia! Just helping me introduce little changes to our breakfast (your Chunky Chocolate Buckwheat Granola is made every week as a batch to get us through the mornings, even our 12 year old son trades his toast in now for this chocolate superbreakfast) and lunch and dinner and snacks…..you name it, I look at your blog for inspiration to bring great nutrition into this growing family with two growing boys!
    THANK YOU! I love the great nutritional insights you bring as well! Keep up the great work! Hugs Catherine

  65. La Torontoise

    Sarah, love white asparagus; what a recipe! I have all those ingredients organic, from my farmer’s market; will do it for the family tonight.
    Greetings!

  66. Joana

    Sunflower seeds instead of rice, what an amazing idea! My inspiration comes from bloggers like you and also from IBS related food restrictions that push me further into creating vibrant and nurturing recipes. This way I can eat and share healthy and beautiful food that will also play a big part in healing and controling my IBS symptoms. Thank you for inspiring us! 🙂

  67. Barbara jacops

    Oooooh my gooood!!!!! Sarah!!!!!!! It was me, your sunflower seed risotto freak!!!! Oooh my!!! I cant believe this!!! Love the fact that you have tried this!! Especially now! Talk about timing!;-) I am seeing you tomorrow!!! Crazy how the world works!!! Gonna give this recipe an immediate go!!! Xxxx

    Ps: i let them soak and sprout and then i place them in my steaming machine!!! Just like delicious popcorn!!!

  68. Madeleine

    Think I might try this tonight 😉
    It’s been quite a while since I cooked risotto, but I remember that parmesan cheese has always been a key component to a good risotto, do you think it would work well with the sunflower seeds?

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