Sunflower Seed Risotto | Nutrition Stripped
Eat Well Apr. 10. 2018

Sunflower Seed Risotto

Apr. 10. 2018
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped® and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Sunflower seeds transform into a rice-free risotto along with 5 simple ingredients to create this earthy and unique dish.

Jesse and I went out for dinner here in Nashville about a month ago, to Catbird seat, which I highly recommend you make a reservation for far in advance if you’re coming to town. Usually, when we go out to eat, I know I’m going to have to get creative with my meal choices being that I can’t eat dairy or gluten and normally it’s fine, I can totally work around that. But, when it’s a fine dining restaurant I really want to experience the chefs take on recipes and enjoy them at their fullest — and during this one, I could! Everything I ate that evening was dairy free and gluten free, hence the inspiration behind this Sunflower Seed Risotto recipe.

The risotto is surprisingly creamy due to blending soaked sunflower seeds while cooking them with a mix of olive oil, onions, garlic, and vegetable broth that really locks in the flavor and creates a delicious alternative for those of you who are looking for a unique way to make risotto or want to add more plant-based protein and fiber into your diet. If you think about it, visually sunflower seeds resemble rice which is typically used to make risotto — both are small and tear-drop shaped except this risotto will have a bit of a crunch to it compared to traditional risotto where it’s very soft and creamy.

Sunflower seeds are incredibly mineral rich and contain vitamin E and other antioxidants which are great for helping the body fight free radicals that would otherwise damage our cell membranes, brain cells, and fat-containing molecules. Vitamin E also works to decrease inflammation which is the root cause of many diseases. The phytosterols in sunflower seeds also have been studied with lowering cholesterol and decreasing cancer risk. Sunflower seeds contain minerals, especially magnesium, shown to help reduce muscle aches, reducing blood pressure, preventing migraines, and reducing heart disease. Another key mineral in sunflower seeds is selenium, which helps the body support liver detoxification and cancer protection.

Granted, I was experimenting with this recipe for weeks at home before I wrote this to share with you, and I still can’t do it 100% justice that Catbird did, but I’m really excited about how it turned out, it’s delicious and I hope you try it!


Plant-based Protein:

Sunflower seeds are a good source of plant-based protein — in just 1 cup of sunflower seeds, there are roughly 25-28 grams of protein, along with fiber and healthy fats to keep hunger at bay.


Sunflower seeds are a good source of magnesium. Over 300 enzymes use magnesium for important processes like ATP and synthesizing DNA, RNA, and proteins. Our body contains about 25 grams of magnesium, over 60% of that amount of magnesium is found in the skeleton, 27% is found in muscle, 6% to 7% is found in other cells, and less than 1% is found outside of cells (1).

Healthy magnesium levels help us sleep better, contributes to healthy thyroid function, promotes healthy blood pressure and cardiovascular health, plays an important role in insulin sensitivity, and normal magnesium levels are linked to improved mental health. Magnesium deficiency can contribute to high blood pressure, muscle spasms, PMS, and migraine headaches, fatigue, and muscle cramps.

The Recipe

Serves 4



2 cups raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1 cup water

1 tablespoon ghee or olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt, adjust to taste
Black pepper, adjust to taste
2 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock


Step 1

Soak the sunflower seeds for at least 2 hours in filtered water with a pinch of salt, at room temperature. After 2 hours or when you’re ready to make the risotto, take 1 cup (or half of the sunflower seeds) and blend with 1 cup of water until creamy, set aside.

Step 2

In a medium saucepan, add olive oil (or ghee) onions, and sea salt and cook until the onions are translucent about 8 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook for about 3 minutes or until fragrant then add the whole sunflower seeds (remaining 1 cup), and 1/2 cup of the broth. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for 10 minutes, stir, and add 1/2 cup of broth for 10 minutes or until the broth has reduced, and repeat this process until all the broth (2 cups) is used. This process takes about 30-40 minutes or until the sunflower seeds are tender but have a crunch to them.

Step 3

After most of the broth is cooked off, add the blended sunflower seeds to the pot and stir until well combined. Adjust seasonings like sea salt and black pepper to taste. Finish with ghee or additional olive oil to taste.

Step 4

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil or a small teaspoon of ghee, sea salt, and fresh black pepper. If available, try black truffle oil or grated black truffles for a fancy flare. Store leftovers in an airtight glass container and reheat on the stove on medium heat or just until warm.

Making It?

If you make this Sunflower Seed Risotto, I want to see it! Tag us on Instagram @nutritionstripped #nutritionstripped and submit your own photos in the comment section below to have your photo featured on the blog. Happy cooking!


(1): Shils ME. Magnesium. In: O’Dell BL, Sunde RA, eds. Handbook of nutritionally essential minerals. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc; 1997:117-152

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