Easy Side Dish Recipe: Pan-Fried Risotto Cakes

January 19, 2020

Easy Side Dish Recipe: Pan-Fried Risotto Cakes

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A Request for Risotto

Our Musical Millennial came home from college last weekend and requested risotto again: “you know, Mom, the kind with parmesan and some lemon and mushrooms, and maybe even some broccoli?” Well, the Grill-Meister, is just shy of being a broccoli-hater, so I negotiated a compromise of asparagus. The main dish that night was cornish game hens done on the rotisserie outside, but the star of the meal was the risotto.

I can’t share my risotto recipe yet because I haven’t documented it, but it’s pretty straightforward, and if you wanted to make a similar one (so that you can use the leftovers to make this recipe!), the one from Epicurious is close.

Photo from the Epicurious Asparagus Risotto recipe

(My version of Asparagus Risotto has a little more kick too it: I use more wine, lemon juice and zest, sauteed mushrooms, shallots and colorful bell peppers, and red pepper flakes.)

But this post isn’t about the risotto, it’s about using the leftover risotto. I made a HUGE amount, and there were only three of us. The men did their best, and I think one of them may have even had thirds, but still, there were leftovers.

The Grill-Meister Suggested Risotto Cakes

Since we’re an empty nest these days, the Grill-Meister is my main eater, and he often makes great recommendations (requests) for recipes or food-based posts. The leftover risotto wasn’t even cold yet when he suggested that I make risotto cakes the next day. This was actually very timely, because I was getting down to business finally documenting the Microwave Hollandaise recipe, and I needed something to put it on! That’s kitchen serendipity, my friends, and it happens here often.

Risotto is Fabulous for Making Pan-Fried Cakes

There are tons of recipes on the internet for risotto cakes, many of which have you adding eggs, cheese and other ingredients. But my take on it is that if the risotto is already fabulous, there’s no need to mess with it. Our risotto was tasty – creamy and rich with parmesan, tart with the lemon, studded with asparagus tips…all I needed to do was shape it into patties, add some seasoned panko breadcrumbs and fry those babies up to an enticing golden brown.

Folks, that’s just what I did, and they were excellent! The crusty outside gave way to a warm, soft interior that melted on your tongue. The contrast in textures was just right, and the lemon and asparagus still provide a nice tart balance to the earthiness of the parmesan, rice and mushrooms.

I cooked the risotto cakes in two batches, serving a couple to myself for lunch to test them out with the hollandaise, making the rest that night to serve alongside blackened tilapia. The Grill-Meister was pleased with the results. 😇

Let’s Cook

Risotto patties waiting for breadcrumbs
The risotto patties, all ready to be dredged in the panko
The seasoned breadcrumbs, just before stirring, and the risotto cakes
Risotto cakes in breadcrumbs
Now covered in seasoned panko, they go into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes
Risotto cakes in skillet
My first batch, cooked inside in a Teflon skillet – oil splatters are everywhere
Risotto Cakes on Hollandaise
Risotto cakes with hollandaise sauce atop baby spinach for my lunch that day
Risotto cakes in a cast iron skillet
The rest of the risotto cakes, cooked that night in a cast iron skillet, outside

Pan-Fried Risotto Cakes Recipe

Serves 4-6


  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • about ten turns of freshly ground pepper, or 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 cups leftover risotto, chilled
  • about 3/4 cup vegetable oil

Cooking Instructions

Put the panko breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl or pie plate and add the rest of the seasonings. Stir to mix.

Shape the risotto into patties by scooping about 1/4 – 1/3 cup at a time (I use an ice cream scoop), patting them into a ball and then flattening to be about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick. Dredge each patty in the breadcrumbs, covering the edges as well, gently pressing in the crumbs. Put them on a small cookie sheet, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Line a small platter or cookie sheet with paper towels. Heat the oil in a skillet (preferably cast iron) to medium-high, and when the oil is hot, add the risotto cakes, being careful not to crowd them. Cook until they are golden brown, around 3 minutes on each side. Turn carefully to avoid breaking them. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the risotto cakes to the paper towels, let them cool slightly, and serve.

Risotto Cake On Grilled Peppers with Hollandaise
A single risotto cake on a bed of grilled bell peppers, with hollandaise sauce

Recipe Notes

  • When you’re making risotto, make extra! Then you can have this yummy and super-easy dish the next day.
  • To make this recipe even easier, you can use already-seasoned panko. I don’t because I like to control the spices, but it will work just fine.
  • Be sure to get the oil in the pan hot before adding the risotto cakes.
  • Be ready for oil splatters.
  • The risotto cakes are a great side dish, but would also be a good vegetarian luncheon, served with or atop a light salad or alongside a cup of soup.
  • As shown above, risotto cakes are great with hollandaise sauce (see my microwave recipe here), but the Grill-Meister says they need no condiments or adornment.

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