Barley Risotto

Barley Risotto


This month’s recipe is nothing more than a classic risotto. However, rather than using the standard arborio rice (or one of its short-grained relatives), we substitute with the whole-grain pearl barley. The substitution results in a delicious risotto with a pleasant texture and a higher amount of protein and fiber than the traditional version. The preparation is fairly simple, but it requires constant attention.  Under-cooking it will leave it raw and brittle, while over-cooking will result in a mushy consistency resembling oatmeal. You are looking for just a slight crunch. The recipe serves 8.


  •          2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  •          1/2 large onion, diced
  •          2 cloves garlic minced
  •          2 tablespoons olive oil
  •          1 cup pearl barley
  •          1/2 cup white wine
  •          4 cups vegetable stock
  •          1/4 cup Parmesan, Pecorino or Manchego
  •          1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  •          salt and pepper to taste


  1. Use the mushrooms of your choice. I generally like to do a mix of whatever is available – usually a blend of button, portabello, cremini and shitake.
  2. Bring the stock to a boil in a pot and reduce to low or turn off.
  3. In a separate large pot, saute the mushrooms and the onion in the olive oil at medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until soft and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and continue sautéing for another minute. Season the vegetables with a pinch of salt and pepper and add more olive oil if needed.
  4. Add the bulgur wheat, stir thoroughly to incorporate into the mushrooms, onions and garlic, and then add the white wine, stirring continuously until almost all is evaporated.
  5. Using a ladle, add the stock about 1 cup at a time. When almost all of the liquid is evaporated, add more while stirring continuously. The mixture should be neither dry nor soupy. Adjust heat as needed – a little more to reduce, a little less to keep from sticking or burning on the bottom.
  6. Once all of your stock has been used up, reduce the heat to low and begin tasting your barley. You should be about 20 minutes into the cooking process by now, and you want the risotto to be tender with just a slight crunch. If you are not there yet and you are out of stock, then you can continue with a cup of water.
  7. Add the thyme, cheese, salt and pepper to finish.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories: 165 / Fat: 4g / Saturated Fat: 1g / Carbohydrates: 26g / Fiber: 4g / Protein: 6g



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