Creamy Barley Risotto


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barley risotto in a green bowl on a dark wood table

Here’s the thing about barley risotto. I think I might be able to convince you to make it just because everything about it screams, “eat me – it’s almost bathing suit season”. This stuff is so healthy, you could have a big ole’ bowl of it and not feel the least bit guilty about following it up with a fistful (or five) of these dark chocolate raisins.

By the way – dark chocolate covered raisins? Where have you been all my life? (Obviously those Trader Joe’s beauties came to us via overseas care package – thank you, Kristin!)

But there’s another, and much more important thing, about barley risotto. It’s insanely good. Frank made a batch last weekend, and, though he said he was surprised at just how long it took to cook, his patience seriously paid off. The barley cooks down into a rich, creamy, starchy, satisfying bowl of goodness. Frank also reports that it boasts an enjoyable quality of requiring a glass of wine – some for sipping, some for cooking. (All cooking photos below taken by Frank!)

simmering risotto in a pan

Why use barley in risotto?

When made into risotto, barley also retains a slightly chewy bite, giving it that “al dente” quality that is so lovely in pasta, but I find hard to maintain when I make risotto using the usual aroborio rice.

uncooked barley on a wooden spoon

We never eat things twice in one week in our house. I have sort of a “so many recipes, so little time” thing happening here. But this risotto…we made it twice in one week.

barley risotto in a white bowl on a dark wood table

After Frank made it on Monday, I found myself craving it so intensely that I made it again over the weekend in a different variation you see up top.

If that doesn’t convince you to make some variation this week, I don’t know what could, but it certainly sold me on making this again very soon.

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Creamy Barley Risotto Recipe

This Creamy Barley Risotto is so healthy, you could have a big ole' bowl of it and not feel the least bit guilty about it.
Servings: 4


  • Stock Pot
  • Large Skillet


  • 6 cups Low-Sodium Vegetable Stock / Broth
  • 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 medium Onion, finely chopped (should measure about 3/4 cup)
  • 1.5 cups Pearled Barley
  • 1/2 cup Dry White Wine
  • 3 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cups Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving
  • Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper, to taste


  • Pour stock into a medium pot and bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.
  • In a large skillet, with deep sides, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the barley, stirring until all of the grains are evenly coated in olive oil. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it is nearly all absorbed.
  • Add 1 cup of the warm stock to the pan, and continue stirring, until the stock is nearly all absorbed. Continue cooking the barley this way, adding the stock a bit at a time and stirring frequently, until the barley is tender enough to eat but still has a slight chew, about 50 minutes.
  • Add any of the optional add-ins and continue cooking for a couple minutes, just until the ingredients are heated through.
  • Remove the dish from the heat and gently stir in the butter and cheese. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Serve immediately, with extra grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on the top.


Note: The finished risotto should be creamy but not soupy. I found that I needed to cook it for between 50 and 60 minutes, and used nearly all of the stock. If you run out of stock, simply keep adding water until the barley is cooked.
Based on Creamy Barley Risotto from Food and Wine, with variations as recommended in Barley Risotto with Beans and Greens from Smitten Kitchen and using tips from Mark Bittman.


Calories: 341kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 35mg | Sodium: 306mg | Potassium: 136mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 414IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 240mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $8.00
Calories: 341
Keyword: healthyish, risotto, vegetarian
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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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  1. Yum!! Risotto always reminds me of college dinners in the apartment 😉 And love the chocolate raisins shout-out!! I’m a little late in reading this bc I didn’t know you switched over to a new site. Love it!! Miss you so much, xoxo.

  2. I love, love, love barely risotto! I make mine w/asparagus and mushrooms!

    xoxo from Trinidad

  3. I love barley risotto! I started making it years ago after seeing Mario Batali make it on Iron Chef one time. Recently I tried making barley risotto with Belgian beer in place of the wine – because there is nowhere to buy wine after 3pm on a Saturday in Sweden and Belgian beer is what I had on hand – but it was really good! The beer really enhanced the nutty flavour of the barley.