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Pearl Barley Mushroom Risotto

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

Creamy and savory, using pearl barley adds a little more bite to this classic dish, and the addition of toasted pine nuts adds hint of crunch. You can substitute other vegetables as you like, but the combination of mushrooms, peas and asparagus means this dish makes your gut happy with a total of 9 plants. Using pearl barley also gets you double the fiber of Arborio rice and 4x as much protein!


Pearl Barley Mushroom Risotto

w/ asparagus, peas, and pine nuts

[4 servings]

1 ½ hours (30 min idle)



10 c. water

1 large carrot, cut in half

2 stalks celery, whole

¼ c. dried shiitake or porcini mushrooms

3 cloves garlic, whole

3 sprigs thyme, whole

1 tsp. Kosher salt


1 tbs. canola oil

1 shallot, minced

½ medium onion, diced

2 garlic cloves

1 heaped tsp. fresh thyme leaves

8 oz. mushrooms (cremini or wild), sliced if large, kept whole or halved if small

1 c. (dry) pearl barley

1/3 c. white wine or beer (lager)

1 c. frozen peas

1 c. asparagus, cut into 1” pieces

3 tbs. butter or plant butter

¼ c. grated parmesan or vegan parmesan

½ lemon


Toasted pine nuts (or walnuts)

Fresh thyme leaves

Chopped parsley

Lemon wedge

Meat accompaniments

Crumbled bacon

Salt and pepper seasoned pork, pan fried and sliced


  1. Put all broth ingredients into a large stock pot. Bring to a boil at high heat, then turn down to low. Simmer for 30 minutes. (If you’re short on time, use 8+ cups any broth or stock you have on hand: low sodium veggie, mushroom, and chicken broth work best).

  2. While broth is simmering, put barley in a medium sized bowl, cover with water and let soak. This will decrease cooking time for the risotto.

  3. When broth has simmered 30 minutes, strain vegetables from broth reserving mushrooms. Put broth back in the stock pot on the stove and leave at a very low simmer. Pull mushrooms from strained vegetables and dice small. Set aside. Compost or discard remaining vegetables.

  4. Heat oil in a wide, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and shallot, and sauté 3 minutes or until soft.

  5. Add mushrooms, turn heat to medium high and cook for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms begin to sweat.

  6. Add garlic and thyme and give a quick stir.

  7. Strain barley from the water it has been sitting in, and add to the skillet and cook for 3 minutes.

  8. Next, add white wine to skillet and cook while stirring until the wine is absorbed and you can no longer see it on the pan, about 4-5 minutes.

  9. Stir in enough broth to cover the barley, about 1-1 ½ cups depending on the size of your pan. Simmer over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until almost all the liquid is absorbed.

  10. Add 1- 1½ cups broth again, to cover the barley, and repeat process above, cooking and stirring until almost all the broth is absorbed.

  11. Repeat adding broth and cooking down 2 more times for a total of 4 additions of broth.

  12. After the 4th time broth is added and cooked down, add peas and asparagus and 1 cup of broth. Cook down again, until almost all water is absorbed.

  13. Finally, add butter (or plant butter) and cheese (or vegan cheese, you can also leave out entirely) and ½ c. more broth. Stir to combine and cook until creamy (about 5 min over medium low heat).

  14. Set aside for 5 minutes, risotto will start to get creamier and thicker as it rests.

  15. Taste, add salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon as desired.

  16. Garnish with your choice of toppings or meat.

Var så god!

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