Wholesome Cook

Pearl barley ‘risotto’ with vegetables and chicken

I’ve always loved all types of cooked grains, but pearl barley has remained my favorite since childhood.

It may be because it’s slightly nutty and earthy in flavour, or because it has a lovely sticky consistency that goes oh so well with goulash, mushroom sauce or even as a breakfast cereal. The easiest way to enjoy pearl barley, and the most common, is in vegetable soup.

Barley also makes a good rice substitute in saucy Western dishes, with roasts or even in a risotto! Chicken thighs might be used to enrich the stock and add another, more meaty, dimension to the risotto for non-vegetarians. And if you prefer, add extra stock and turn it into an even lighter version and enjoy as a soup.

Studies have shown that barley helps lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels in the body long after the meal. It is also high in protein, fibre, essential vitamins and minerals, thus having barley for breakfast as you would oats or cereal with milk, is actually a very nutritious choice. Unfortunately barley contains gluten, which makes it unsuitable for those with a gluten intolerance.

Serves 4

Pearl barley ‘risotto’ with vegetables and chicken

Hearty vegetables and sweet broth-infused barley grains make this risotto a light and nutritious dish. Omit chicken and use chicken-style or vegetable stock for a vegetarian / vegan version.

{Printable Recipe}

For the ‘risotto’:

  • 4 cups salt-reduced vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1 carrot, cubed
  • 1 parsnip, cubed
  • 2 celery sticks, cubed
  • 2 waxy potatoes, cubed
  • 1 (220g) can of peas
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • (4 chicken thighs, cut in bite-size pieces, try to use organic or at least free range)

To serve:

  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley or dill, to serve

To make the ‘risotto’: place all risotto ingredients into a large stock pot. Bring to the boil and reduce heat. Simmer for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve: sprinkle with chopped parsley or dill just before serving.

Tip: to make this into a soup, add extra 2-3 cups of stock and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Simple cooked barley

  • 1/2 cup pearl barley (makes 1 cup cooked)
  • 1 cup water
  • Pinch of salt

Place barley in a saucepan. Add water and salt. Bring to the boil. Simmer for about 30 minutes. You can keep cooked barley in the fridge for 3-4 days and reheat in a saucepan or microwave as needed.

Heat and serve with hot milk and a spoonful of honey as a breakfast cereal, or with your favourite stew.


Heidi - Apples Under My Bed November 23, 2011 at 10:04 am

Pearl barley IS amazing, but I am still yet to cook with it! This looks gorgeous, so light and lovely :)
Heidi xo

Chopinand @ ChopinandMysaucepan November 23, 2011 at 10:19 am

Looks rustic and hearty. I’m thinking of a stew for this dreary weather :)

Apple @Polkadotsandchopsticks November 23, 2011 at 10:47 am

I’ve never tried pearl barley. I see it when I go shopping and I have that inkling it would be good but I never pick it up. I think I’ll have to give it a go, especially seeing as though it looks really easy and healthy. Yum!

Bam's Kitchen November 23, 2011 at 11:15 am

I love these one pot little wonders.

Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide November 23, 2011 at 11:42 am

This looks wonderful. I always use barley in bread and really need to try it this way.

raquel November 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm

this is recipe is amazing barley is a wonderfully versatile cereal grain with a rich nutlike flavor and an appealing chewy, pasta-like consistency .

saffronandhoney November 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm

I love pearl barley! I find it’s often overlooked but I really like the texture. This looks great.

Courtney November 23, 2011 at 3:51 pm

I do not think I’ve ever really had barley before… but this dish looks so good. And I know I’m a fan of risotto, so I probably can’t go wrong.

Mim November 23, 2011 at 5:35 pm

how wonderfully wholesome and hearty perfect for this cold november weather!

Lizzy (Good Things) November 23, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Yummy, I haven’t had barley for years!

rsmacaalay November 23, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Thats a colorful and flavorful risotto but I never tried barley yet in replacement for rice

JeannieRichard November 24, 2011 at 12:35 am

I’m keeping this in my recipe book!
Thank YOU :D

sportsglutton November 24, 2011 at 8:22 am

Oh man…this looks absolutely delicious!

sara (Belly Rumbles) November 24, 2011 at 9:50 pm

I think I need to add pearl barley to our diet, it is something I just don’t cook at home. Very healthy for you and tasty. Love a one pot dish and this one looks great, will be giving it a go.

Sissi November 26, 2011 at 7:19 am

What a lovely, creative risotto! Strangely, I never cook pearl barley and even less experiment with it, but I can imagine how excellent it can be in a risotto.

garrymoore November 26, 2011 at 5:32 pm

hi to all wholesomecook.wordpress.comers this is my first post and thought i would say hello to you all –
thanks speak soon

Ayden @ Himalayan Salt November 28, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I can’t remember the last time I had barley. Looks like a keeper

Healthy and Delicious Risotto Recipes | For Women September 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm

[…] Recipe […]

Top 10 Best Risotto Recipes - Top Inspired October 8, 2013 at 7:37 am

[…] Recipe and photo credit to wholesome-cook.com […]

HEALTHIER NOSHING | ambermarie November 15, 2013 at 5:13 pm

[…] I am cooking Pearl Barley Risotto with Chicken that Matthew will definitely not be eating- but it makes for a great leftover […]


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.