Pearl Barley Risotto with Mushroom and Spinach

After a bit of a crazy weekend I didn’t get a chance to post the last few days, but had already prepared posts. I’m going to go ahead and share one tonight and hopefully a few tomorrow to catch up, as I’d like to get back on track for the last few days of MoFo.

It’s cold and rainy and there’s a snow drift outside your door! What are you going to make using the ingredients you have?

For a long time, pearl barley was one of those things I would buy and it would sit at the back of the cupboard forever, until that first time I tried it. The nutty, chewiness is what I love, and the reason I think it makes a perfect risotto. We also pretty much always have spinach and mushrooms, as they are boyfriend bear’s favourite breakfast constituents and we seem to have an abundance of lemons always from housemates’ parents or workmates or even the yard down the road that we sometimes sneak into.

So even though we’re edging away from the cold, snow-at-your-door weather (okay, so we never get snow at the door), this is the perfect thing to cook in that kind of weather. Also great about risotto is that you can pretty much cook it using anything you’ve got on hand – veggies, herbs, spices. It always seems to work out filling, hearty and generally delicious.

Also, I took the ingredients over to my parents’ house to cook and even my dog wanted in on the action –

barley risotto2b

She knows what’s good!

Pearl Barley Risotto with Mushroom and Spinach
(serves 4-6)

1 Tbsp oil
1 brown onion, diced finely
1 leek, sliced
250g mushrooms, sliced
3 cups baby spinach
3 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cups pearl barley
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups hot vegetable stock
2 Tbsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
¼ cup flat leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
Salt and pepper

Heat oil in a pot over medium and add onion and leek, cooking for about five minutes until translucent. Add garlic and mushrooms and cook a further couple of minutes. Add pearl barley and cook for a minute, stirring constantly.

Pour in white wine and cook until it has mostly evaporated, a couple of minutes. Now start to add stock, one ladle at a time, and allow to gently simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed before adding the next ladle full. Continue to cook like this, stirring constantly, until all the stock has been absorbed.

Add lemon zest, juice, parsley, nutritional yeast and spinach and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with extra parsley.




  1. lysette says:

    More pictures of the pooch! She’s a red-heeler? I love pearl barley but am the same, keep forgetting it in the back of the cupboard. Love a barley soup but risotto is something I’ve never thought to do with it!

    1. littleveganbear says:

      Ha! Yes, she is! I will have to snap some more next visit with my folks, problem is she moves so much it is hard to catch her – haha. Yes, I need to think of more creative ways to use pearl barley – it’s such a delicious grain but definitely overlooked often.

  2. Joey says:

    Excellent synchronicity – I’m just making my way through a big bag of pearl barley. I don’t know why I don’t always have one on hand, given how much I really like the stuff. Spinach and mushrooms just go so well together.

    1. littleveganbear says:

      It really is delicious, isn’t it?! I need to start incorporating it in more meals because I love the texture and flavour.

  3. narf7 says:

    Another lovely barley recipe to tuck into the repertoire. I, too, love barley soup and you can make a most awesome thick and rib sticking stew with chunky veggies and barley. It also makes a really great addition to bread and pancakes (flour) and like buckwheat, gives your stomach something to think about for quite some time. Are you based in Tassie? It’s a great place isn’t it. We moved here from W.A. 8 years ago and love it. Cheers for the great recipe.

    1. littleveganbear says:

      Ooh I’ve never used it as a flour – what a great idea! I’m not in Tassie anymore – I’m from W.A too originally, then Melbourne, then Tassie for about 3.5 years, then spent a year traveling the country, and now back in Melbourne for a bit. I loooooove Tassie and would happily move there again some day. It’s so beautiful. Whereabouts are you living there?

  4. yessss my pearl barley was ALWAYS at the back of the pantry! Next to those soup mixes (with the lentils etc) that I’d see were years out of date. Love the photo bomber!

    1. littleveganbear says:

      EXACTLY! Those soup mixes!!!

  5. Caroline says:

    Poor pearl barley. I am also guilty of overlooking it too. whenever I do get round to eating it I love it though. Nice sounding recipe.

    1. littleveganbear says:

      It definitely gets left out a bit – it just seems a little uncool or something. Haha

  6. laurasmess says:

    The DOG SHOT! I am a sucker for puppy noses (and pearl barley, mushrooms and spinach… basically everything in this post). Like you, it took me forever to actually give pearl barley some proper respect and love. It always took lazy seconds (or thirds or fourths) to quinoa, brown rice, freekeh… pretty much every other grainlike thing in my pantry! I love it now though. And I’m itching to try your risotto! x

    1. littleveganbear says:

      I so don’t get many good shots of Ruby as she’s always moving so quickly, haha. I am so into dog photobombs. I am yet to try freekeh – I need to check it out! I really love the nutty flavours and different textures that different grains offer – I got some spelt the other day which was super yum. x

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