Try Something New: Barley Mushroom Risotto

Roast tenderloin, steamed asparagus and barley mushroom risotto.

This is a big post for the Try Something New section, because it involves both barley — something I’ve never used for more than an addition to soup — and mushrooms. Yes, I know that it’s weird that I don’t cook with mushrooms. I’ll discuss that later.

I was reading the No Meat Athlete blog last week when I learned that you can make risotto with barley. Really? There was a way to put a little nutrition in something as decadent as risotto? Evidently the answer is yes. When cooked in the same way as arborio rice, it gets the same rich, creamy texture that you’d expect from risotto. Score!

Now, as for the mushrooms. I don’t like mushrooms. I have nothing against their flavor, but their texture? Blech! It’s like chewing through a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. They seriously freak me out. But my husband likes them, and since it was Father’s Day, I decided to make him a lovely barley mushroom risotto, like the kind he would order in a restaurant, and keep my feelings about mushrooms to myself.

Now, as a result of my complete lack of knowledge about mushrooms, I made the mistake of asking the Produce Guy at Whole Foods. 30 minutes later, he’d told me everything he knew about mushrooms and I managed to retain none of it. I did, however, leave with two varieties, portobello and king oyster.

Here’s the risotto that I made, based on my usual arborio rice risotto recipe. It would serve 6-8 adults as a side dish.


  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Approximately 1/2 lb mushrooms, diced *
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups beef broth **
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Dried thyme, to taste
  • 2 oz parmesan cheese, freshly grated ***


In a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pan, melt butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until golden. Add mushrooms and continue to cook for 3-4 more minutes or until the mushrooms start to take on some color.

Add barley and cook until it gives off a nutty smell. Stir frequently to prevent burning.

Barley risotto, simmering on the stove.

Add wine and simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Add warmed broth or stock, 1/2 cup at a time, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed. After about 45 minutes you should be out of liquid and the risotto should be creamy. Add salt, pepper and thyme to taste. Stir in parmesan cheese and serve immediately.


I have to say that I was really impressed with this recipe. It had that nice, earthy taste from the mushrooms without being overpowered by that texture problem. ┬áThe risotto was a perfectly reasonable substitute for arborio rice; my husband even said, “You probably could have sold it to me as risotto and I wouldn’t have known the difference. It was good.”

If my online calculations are correct, this works out to be a side dish with the following stats (for 1/8 of the recipe):

  • Calories: 180
  • Fat: 5.5
  • Saturated Fat: 2.3
  • Fiber: 4.75
  • Protein: 7.1

* My husband says that the mushrooms could have (and probably should have) been cut into larger pieces for better texture. Texture was exactly what I wanted to avoid. You can adjust accordingly.

** I use chicken and beef in combination whenever I can. We once went to Bologna, Italy and ate the most simple, fantastic food I have ever tasted. When questioned, they always said that the broth was a combination of “cow and hen.” It adds a depth that a single variety just can’t touch.

*** This sounds like a ton of cheese, but it really only works out to be about 30 calories and 2 grams of fat per serving while adding a ton of flavor.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Search by Category
Looking for something specific?

2 Responses

  1. Jane says:

    Hi Alisa,

    I have been wanting to try this since I saw it a few months ago. I was finally able to make it today, and it’s really good. I didn’t have beef broth, so I used all chicken stock. I only had half of the barley too, so I used orzo in place. The orzo gave it a more interesting texture. . . love how it turned out.

    Great recipe, thanks for sharing!

    Jane from FL

  2. Alisa says:

    Glad you liked it, Jane. I like the idea of adding orzo; I never would have thought of that!

Leave a Reply