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Barley Risotto with Mushrooms

4.91 from 11 votes

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Are you ready to add more whole grain barley recipes to your cooking routine? An easy to make no-stir barley risotto delivers lots of comfort and flavor. I hope it will win you over to team barley! This delicious and nutritious no-stir barley risotto is loaded with asparagus, mushrooms, and pearl barley in a creamy cheese sauce.

A bowl filled with creamy pearl barley  topped with sauteed mushrooms and asparagus.
Barley risotto is a perfect vegetarian main dish.

This satisfying dish can be served as a vegetarian dinner all by itself, with a salad or as a side dish for pork chops, steak or chicken.

A serving bowl full of barley risotto with sliced mushrooms and asparagus, with a fork digging into the bowl.
Peal barley makes a naturally creamy risotto.

Cooked pearl barley has a pleasing al dente chew, along with a mildly sweet nutty flavor. With its naturally creamy texture it almost begs to be turned into a risotto.

This risotto-style dish pairs pearl barley with quickly sauteed mushrooms and asparagus. The grains and vegetables are wrapped in a savory sauce finished with a small amount of goat cheese for a delicious creamy texture.

Ingredients in the recipe

Barley might be new to your pantry, but everything else you need to cook this dish can be found in your grocery store or online.

Ingredients to make barley risotto arranged on a linen napkin, with mushrooms, asparagus spears, shallot, fresh parsley, lemon and cheese.
  • Pearl barley: Barley grains without the hull or bran. *Note that pearl barley is not a gluten-free grain.
  • Shallot
  • Garlic
  • Herbs de Provence blend or dried thyme
  • Cremini mushrooms: You can use an equal amount of brown mushrooms such as shiitake or portobello. White button mushrooms will work, but they’re not as flavorful.
  • Asparagus: If your family doesn’t love asparagus, you could use frozen peas or baby spinach instead.
  • Lemon peel: The strips add a subtle tang to the sauce. Remove the zest from the lemon with a swivel vegetable peeler.
  • Soft goat cheese: Choose your soft goat cheese or herbed creamy “gournay” cheese.
  • Parmesan cheese: Use freshly grated cheese.
  • Parsley
A bowl of barley grains in a small bowl.

Different types of barley

  • Pearled: The most common form of barley you’ll find in supermarkets. Pearled (or “pearl”) barley is a polished grain that doesn’t include the bran layer. It holds its shape well and puffs up when cooked, and has a pleasing starchy texture. This is the kind you want to make barley risotto.
  • Hulled: Also called “hulless”, this form of barley still has the bran layer attached to the groats, but not the hull, which is tough and inedible. Hulled barley takes longer to cook than the pearled version, although if it’s soaked for a few hours it will cook faster. Hulled barley is a good choice for grain salads.

How to make risotto with pearl barley

The mushrooms and asparagus are cooked separately and stirred in after the barley is cooked – this prevents the vegetables from overcooking and keeps them tasty.

Unlike traditional risotto made with short grain arborio rice, barley risotto doesn’t require multiple additions of liquid and constant stirring.

It basically cooks like long grain rice, using the absorption method.

A pan of cooked pearl barley and a wooden spoon
Cook the barley 25-30 minutes or until tender and the liquid is almost absorbed.
A pan with barley risotto topped with sauteed mushrooms and chopped asparagus.
Add the mushrooms and asparagus and serve.

More tasty whole grain recipe ideas:

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Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Asparagus

Karen Tedesco
A comforting and nutritious no-stir risotto, loaded with asparagus, mushrooms, whole grain pearl barley and a creamy cheese sauce.
Print Pin Text
4.91 from 11 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Whole Grains
Cuisine Vegetarian
Servings 4 servings


Cook the mushrooms and asparagus:

  • 8 ounces (225 g) cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces (225 g) fresh asparagus spears, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • Kosher salt

Make the risotto:

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped (⅓ cup)
  • 1 cup (200 g) pearl barley, rinsed under cold running water
  • 2 strips fresh lemon zest, removed with a swivel peeler
  • 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence or dried thyme
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 cups (700 ml) water or vegetable broth
  • ¼ cup soft crumbled goat cheese or herbed cream cheese such as Boursin
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley


Cook the mushrooms and asparagus:

  • Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add the mushrooms and cook in one layer until they begin to turn golden brown, 3-5 minutes. Give the mushrooms a stir, then add the asparagus, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ cup water to the pan. Cook a few more minutes, until the water evaporates, and the asparagus turns bright green with tender crunch when you take a bite. Set aside.

Make the risotto:

  • Put the olive oil and butter in a 10-12 inch saute pan with at least 2-inch sides (I love to use my Everyday Pan for this) and place over medium heat. When the butter is melted, stir in the shallot. Cook 2-3 minutes, until softened. Add the barley and stir to coat the grains in the oil.
  • Add the lemon zest, herbs de Provence, water, 2 teaspoons salt and stir to combine. *If you're using vegetable broth instead of water, reduce the salt to 1 teaspoon.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover the pan and cook 15 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking 15-20 more minutes, until the barley is tender and all but about ½ cup of the liquid is absorbed.
  • Remove the lemon zest strips. Add the goat cheese, Parmesan and parsley and stir until thick and creamy.
  • Add the mushroom mixture to the barley risotto and stir to combine. Serve in bowls topped with additional cheese and lemon zest to taste.

Karen’s Notes and Tips

  • Leftovers will keep in an airtight container, refrigerated. You’ll need to add some additional broth or liquid when reheating as the barley will absorb it as it cools.


Calories: 403kcal | Carbohydrates: 48g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Sodium: 207mg | Potassium: 571mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 985IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 139mg | Iron: 3mg
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Hey, I’m Karen

Creator of Familystyle Food

I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about creating elevated dinners with everyday ingredients. Find simplified recipes made from scratch and enjoy incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.

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  1. 4 stars
    This overall was very yummy. For us, there was too much oil and butter to be able to fully enjoy. Next time, we will reduce that. It also made way more than 4 servings for us, but that is an easy fix for next time. We didn’t have parsley, so used spinach and also tossed in some diced Canadian Bacon to amp up the protein. I have lots of other ideas on add ins for this base recipe! Great find!

  2. 5 stars
    This is delicious!! It is now a staple in our recipes to use often!!