Creamy Pearl Barley Risotto

recipe vegan

Not sure what to do with pearl barley? We have a few tips to share and a great recipe for a comfortingly creamy pearl barley risotto. It's even vegan!

At Just Footprints we have a range of grains available, so your pantry may never be boring! Along with the usual basmati, and arborio we also stock grains like buck wheat, bulgar wheat and pearl barley. Barley is a versatile grain that soaks up the flavour of stocks and liquids really well, making it ideal for adding bulk to stews, and thickening hot pots and soups. You can add it to salads, toss through roasted veg or have it as the star if the show, like we have done. It has a pleasantly chewy texture when cooked, and adds a creaminess that is perfect for making risottos. 

A risotto is a dish to take your time over. Make a good base of finely chopped vegetables for flavour, and heat the stock/broth with aromatics ready to add to your dish a ladle at a time. It's a dish you need to stand over as it cooks, as it requires almost constant stirring to achieve that perfectly creamy texture. Traditionally made using the Italian arborio rice grain, risotto can be made using similar short grain rices or other grains like barley or spelt. If you enjoy cooking this is definitely a dish for you to pour yourself a glass of wine and get comfy over the stove, tending to your pan of barley.

The recipe we have included here can be eaten solo or, as we have chosen to, you can add a roasted vegetable like beetroot to add an earthy, herby note to compliment the deep velvety risotto. 


Pearl Barley Risotto with Rosemary Roasted Beetroot


  • 2 large beetroot - cut into large chunks

  • 3 cloves of garlic

  • 4-5 sprigs rosemary

  • olive oil

  • 1 onion - fine dice

  • 1 small leek - fine dice

  • 3 sage leaves

  • medium glass of white wine - and one for the chef

  • 250g pearl barley

  • stock - why not try 9 Meals From Anarchy vegetable stock

  • vegan cream - optional

  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast


  1. Place the beetroot in a baking tray with some olive oil, 3 sprigs of rosemary and a few cloves of garlic, skin on. Season with salt, cover with foil and roast in a hot oven (about 190-200c) until tender. Uncover, and continue to roast for a further fifteen to twenty minutes.
  2. Whilst the beetroot is roasting away, add your onion and leek to a frying pan with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt, a knob of vegan butter is a very good thing here. Sauté until soft, but don't catch too much colour on them. Add a bouquet garnish of sage and rosemary to the pan along with a glass of white wine, cook out the alcohol for a few minutes.

  3. Add the pearl barley and mix well, add hot stock a ladle at a time, stirring frequently until each ladle is absorbed. Keep adding the stock until the barley is plump and softened, it should still have a little chew to the grain. Finish the risotto by removing the sage and rosemary and stirring though a splash of cream.

  4. Serve up the beetroot and pearl barley with a sprinkling of crispy rosemary for an extra herby kick (pick the leaves and fry in hot oil for about twenty seconds or so, dry on kitchen paper and add salt)

This post was written by Kyrsten Collis @vegboxvegan



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