Mushroom Barley Risotto Recipe

Mushroom Barley Risotto Recipe Recipe

My husband Lulu has been traveling a lot these days for his work. Being a vegetarian has never been an issue since we live in the Bay Area. But sometimes it can be tricky for him to find foods that fit his diet, especially when visiting the Southeast. 

Since he hadn't eaten much apart from lettuce and boiled tofu, I figured comfort food would fill the void he had experienced while traveling. For his return, I prepared a mushroom barley risotto because barley is a nutritious grain that supports a healthy lifestyle with complex carbohydrates and proteins, compared to the more traditional rice grains.

The only downside is it's much less starchy than rice. So I added Colby cheese for texture and color and flavored it with nutmeg to complement the natural aroma of barley. 

Since the barley risotto didn't have a striking contrast of colors. I served it on a bed of string beans. When serving foods that are visually a bit monotone, I always try to pair them with other colorful ingredients. Remember, you eat with your eyes first!


Yields: 6 servings

4 shiitake mushrooms
5 crimini mushrooms
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2. cloves garlic, finely minced
1 green onion, chopped
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1 fresh bay leaf, torn in half
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 cups pearl barley
¾ cup dry white wine (or water)
7¼ cups vegetable stock
1 cup Colby cheese
2 tablespoons Pecorino cheese, freshly shaved
1½ teaspoons black pepper, freshly cracked
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)


For the mushrooms:

Trim about 1 inch from the stems of the mushrooms and finely chop them. Reserve for the risotto broth. Quarter the heads of the crimini mushrooms lengthwise and coarsely chop the shiitakes. 

In a deep saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the green onions and cook for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and let sit for 1 minute. Stir well for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another minute, then transfer to a plate and let cool.

For the risotto:

Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a separate saucepan. Set aside.

In the same deep saucepan used for the mushrooms, heat the rest of the olive oil and cook the shallots for 2-3 minutes. Lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes until golden. In the same saucepan, add the butter and barley. Make sure the grains of barley are well coated. Add the white wine, 1 cup of vegetable stock and the Colby cheese and stir frequently.

After bringing the liquid to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 10 minutes. Check the liquid and periodically add ½ cup of warm water (up to an additional 2½ cups) as soon as the liquid has been absorbed. Simmer for another 15 minutes.


At this point the barley still has a toothsome bite. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir well. Add ¾ cup boiling water. Add the mshrooms with their juices, mix well and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Check doneness. Add a bit more water if needed and extend the cooking time by another 5 minutes (if necessary). The texture should still be a bit chewier than traditional rice risotto. Adjust seasoning.

Add the Pecorino cheese and the cream (if using). Stir well. Turn off the heat, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.

Serve on a bed of string beans garnished with fried garlic.

Bon appétit!


Coating the grains of barley in butter prevents them from sticking to one another.

You can find other variations of mushroom risotto repices here. 

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on April 29, 2014.


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