Pearl Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Leeks

Barley is a hearty and nutritious alternate to the traditional arborio rice, and has a wonderful toothsome texture. It pairs perfectly with the earthy mushrooms, and the leeks add a lovely onion flavor that’s present, but not overpowering. This risotto, like any great risotto, requires a bit of love and tenderness. Sure, it needs a bit of attention, but it will repay your patiently stirring hands with a belly full of hearty deliciousness.

This dish makes a wonderful vegetarian main course, but would also be perfect alongside a roast as a starchy side.


Recipe adapted from Epicurious and Stylist Magazine, UK

  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (chicken or beef are also great)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 leeks (thoroughly cleaned and sliced thin)
  • 2 cloves garlic (fine mince)
  • 1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms (sliced)
      • Use whatever mushrooms you like here. I suggest a simple blend of porcinis, chanterelles, and shiitakes.
  • 4 ounces dried mushrooms, such as shiitake
      • The dried mushrooms are reconstituted and create a beautiful broth that adds a lovely depth of flavor to the risotto.
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 4 tablespoons marscapone cheese


  • Bring broth to a boil in a small saucepan, reduce heat, cover and keep at a simmer
  • When broth comes to a boil add a ladle full to a small bowl with your dried mushrooms, cover (I use a plate) and steep for 10 minutes
  • After mushrooms have steeped remove from liquid (reserve liquid) and coarse chop
  • Heat a large heavy bottomed vessel (I used my 6 quart French oven) to medium heat and melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil to keep the butter from burning
  • Fry the fresh mushrooms in the oil/butter mixture till golden, remove from pot and set aside
  • In the same pot, saute leeks with garlic and barley for about 3 minutes or until leeks soften and barley takes on a slight golden hue on a few pieces.
      • Sauteing the barley enhances the nutty flavor.
  • Add thyme, reconstituted shiitakes and half of the simmering stock to the barley and simmer on medium/low until most of the stock is absorbed, stirring often (about 10 minutes)
  • Add the rest of the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring often and letting each addition to be absorbed before you add more.
  • Add in the mushroom steeping liquid as well, being sure to avoid pouring in any sediment that settles at the bottom from the mushrooms
  • Simmer until barley is tender but with a bit of bite left in the middle, stirring often. This should take about 50 minutes.
  • When barley is tender return mushrooms to pan
  • Stir in marscapone and season with salt and pepper before serving
In the vein of blogger-land full disclosure, I added some freshly fried leeks and onions on top of my risotto for the photo. The dish tastes just as good without them, but they look so pretty. I couldn’t help myself. The leeks added in the beginning of the cooking process will mostly break down into the risotto – delicious!

I photographed this the morning after I cooked it, hoping for better light. Success! Very pretty leftovers. Especially with those fresh fried mushrooms and leeks. Mmmm…

Mushrooms ready for their close up

I’m ready to have this meal for supper all over again! It makes a large batch, and not one morsel was wasted. We gobbled it all up.

I meant to post this recipe last night as a “meatless Monday” contribution, but I watched “Dr. Who” episodes instead. The intentions were there, but I love sci-fi, what can I say. I’m labeling it for meatless Monday anyway. Blame the Doctor, and his shenanigans.

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Other Vegetarian Mains


6 thoughts on “Pearl Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Leeks

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