Creamy pearled barley risotto

Today’s recipe is one of my absolute favorites. A classic risotto dish but with an Eastern European twist- it is made with barley instead on rice and with zucchini, mushrooms and tomatoes. It’s creamy, extremely flavorful and filling. It’s a perfect time of the year to use these sweet and sun-ripened tomatoes and zucchini that beautifully complements the dish. This recipe is a healthy, delicious and satisfying dinner idea. I loved the recipe so much that after eating it for dinner last night I also had it today for breakfast with an egg on top. Yum!

Barley, which is one of the most popular grains in Eastern Europe, has amazing health benefits- it lowers cholesterol, protects intestinal health, is a source of magnesium and fiber, prevents diabetes, is good for your skin and the list goes on and on. Isn’t it awesome? I know it’s not “in fashion” now like quinoa but you really should give barley a try. It has a very delicate, delicious flavor, especially if accompanied with white wine, chicken broth and a tad of butter.

Let’s begin!


First I diced an onion and fried it until slightly golden with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.


Then I added 1 cup of fine barley and toasted it for 1 minute.


Then I added 3 bay leaves and 1/2 cup of chicken broth and I mixed it. I was adding only 1/2 cup of broth at a time and waiting for barley to absorb it and then I added another 1/2 cup. I turned the heat to low. Then I added 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 cup of white wine and 1 tablespoon of butter. It’s important to stir barley often. It should take about 45 minutes for it to be ready.


In the meantime I diced vegetables and chopped garlic.


In a cooking pot I fried garlic for 1 minute on 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Then I added the rest of vegetables on top, added 1/4 cup of water, 1 teaspoon of each salt, pepper and thyme, covered and simmered for 15 minutes.


Then I drained all the vegetables when they were cooked. Since my barley still needed some liquid I mixed in some of the vegetable juice for extra flavoring. My vegetables were cooked already so I transferred them to risotto at the very end so they wouldn’t get too mushy.


It is optional to add vegetable juice to the barley. If you have enough broth or just don’t want to do that that’s fine too.


When risotto was ready I stirred in vegetables and simmered for 5 more minutes. Mine needed more salt, so try it and add some if that’s the case with you too. Then I turned the heat off, added paresan and fresh parsley.


Your beautiful creamy barley risotto is ready 🙂 Enjoy!




If you tried this recipe and posted a pic or a comment use hashtag #EasternEuropeanRecipes I’d love to see how it turned out!



  • 1 cup of pearled barley
  • 1 onion
  • 2 roma tomatoes
  • 1 box of mushrooms (12 oz)
  • 1 big zucchini (1 lb)
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup of fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of thyme


  1. Dice and fry onion with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until golden.
  2. Add 1 cup of barley to onion, toast it for 1 minute and add 1/2 cup of broth. Turn the heat low. When liquid is absorbed add white wine, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of salt and butter. Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth at a time, allowing barley to absorb all liquid and stir often. It should take about 45 minutes
  3. In the meantime dice vegetables. In a cooking pot add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and fry garlic for 1 minute. Then add diced vegetables, 1/4 cup of water, salt, pepper and thyme cover and simmer until soft for 15 minutes.
  4. Drain cooked vegetables and add vegetable juice to risotto. When all liquid is absorbed add vegetables, stir and cook for 5 more minutes. Sprinkle parmesan and fresh parsley. Enjoy!

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