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Creamy Vegan Barley Risotto

A delicious, no-frills variation on the traditional risotto, using barley instead of rice. Creamy, warming, and vegan to boot! 

easy quick barley risotto recipe

Welcome to the Lockdown Chow Down!

Join me (almost) daily as we reconnect with one of life’s most simple pleasures, food! This recipe can be viewed as a cook along on the Culinary Cartel Instagram, by clicking here, or by viewing the “Barley Risotto”  highlight on Instagram stories.

I love a traditional risotto! You know what I don’t love? Stirring it for 30 minutes… unless of course I know I’m making a double batch to make my absolute fave Crispy Risotto Balls (which are also vegan adaptable!)

This variation on the traditional risotto is such a win, as it’s vegan, comes together pretty quickly and the barley can be left to simmer away into a creamy, dreamy puddle of goodness. Low in fat, but high in fibre, barley is a very versatile grain. It imparts a delicious nutty note to our final dish and pairs beautifully with the earthy flavours of the mushrooms. Subbing cream for cashew cream is a revelation here. All of the rich and velvety results, with none of the saturated fat.

The gremolata crumb will give your finished dish a nice pop of freshness and crunch, so don’t skip out on making it. You can choose to finish the dish with either vegan parmesan or the regular kind.

If you try this recipe, let us know how it goes! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag your photo #theculinarycartel and #lockdownchowdown on Instagram so we can see what you come up with. Happy cooking!

easy quick barley risotto recipe

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this with dairy?

You can indeed! As per the recipe notes, simply substitute in dairy-based ingredients where the plant-based ingredients are called for.

What can I use to replace the wine?

The cooking method here means all of the alcohol will be cooked off the wine. However, if you still wish to avoid using wine, use an alcohol free wine, or more vegetable stock.

What can I use to replace the nuts?

Oat cream can be used in place of the cashew cream we make in the recipe. The roasted almonds can be subbed with roasted pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds.


easy quick barley risotto recipe
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easy quick barley risotto recipe

Creamy Vegan Barley Risotto

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  • Author: Jess Bunn
  • Total Time: 50 Minutes
  • Diet: Vegan


A delicious, no-frills variation on the traditional risotto, using barley instead of rice. Creamy, warming, and vegan to boot!


  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup white wine (optional but advised)
  • 2.5 cups veg stock
  • 1/2 cup Raw Cashews (or sub for Oat Cream)
  • 1 cup kale
  • 1/4 cup vegan/regular Parmesan (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp roasted almonds, chopped
  • 1/4 cup toasted breadcrumbs/GF crackers, crushed
  • 1 tsp parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest


  1. Make a cashew cream: Place the raw cashews in a heat proof boil. Pour Cover them in boiling water and set this aside for 30 minutes to allow the cashews to plump and soften.
  2. Make the barley risotto: Place a pan over medium heat. Add a splash of oil and add the onions. Fry the onions gently until they are translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more.
  3. Next add the pearl barley and toast for a minute, before adding the wine, if using. Cook the barley until the wine has completely evaporated and all the alcohol has cooked off, before adding the vegetable stock. Cover the pot and simmer gently for 30 minutes, or until the pearl barley has fully cooked. Stir the pot every so often during cooking.
  4. When the barley risotto is nearly done cooking, drain the cashews. Blend the cashews with 1/3 cup of hot water to form a very smooth thick cream, the consistency of double cream. Add a little more water as needed if you struggle to blend the cashews. Set aside until needed
  5. Turn off the heat, and stir in the cashew cream and kale. Place the lid back on and allow the kale to soften until cooked in the residual heat of the pan, for about 5 minutes.
  6. While the kale steams make the gremolata crumb. To a frying pan, add the toasted breadcrumbs (if you can only find fresh bread crumbs, fry them in a little olive oil until golden and crisp). Cook the crumbs in a dry pan until golden. Tip the toasted crumbs into a bowl and add the almonds, parsley and lemon zest. Mix everything together and season the crumb with a pinch of salt to taste.
  7. Remove the lid, and give the barley a stir. The mixture may be looking a little dry at this point, so add a ½-1 cup of water to loosen everything up and give the barley a creamy consistency. Stir in the optional parmesan if using.
  8. Divide the barley between two bowls, garnish with more parmesan if you want, and a generous spoon of gremolata crumb.


*DIY cashew cream can be made by soaking ½ cup cashews in boiling water, for 30 minutes. Once soaked, drain the cashews, and add them to a blender. Add  1/3 – ½ cup of water and blend until the cashews form a slightly thick puree. Use as directed.

  • Category: Mains
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 1467.86kcal
  • Sugar: 15.94g
  • Sodium: 2052.7mg
  • Fat: 42.93g
  • Saturated Fat: 7.84g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 32.14g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 221.97g
  • Fiber: 39.4g
  • Protein: 41.79g
  • Cholesterol: 0g
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