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Quick Barley Risotto with Mushrooms, Herbs and Rocket Pesto

Warming, hearty, delicious! Everything a risotto should be without being too heavy; this barley risotto is comfort food at its best. 


A great risotto is one of my favourite comfort foods, closely followed by a crispy, melting centre Arancini ball.  This version bucks tradition, using barley instead of arborio rice, for a novel twist on the classic.

This 10 ingredient, moreish and creamy plant based treat for two, is ready in 30 minutes, and oh-so-good. Mushrooms add melt-in-the- mouth meatiness and succulence, and if you aren’t vegan, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese to finish will take the luxury to an 11/10.

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 on Instagram so we can see what you come up with. Happy cooking!


Frequently Asked Questions

Is this gluten-free?

Barley is not completely gluten free, so avoid cooking with barley if you are sensitive to gluten or suffer from celiac disease..

Can I make this vegan?

This recipe is free from dairy, and animal products already! Be sure to use a vegan friendly/dairy free pesto. Enjoy!


Can I cook this on the stove?

Yes! The recipe has instructions for cooking on your stove top, as well as in an Instant Pot.


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Quick Barley Risotto with Mushrooms, Herbs and Rocket Pesto

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  • Author: Jess Bunn
  • Total Time: 30 Minutes
  • Yield: 2
  • Diet: Vegetarian


Deliciously creamy and accidentally vegan, this easy peasy, 10 ingredient barley risotto comes together in 30 minutes using my Instant Pot, which cuts down on washing up and frees me from mundane pot-stirring duties. Simply start by sauteeing your ingredients, then set the pot to pressure cook for a few minutes and do the rest of the work.

If you do not have an Instant Pot, simply scroll down for the stovetop method.


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup/200g pearl barley
  • 1/2 glass wine (optional)
  • 750ml veg stock
  • 60ml cashew cream or coconut cream
  • 2 Tbsp dairy free pesto of choice
  • 5 large mushrooms
  • chopped parsley, sage or oregano for garnish
  • crispy onions
  • salt, pepper and oil as needed


Instant Pot Method

  1. For the risotto, your mushrooms can be roasted whole, for 15 minutes at 200C drizzled with oil, salt and pepper or thinly sliced and cooked until soft with your onions below.
  2. Add a little oil to the metal insert of the Instant Pot and press the saute function (If you have the duo plus, adjust the saute intensity to “normal”). Add the chopped onion and garlic, and saute until the onions are soft. You will also add your sliced mushrooms in,  at this point, if not roasting them,
  3. Add in the barley, stirring it to coat it with the oil.  Then add the white wine, and stir the barley until the wine has evaporated. Finally, add the stock and stir it through the barley.
  4. Place the lid on the Instant Pot, and set it to cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Once the timer beeps, allow the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes, before releasing the remaining pressure and safely removing the lid.
  5. Turn the Instant Pot back to Saute, on “more” (the highest heat setting for sauteing), then add the coconut cream, or cashew cream, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Spoon the barley risotto into bowls, then garnish with your rocket, crispy onions and mushrooms.
  7. Serve warm.

Stovetop Method

  1. For the risotto, your mushrooms can be roasted whole, for 15 minutes at 200C drizzled with oil, salt, and pepper or thinly sliced and cooked until soft with your onions below.
  2. In a large pot, heat a drizzle of olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until softened, (about 5 minutes). If you are adding your mushrooms in with the onions add them here.
  3. Add the barley to the pot, and stir, for 1 minute to toast the grains. Add the wine and cook until absorbed about 5 minutes.
  4. Add 1 cup of the hot vegetable mixture to the barley and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until nearly absorbed. Continue adding the hot broth, 1/2 cup at a time and stirring frequently, until the barley is al dente, about 35 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl.
  5. To finish garnish with fresh herbs, your roasted mushrooms (if using the roasting method), pesto, and crispy onions.
  6. Serve immediately.


*If not following a dairy-free or vegan diet, you can add in 1/4 cup of parmesan once the risotto has finished pressure cooking.

  • Prep Time: 10 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 Minutes
  • Category: Vegetarian
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 614.13kcal
  • Sugar: 6.54g
  • Sodium: 1572.54mg
  • Fat: 23.04g
  • Saturated Fat: 5.18g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 13.04g
  • Trans Fat: 0.02g
  • Carbohydrates: 91.13g
  • Fiber: 17.44g
  • Protein: 15.12g
  • Cholesterol: 1.59mg
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