Barley Risotto with Kale and Lemon – 80 Twenty Nutrition

Barley Risotto with Kale and Lemon

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Love the creamy taste of risotto but looking for a low-maintenance, vegan option that’s higher in fibre? Well, you’ve come to the right place!

Using pot barley to make a risotto instead of the classic arborio rice means you’re getting healthy soluble fibre and using a whole grain that’s low on the glycemic index, aka a slow carb. Slow carbs offer up sustained energy and don’t spike insulin levels like fast carbs. The result? Lower risk and/or better control of type 2 diabetes, fewer cravings and a slimmer waistline. All good things!

This recipe is super easy to make and even better as leftovers. If you eat cheese, you can add some feta if you like. Flavour-wise, you don’t need it… the gremolata (translation: chopped herb condiment made with super fresh-tasting lemon zest) packs in all the deliciousness you could ever want in one bowl!

Barley Risotto with Kale and Lemon - media dietitian Christy Brissette 80 Twenty Nutrition

More reasons to love barley:

  • Barley is a good source of selenium, a nutrient shown to significantly reduce colon cancer risk.
  • Glucan, the soluble fibre found in both barley and oats, provides several health benefits. Beta glucan acts as a prebiotic, which means it provides fuel for the good bacteria in the colon. This can, in turn, improve digestive health and strengthen the immune system. It may also help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Glucan also traps LDL cholesterol, the unhealthy type of cholesterol, and removes it from the blood. This helps reduce risk of heart disease. Barley also contains niacin, a B vitamin that is essential for heart health.
  • All types of barley are nutritious, but hulled barley is highest in fibre because it contains the bran, while pearl and Scotch barley do not. The fibre in barley helps to slow the digestion of carbohydrates, leading to more stable blood sugar levels and helping you feel full for longer. For this reason, including high fibre foods in your diet can help promote a healthy body weight.

Barley Risotto with Kale and Lemon

This vegan risotto doesn't require the usual stirring and patience of a rice-based risotto thanks to the easy-going barley. Just add the liquid, simmer and enjoy!
Servings 6
Calories 298 kcal
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes


Barley Risotto

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 Red onion diced
  • 2 cups barley
  • 6 cups Vegetable stock (see homemade recipe or use water)
  • 4 cups kale chopped
  • 1/4 cup Feta cheese cubed or crumbled (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste


  • 1/2 cup parsley flat-leaf, chopped
  • 1 lemon zest only
  • 2 garlic cloves grated


  • Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent.
  • Add the barley and toast it for about 1 minute. Add 3 cups of the vegetable stock or water and bring to a boil, then down to low-medium heat and simmer. The barley will absorb the liquid. Once this happens, stir and add the other 3 cups of stock or water.
  • Meanwhile, make the gremolata by combining the ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Continue cooking the barley until the liquid is mostly absorbed and it's nice and tender. Add the kale and stir through, letting it wilt from the heat (about 1 minute).
  • Add the feta to the risotto if using. Season the risotto with pepper and salt (you may not need the salt if you're using feta) and stir in the gremolata. Serve and enjoy!


Calories: 298kcalCarbohydrates: 55gProtein: 11gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 679mgPotassium: 610mgFiber: 12gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 8650IUVitamin C: 109.7mgCalcium: 90mgIron: 4.3mg
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