Vegan Risotto With Barley & Savory Spinach Sauce

April 29, 2014

barley risotto with spinach sauce

Today I made this vegan risotto with toasted barley and seriously could not stop eating it.

Barley has become one of my favorite plant-based grains. It has a delicious nutty flavor and a chewy, pasta-like consistency.

It is also an excellent healthy replacement for traditional white Arborio rice in risotto because it mimics the creaminess and richness.

As far as nutrition goes, barley is a superfood because it is high in both soluble and insoluble fiber which is critical to good health. Soluble fiber helps the body metabolize fats, cholesterol and carbohydrates and lowers blood cholesterol levels.

Insoluble fiber promotes a healthy digestive tract and reduces the risk of many chronic diseases.

Now top that barley with some spinach sauce and mix in some nutritional yeast and we now have a superfood triple threat main vegan meal.

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Just getting started on a plant-based diet? Here is a free downloadable list of delicious vegan protein.

If you are a pasta fan, you will probably also enjoy my pasta frittata with corn and mushrooms or creamy polenta with cabbage and greens.

Hope you enjoy this vegan risotto recipe as much as we did. Wishing you a peaceful and compassionate week.

Vegan Risotto With Barley & Savory Spinach Sauce

Vegan Toasted Barley Risotto With Savory Spinach Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 3
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (or more if needed)
  • 1 cup pearl barley (uncooked)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • juice from ½ lemon
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • ⅛ cup nutritional yeast
  • ¼ cup chopped chives
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Spinach Sauce
  • 3 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 cup of flat leaf parsley, stems removed
  • 1 garic clove, chopped
  • Juice from ½ small lemon (about 1 tablespoon or more to taste)
  • 2-3 tablespoons vegetable broth
  • pinch of salt and ground black pepper
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place barley on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  2. Zest one lemon and set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add onion, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the garlic. Cook for another minute. If the onion is sticking, add a little vegetable broth instead of more oil.
  4. Add barley, thyme, bay leaf and 2 cups of vegetable broth and bring to boil.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until broth is almost absorbed. Check for doneness. Add another ½ cup broth if needed. Bring to simmer. When broth is absorbed, check for doneness. If needed add another ¼ cup to ½ cup broth until the barley is cooked but still has a little bite and the mixture is creamy. This could take 40-50 minutes. When done remove bay leaf and stir in the lemon juice and zest and leave covered.
Spinach Sauce
  1. In a large saucepan, bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil. Add spinach and parsley and cook until leaves are bright green and wilted, about 1 minute. Drain
  2. Add spinach, parsley, 2 tablespoons vegetable broth, 1 chopped garlic clove and juice of ½ lemon to a food processor. Puree until smooth, adding more vegetable broth if needed for desired consistency. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and taste for seasonings.
  3. Add nutritional yeast, chives, lemon zest and ½ lemon squeezed of juice into barley mixture. Combine.
  4. Mix in spinach puree. Season with more salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with lemon zest.



14 thoughts on “Vegan Risotto With Barley & Savory Spinach Sauce

      1. Hi Maggie – Thanks for the heads up. I fixed that. Add the lemon juice and zest to the risotto when done. Thanks for stopping by and for being part of our healthy community. Sorry for the typo.

  1. This was quite tasty. I was fresh out of barley so I used millet. Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly. Adding the spinach/lemon puree really makes this. I did drizzle a little olive oil on each serving, to richen it up. Thanks for this nice recipe.

  2. My type of food, I really enjoyed this recipe. I substituted frozen spinach for fresh which worked just as well. Another health benefit – the vitamin C in the lemon juice mans that the iron in the spinach is properly absorbed.

    1. Hi Jules – Thanks for the tips and I am so happy you enjoyed this recipe! Thanks for being part of our healthy community.

  3. This was good. I made it for a potluck, using a combination of pearl and black barley. But seriously, 1:05 hours to prepare? It’s more like 2.5-3 hours. Worth it, but this recipe, with its many ingredients and special steps, takes a whole lot of kitchen time. Any risotto dish is a serous time commitment.

    1. Hi Barbara – Thanks for your feedback – sorry it took so long but it is so yummy and wonderful for special occasions. Those people at the pot luck were very fortunate that you took the time to make it for them. Thanks for being part of our healthy community!

  4. I made this, it was delicious and fresh tasting. I think I used too must spinach as mine was bright green, but it tasted lovely!

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time and letting me know and so happy you enjoyed it. By the way, too much spinach sounds like a good thing!..and thanks for being part of our healthy community Jenny.

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