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Broccoli Barley Risotto

One of my friends recently learned that she’s allergic to wheat and rice, along with a huge list of other ubiquitous ingredients like soybeans, milk, garlic, tomatoes and certain nuts. I looked through my recipes for things that could help her new allergy-free diet, but she needs to really customize recipes to eliminate all the different baddies on her list.

Then I remembered hearing that you can make risotto with pearl barley instead of Arborio rice. That could be a great building-block for her since risotto is wonderfully flexible, so I tried it out and was pretty happy with the results.

Barley releases less starch and takes longer to do it, so the final product gets maybe 80% of the way toward the classic risotto texture and you have to work a little harder for it. Still, with a significant difference in the amount of dietary fiber and the glycemic load, barley risotto is definitely making it into the rotation in my household.

Pearl Barley Arborio Rice
Total Carbohydrates



Dietary Fiber






Glycemic Load



[Nicole, if you’re reading this, I didn’t make my barley risotto totally safe for you because I did use garlic, butter and cheese. Omit the garlic and see if nutritional yeast plus additional oil will make it cheesy/creamy enough. Also, vegetable broth usually has tomato in it, but you can easily make your own without them. Good luck on your new program, I hope this helps!]

broccoli barley risotto ingredients


  • 1 cup dry pearl barley
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 diced onion
  • 6 minced cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cups broccoli or broccolini florets (here’s something fun you can do with the stems!)
  • .25 cups pine nuts
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • .25 cups grape seed oil
  • .5 sticks butter (optional)
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • .5 tsp Celtic salt
  • .5 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle


  1. Warm the broth in a separate pot so it’s ready to ladle into the risotto
  2. In a large high-edged pan heat the oil over medium heat and season with the thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper
  3. Add the onions and stir until they begin to turn translucent, then stir in the garlic, pine nuts and mushrooms
  4. Add the pearl barley and stir in so that it absorbs any oil and cooking juices
  5. Add wine and stir until absorbed
  6. Add broth one small ladle at a time until absorbed, stirring constantly
  7. Add the broccoli florets when you have the barley about half done absorbing liquids – wait a little longer if using broccolini as it’s more delicate
  8. Stir in parmesan cheese and butter
  9. Garnish with additional parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil