2 March 2019

Tomato Pearl Barley Risotto

Creamy, delicious tomato pearl barley risotto. Serve up with a side of rocket tossed in olive oil and balsamic, or some sauteed greens with a little lemon and chili for a weeknight meal, or go the extra mile with the addition of garlic bread and a glass of red for a weekend treat.

This risotto uses pearl barley in replacement of the usual arborio rice. Pearl barley is a lot chewier and much hardier than rice, so it adds a lovely texture to the dish; its nutty flavour emphasising the sweetness of the rich tomato sauce. The creaminess of this dish, brought partially by the starch from the grains, is heightened with a little vegan cheese melted through, it adds a base seasoning as well as giving the sauce a wonderful gloss and mouthfeel. I also used tinned cherry tomatoes in this recipe; they add a wonderful sweetness and a real pop of flavour.

Whilst being delicious, pearl barley also has a number of nutritional benefits to provide; it contains soluble fibre including beta glucan and pectin, the first being excellent in helping to lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Other sources of beta glucan include oats, wholegrains and even some seaweeds! LDL cholesterol is an important carrier of cholesterol around the body and we do need some cholesterol, but often we have too much and this can lead to a build-up of plaque in our arteries, known as atherosclerosis and can progress to other heart-related diseases. It all sounds pretty scary, but the reality is that through a healthy diet and lifestyle habits, we can significantly minimise our risk of non-communicable diseases. Things like eating a balanced diet - one particularly rich in plants, exercising, maintaining a healthy body weight and not smoking are all great things we can do to keep us in check, but of course, that's not forgetting risks we can't control such as age, gender and genetics. Pearl barley also contains iron, essential for red blood cell formation; it allows oxygen to bind and be transported to our cells, which is why its directly linked with our energy levels, as well as vitamin B3 which is essential for our metabolism and DNA production. 

So as you can see, there are so many benefits to this dish, many that we haven't even touched on, but the most important thing is that it's super delicious. I cooked this for my family a few weeks ago and they absolutely loved it, my mum wasn't sure about pearl barley before and it definitely convinced her. So try new things, eat plenty of plants and enjoy your food!

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Tomato Pearl Barley Risotto | Serves: 4 | Time: 45 mins

You'll need

  • Large stew pot
  • Chopping board
  • Knife
  • Measuring cups + spoons


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1/3 cup red wine (cook with one you'd want to drink)
  • 1 tin cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp vegan bouillon powder
  • 3-4 cups boiling water 
  • 2 tsp dried Italian herbs
  • 1/3 cup grated vegan mature cheddar/parmesan 
  • 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp rosemary, finely chopped
  • Salt & black pepper
Ideas for serving:


  1. Heat the pan on a medium heat then add a splash of oil. Dice the onion and fry until softened and slightly caramelised. Crush in the garlic, finely dice the celery, peel and finely dice the carrot, add to the pan and sweat off for a few minutes. Add the pearl barley and stir through, then add the wine and cook off until reduced. 
  2. Add in the tin of cherry tomatoes, bouillon powder, boiling water and dried herbs. Stir, bring to the boil and simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring every few minutes or so.
  3. Once the pearl barley is almost done (tender, still a little chewy but not hard or crunchy), stir through the vegan cheese, parsley and rosemary. Taste for seasoning, adjust as required, then serve up with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper and enjoy!
Cassidy xx