Kale, Walnut and Lemon Pearl Barley Risotto

Kale, Walnut and Lemon Pearl Barley Risotto Recipe

Risotto is a dish that adapts well to every season. Depending on what ingredients you use to flavour yours it can be light and delicate (Leek and Pea Risotto), or rich and decadent (Red Pepper and Goats Cheese Risotto). However, flavours are not the only way in which you can influence the seasonality of a dish. Though traditionally made with short, fat rice, it is possible to incorporate other grains or even pasta into a risotto. This recipe for Kale, Walnut and Lemon Pearl Barley Risotto runs with that idea, taking a step closer to winter perfection.

Pearl barley is a fantastically comforting cereal grain, with a pleasantly dense texture. It is generally used as a thickener in stew and is a particularly effective bulker. These qualities translate perfectly to risotto, giving each bite a similar yet meatier consistency than that afforded by rice. It is these characteristics that make pearl barley such a good replacement for rice, which is a little more delicate.

Kale, Walnut and Lemon Pearl Barley Risotto Recipe

An impressively hardy brassica, kale is now coming into season and has increased vastly in popularity in recent years. Used in the right way – with very little cooking – kale can be every bit as delicious as Brussels sprouts or cabbage. Indeed, it is best stirred into stews or risotto right at the end of the cooking process as this preserves its crunchy texture and sweet flavour. However, if you’re looking for a slightly different way to use this vegetable, why not try using it as a base for pesto, using my Spinach, Feta and Walnut Pesto as a guide.

Kale, Walnut and Lemon Pearl Barley Risotto

Serves 4


• 1 onion, finely chopped

• 2 cloves of garlic, sliced

• 2 tbsp olive oil

• 300g pearl barley, rinsed

• 1.5 litres chicken stock

• 50g parmesan cheese

• 70g walnuts,broken

• 50g butter

• 4 handfuls of sliced fresh kale, green or purple

• the juice of half a lemon

• salt

• pepper


1. Gently fry your onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Stir through your rinsed pearl barley and cook for 2 minutes. Toast your walnuts until browned.

2. Add the chicken stock one ladle-full at a time, waiting for each to be incorporated before adding the next. Once the barley is plump and cooked through stop adding the stock and remove the risotto from the heat.

3. Stir the cheese, butter and walnuts through your cooked risotto, pop the lid on and set aside to sit for 3-4 minutes.

4. Finally, stir through the kale, season to taste and drizzle with fresh lemon juice before serving.

Kale, Walnut and Lemon Pearl Barley Risotto Recipe Kale, Walnut and Lemon Pearl Barley Risotto Recipe

Cost: Pearl barley is a relatively cost-effective ingredient and should set you back less than £1/500g. Kale is in season at the moment and should be really crisp and fresh – a large bag should also cost no more than £1. As such, this meal for four can be produced for around £2.50.

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38 comments on “Kale, Walnut and Lemon Pearl Barley Risotto

  1. cookinginsens
    November 27, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    I like barley, especially in soup. That looks good Frugal.

    • frugalfeeding
      November 28, 2013 at 9:50 am

      Thanks, Rosemary. I made some stew with it too – it was fantastic!

  2. rachsmith
    November 27, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Looks delicious. I’ve been going big on pearl barley recently.
    I don’t know why it isn’t used more…especially as it’s 500g/50p at my local supermarket!

    • frugalfeeding
      November 28, 2013 at 9:49 am

      That’s so cheap! You should totally be using it more 😀

  3. Chica Andaluza
    November 27, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    I love pearl barley but never thoguht to use it to completely replace the rice – great idea and a lovely recipe!

  4. Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe
    November 28, 2013 at 12:29 am

    This looks really delicious. I need more risotto in my life!
    PS. I’m really liking the new look!

    • frugalfeeding
      November 28, 2013 at 9:49 am

      Thanks, Amanda – I felt the site could do with a spruce up 😀

  5. Sho'Nuff
    November 28, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    You should be aware that I have nominated you for The Versatile Blogger Award. You can find instructions on how to accept the award on my blog http://shonufforganics.com/


  6. Skye
    November 28, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Love that you’ve used kale in risotto! Am definitely going to make this – looks so healthy and warming.

  7. Dina
    November 28, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    this looks so comforting and healthy!

  8. bitsofnice
    November 29, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    I adore barley and eat it super often but I have never tried it risotto style so I will just have to!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 4, 2013 at 9:40 pm

      It works just as well as rice in my opinion.

  9. spree
    November 30, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    just so very very perfect for this weather, yum!

  10. leaf (the indolent cook)
    December 2, 2013 at 12:56 am

    I like the idea of using barley. I love rice, but sometimes it’s nice to mix it up a bit, and this looks so wholesome.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 4, 2013 at 9:34 pm

      It was very wholesome. I like rice too, but you’re right; variety is great!

  11. baconbiscuit212
    December 2, 2013 at 3:15 am

    That looks gorgeous and perfect for a post-Thanksgiving detox. Bravo, Nick! Fantastic as always 🙂

    • frugalfeeding
      December 4, 2013 at 9:34 pm

      Detox? Pah. Still, I’m glad you like the post 😀

  12. Jenni
    December 2, 2013 at 6:42 am

    Always love your photos and this recipe looks fresh and lovely.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 4, 2013 at 9:40 pm

      Thanks, Jenni – so glad you like my photos 😀

  13. Francesca
    December 2, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Love the idea of swapping arborio with barley. And kale is awesome, always 😀

    • frugalfeeding
      December 4, 2013 at 9:33 pm

      It works very well actually – gives it a little more “meat”.

  14. Willow @ Will Cook For Friends
    December 2, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    Yum! I never would have thought to use barley in risotto, but it sounds fantastic! I love the kale, too… wish I had a big bowl of this to cozy up with!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 4, 2013 at 9:39 pm

      Thanks, Willow. You can pretty much use any grain – if you think about the recipe properly most things will work.

  15. odelleasmith
    January 9, 2015 at 7:57 am

    Usually soak pearl barley prior to using, imagine it’s not required in using it in risotto, must try this, warming, filling, comfort food, yet fresh with lemon & kale, love sprouts so must add these to dish. Nice recipe, makes a change from rice & I do enjoy a good risotto!
    Thank-you, Odelle Smith.

  16. Leila
    March 29, 2015 at 11:41 am

    This is a seriously good recipe. My 1 year old loves it too. I add oven roasted cubes of Pumpkin for him too. So good!

  17. Agathe
    June 26, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Oh, what a satisfying dish. Just cooked it and ate it. Thank you for this wonderful recipe! Except that I feel like a nap now…! And a nice glass of white wine was missing….Looking forward to enjoy the leftovers tomorrow.

    • frugalfeeding
      June 29, 2015 at 8:42 pm

      Great to hear – I remember it being super satisfying. I must make it again 🙂

  18. gtownend13
    April 5, 2017 at 11:10 pm

    Well good! 2017 and still going 🙂

  19. Cheryl
    June 16, 2018 at 12:37 am

    I know this is an old post, but I made this tonight and it was fantastic! Thank you!

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