Barley, mushroom and butternut squash risotto

By Wendy Andresen | May 22, 2019
Photo by: Wendy Andresen

We usually think of risotto as Italian arborio rice cooked in broth to a creamy consistency resulting from the starch in the rice. A perfect risotto is labor-intensive and requires constant stirring and frequent additions of broth. Here we use a healthier grain, barley, which is much easier to cook and every bit as creamy. Just steer clear of quick-cooking or instant barley, which forms a soggy, gluey mass. This risotto recipe comes together quickly and easily and is nutrient-dense.


3/4 cup hulled or pearled barley

2 cups cubed butternut squash

1 small onion, diced

7 portobello mushroom caps (“baby bella”), sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. canola oil

2 Tbsp. whole raw cashews

1/2 cup nondairy milk

2 Tbsp. fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried

3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

Pinch nutmeg

1/2 tsp. cider vinegar

1 tsp. salt or more, to taste

Sliced scallions for garnish

Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling (use your best)

Nondairy Parmesan for garnish (recipe follows)

Grated nondairy Parmesan for serving (see previous columns for this recipe)


1. Cook barley according to package directions until it’s al dente. Drain off any excess water.

2. Cook butternut squash in just enough water to cover for about 20 minutes or so, until it’s very tender. Drain it and reserve 2/3 cup of the cooking liquid.

3. Saute onion in oil until it’s translucent. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until mushrooms give off their juices.

4. In a high-speed blender, puree squash cubes, reserved cooking liquid, nondairy milk, cashews. thyme, nutritional yeast, nutmeg, vinegar and salt until completely smooth, at least 2 minutes.

5. Add the mixture from the blender into the sauté pan along with the cooked barley. Cook over medium heat until the liquid is reduced somewhat and mixture is creamy but not runny.

6. Drizzle with some of your best extra-virgin olive oil, garnish with sliced scallions, and dust with plenty of nondairy grated Parmesan. I just happened to have some mushroom/sage EVOO, and it was heavenly.

Nondairy grated Parmesan

2 cups almond flour

2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

2 Tbsp. mellow white miso paste

1 1/2 tsp. lactic acid powder (order online)

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. This makes a huge batch, so you can refrigerate some in a pretty jar that looks nice on your table and store the rest in the freezer indefinitely.

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