Pearl barley, parsnip & sage risotto

Pearl barley, parsnip & sage risotto

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(12 ratings)

Prep: 5 mins Cook: 55 mins


Serves 4
Pearl barley makes a great alternative to rice in this vegetarian risotto recipe flavoured with sage, garlic and Parmesan

Nutrition and extra info

  • Healthy
  • Vegetarian

Nutrition: per serving

  • kcal629
  • fat12g
  • saturates6g
  • carbs107g
  • sugars14g
  • fibre13g
  • protein15g
  • salt1.2g
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  • 25g butter, plus an extra knob to stir through



    Butter is a dairy product made from separating whole milk or cream into fat and…

  • 1 onion, finely chopped



    Onions are endlessly versatile and an essential ingredient in countless recipes. Native to Asia…

  • 4 parsnips, about 500g, peeled and cut into chunks



    The fact that the parsnip is a member of the carrot family comes as no surprise – it looks…

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 10 sage leaves, shredded, plus extra to serve
  • 400g pearl barley, rinsed
  • 1.4l hot vegetable stock
  • 25g parmesan (or vegetarian alternative), grated, plus extra to serve



    Parmesan is a straw-coloured hard cheese with a natural yellow rind and rich, fruity flavour. It…


  1. Heat the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, and cook gently for 5 mins. Tip in the parsnips, turn up the heat and cook for 8-10 mins, stirring every so often, until the parsnips are starting to brown and caramelise.

  2. Add the garlic and sage, and mix through. Tip in the barley and stir to coat well. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook for 35-40 mins, or until nearly all the liquid has been absorbed and the pearl barley is tender but still has a bite. You may need to add a little extra boiling water.

  3. Take off the heat, top with the Parmesan and a knob of butter, then leave to melt. Give the risotto a good stir, then spoon into dishes. Top with more sage, Parmesan and some black pepper.

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Comments, questions and tips

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Heather Moorhouse
2nd Sep, 2019
Very tasty, as well as cheap and filling! I did double the garlic & sage, as well as adding quite a bit of black pepper & some chilli flakes. I think if I had followed it to the letter it may have been a little mild for my taste, hence dropping a star. The general idea was still the same though and certainly not a meal idea I would have come up with myself, so chuffed I gave it a go.
17th Feb, 2019
Ok so I ever so slightly burnt this. Even so it was AMAZING. Really enjoyed this. Can't wait to try it again properly.
12th Jan, 2017
Delicious! I love risotto-type dishes made with barley – you don't have to stir them constantly while they cook, and the barley grains have a lovely 'pop' as you eat them. The parsnip and sage flavour combination worked really well. I had to add more boiling water a couple of times as it cooked. I served it with steamed spring greens on the side. Yum!
30th Mar, 2015
This is listed as a vegetarian dish, so why include parmesan in the ingredients?
18th Aug, 2015
because it's vegetarian not vegan
Mrs Twiggy
8th Sep, 2015
I think you'll find parmesan is not vegetarian, it contains meat products.
22nd Jan, 2017
Don't be a pedant - if you are clued up enough to know about calf's rennet then you are clued up to know a substitute or just use vege parmesan...
28th Jan, 2015
This was absolutely delicious (even my fussy husband thought so). To make it a little healthier I left out the butter and instead used a teaspoon of coconut oil for frying the onions and parsnips. Also I didn't have any parmesan so just grated a small amount of mature cheddar on top when serving. Will definitely make again!
10th Jan, 2015
Lovely creamy texture and subtle flavours. I used organic pearl barley, with smaller grains.
Molly Price's picture
Molly Price
5th Jun, 2018
What could be used instead of the parsnip?
goodfoodteam's picture
5th Jun, 2018
Thanks for your question. Parsnips have quite a distinctive flavour so there isn't a direct swap. If you don't like the taste of parsnips, you could try carrots. Or, try one of our other pearl barley risottos:
11th May, 2016
I make this recipe with 1l of stock and 2 generous glasses of dry white wine (around 400ml). I add the wine first and allowed the barley to soak it up before adding the stock subsequently. A lot of traditional risotto's use white wine and I find that it really adds to the fresh taste of the dish and lifts the heaviness often created by the stodgy grain and creamy dairy
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