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close up of barley risotto topped with asparagus and peas on a white plate

Asparagus Barley Risotto

  • Author: Emily
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Diet: Vegan


This Vegan Asparagus Barley Risotto is a comforting dinner recipe that’s topped with bright and fresh spring produce! Made with whole grain pearl barley, it’s a unique take on a traditional dish and easily customized.



For risotto:

  • 1.5 cups pearl barley (or barley-grain mix, as featured in these photos)
  • 4 cups broth or water
  • 1 cup white wine (or more water/broth)
  • 5 TBS olive oil or butter, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, washed and chopped into one inch pieces
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 TBS lemon juice and 1 TBS lemon zest (optional)
  • Sea salt (used throughout)*
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
  • 1.5 cups (1 can) white kidney beans
  • 1/4 cup vegan parmesan

For topping:

  • Micro greens, snap peas, and fresh parsley to garnish


  1. Set a fine mesh strainer on top of a large bowl. Add barley to strainer and rise with 4 cups water/broth and 1 cup wine (or more water). Press to drain, capturing all liquids in the large bowl. This helps to preserve all starches in the barley, as we will use this liquid for cooking. Set bowl of liquid aside.
  2. Heat 4 TBS olive oil or butter to medium in a large diameter pan or stock pot (the more surface area for the bottom of the pot, the better). Add drained barley, stir, and toast for 5 minutes, until nutty. Turn the heat to low and add garlic and shallots. Sauté for five minutes, stirring to prevent burning the garlic. Add 3/4 of the reserved liquid from your large bowl (be careful, as it may sputter). Stir.
  3. Cover your pot with a lid and let barley cook for 25-30 minutes. Exact cook times may vary depending on the pot you use, so I recommend checking a grain of barley around the 25 minute mark. It should have a subtle chew but not be crunchy. If your liquid is not absorbed, turn the heat up slightly as needed.
  4. While risotto is cooking, prepare your topping. Heat remaining 1 TBS oil in a large skillet or pot over medium. Add asparagus and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir to combine and let sauté for 5 minutes, until bright green and tender. Add in peas to reheat. Remove from burner and add lemon juice and zest. Set aside.
  5. When nearly all of your liquid is absorbed in the risotto (mine took 30 minutes), remove the lid and add in the rest of your reserved liquid, 1 tsp salt, and almond milk. Continue cooking with the lid off for 5 minutes or so, until a creamy consistency is reached.  While this is cooking, pour white beans onto a plate and mash with a fork. Turn off heat on stove and add white beans to risotto, along with vegan parmesan. Stir to combine and taste, if it seems flat add a few more pinches of salt.
  6. To serve, ladle barley risotto onto hot plates (warmed in the microwave). Top with asparagus mixture, fresh parsley, micro greens, and sliced snap peas if desired. Risotto will keep in the fridge for up to five days, but will dry out while chilling. If you plan to make this ahead and reheat, add a few TBS of almond milk to add replace lost moisture.


I use Morton Coarse Sea Salt because I have easy access to it. If you are using Diamond Crystal Kosher salt, I recommend using more than the amounts listed here. If you are using Morton Kosher salt, I recommend using slightly less to start out with, as the shape of these salt grains can taste “saltier” on your palate.

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American


  • Serving Size: One sixth of recipe
  • Calories: 383 calories
  • Sugar: 4.9 grams
  • Sodium: 459 milligrams
  • Fat: 13.4 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 1.8 grams
  • Unsaturated Fat: 11.6 grams
  • Trans Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 56.9 grams
  • Fiber: 13.4 grams
  • Protein: 11.7 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams

Keywords: risotto, rice, creamy, white beans, comfort food, asparagus, spring, peas