Easy Creamy Tomato Barley Risotto

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on December 30, 2010


Well, I never did make it to Body Pump today after all! It turns out that my muscles do not appreciate the Booty Camp DVD after a long time off. I’m quite sore today and opted to give my muscles some time to repair themselves. The body builds muscles quicker when it has time to repair, right?

There is a Body Pump class tomorrow morning that I am hoping to go to to end 2010 with a bang!

In the meantime, I decided some healthy comfort food was in order. This dish blew me away and I think you will love it too! It is really easy to make and the prep work is very minimal. The recipe below makes enough for 4 side servings (~1/2 cup each), but you could easily double it if you wanted to serve it as a main for 4 people. Otherwise, it makes enough for 2 people for dinner.

Or you know…in a pinch, a food blogger who happens to be cooking at 7:30am and wants something for breakfast…



Easy Creamy Tomato Barley Risotto

Adapted from Vegan Yum Yum Cookbook.

Yield: ~2 cups


  • 1 cup dry pot barley
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1.5 cups canned pureed/diced tomatoes (15 oz can)
  • 1 cup almond milk (or other milk)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (provides the cheesy/creamy taste)
  • 1/2 tbsp Miso, mixed with 1/2 tbsp water
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp kosher salt, to taste


Directions: Rinse pot barley in a strainer and place into medium sized pot that has a lid. Add olive oil, basil, and oregano and stir well until barley is coated with oil. Turn heat to medium until barley begins to sizzle.

Once the barley sizzles, add in the minced garlic and reduce heat to low-medium. Cook for 1 minute and then add in the tomatoes, milk, water, nutritional yeast, miso, and salt. Stir well and bring to a gentle boil and then cover and reduce heat to low.

Cook, covered (with a bit of air escaping) for 30-35 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, being careful not to burn the barley on the bottom of the pot.

The mixture should be creamy, but not soupy, and the barley will be very chewy and not mushy. Serve immediately. Serves 4 side dishes and makes 2 cups worth.

Note: I read that it can take 2 hours to cook, but after just 35 minutes, I deemed it ready to eat. If you don’t want it as chewy you could always cook it longer.


This recipe is very easy to make and requires just a few steps!

Mince your clove of garlic and gather your barley, oil, and herbs.


Looking good.


Add the above ingredients into a medium sized pot and heat over medium until the barley begins to sizzle. Now add in the minced garlic and reduce to low heat. Cook for 1 minute.


Gather your canned tomato, milk, water, nutritional yeast, salt, and miso…



The original recipe called for 3 tablespoon of miso, but I thought that was way too much sodium for my liking. I needed only 1/2 a tablespoon and it tasted awesome. The great thing about cooking (as opposed to baking), is that you can always adjust dishes to taste because everyone will prefer different things.

You might be able to get away with leaving the Miso out (if you don’t have any), but make sure to add in more salt to taste.


Add to pot and mix well. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to low.


Cook on low, covered, for about 35 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so to ensure that the barley doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot (it will if you leave it, so be careful!).

The result is a healthy, creamy, chewy, and rich barley risotto that makes the perfect winter dish. No dairy required.


This would make such a great dish to serve on New Year’s day if you are not into the whole black eyed peas thing.

I continue to be blown away by the delicious foods I can eat as a vegan!


The original recipe calls for pearled barley, but I picked up pot barley instead because it is much more nutritious. Not having cooked with either before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I absolutely loved the pot barley’s chewy texture!

From what I understand, pearled barley kernels are polished to remove the double outer hull and the bran layer, which also removes many of the nutrients, sort of like white rice. It cooks much more quickly as a result.

Pot (Scotch) barley, on the other hand, is polished like pearl barley, but to a lesser extent. The kernels are less refined, retaining more of the bran layer and it takes longer to cook, but the outcome is a wonderful chewy texture similar to wheat berries! You can use either pearled or pot barley in this recipe.

It has a great nutty flavour too.


It was love at first creamy bite.

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

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Felicia (a taste of health with balance) December 30, 2010 at 6:04 pm

this looks so great angela! creamy and cheesy is right up my alley ;)


Molly December 30, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Hi Angela,

I have followed your blog for a few months now and I just wanted you to know that you have inspired me this New Year. I am eager to be more healthy this upcoming year as many big life changes happen (like graduating college, yikes!) and I hope that through my healthy life choices, my students will make their own healthy choices. Thanks! Happy New Year.


Angela (Oh She Glows) January 1, 2011 at 7:37 pm

that is so great to hear!


Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) December 30, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Angela this looks awesome! I love tomatoes. As in, I eat one every single day. Sometimes 2 a day :) Lycopene much? haha

Anyway this one looks delish..I can’t eat barley b/c it’s a gluten grain but i love barley. But it doesnt love me. I would loveeeee to make this recipe!

Happy 2011!


Roz December 30, 2010 at 8:01 pm

This looks amazing. I have some pearled barley on hand, and will likely try it using that. Is there a HUGE difference nutritionally between pearled and pot?? (barley that is! :) )


Emily December 30, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Ange this looks so great! Risotto is definitely one of those things in life that I have always been wanting to have but couldn’t because of the non-vegan versions. Hope to try this one, especially the barley, soon!


Heather (Heather's Dish) December 30, 2010 at 8:34 pm

i love risotto but am always looking for a way to make it healthier…this sounds amazing!


Lee December 30, 2010 at 9:22 pm

I have a recipe just like this for quinoa but I’ll have to try it with Risotto! Happy 2011 :)


Kat December 30, 2010 at 10:43 pm

I really want to try nutritional yeast. Where can I get it?


Angela (Oh She Glows) January 1, 2011 at 7:37 pm

I think you can find it at most bulk food stores and health stores :)


Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin December 31, 2010 at 8:16 am

I love all your recipes you’ve been posting lately! One of my goals for the New Year is to try out more recipes, so you can bet I’ll be making all of these! :D


Jen December 31, 2010 at 5:43 pm

I recently started following your blog from the Project Food Blog series. This recipe looks delicious–I’m making it as we speak!


Gloria January 1, 2011 at 8:48 am

I made this last night and it turned out great! Thank you =D


Emily January 1, 2011 at 4:36 pm

I made this yesterday and it was INCREDIBLE! I was not expecting it to be so creamy and cheesy-tasting. I’ve been meaning to try a recipe with nutritional yeast in it for a while- now I’m so glad I did. I’m trying to cut out dairy and this will make it a lot easier.

Also, I used pearl barley- I’m not sure if it’s the same as pot barley, but it came out perfectly.


Gloria January 5, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I used Bob’s Red Mill 100% whole grain barley and it took about 1.5 hours to cook. I loved loved loved the slight chewiness and it was totally worth the wait. Thankfully my dinner guest was late :) We ate generous portions of the risotto as our main dish with a fresh loaf of hearty bread. Mmmm delizioso! Needless to say, the two of us polished off the entire pot. Thanks Angela!!


janet January 5, 2011 at 9:11 pm

I had Ottolenghi’s tomato barley on my hitlist, but yours looks so much easier. Both look totally scrumptious, though. :)


Brooke January 12, 2011 at 11:54 am

This recipe was sooooooo good! I should have cooked my pot barley longer but that is lesson learned for next time…..and there will definitely be a next time for this. It was sooooo good!


Laura @ Starloz January 18, 2011 at 9:40 pm

i’ve never used barley, i might now


Alexis May 28, 2012 at 6:37 pm

This was delicious! I added chickpeas and chopped kale to make it a complete meal, and it was fantastic. Thanks for all your wonderful, healthy recipes!


Jennifer May 31, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I love this blog! I go to it for all my recipes! I was wondering where you get all your cute colorful spoons? Haha i know..weird question.


Angela (Oh She Glows) May 31, 2012 at 7:01 pm

thank you Jennifer! Most of them are from Crate and Barrel or random kitchen stores. :)


kaly June 7, 2012 at 1:36 pm

this recipe is phenomenal! i’ve had the worst craving for a vegan version and lo and behold, here it is! thanks so much.


Rebecca June 25, 2012 at 7:00 pm

This was a hit with me and my husband last night. Will def make again. I’m not vegan so used Parmesan cheese instead of nutritional yeast and also only had pearl barley at home but it was so yummy. think it might become a new staple in our house.


Jenny June 26, 2012 at 11:50 am

I’ve actually never had risotto before, but even without a point of comparison, I can say for sure that this is truly an amazing recipe. I was definitely not expecting something so tasty… but then again, I always repeatedly pleasantly surprised by all of your recipes, Angela. (Even the ones that I know will turn out well… will end up turning out better than I could have imagined, similar to how the ones I doubt from the get-go turn into fabulous dishes.)

Thank you for this!


Miss August 16, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Do you think it’d be possible to replace the canned tomatoes in this recipe with passata or tomato puree? I’m not a fan of tomato seeds and try to avoid it as much as possible. And could I use rice instead of miso?


Miss August 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm

*barley, not miso!


Leiah September 15, 2012 at 9:56 am

This was surprisingly good! I used the little can of tomato paste I had on hand (diluted it with vegetable stock). Omitted the miso. Creamy, rich, and reminded me a bit of spaghetti-O’s, but a grown-up, tastier version :)


Court November 1, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Do you think you could sub wheat berries for the barley? Do you think I’d need to soak the wheat berries first? I have a tub of hard red wheat that I use for baking bread, but I’ve never thought to use them in an entree recipe before, that is until you made a comment that the texture of barley & wheat berries was similar.


Ren5ae May 23, 2013 at 12:07 am

Oh dear… I’ve got to say, my first attempt at one of your recipes did NOT go down well at all. I thought “oh, this one has ‘easy’ in the title, that’s for me!”.. lol apparently not. Not only did the barley refuse to actually cook properly (still got quite a bit of crunch), but the sauce got all burned. I had it on the lowest heat and was hovering over it stirring every couple minutes to try (“try” being the key word here) to keep it from burning. No such luck.

I then tried to mask the burned flavour with a little cayenne pepper and onion powder (which has rescued meals in the past), to make it seem “smokey” instead of downright burned.. Worked to a point, but it was still quite evident that some burning had taken place.

I ended up getting so fed up with the lack of barley-related cooking that was going on, and with the continual burning of the sauce, that i just threw in some more water and tossed the lot into the microwave to see if that would nudge the barley into submission. It didn’t.

So for the last hour I’ve been sitting here trying to get down this dreadful pile of burned-but-still-somehow-undercooked-barley gloop.

I don’t know how you do it. You make it look so delicious and easy haha, I appear to have some real anti-skill in the kitchen..

I’m thinking next time I might pre-cook the barley a little before attempting this.



Ren5ae May 23, 2013 at 12:14 am

Ooo, or possibly make the same sauce but use quinoa instead of barley..


Sully August 4, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I made this risotto this week and it was amazing! I haven’t been able to find nutritional yeast, so what I did was throw a handful of cashews in the food processor and I used the pulverized cashews. Still turned out delicious and creamy!


Vanessa February 24, 2014 at 3:14 am

This looks amaazing! :)



Erin R March 5, 2014 at 11:40 pm

I know this is an older post, but I recently discovered your website and made this recipe for dinner tonight. YUM!!! My husband thought it was cheesy rice. We will definitely be making this again. Thanks for the wonderful recipes!


Kate October 18, 2014 at 6:17 pm

I made this the other night and it was great. I love how much easier the method is than regular risotto but the reward is just as good! For the tomato puree, I had about 3 oz of tomato paste leftover from another recipe, and I just threw that in the blender with 10 or 15 cherry tomatoes, seeds, skins and all. The result was a little less than 1.5 cups but worked out awesome! Didn’t have miso either but I just used extra salt. And the barley I used was quick-cooking barley from Trader Joe’s. It took about the same amount of time as the recipe though, 30ish minutes.

Thanks for a great recipe, I think I will definitely be making it again.


Michelle November 17, 2014 at 5:20 pm

We loved this recipe so much we made twice in one week. Thank-you so much for your seriously delicious cuisine and attention to detail in your recipes. You can tell the amount of testing and care that went into…new to vegan world. We are looking for recipes which are not heavy on processed soy products…more whole foods and lower oil. Your blog is my favourite for recipes…bought your cookbook and like yourself after each meal am simple “blown away” by how delicious it can be to eat vegetables!


Angela (Oh She Glows) November 19, 2014 at 8:42 am

Thank you Michelle! I appreciate it :)


Chelsea Balkam April 26, 2015 at 6:13 pm

This recipe is AMAZING. So tastey and creamy and easy to make. I added in some spinach in the last 8 minutes to add some greens :) so yummy!


Adeana August 14, 2015 at 9:31 pm

Thanks for this recipe. Do you think black barley will work for this? Maybe it would just take a bit more time?


Justin December 3, 2015 at 7:21 pm

best vegan recipe I have come across of.
I have been doing vegan cooking for a while and this is is super tasty, healthy and easy to make, and not to mention very original ! this is a winner


Michele January 23, 2016 at 3:12 pm

I’m not familiar with pot barley, but I do have pearled barley on hand. Do you think there is any difference? Would I be ok using the pearled? Thank you!


Marianne May 15, 2016 at 1:47 pm

What could I substitute for nutritional yeast?


Angela Liddon May 26, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Hi Marianne, unfortunately, there isn’t really a substitute for the nutritional yeast, as it’s what gives the pasta its creamy/cheesy taste (unless you consume real cheese, of course!).


Ashley March 9, 2017 at 8:39 pm

Wow! This was so amazing! I didn’t have any nutritional yeast, so I cooked it without, then added in about 1/4-1/2 cup cashew cheese at the end. It was so good I could hardly keep myself from eating the whole pot!


Connie Leung October 13, 2017 at 12:51 am

I LOVED this recipe!! It was sooo good! I doubled the amount because I had a 28oz can for the tomato. But I halved the amount of water and it was perfect!

Toasting the barley definitely made a huge difference – Thank you!!


Angela (Oh She Glows) October 13, 2017 at 10:55 am

Hi Connie, I’m so happy to hear that this recipe was a big hit! Thanks for letting me know :)


Haley January 15, 2018 at 9:56 am

Looks great! If I want to double the serving size do I need to cook the barley longer?


Angela (Oh She Glows) January 15, 2018 at 10:40 am

Hey Haley, Oh good question. I’m sorry but I’m not sure! Please let me know if you try anything out.


Victoria June 12, 2018 at 8:49 pm

Saved this recipe one year ago and tried to make it last night!
And it was amazzzziiinggg!
No need cooking skill just need to watch out the barley at the bottom of the pot just like what you’ve said ❤️

I’m Using pearled barley, and i need about 1 hour to cook this so i add another cup of water so it doesnt burnt out and i subtitute the miso with more salt and it taste cheesy and delicious !
Will make it again !!
Thank you for your recipe x


Yanka July 1, 2018 at 12:22 pm

I make this all the time and love it! As I’m usually in remote places with no nutritional yeast I used a can of coconut milk which is nice and think. Tonight there was no pot barley to be found so I’m trying with risotto :/


Angela (Oh She Glows) July 3, 2018 at 7:37 am

Thanks so much, I love the coconut milk swap :)


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