Barley Risotto with Kale and Butternut Squash is comfort food at it’s finest. Local produce creates a hearty vegetarian meal that is sure to become a regular on your fall menu!

Barley Risotto with Kale and Butternut Squash |

Holy weather, Batman. Mountain weather is unpredictable at best. One day it’s 70+ degrees with bluebird skies and the next it’s 37 with howling wind and pouring rain. We’ve experienced both of these types of days just this week. I planted a second round of radishes and greens last week and I’m so crossing my fingers that I’ll get to harvest them next month. It froze the night before last and I haven’t had the courage to go and look in on my tomatoes. I swear they just needed a few more weeks but looks like Mother Nature has other plans for us. As long as she promises to keep it coming through the winter, she can have my tomatoes. Heavy snow for a couple tomato plants seems like a fair enough trade, don’t you think?

Barley Risotto with Kale and Butternut Squash |

Fall is magical, isn’t it? Not just for the amazing colors in the trees or the fact that I can resume my favorite wardrobe of all time: leggings and big, bulky sweaters but it’s the end of summer produce mixed with the promise of winter lurking around the corner. What better way to meld the two seasons than through cooking? I start to pull the heartier grains from the back of my cupboard and dust of my slow cooker. The market starts producing hard winter varietal squashes and the greens are the absolute best right now. They thrive with a little frost and the cold brings out their sweetness.

Barley Risotto with Kale and Butternut Squash |

This recipe is my ode to fall. It’s the best of everything I mentioned above. It’s also hearty and filling without being too heavy. A glass of red wine (or two) no judgement here, is exactly how I want to end my day. Preferably while my kids are upstairs cleaning their rooms and not wrestling or sliding down the banister like the wild heathens that they are but that’s never going to happen so I’ll settle for a warm bowl of comfort and my wine and do my best to tune out the circus going on around me.

Barley Risotto with Kale and Butternut Squash |

I developed this recipe in partnership with Whole Grains Council in honor of September being Whole Grains month. You can see my recipe along with all the other participants HERE. Have a great weekend, everyone and enjoy the (hopefully) gorgeous fall weather wherever you are!


Barley Risotto with Kale and Butternut Squash

Yield: 4 servings

A vegetarian risotto with kale and butternut squash and made with barley instead of arborio rice.


  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4- 4 ½ cups vegetable (or chicken) stock
  • 1 small onion, diced (about ⅔ cup)
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup barley
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 ½ cups finely chopped kale
  • ⅓ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese + more for garnish
  • salt and pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Place the butternut squash on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss squash to coat evenly and roast in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, turning pan and rotating squash once or twice so it evenly browns. Remove from oven.
  2. Meanwhile, heat chicken or vegetable stock in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Turn to low and keep stock warm.
  3. Over medium heat, add remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and butter to a large heavy bottomed stock pot. Add onion and saute 10-12 minutes until soft and golden. Add minced garlic and barley. Stir for 1 minute until garlic is fragrant and barley is glossy and coated in butter and oil.
  4. Turn the heat to medium-high and add white wine. Stir and let the wine evaporate.
  5. Use a lade and begin adding the stock about ½ cup at a time, stirring after each addition. When the stock is just about evaporated, add more. The barley shouldn’t be soupy or dry. Play with the heat and keep it between medium and medium-high and stir frequently.
  6. Begin tasting the barley about 25 minutes after you initially add it. In the end you want the barley to be tender but still have a tiny bit of crunch; this could take as long as 35-40 minutes. You might use all the stock but might not…keep extra on hand just to be safe!
  7. Stir in the kale and parmesan and let season the risotto with salt and pepper. If risotto gets too thick, stir in additional 1/4 cup stock if needed (a few tablespoons at a time) until you have desired consistency.
  8. Serve warm topped with butternut squash.
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19 Responses to Barley Risotto with Kale and Butternut Squash

  1. This looks so creamy and perfect comfort food for fall!!

  2. Fall is the BEST! I’m so happy it’s (almost) here. Your risotto looks so creamy and delicious. Pinned!

  3. mmm this looks and sounds so heavenly and comforting! Im itching for leggings and big thick sweaters too…and I definitely plan on curling up with a big bowl of this and TWO glasses of wine!

  4. Definitely bookmarking this. I’ve never made risotto with anything other than rice! This looks like a great way to welcome in the fall. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Jen says:

    Can hardly wait to try this! Yummy.

  6. Megan says:

    I made this tonight for friends. Delicious. Thanks so much.

  7. Jamie says:

    Oh wow, this looks incredible! I think my cooking plans for the weekend just changed and this is going on the menu!

  8. Laura says:

    Made this last night and it was delicious!

  9. Lynn says:

    We live overseas so I’m not sure I’ll be able to find barley risotto. Do you think it would still be good with rice risotto?

  10. Sarah h says:

    Hi just wondering is pearl barley suitable for the recipe ?

  11. Lauren says:

    Do you think the barley could be substituted with quinoa? Would the recipe need to be adjusted at all?

  12. I’d been dying to try barley risotto so we chose this recipe tonight as our first attempt at barley risotto. It was outstanding! I cannot wait to make it again. The kale and butternut combo was so delicious.

  13. Sarah says:

    I just finished having this for dinner tonight and had to comment. It was wonderful! It took 35 minutes to get creamy and fully come together from the time I added the wine to the pot. The kale and butternut squash complemented the risotto perfectly. I did add one extra splash of wine with the last half cup of stock because it was tasting a little bland. Between that and the salt and pepper, it was perfectly seasoned. Thank you for the excellent recipe!

  14. Nina says:

    I used regular squash, and fried the kale in butter ’til almost crisp. And was out of barley so used wheat. Grated Austrian smoked Parmesan. My youngest daughter convinced us to have mozzarella with this, but I could have done without it. A super delicious dish!

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