Oil-Free Vegan Mushroom Barley “Risotto”

Oil-Free Vegan Mushroom Barley “Risotto”

Images of an angry British man flashed in my head all while making this recipe. I never quite understood why the contestants on Hell’s Kitchen couldn’t make risotto—they’re chefs, aren’t they?—until I researched a few recipes and realized the intricate dance of fat, heat, and stirring that was required for the perfect plate of creamy rice. In keeping with my magpie tendencies, I was dissatisfied with any single recipe I found so decided to make my own hybrid of Smitten Kitchen’s Mushroom Bourguignon and the Risotto with Peas and Greens from It’s All Good. Because I’ve been dealing with a bit of dryness constitutionally, I also swapped out the traditional rice with barley—which is lighter to digest and has more cooling properties to balance Kapha and Pitta doshas—and cashews in the vegan parmesan for hemp seeds, which are loaded with plant-based Omega-3s perfect for dry eyes. With a slice of hearty bread, candlelight, and good company, this is the recipe you need for deep wintertime nourishment for body and spirit.

Oil-Free Vegan Mushroom Barley "Risotto"

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 8


  • 1 oz. dried portobello mushrooms
  • 3 cups homemade vegetable stock
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 16 oz. white mushrooms
  • 8 oz. baby bella mushrooms
  • ¼-⅓ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme stems removed
  • 1-¼ cup dry pearl barley
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach roughly chopped
  • 10 oz. frozen peas thawed
  • Splash almond milk optional
  • Fresh parsley for serving

Vegan Parmesan

  • ¾ cup hemp seeds
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • Pinch of flaky sea salt


  • Cover the dry portobello mushrooms with boiling water (~2 cups) in a medium bowl. Let sit for 5-10 minutes while you prepare the other mushrooms. Leave the peas on the counter to thaw.
  • Add the vegetable broth to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and let simmer on low on the stovetop.
  • Add the garlic and shallot to a medium saute pan with 1 tablespoon of water. Cook until fragrant and the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. (Add more water if the pan gets too dry.)
  • Meanwhile, chop the mushrooms into ½-inch pieces. Add them to the pan, stir to combine, and cook until the mushrooms are soft, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Halfway through, add the rice wine vinegar (the amount will depend on how much liquid your mushrooms have made while cooking).
  • Strain the soaking mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Add the mushrooms to the pan with the thyme, and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, and cover while you make the barley.
  • Heat a large pot or Dutch oven and add the dry barley. Let it toast for 3-4 minutes, or until fragrant and just beginning to brown (but not burned). Add 1 cup of the reserved mushroom soaking liquid, stir well, and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the mushroom liquid and then the broth, in 1 cup increments, letting each addition absorb and stirring continuously. The barley should be very creamy but still a bit chewy.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the vegan parmesan: Add all ingredients to a food processor, and blend until well chopped.
  • Remove the risotto from heat, and stir in ¼ cup of the vegan parmesan. Add all of the mushrooms, then the chopped spinach. Stir to combine well—the heat of the pot will wilt the spinach in a few minutes, and lightly covering the pot will expedite the process. If the mixture got less creamy in the process, add a splash of almond milk to thicken.


Serve with fresh parsley, salt and pepper, and more vegan parmesan as desired.

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