Red Beet and Barley Risotto

Red Beet and Barley Risotto

With Valentine’s Day tomorrow I thought it only appropriate to give you a bright red recipe in honor of the holiday. And, since you’ve probably been inundated with red velvet and chocolate (ahem, like Friday’s Chocolate Covered Strawberries), I figured I should provide a savory, somewhat healthy counterpoint. Beets are nutritional superstars, boasting high levels of folate, maganese, fiber, vitamin C, betaine, and more. And they taste great. Here they add vibrant color and sweet, earthy flavor to barley risotto – a slightly healthier alternative to traditional arborio rice. Although it takes a little longer than steaming, my favorite way to prepare beets is to roast them as I think it brings out the most flavor. I’m sure you can purchase cooked beets to speed up this risotto, but the roasting time is entirely hands off. The barley gives the dish a pleasantly chewy texture, but you could use half or all arborio rice instead.


The inspiration for this recipe came from quite a few sources. I originally pinned Love and Olive Oil’s gorgeous Roasted Beet Risotto, which she got from Gourmet Live. And Drizzle and Dip’s Beetroot and Barley Risotto gave me the confidence to go ahead and make it with barley instead of arborio rice (I’d already made a Saffron and Butternut Squash Risotto with half and half to great success). In the end I made quite a few adjustments, including using all vegetable broth (instead of water and chicken broth) to make it totally vegetarian. The barley and beets make this a super filling one bowl meal that can easily serve a crowd.

Red Beet and Barley Risotto

For more Valentine’s Day inspiration, I hope you’ll check out my V-Day blog hop from Friday. I was blown away by all the great recipes that people linked up! So much so that I started a whole board on Pinterest just to highlight the recipes. You can check it out here! Happy Valentine’s Day!

4.8 from 12 reviews
Red Beet and Barley Risotto
Prep Time
Cook Time
Total Time
Beetroot lends vibrant color and sweet, earthy flavor to risotto while barley gives the dish a pleasantly chewy texture.
Recipe Type: Entree
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
  • 3 medium beets, stems removed
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups pearl barley
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Tightly wrap beets in foil and roast on a baking sheet until very tender, about 90 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, about 20 minutes.
  3. When beets are cool enough to handle, peel them, discarding stems and root ends, then cut into ½-inch cubes.
  4. Bring the broth to a simmer. Keep at a low simmer, covered (it's important that the broth is hot when making risotto).
  5. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large pan or pot over medium heat.
  6. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not burnt, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the barley and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.
  8. Add the wine and simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 1 minute.
  9. Stir in ½ cup broth and simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding broth, about ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until barley is just tender and creamy-looking, 25 to 30 minutes.
  10. Stir in the beets and season with salt, and pepper (yes, it will turn hot pink!) and cook, stirring, until heated through.
  11. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, then the cheese. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed, and serve.
Kosher dairy, Vegetarian



76 thoughts on “Red Beet and Barley Risotto

  1. Jonathan

    Funny, I just had Risotto for dinner yesterday.
    This seems to be a fresh an interesting take on one of my favorite dishes — I ought to try it some time.
    The photos are amazing, as always.
    Thanks and Happy Valentine’s!

  2. Dara

    Oooh. This looks so tasty. I love making risotto with barley, healthier and heartier than arborio. What a wonderful Valentine’s Day treat!

  3. sallybr

    Oh, I love the sound of this… My husband will not be exactly thrilled, but wow, red beet and barley risotto, what a beautiful looking dish!

    So nice to see your link on the SRC Facebook thread, will have to pin it for future reference

  4. Tina@flourtrader

    Your picture does look so vibrant and colorful. I have never had beets and barley together, so I find this to be a very creative dish. Kudos to you posting a festive dish for Valentine’s that is on the healthy side!

  5. kristy

    Oooo…such beautiful colour! Looks terrific for this special day. Happy Valentine’s Day to you & your loved ones, Katherine. Hope you’re going to have the most romantic evening.

  6. Nami | Just One Cookbook

    It’s nice to see a savory Valentine’s dish as I’ve seen many sweets for the past few days. Using red beet is a fantastic way to bring in color, and it’s a plus because I love beets! It’s such a beautiful and delicious recipe Katherine. I hope you have/had a good Valentine’s Day!

  7. mjskit

    What a perfect Valentine’s Day dish! It’s beautiful! I’ve never used barley for risotto but I bet it does add a great texture as well as flavor. Beets – unfortunately, neither of us are big fans of beets even though they are one of the prettiest root vegetables out there and they make a gorgeous risotto. I do have a butternut squash, so maybe I could roast it and use it instead. I love the idea of using the barley and just have to give that a try!

    • Katherine

      Thanks MJ! Yes, if you’re not crazy about beets this definitely isn’t for you. But butternut squash would be amazing! Barley makes a great risotto. I also love to use half barley and half arborio to get the best of both worlds.

  8. Hannah

    Beets and barley – what a terrific combination and stunning dish! I’m always looking for more ways to use barley. It’s one of my favorite grains by far.

  9. Javelin Warrior

    Katherine, I’m in love with this risotto! The color, the texture, that there’s NO food dye – amazing… I have featured this post in today’s Friday Food Fetish roundup. Let me know if you have any objections and thanks for the inspiration

  10. Marytail

    Thank you for inspiration! I liked the recipe, only I don’t see the need to make the process so tiresome with all baking of beetroots. I have simply peeled and cubed raw beets, then added them to frying onions- cooked a while till just softer but crispy and proceeded as in the recipe… The idea with precooking of beets comes from understanding that introducing raw beets in liquids would make it loose the deep color – by frying them over I avoided it))).

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