Barley Risotto with Feta and Kale

Barley risotto with feta and kale is of course is non-traditional. There’s no parmesan, no white wine, no butter. Instead this is a risotto made with pearl barley, tomatoes, winter greens and Greek feta. The spices used for this recipe are smoked paprika, fresh thyme, bay leaf and red pepper flakes, which add depth and a warm aroma to the tomatoes and earthiness of the barley. So when you’re craving carbs and comfort, this is your dish. It’s vegetarian and flavorful enough to serve for company, but simple enough for a weeknight meal. And… it makes great leftovers!

Gersten-Risotto mit Feta-Käse und Grünkohl Rezept

What kind of barley to use

Okay, first a quick barley run-down: there are two common types of barley, hulled and pearl. This is a pearled barley recipe. Hulled barley retains the outer bran layer, while pearl barley has some or all of the outer bran layer along with the hull removed. And although hulled barley contains more fiber, it takes a lot longer to cook. Thus comes in pearl barley. It doesn’t take any longer than cooking a traditional risotto. And time is of the essence when you want to get a nutritious meal on the table midweek. Nutritious? Yes! Pearl barley still offers a decent amount of fiber and nutrients and. So even though peal barley is somewhat refined, it is still healthy and very good for you.
Barley Risotto with Feta and Kale

What to serve along with this barley risotto

Although this makes a fantastic stand alone meal, feel free to add your favorite protein such grilled chicken, fish or seafood. Or keep things vegetarian and simply serve it with a mixed green salad, or your favorite crusty bread and a glass of your favorite wine.

I really hope you LOVE this barley risotto! It’s:

Easy to make
& So delicious

If you’re into risotto, be sure to check out my other risotto recipes! I’ve have quite a few recipes, both traditional and non-traditional.

The inspiration for this barley risotto recipe came from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Barley Risotto with Marinated Feta.

Barley Risotto with Feta and Kale
5 from 2 votes

Barley Risotto with Greens and Feta

This one-pot dish gives risotto a makeover with pearl barley and the refreshing flavors of tomato, kale and feta. This dish makes and easy and healthy meal, that also doubles up as tasty leftovers which can be brought to work and even be enjoyed at room temperature.
Course Main Course
Category Mediterranean
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 395 kcal
Autor Elle


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup pearled barley (200 g)
  • 3 to 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind (from organic lemon)
  • 250 g tomato passata
  • 1 x 400 g can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups water
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 handfuls kale, leaves removed from stems, finely chopped
  • 150 g feta, crumbled


  1. Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick sauté pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic, reduce the heat to medium, season with a pinch of salt, and cook for 5 minutes or until onion is soft.
  2. Add the barley, thyme, smoked paprika, and red pepper flakes, and cook for one minute, stirring until barley is coated with the spices. Add the bay leaf, lemon rind, tomato passata and diced tomatoes, plus 3 cups of water. Season with a pinch of salt. Stir to combine.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the mixture is gently simmering. Cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. The barley is ready when it is tender and most of the liquid should be absorbed. Taste and season with more salt, if desired.
  4. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaf, and discard. Stir in the greens and stir until they wilt. Gently fold in feta. Season with fresh ground pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning, as desired and enjoy!


Kale can easily be subbed out with Swiss chard or spinach leaves.

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  1. Really good! I did make a few changes though:

    I added the kale about 10 or so minutes from the end, but the pieces were larger.
    I did did have tomato passata, so I used tomato paste.
    I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned one.
    I used parmesan cheese instead of feta.

    • Thanks Kate! Love that you used fresh tomatoes with some tomato paste! That’s a great tip for fresh summer tomatoes. And parmesan is a great choice too!


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