Slow Cooker Barley and Chickpea Risotto

Slow-Cooker Barley and Chickpea Risotto - a big bowl of whole grains packed with chickpeas, cauliflower and vegetables. Your slow cooker does all the work for you! |

I can’t stop. I won’t stop. No, I’m not trying to be Miley. I don’t want to get anywhere near Robin Thicke. I would rather make risotto out of grains than twerk. Once I realized that the risotto cooking method works for just about any grain, I haven’t been able to stop making grain risottos for dinner. I’ve conquered steel-cut oat risotto and I’ve gotten my stir on with farro and kale. The time had come to let my slow cooker do some of the work.

Slow-Cooker Barley and Chickpea Risotto - a big bowl of whole grains packed with chickpeas, cauliflower and vegetables. Your slow cooker does all the work for you! |

This isn’t a traditional slow-cooker recipe that you can set and forget for eight hours. Barley only takes about two hours to cook using this method. So while you can’t leave for work all day, you can leave for a few errands. Or clean your house. Or relax on the couch and drink a big ol’ glass of wine. Just stir some stuff into your slow cooker bowl as soon as you get home from work (or better yet, prep it and refrigerate it the night before!), and in two hours, a big pot of barley, carrot, cauliflower and chickpea risotto will be waiting for you! Get the Parmesan cheese out of the fridge, pour yourself [another] glass of wine, find some forks, and you’re ready for dinner.

Slow-Cooker Barley and Chickpea Risotto - a big bowl of whole grains packed with chickpeas, cauliflower and vegetables. Your slow cooker does all the work for you! |

Slow-Cooker Barley and Chickpea Risotto


  • 1-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, minced
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1-1/4 cups pearl barley, rinsed
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2-1/2 cups less-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1-1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add carrots, garlic, cauliflower and onion. Cook until vegetables being to soften, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in thyme and barley; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Transfer mixture to slow-cooker bowl. Stir in garbanzo beans, broth, water, salt and pepper. Cook on high 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until barley is tender and most liquid is absorbed.
  4. Remove and discard thyme sprigs; stir in lemon juice. Serve in warm bowls garnished with cheese and parsley.

This recipe originally appeared here on the Naturebox blog.

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  1. Love this! I haven’t made risotto in years!

  2. Lori this looks so fabulous over on Bonbon Break, thank you so much for sharing!!

  3. I made this last night and it was fantastic – thank you!

  4. This is just scrumptious!  Even better the next day.  I will be making this again and again.  Thank you for a wonderful recipe!

    • So glad you loved, it Terri! I really liked it as leftovers, too. But then again, I like MOST things better as leftovers. haha.

  5. This sounds delicious and I would like to try this.  Have you ever added chicken to this for some added protein?

    • Hi Sue! I haven’t tried adding chicken, but it sounds like a great idea. I would probably stir in cooked chicken toward the end of the slow cooking time.

  6. I can only find quick barley here. Will that work?

    • Hi Jamie! Unfortunately, I’m just not sure about substituting quick barley. I’ve never tried it, but I have a feeling it might cook too fast and get mushy, and I’d hate to have you waste your ingredients. Maybe try searching for other slow cooker recipes that use quick barley, and adjust the cooking time of this recipe accordingly? If you try it, let me know how it turns out. Good luck 🙂

  7. This looks wonderful! Do you think I could use regular cabbage instead of cauliflower? 

    • Hi Alina – I’ve never tried it, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. If you do it, let me know how it turns out 🙂

      • So I tried it last night, and it turned out really, really good. Though I’m not sure it qualified as a risotto at that point. It was more of a really dense stew consistency. I omitted the lemon juice, since the flavor combination didn’t seem to want it, and served it with some sour cream. Family loved it! 

        • So glad it turned out well, Alina! I think, depending on each individual slow cooker, more liquid may need to be stirred in at the end to prevent it from getting too dense. Thanks so much for pointing that out – I need to add that to the recipe 🙂

  8. This turned out fantabulous!!! The flavor mix was totally a different one for us and I wasnt too sure at first. I skipped the lemon and added some more broth towards the end to keep it risotto creamy, also used vegetarian chicken broth. I will be making this again for sure. 

  9. To be honest, I’ve never had chickpeas or barely before but this sounded like something different and I wanted to try it. IT IS AMAZING! I accidently added the lime juice early, but I don’t think that changed anything. Topped it off with parsley and fresh parmesan cheese. I have to last me about 7 more meals so I will be using it as a side. I just heated some up for lunch – and tastes just as good as it did last night. A lot of flavor!

    • I am SO glad this was a hit for you, Amanda! Barley is such a great grain to have on hand, too. You can cook up a small batch and throw it in salads or a pot of soup, too.

      I *thought* you meant lemon juice. I was like “Hmmmm, lime juice would be a little weird in here, but to each their own!” LOL!

  10. I meant LEMON – not lime juice!

  11. I made this tonight (finally!) and it actually looked like your photos! However, after 3.5 hours in the slow cooker on high, it still had quite a bit of liquid. I transferred some to a skillet and it thickened up quickly. The carrots and chickpeas though weren’t very soft yet. My slow cooker may just not get very hot or I missed a recipe step. Either way though, it was quite good after adding additional black pepper/basil/sage. Thanks so much for posting!

    • Hi Ashley! I’m so glad you made this and enjoyed it. I think sometimes different sizes/brands of slow cookers cook a bit differently, but you absolutely did the smart thing by transferring it to a skillet. That’s what cooking is all about some days – problem solving 😉 Happy New Year!

  12. Just made this tonight and it turned out very well!  My crockpot cooking time was exactly 2 hours.  The lemon juice and parm really brought this dish to the next level.  Thanks for the easy, healthy, and cheap recipe!

    • I’m so glad you liked it, Anna! Thanks for stopping by. It’s always helpful to know how different crockpots affect the cooking time of certain recipes. Have a great day!

  13. How many servings does this recipe make?

    • Hi Nicole, so sorry – just realized I need to add this info to the recipe. This makes 6 side dish servings, or 4 more main dish servings. Hope that helps!

  14. Just wondering the cook time if you wanted to set the slow cooker on low.

    • Hi Joanna! Unfortunately, I haven’t tested this recipe on low. I know that for most meat dishes, you would double the time in the slow cooker vs. cooking on high. But, I just haven’t tried it with a grain dish, so I’m not sure. If you do test it out, please let me know how it goes!

  15. Looks delicious but maybe I’m missing something – The title indicates that there are chickpeas, but I don’t see it in the actual recipe? How much and when do you add the chickpeas? 

    • Hi Catherine! I call them “garbanzo beans” in the recipe, because that’s what the cans here in the States say when you buy them. But garbanzo beans = chickpeas. Sorry for the confusion!

  16. Just made this tonight and I was initially a bit intimidated but this was so easy and so good!

  17. I made this today, and it is delicious. Do you have any suggestions on another vegetable to use for the cauliflower? Thanks

  18. Has anyone tried adding some white wine in place of some of the broth and/or lemon juice? Trying this weekend!

    • Hi Emily! I haven’t tried it in this particular recipe, but I use white wine in most other risottos (not sure why I didn’t do that here). I’m sure it’d be absolutely delicious to sub all of the lemon juice, and maybe 1/4 -1/3 cup of the broth for white wine. I hope it turns out great. Enjoy!

  19. I made this tonight. DELISH! I added two handfuls of chopped kale into the crockpot. We were really happy with it and will def make it again. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Robin – So glad this was a hit for you! I love the idea of adding kale. Did you add it at the start of the cook time, or towards the end? I’m just curious, because I want to try it now, too 🙂

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