Slow Cooker Barley & Chickpea Risotto

When you make this Slow Cooker Barley & Chickpea Risotto, your crock pot does all the work for you! Slow cooked whole grains packed with chickpeas and vegetables. 

Slow cooker barley and vegetable side dish in small purple pots on wooden cutting board.

After many years of experimenting and discovering that the risotto cooking method works for just about any grain, I make whole grain risottos for dinner quite often. Especially in the winter, when nothing is more comforting than a big, hearty bowl of grains.

I’ve conquered steel-cut oat risotto and farro and kale risotto. The time has come to let my slow cooker do some of the work with this Slow Cooker Barley & Chickpea Risotto.

Of course, since the “risotto method” refers to stirring small amounts of hot stock into rice or grains gradually, this recipe isn’t a true risotto. I know that.

But I’ve found that using a slow cooker allows the barley to slowly simmer in broth, and the end product is very similar to barley cooked using the traditional risotto method.

Slow cooker barley risotto in small purple cocottes with lids.

About this Slow Cooker Barley & Chickpea Risotto

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. If you try to cook it for eight hours, it will sadly be very overcooked.

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 glass of wine. No judgement, friends.

If you’re somebody who eats dinner kind of late on weeknights, feel free to just stir the ingredients into your slow cooker bowl as soon as you get home from work, and in two hours, a big pot of barley, carrot, cauliflower and chickpea risotto will be waiting for you! Or, save this recipe for a weekend meal.

Get the Parmesan cheese out of the fridge, pour yourself [another] glass of wine, find some forks, and you’re ready for dinner.

What kind of barley do I use for barley risotto? What is the difference between barley and pearl barley?

This particular barley recipe calls for pearl barley (sometimes called pearled barley), which is barley that has been processed to remove the outer hull and some of the bran layer. This means that it cooks faster and is less chewy than traditional unprocessed barley.

Closeup of barley risotto topped with parmesan cheese.

What are the ingredients in slow cooker barley risotto?

  • olive oil
  • carrots
  • garlic
  • cauliflower
  • onion
  • thyme
  • pearl barley
  • garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • chicken or vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper
  • lemon juice 
  • Parmesan cheese
  • parsley

Can I make this crockpot barley risotto vegetarian or vegan?

Absolutely! For a vegetarian or vegan dish, be sure to use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and omit the Parmesan cheese.

Or, while I haven’t tried it personally, I’ve read that nutritional yeast makes a good vegan substitute for Parmesan cheese.

Yield: 4 servings

Slow Cooker Barley and Chickpea Risotto

Barley and vegetable side dish in small purple pots on wooden cutting board.

When you make this Slow Cooker Barley & Chickpea Risotto, your crock pot does all the work for you! Slow cooked whole grains packed with chickpeas and vegetables.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons 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

Instructions

  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.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 434Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 86mgSodium: 680mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 8gSugar: 6gProtein: 29g

Other delicious barley recipes:

Collage of images of barley side dish in small purple pots with overlay: SLOW COOKER BARLEY + CHICKPEA RISOTTO whole grains packed with veggies.