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.
After many years of experimenting and discovering that the risotto cooking method works for not just arborio rice (hello, coconut risotto) but 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.
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. I also love pearl barley in my summer beet salad recipe.
What are the ingredients in slow cooker barley risotto?
- olive oil
- pearl barley
- garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- chicken or vegetable broth
- salt and pepper
- lemon juice
- Parmesan cheese
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.
Slow Cooker Barley and 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Stir in thyme and barley; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- 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.
- 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
O my goodness as soon as I read the ingredients I was hooked. I followed your recipe to a T, it was ready in 2 hours perfectly cooked. My whole family absolutely loves it. Wonderful flavor combinations. This made a perfect side dish to baked cod. I’ve already shared this recipe many times to family members…thank you so very much!!!
Such a good idea to serve this with fish. I’m so glad this was a hit for your family, Shelly!
This recipe was great first time. Made it in my instant pot on slow cook setting. Only change I made was to add a lot more liquid towards the end to get the risotto creaminess.
I’m so glad you liked it, Sharon!
A great way to make a Slow Cooker barley chicken risotto,,
thanks to share this recipe,
Hi 🙂 This looks amazing. I am curious as to the nutritional data; where is the cholesterol coming from (noted as having 86mg per serving)? Parm cheese doesn’t have that much so I’m curious?
Hi Cindee – I have a program that calculates the nutrition info automatically, but unfortunately it’s pretty low tech and I can’t see the nutritional data for each individual ingredient.
Pearl barley and quinoa have the same cooking time, although barley has a slightly higher water ration (1 cup baley to 3 c liquid, 1:2 for quinoa). Has anyone tried this with quinoa or a different grain? Would the flavours work?
Hi Lori! Have you ever made this in the Instant Pot on pressure (not IP slow cooker setting)? I am curious if it would work.
Hi Julia. I don’t have an Instant Pot, unfortunately. If you do end up giving it a try, I’d love to hear how it turns out!
This is delicious! A fantastic meal prep — super easy, filling, great flavor, and I’m happy eating it all week long. My only suggestion would be to lower the barely to veggie and bean ratio. I will probably add more garbanzo beans and veggies next time, but otherwise it’s great 🙂
Glad you liked it, Jennica!
This is such an easy and delicious vegetarian recipe! The whole family loved it!! My kids helped preparing it and ate their whole bowl. Thanks 🙂
I’m so glad to hear that, Laurent!
I’ve been trying to cut back on meat and my friend sent me this recipe. I didn’t change anything except I cooked it in an electric pressure cooker for 25 minutes on high pressure after sautéing. It was delicious, hearty, and filling! I added chopped chicken for my husband and I have a feeling he’ll love it.
I am so glad to hear that, Phuong. And so glad to hear it works in a pressure cooker. That is awesome!
I was going to ask about cooking in the instant pot. Thank you for that information.
Sounds delicious! Can you make this in the crock pot on low? I am just trying to figure out the timing for when I am at work.
Hi Jess – Sorry for the slow response, I was traveling. I haven’t tried this on low for 6-8 hours, but I think it would work! If you did/do end up trying it, please let me know how it turned out 🙂
All good thanks for responding! I tried it on low for 6 hours and it came out perfect!
So glad to hear that, Jess. Thanks for coming back and letting me know 🙂
I am making this now but made the mistake of putting lemon juice in the mixture while it’s cooking in crockpot. Will this mess up the recipe? I only put (1) tablespoon lemon juice (not the 1 1/2 T).
Thank you Karen
Hey Karen – I think it’ll be OK. Hope you enjoy!
hey, how could i make this recipe on the stovetop? my crockpot isn’t big enough for all I wanna make! thank you
Hi Allison – I’ve never tried this on the stovetop, but I imagine you could follow steps 1-3 pretty much the same way. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer, and cook until the barley is tender, stirring occasionally. Add more liquid if necessary. Good luck!
Lori, I made this today and used it instead of polenta in a braised beef shank recipe. It was absolutely outstanding. I really loved how well the cauliflower played with the barley and chickpeas. We dressed the risotto with a gremolata flavored olive oil from a local oil and vinegar shop. It was just wonderful. I look forward to trying a few of the suggestions in the comments and mixing it up!
I’m so glad to hear this was a hit, Carrie. Love the idea of pairing it with braised beef. YUM!
I am making the risotto now and I’m worried that the liquid isn’t absorbing into the barley. It’s been on high in the slow cooker for almost 2 hours and it still looks soupy!
Hi Dana – give it the full 2.5 hours and then give it a stir and see what it’s like. Don’t open the lid to the slow cooker before that.
It took a bit longer since I opened the lid, but it was fabulous! Thanks!
Hi! I never made risotto before…..it doesn’t specify this in the directions, but I am assuming I am supposed to put the risotto grains inside the crock and cook for 2 hours too? The package directions of the risotto I bought says to cook on stovetop for 20 minutes. So I’m not sure if I am supposed to do that then combine it with crockpot mixture.
Hi Ashley – this recipe doesn’t call for a risotto mix. Rather, it’s made with plain, uncooked pearl barley. So unless what is in the package is plain barley, I’m not sure this recipe will turn out like you hope. It may be best to follow package instructions this time around, and then try the recipe above with plain barley another time.
Ohhhh, ok. I have the plain pearl barley, so I will use that and not cook risotto mix. Is pearl barely another form of risotto? (this is the first time I heard of risotto/pearl barley so excuse my confusion haha). Just wondering why the title is risotto.
Hi Ashley – pearl barley is simply a type of grain, so you should be able to find it in the rice and grains section of your store. Just look for plain pearl barley (usually in a bag), and you’re good!
Hi I just wanted to share that I did this using the low setting on my crockpot as others had asked about and it turned out well! People wondered if it would be too mushy – I thought it was creamy (with the usual degree of mushiness that is sort of typical of a risotto anyway).
That’s great to hear, Stephanie! So glad it came out well 🙂
This was very good – like another commenter, I also added a few handfuls of spinach at the end of cooking to wilt into the risotto for some extra greens, which was very good. I also added the zest of one lemon halfway through cooking, but did not taste it in the finished product at all, so would skip this next time. Next time I make this I will double it, as it seems like it would be great reheated as leftovers. Also the 4 servings this produces are pretty small servings, imo.
Love the idea of adding some spinach, Alexandra! So glad you enjoyed 🙂
Delicious! I had to drain some of the extra liquid left in the slow cooker and cook it down. I added nutritional yeast to make it vegan as well. Stick to your ribs goodness and a one-pot-meal!!
Hi Bonnie – so glad this was a hit for you. Thanks for stopping by!
Thank you for that! I was just scrolling through to see if anyone had vegan suggestions. 🙂 yay
Just wondering if you have ever just put all the ingredients in the crock pot without cooking them in a saucepan first?
Hi Jessica – I haven’t tested it that way. If you do try it, please report back how it turns out 🙂
Made this for a “healthier” post holiday dinner – didn’t want to dirty two pieces of cookware so I did the sauté in such oven and popped it in the oven at 300 for 2 hours – turned out great! Also added some lemon zest abou halfway through (loooovee lemon)
So glad to hear this turned out great, Alex. Happy New Year!
Lori, I am making this dish as a dump meal for my children – my daughter and s-I-l just had a baby and my son and d-I-l are in the process of moving to another state and having another baby. They love getting healthy meals. My question is about the barley. Should I add all the ingredients and freeze or leave the barley out and have them add it when they cook the meal?
Thank you so much for this healthy offer (I also make a freezer meal for me and my husband).
Hi Paula – great questions! I have to confess that I’ve never tried freezing any part of this meal, but I know that barley generally stands up pretty well to freezing (at least in soup). I would probably add all of the ingredients and freeze 🙂
What do I need to do if I have actual garbanzo beans and not in a can…?
Hi Angie – I would cook the garbanzo beans according to their package instructions and then proceed with this risotto recipe.
Hi, After it is cooked, are all the chickpeas still whole? I am wondering if the chickpeas become mashed during cooking or can be mashed a bit, maybe prior to adding to the crockpot. Thanks for your feedback.
Hi Heidi – Yes, the chickpeas remain whole after this risotto is cooked. However, if you wanted to mash them a bit before adding them to the crockpot at the start of the cooking time, you certainly could. Go for it!
I made this tonight. Healthy, easy and delicious! Thank you!
So glad to hear that, Marie!
Thank you for posting this easy-to-prep healthy recipe. I’ve started using our slow-cooker to make meals once a week to give my wife a break from constant cooking. So far she’s loved it, and so have my two little ones.
I love that idea, PT! So glad your family enjoyed this recipe 🙂
Recipe looks great. Where can I get those little pots? What are they called?
Hi Joe – great question. They are Le Creuset mini cocotttes: http://amzn.to/2ppitII
To prep it the night before, should I combine everything? Or leave the beans etc.. apart until I’m ready to put it in the slow cooker?
Hi Lolo – great question. To prep the night before, I would combine everything except the broth and water. Then when you’re ready to start it, just stir in the broth and water at that point 🙂
Great, I’m going to try it tonight for tomorrow, thanks!
Came to the comments looking for the answer to this exact question, thank you! I can’t believe no one else has asked this in the 4 years of comments on this page.
Can you freeze the leftovers for future meals?
Hi Marcy – I’m sorry, I’ve never tried freezing this, so I’m not sure 🙁
Hi! Thank you for this wonderful recipe. What sized slow cooker did you use? Mine is a much smaller cooker (2 qt.), so I want to be sure that I’m doing the reduction math properly.
Hi Daisy – My slow cooker is actually very large (7 quart), although in no way did this recipe fill that all up. For a 2 qt. slow cooker, I would recommend cutting this recipe in half. No promises, but I *think* a half recipe should fit in your slow cooker 🙂
I use a 7 liter crock pot for pot luck dinners at church, where many members are vegetarians.
by what factor should I increase the ingredients, and how much cook time?
Hi Rory – I actually used a 7-QUART slow cooker for this, since I’m in the US. Looks like the conversion of quarts to liters is pretty close to 1-to-1.
These look delicious. I am making Freezer Crockpot meals for a young mother of 2 just diagnosed with breast cancer. She is vegetarian (I am not) so these recipes should be great! Thanks for sharing them. 🙂
So glad to hear that this recipe will be helpful to you, Susan. Best wishes for the woman you are cooking for. <3
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 🙂
I added the kale at the start of crockpot cooking. I didn’t cook it with other veg first.
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!
I made this today, and it is delicious. Do you have any suggestions on another vegetable to use for the cauliflower? Thanks
I’m so glad you liked it, Susan! How about broccoli or brussels sprouts?
Just made this tonight and I was initially a bit intimidated but this was so easy and so good!
I am so glad to hear that, Ann! Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
I meant LEMON – not lime juice!
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!
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.
So glad it was a hit, Krisgen! Have a great weekend!
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 🙂
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 🙂
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.
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.
Hi Lori! Where did you purchase your warm bowls from?? I can’t seem to find a set anywhere.
Hi Tiffany! Do you mean the little purple pots? They are Le Creuset mini cocotttes: http://amzn.to/2ppitII
Thank you so much – yes the link you sent are the bowls I was looking for!! Thanks again! (PS: I made the risotto last night – san warming bowl lol – my family (15 and 10 year olds included) LOVED it! My husband had 2nds for dinner and had it again this morning for breakfast!
Yay! So glad you liked this recipe, Tiffany!
I made this last night and it was fantastic – thank you!
So glad to hear that, Meera! Thanks for stopping by!
Lori this looks so fabulous over on Bonbon Break, thank you so much for sharing!!
Thanks for featuring it, Tara!
Love this! I haven’t made risotto in years!
Thanks Chung-Ah! I’m just obsessed with risotto!