Recipe: Barley Risotto with Feta and Lemon

This risotto won't leave you with a bellyache

Despite the rumors, comfort food and good nutrition are not diametrically opposed. Case in point: this delicious, creamy barley risotto. We use fiber-rich barley as a base instead of rice, and include a delicious array of veggies and herbs.

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Unlike dishes that are brimming with butter and cheese, this one won’t leave you with a bellyache. But one word of warning: the Mediterranean-palate flavors of garlic, fresh thyme and red pepper, combined with a tangy sprinkle of feta and lemon zest may inspire strong cravings. Be prepared to make it again soon!


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • Grated lemon zest of 1 lemon


  1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery and salt and cook, covered tightly and stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 7 minutes.
  2. Remove the lid and continue to cook, stirring often, until very tender, 7 to 8 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  4. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the barley.
  5. Add the tomatoes and water and bring to a boil. Add the thyme, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the barley is tender and creamy, 40 to 45 minutes.
  6. Serve topped with crumbled feta and lemon zest.

Nutritional facts per serving

Yield: 4 servings

Calories 297

Total fat 9 g

Saturated fat 2 g

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Protein 6 g

Carbohydrate 50 g

Dietary fiber 8 g

Sugar 5 g

Added sugar 0 g

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Cholesterol 3 mg

Sodium 200 mg

Developed by Sara Quessenberry for Cleveland Clinic Wellness

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