Barley Risotto with Fennel

Barley Risotto with Fennel

16 Reviews
From: EatingWell Magazine, January/February 2008

This convenient alternative to traditional stovetop risotto uses healthy, fiber-rich whole grains—either barley or brown rice—seasoned with Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and oil-cured olives. The gentle, uniform heat of a slow cooker allows you to cook a creamy risotto without the usual frequent stirring.

Ingredients 6 servings

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Original recipe yields 6 servings
Nutrition per serving may change if servings are adjusted.
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, cored and finely diced, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fronds
  • 1 cup pearl barley, or short-grain brown rice
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, or “no-chicken” broth
  • 1-1½ cups water, divided
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups frozen French-cut green beans
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ⅓ cup pitted oil-cured black olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste


  • Active

  • Ready In

  1. Coat a 4-quart or larger slow cooker with cooking spray. Crush fennel seeds with the bottom of a saucepan. Combine the fennel seeds, diced fennel, barley (or rice), carrot, shallot and garlic in the slow cooker. Add broth, 1 cup water and wine, and stir to combine. Cover and cook until the barley (or rice) is tender, but pleasantly chewy, and the risotto is thick and creamy, 2½ to 3½ hours on high or low.
  2. Shortly before serving, cook green beans according to package instructions and drain. Turn off the slow cooker. Stir the green beans, Parmesan, olives, lemon zest and pepper into the risotto. If it seems dry, heat the remaining ½ cup water and stir it into the risotto. Serve sprinkled with the chopped fennel fronds.
  • Make Ahead Tip: Prepare fennel, carrot, shallot and garlic. Combine broth, 1 cup water and wine. Refrigerate in separate covered containers for up to 1 day.
  • For easy cleanup, try a slow-cooker liner. These heat-resistant, disposable liners fit neatly inside the insert and help prevent food from sticking to the bottom and sides of your slow cooker.

Nutrition information

  • Serving size: generous 1 cup
  • Per serving: 235 calories; 5 g fat(2 g sat); 8 g fiber; 37 g carbohydrates; 9 g protein; 27 mcg folate; 6 mg cholesterol; 4 g sugars; 0 g added sugars; 2,093 IU vitamin A; 11 mg vitamin C; 124 mg calcium; 2 mg iron; 768 mg sodium; 471 mg potassium
  • Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (42% daily value)
  • Carbohydrate Servings:
  • Exchanges: 1½ starch, 1 vegetable, 1 fat

Reviews 16

May 06, 2014
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By: EatingWell User
Exactly what I was hoping for! This came out just as i had hoped. Yes, it took a long time but I read the reviews and new what to expect, 6 hours on high. I love fennel and this came out with a great mild fennel flavour. I didn't have any fennel seeds so left them out. Also didn't have any black olives. Used 1 large and 1 small fennel bulb and also threw in some celery that I needed to use up. Used 2 carrots and 3 shallots. Served to my friends here in Italy and they said a wonderful barley risotto! Thanks for the recipe! Pros: great flavour, easy
January 21, 2014
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By: EatingWell User
Flavorful, creamy, and simple I forgot the fennel seeds and didn't have a very large fennel bulb (replaced it with some onion instead), and we definitely missed the fennel flavor. Overall, this turned out wonderfully! 8 hours on low in my 6 quart slow cooker was just right, and it stayed just fine on warm for 5 hours after that. Next time, I will definitely use the fennel seeds. The only other change would be maybe to leave out the olives. The barley did get very creamy, and absorbed all of the liquid in the recipe by the end of the 8 hours. I imagine it would do fine on high for 4 instead as well.
July 21, 2013
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By: EatingWell User
Definitely a keeper! Thanks to previous reviews, a few adjustments made this absolutely delicious. I reduced the fennel seeds to 1/2 tsp, and the flavour was well balanced and delicate. I used verjuice instead of wine, and goat cheese feta instead of parmesan, just because that's what I had available on the day. Slow cooked on High for 5 hrs - this was too long. Next time will go no more than 4 hrs to avoid the slight glugginess.
May 01, 2011
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By: gyancey
Delicious and Healthy Very tasty and my husband loved it! I added two more carrots and topped with fresh tarragon. I will definitely make it again.
April 26, 2011
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By: spliff3
This is not risotto! Risotto is a process as much as a dish, which is why this recipe fails for so many people. You might as well invent something like "Stir-fry in a slow cooker," because stir-fry is a discrete process, quite apart from whatever ingredients are involved. Check out true risotto online, and stick with the process....this is NOT what slow-cookers are for. Cons: The process is all wrong.
January 12, 2011
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By: christinac
I agrree should have read comments first Like most i didnt read comments first i agree too long to cook, bland, and fennel over powers. If I tried it again I would cut back on fennel and water and increase cheese a little. Pros: change from typical rice and potatoe Cons: fennel over powering; too long to cook
September 23, 2009
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By: EatingWell User
As some others have said, I wish I'd noticed and read the comments first. Was still like soup after 3 and 1/2 hours in the crock pot on low. Cranked it up to high for another 3 hours until it somewhat resembled what a Risotto should be. When it was done it did not taste that great, kind of bland and pasty, and the fennel is overpowering. Needed a lot of salt and pepper. I might try again and dial back the fennel and use leave the 1 cup of water out. Didn't work great for me, but I'm glad some others were pleased. Jeff, Baltimore, MD
September 23, 2009
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By: EatingWell User
I should've read the comments before making this. The fennel is overpowering. The consistency was thing soup. Mel
September 23, 2009
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By: EatingWell User
Nasty experiment. Would never make again. Not "creamy" at all -- just gloopy. And the taste didn't make up for the weird texture. Dawn, NY, NY
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