Slow-Cooker Asparagus-Barley Risotto

Lighten your cooking load and liven up your Easter spread with our easy slow-cooker risotto. This creamy rice dish is usually made with Arborio rice, but we love it with the toothsome nuttiness (and fiber) of barley. Have your guests add a squeeze of lemon for an extra pop of brightness.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 4 hr
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 8 servings
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2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups pearled barley

2 sprigs fresh thyme

3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 pound (1 bunch) asparagus, rough stalks trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

2/3 cup grated Parmesan

Zest of 1 lemon, plus lemon wedges, for serving

1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint


  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the barley and thyme, and cook, stirring, until the barley is just golden, about 2 minutes more.
  2. Transfer the barley mixture to a 6-quart slow cooker, and add the broth, 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover, and cook on high until the liquid is absorbed and the barley is tender, about 3 hours.
  3. Discard the thyme, and stir in the asparagus. Return the lid to the pot, and cook until the asparagus is tender, 30 minutes more. Stir in the Parmesan, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Thin out the risotto to the desired consistency with warm water, as needed. Fold in the parsley and mint, and serve with lemon wedges on the side.

Cook’s Note

If your asparagus seem extra woody, give the stalks a quick peel before cutting.