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Lemon Barley “Risotto” with Shrimp, Bacon & Spinach

Scott Phillips

Servings: 4

Early spring is the perfect time to say goodbye to slow-cooked, rich dishes in favor of lighter, brighter, quicker meals. In this dish, quick-cooking barley makes a tasty “risotto” without all the extra stirring and the combination of the barley, shrimp, bacon, and spinach is satisfying without feeling too heavy.


  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1 lb. large shrimp(21-25 count), peeled and deveined
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots or onions
  • 1-1/3 cups quick-cooking barley
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 2-1/2 cups homemade or low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/4 lb. (4 cups loosely packed) baby spinach, washed and spun dry
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • 3 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size based on four servings
  • Calories (kcal) : 440
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 100
  • Fat (g): 11
  • Saturated Fat (g): 4
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 4
  • Cholesterol (mg): 190
  • Sodium (mg): 1340
  • Carbohydrates (g): 50
  • Fiber (g): 7
  • Protein (g): 35


  • Cook the bacon in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until browned and crisp. Remove from the skillet, drain on paper towels, and crumble into small pieces.
  • Increase the heat to medium high. Sprinkle the shrimp with 1/4 tsp. salt and a few grinds pepper. Working in two batches to avoid crowding, cook the shrimp in the bacon fat until lightly browned and opaque, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the shrimp to a plate.
  • Add the shallots or onions to the skillet and cook until they start to soften, about 1 minute. Add the barley and stir until coated with the bacon fat, about 30 seconds. Add the lemon juice and cook, stirring, for 15 seconds. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until the barley is tender, 12 minutes. Uncover the pan, raise the heat to medium high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, 1 minute. Stir in the bacon, shrimp, Pecorino, and lemon zest and heat through, 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Serve with a simple mixed green salad or start the meal off with Romaine Hearts with Lemon Vinaigrette & Shaved Parmesan.


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Reviews (13 reviews)

  • Shellseeker | 05/15/2019

    Loved this recipe!! I substituted Farro for the Barley and added 15 minutes cooking time and used Organic Girl Super greens instead of spinach. My whole family loves it!!! This is a winner!!!!

  • Virg2269 | 12/09/2018

    Delicious. This recipe was easy and quick, especially if you have all ingredients measured and ready to go. I would definitely make it again. I used Parmesan cheese instead of Romano.

  • DonnaPanAm | 11/10/2015

    Wow, this is a winner, not only because it's delicious, easy, and fast, but also because it takes so well to substitutions. I couldn't find quick barley so I just made the same amount of pearled barley. I needed to eliminate the bacon so I substituted smoked salmon, and used butter as the fat. I used leeks instead of onions, shrimp stock instead of chicken broth, and Parmesan in lieu of Romano (just because I had these three handy). It came out great and the guests were content.

  • Cocodrie | 06/16/2014

    My husband, and I really liked this. I made it per the recipe. I, too, had trouble finding quick-cooking barley, but eventually found it at Whole Foods. Since I made a full recipe for two people, we had the leftovers another night. For that, I removed the shrimp, (in order not to over cook it), adding it back in at the end. The heat from the other ingredients heated the shrimp nicely. The main drawback to reheating this is that the bacon is no longer crispy. Even so, the dish still tasted good.

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