Barley Stuffed Acorn Squash

Barley Stuffed Acorn Squash

This recipe was originally an oops created when I was still living at home with my mom. Experimenting with alternative grains, I tried a spelt stuffing recipe. The result was delicious, but I made way too much. Trying to use up leftover veggies, I decided to fill an acorn squash with the remaining stuffing, and top with parmesan cheese, pomegranate seeds, and kale. The end result was great. I thought i’d try again with mushroom risotto, but use barley, to keep the spirit of variety within the recipe. and here we are! 

If you’re a fan of traditional risotto, then barley risotto may be music to your ears. Swapping rice for barley, and using the same risotto method of cooking; gradually adding hot broth to the pan of grains and allowing the liquid to be absorbed before repeating the process again.  the end result is a chewy, creamy (not mushy) bowl of warm grains that is savory and comforting. 

Baked acorn squash makes for a rich, hearty vehicle that holds the risotto while giving an extra flavor and richness. If you don’t have acorn squash on hand, any medium-sized winter squash will do. I chose to add pomegranate seeds to complement the sweetness of the acorn squash while adding a bit of brightness to the rich umami of the mushroom risotto. 

If you want to keep this recipe plant-based. Simply use vegetable broth for your broth, and finish with a plant-based cream (such as cashew). Top with nutritional yeast, or grated macadamia nuts in place of parmesan cheese.

Barley Risotto Stuffed Acorn Squash

Prep Time20 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Drinks, Entrees
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: acorn squash, barley, butternut squash, carrots, fall recipes, pumpkin, risotto, soup series, spiced, thanksgiving, winter squash
Yield: 8


  • 1 parchment-lined baking sheet
  • 1 medium saucepan
  • 1 Sauté pan


  • 1 medium acorn squash rinsed
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil divided
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1.5 cups barley
  • 1/4 cup shallot diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tsp sage minced
  • 1 tsp rosemary minced
  • 1 oz dried mushrooms small diced
  • 4-5 cups vegetable stock or broth
  • 1/2 cup cream (substitute cashew cream for vegan)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 2 tbsp parsley chopped
  • 1 cup pomegranate arils for garnish
  • tt salt and pepper


  • For acorn squash preheat oven to 375º. Halve and de-seed acorn squash. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, place acorn squash flat-side up and drizzle insides of the squash with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and maple syrup. season with salt. Turn squash halves flat-side down, and bake until soft, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven cover, and keep warm until ready for assembly. Baked acorn squash can be cut into quarters if serving as a side dish.
  • Meanwhile, prepare risotto. Bring vegetable stock, broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan. turn stock to low until ready to use.
  • Bring a sauté pan to medium heat. Add remaining olive oil, shallots, and garlic. Sauté until aromatic and translucent about 1-2 minutes. Add dried mushrooms to shallot/garlic mixture and season with salt and pepper. Fold dry barley into the pan and stir continually to toast grains without burning about 1 minute.
  • After toasting grains, add only enough stock to the mixture to cover the bottom of the pan, about 4-5 oz. stir to combine, and reduce heat to low, bringing mixture down simmer. Repeat as the liquid absorbs, by gradually stirring stock/broth into risotto mixture about 1/3 cup at a time. be sure to cover between adding liquid.
  • After all stock is added. stir in cream and cheese/nutritional yeast. Remove from heat before assembling.
  • *To assemble:* place acorn squash halves (or quarters), rind side down on plates or serving platter. Fill each squash section with hot barley risotto. Top stuffed squash with chopped parsley, pomegranate arils and additional.

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