Creamy Pot Barley with Butternut Squash and Thyme

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


Appears in

Slow Cook Modern

Slow Cook Modern

By Liana Krissoff

Published 2017

  • About

I was determined to figure out how to make a risotto-type dish with barley in the required eight hours, and after three or four attempts I finally hit on two key elements: using ice to slow the start of cooking, so the barley would be less likely to overcook (it’s okay if it does; it’s just that the texture is a little more interesting when there are distinct barley grains in the mix), and folding tangy buttermilk into the barley just before serving (it gives the dish a lightness that it was lacking in my previous versions using cream).


  • cups (300 g) pot barley (that is, hull-less but not pearled)
  • 2 cups (320 g) diced peeled butternut squash (½-inch/12-mm pieces)
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups (310 g) ice cubes
  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml) buttermilk
  • Parmesan cheese



Rinse the barley in a sieve under running water, then dump it into the slow cooker. Add 3 cups (720 ml) water, the squash, thyme, teaspoons salt, and several grindings of pepper.

In a skillet or sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until deeply browned, about 7 minutes, adding the garlic in the last 2 minutes. Scrape into the cooker and add the ice. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.


Remove and discard the thyme stems. Gently fold in the buttermilk, season with more salt and pepper, if needed, and serve with a generous sprinkling of shaved or grated Parmesan on top.