Slow Cooker Shrimp and Artichoke Barley Risotto

slow cooker, risotto, shrimp, artichoke, barley

Do single girls really have all the fun? There’s a popular song or two implying this, but I have to disagree. When I go out with my girlfriends, married, it’s not unusual for me to be having the most fun.  Maybe that’s a stretch, but I definitely have more fun going out now that I’m married than I did when I was single.

Maybe my best friends, love them, will tell you it’s because I’m hot. But I think it has more to do with the fact that I’ve got nothing to lose, Or that I’ve evolved into a more confident and friendly person, comfortable in my own skin, and I genuinely enjoy talking to new people. And believe me, I leave no questions about my marital status, making it clear from the get-go that I’m just there and happy to chat. Maybe it’s that simple fact that men feel safe talking to me about almost anything.

Even barley.

Yes, it’s true, while out for my dear friend Andrea’s bachelorette party a few weekends ago, I found myself standing in the middle of a bar listening to a tall, handsome dude tell me all about his new found love of barley. Ladies, I would have taken his number for you, except for the fact that he claimed, “Every time I go to Whole Foods my cart looks more and more feminine because I keep buying so much barley.”

That’s not the word he used. I’m sure you can guess what it was, and that I changed it because it’s not a word I like to throw around out of context. Whatever, you all know there are plenty of gay men who don’t know how to cook barley and tons of straight men that probably do! I handed him my card (yes, I regularly carry around Cara’s Cravings business cards) and told him I was making barley the next day.

Dude, if you’re reading this, now you know why I didn’t try harder to set you up with one of my friends, even though I’m sure they’d love to have you cook them some barley.

So here’s that barley recipe I was talking about. A lot of people are intimidated by both barley (a grain) and risotto (a cooking method) because both traditionally require a good deal of standing over the stove and stirring. Using a slow cooker is the perfect way to avoid this. With minimal effort, you can have a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs bowl of risotto. Traditionally, risotto is made with Arborio rice, and you can use that here too, if you like. But I prefer barley for it’s wonderful chewy texture and superior nutritional value. This grain is packed with a high concentration of fiber, which slows glucose absorption and thus promotes healthy blood sugar levels. In other words, it keeps you fuller longer and can even help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The inspiration for this recipe came from a jar of Better than Bouillon Lobster Base which the folks at Superior Touch Brand kindly provided to me. Their line of concentrated based include traditional flavors like chicken and beef, as well as more gourmet varieties such as the lobster and mushroom base. There are organic, reduced sodium, and kosher-for-Passover products to choose from as well. To make 1 cup of broth, you simply need to mix 1 teaspoon of bouillon with 1 cup of hot water. Keeping these jars of high-quality, concentrated bases around makes it easy to have just the amount of broth you need, without opening cans or cartons. The Better than Bouillon Lobster Base added an extra dimension of seafood flavor to my shrimp risotto that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Thank you, Superior Touch, for supplying it!

I’d also like to give a shout out to my pal AJ, 14-month old son of my good friend Kate. AJ, I love that I got to cook you shrimp for the very first time and that you gobbled it up so well! (The rest of us loved it, too.)

2/14/12: Thought you might like to know that this recipe is featured on Bon Appetit’s “8 Surprising Meals You Can Make in Your Slow Cooker“!


Note: For an updated, perhaps more flavorful version of this dish, please refer to my later recipe for Slow Cooker Sorghum with Shrimp and Artichokes

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Slow Cooker Shrimp and Artichoke Barley Risotto

Yield: 4 servings


3 cups of water*
3 teaspoons Better than Bouillon Lobster Base*
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 9oz package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and quartered
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup (200gm) pearl barley
1lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2oz parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, grated
2 tsp grated lemon zest
4 oz baby spinach

salt and pepper, to taste


Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Whisk in the lobster base and set aside.

In a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, saute the onions until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute, stirring. Transfer to the slow cooker and add the artichoke hearts, black pepper, and barley. Stir in the lobster broth. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours, or until barley is tender and the liquid is just about all absorbed.

About 15 minutes before serving, stir in the shrimp and grated cheese. Cover and continue to cook on high for another 10 minutes, or until shrimp are opaque. Add the lemon zest and fold in the baby spinach, stirring until it's wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide among serving bowls and serve immediately.

*In place of the lobster base and water, you can use 3 cups of seafood or chicken broth.

Nutrition Facts:

Servings Per Recipe: 4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 406.6
Total Fat 7.0 g
Saturated Fat 3.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.3 g
Cholesterol 184.8 mg
Sodium 917.9 mg
Potassium 677.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 52.3 g
Dietary Fiber 11.3 g
Sugars 0.2 g
Protein 35.6 g

Cara Lyons,


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65 Responses to “Slow Cooker Shrimp and Artichoke Barley Risotto”

  1. 1

    That Clever Clementine — October 10, 2011 @ 1:49 pm Reply

    This one sounds really intriguing – can't wait to try it!

  2. 2

    d.liff @ yelleBELLYboo — October 10, 2011 @ 3:55 pm Reply

    Yum! I still have lots of fish stock left ( and this looks like a great way to use it!!

  3. 3

    Alisa — October 10, 2011 @ 5:12 pm Reply

    Lobster base? Seriously. How cool, I'd never heard of it. Love the crockpot barley idea Cara!

  4. 4

    Kelly — October 10, 2011 @ 5:16 pm Reply

    Fun story.  I think some of it comes with age too.  Even though our culture values youth I feel like I am much more comfortable in my skin than I was when I was 22 or even 25.  With every year, as corny as it sounds, I own who I am more and I don't care.But yeah, I generally find at bachelorette parties and the like I have always had more fun when I have a bf.  Then I don't feel the urge to fight for some man's attention.

  5. 5

    Kelly — October 10, 2011 @ 5:17 pm Reply

    That and I have a ton of crab stock filling up my fridge so I love the sound of using it in something like this.

  6. 6

    Tasha — October 10, 2011 @ 6:01 pm Reply

    This sounds pretty awesome- definitely something my family would all love. And a creative use of the slowcooker!

  7. 7

    Shirley @ gfe — October 10, 2011 @ 6:08 pm Reply

    Cara, I love the Better than Bouillon bases! This recipe looks really lovely. I'm very weak for shrimp and artichokes and anything with lobster flavor. 😉 BTW, I love using their clam base for clam chowder, too. 🙂 I'll make this with brown rice "couscous" or arborio rice to keep it gluten free. Thanks for the recipe! Shirley

  8. 8

    Cara — October 10, 2011 @ 6:10 pm Reply

    Thanks Shirley! I think arborio would work great in the slow cooker. It's great to be able to make risotto without ever having to stir 🙂

  9. 9

    DeliciousDish — October 10, 2011 @ 6:23 pm Reply

    This sounds great… easy and even quick for a slow-cooker dish.

  10. 10

    Nicole — October 10, 2011 @ 6:49 pm Reply

    MMmm.. love barley risottos! I have an asparagus one that I was just craving this morning!! Never thought to try it in the slow cooker, will absolutely be trying this! Thanks for sharing..

  11. 11

    Nisrine M. — October 10, 2011 @ 7:27 pm Reply

    Beautiful dish, dear Cara. I don't cook enough with barley and this is tempting me.

  12. 12

    Kate — October 10, 2011 @ 8:26 pm Reply

    When you're single you go out and have fun with your friends.  Being married gives you double fun because you can go out and have fun with your friends, then come home and have fun with your husband.

  13. 13

    Joanne — October 11, 2011 @ 12:28 am Reply

    cara, I'm going out with YOU from now on.  You can be my wing-girl.  I need to find a barley-loving man.(And if he liked wheatberries too…that would be even better!)

  14. 14

    Ranjani — October 11, 2011 @ 1:15 am Reply

    Looks tasty! Love the idea of using the crockpot for risotto…

  15. 15

    megi — October 11, 2011 @ 11:11 am Reply

    Hi Cara, Shanah Tovah to you too! The barley risotto looks so yummy! I make barley pilaf but I love the idea of making barley risotto, I'll be sure to give this recipe a try!

  16. 16

    Alissa — October 11, 2011 @ 2:37 pm Reply

    This sounds so perfect! I've just used the slow cooker to make stew, and I was wondering what else to make in it – and I just purchased a massive bag of barley too… perfect 🙂

  17. 17

    preventionrd — October 11, 2011 @ 3:33 pm Reply

    That is freaking hilarious! I find that I have a lot of fun when out with my single gal pals, too. I will talk to anyone, anywhere, and probably about anything…barley would be a great topic, however 🙂  P.S. This looks delicious and I will be making it!

  18. 18

    Georgia The Comfort of Cooking — October 11, 2011 @ 4:49 pm Reply

    What a delicious and creative idea for risotto, Cara! I love your addition of shrimp and artichokes. Thanks for sharing your recipe. You have a beautiful blog and I'm so glad to have found it. I'm looking forward to seeing more from you!

  19. 19

    Ali — October 12, 2011 @ 10:29 am Reply

    The shrimp got me salivating, Its been a sea dish week for me and I haven't tried shrimps yet so this is just the post i needed. Really mouth watering pic. Nice post

  20. 20

    Branappetit — October 12, 2011 @ 3:43 pm Reply

    gorgeous! i love shrimp and artichokes together.

  21. 21

    Shannon — October 14, 2011 @ 3:19 pm Reply

    love barley, and i've been meaning to try risotto in the slow cooker!  this sounds awesome, need to add this to my list 🙂

  22. 22

    Yocelyn Suarez — October 28, 2011 @ 12:04 am Reply

    I made this for dinner last night and it was delish! My husband can't wait for me to make it again. Im thinking of doing a variation with mushrooms. 

  23. 23

    Cara — October 28, 2011 @ 12:04 am Reply

  24. 24

    Cara — October 28, 2011 @ 12:04 am Reply

    Thanks for the feedback! so happy you liked it.

  25. 25

    Betsy — March 1, 2012 @ 11:25 pm Reply

    This looks awesome! You had me on tastespotting at “ridiculously healthy” We’d love it if you would link up your recipe at March is artichoke month!

  26. 26

    Kelley @ The Culinary Enthusiast — March 6, 2012 @ 8:35 pm Reply

    Cara, this looks great! I amdefinitely going to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing on our Seasonal Potluck page!

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  38. 27

    Julie — January 13, 2014 @ 9:06 pm Reply

    Could this barley be substituted for quinoa?

    • 27.1

      Cara — January 13, 2014 @ 9:13 pm

      Hi Julie, I can’t say for certain – I haven’t cooked quinoa in a slow cooker so I’m not sure if the cooking time and liquid:grain ratio would be the same. Are you looking for a gluten free option? If so I might suggest sorghum. I find it very similar in texture to barley!

  39. 28

    Jessie — February 3, 2014 @ 4:00 pm Reply

    I am so sorry to say this, but this dish was disqusting. I never use that word, but I had to throw all of it away. It had no taste really. It was a waste of a good amount of Shrimp. I do come from a family of Chefs, My brother won Best chef award in my City in 2010. But I think I am open minded….ohh my never again. I erased it from my Pinterest Page.

    • 28.1

      Cara — February 3, 2014 @ 4:11 pm

      Sorry you felt that way! You are certainly entitled to your opinion.

    • 28.2

      Leon — April 29, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

      It would have been nice if you could have given some real constructive criticism on why you think the dish failed, and what could possibly be adjusted next time. You’d think if you’re from a chef family, you’d have more to say than just “disgusting” and “no taste”!

  40. 29

    Ashley — February 10, 2014 @ 4:03 pm Reply

    Hi Cara, could this be cooked on low heat instead of high? I’m thinking if it’s 3 hours on high, it would be 6 hours on low? Just trying to time it out if I cook this during a work day. Thanks!

    • 29.1

      Cara — February 10, 2014 @ 4:08 pm

      Hi Ashley,
      I’m sure you could, but I think you might need a bit more liquid – like 1/2 cup or 1 cup maybe. I’m not sure exactly. If you try it, and it seems too watery at the end, you could always turn the heat to high and leave it uncovered for a little while when you get home. Then add the shrimp, turn the heat back down and cover. I wish I knew an exact amount for you!

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  45. 30

    Kate — May 2, 2014 @ 10:23 pm Reply

    I was really excited to try this in my slow cooker. Each ingredient sounded healthy and delicious. I follow instructions in full and upon combining everything the dish begins to look so colorful. To my surprise though, it was flavorless. Between the pepper, garlic, cheese, base, etc I was confused. Did any one else run into this or just me? I added whatever I had in my fridge without making it unhealthy for flavor, which ended up being spices and salsa :o(

    • 30.1

      Steve — May 8, 2014 @ 8:26 pm

      Just made this tonight with disappointing results. Kate I agree with you that it was largely flavorless, paticularly given that it is NOT a fix it and forget it kind of recipe. It is very fussy and requires close monitoring to keep it from drying out. I ended up adding nearly twice the lobster base broth than what was called for and it still dried out after only a couple of hours on my medium setting. I wouldn’t dream of cooking this recipe on high unless I was standing there the whole time. My kids cherry-picked a few shrimp and then got themselves a bowl of cereal. This one will not see a repeat performance here.

  46. 31

    Chantal — June 5, 2014 @ 2:34 pm Reply

    I made this last night using farro instead of barley and adding 1 T Berbere seasoning (from Penzey’s) with the broth since my husband likes some heat with his shrimp dishes. It turned out good and I did not have any problems with the dish drying out during the given cooking time. It was very creamy and risotto-like.

    • 31.1

      Cara — June 7, 2014 @ 7:51 pm

      Glad the cooking times worked out for you! I love the Penzeys berbere – that stuff is HOT. 🙂

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  48. 32

    Bett — October 12, 2014 @ 7:18 pm Reply

    I didn’t really like this. It wasn’t terrible, but not very appetizing.

  49. 33

    Jennie — February 12, 2015 @ 8:39 pm Reply

    Made this tonight, and loved it! Don’t understand people who said no flavor. I even forgot to salt/pepper, and the flavor was delicious. Only thing – I wonder if I can used canned artichoke hearts instead of thawed frozen hearts? Maybe it was the package I got (BirdsEye), but I felt they were super tough.

    • 33.1

      Cara — February 14, 2015 @ 3:09 pm

      Hi Jennie, Thanks for the feedback! I bet canned artichokes would be fine. I have had good luck with frozen but certainly try canned!

  50. 34

    Teresa — December 29, 2015 @ 10:51 pm Reply

    oh my goodness, Cara this is DELICIOUS! ok, I read the lack of flavor reviews and made a few changes. I added:
    1. 1/4 cup of white wine
    2. 2 tablespoons of truffle flavored olive oil
    3. About 2 extra teaspoons of lobster bouillon

    Also, I cooked the shrimp separately and added it right before serving. I love it so much I’m not even done eating it. I just couldn’t wait to post. Thank you for this yummy recipe!

    • 34.1

      Cara — December 31, 2015 @ 11:58 am

      Sounds delicious – thanks for sharing!

  51. 35

    Megan — December 11, 2016 @ 8:33 pm Reply

    I just this and was worried it wouldn’t turn out but I just finished and it’s delicious !!

    My grocery store was a bit select so I did chicken brother and had to do canned artichokes as they did not have fresh or frozen. I almost decided not to do it because of this but I figured I’d try it anyway and it is so delicious!!

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  55. 36

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  56. 37

    Kimberly P — September 28, 2018 @ 7:48 pm Reply

    This was an excellent recipe! I couldn’t find the seafood broth, so I used Swanson’s Chicken Broth with Parmesan, and the market didn’t have pearl barley, so I had to use quick barley. Because of the barley it made more sense to make it in a regular pot on the stove. It reduced the cooking time to 1 hour, and is completely delicious!

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