Baked Butternut Squash Risotto

5 from 12 votes

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If you’re looking for an easy vegetarian one-pot meal, you have to try this baked butternut squash risotto. Instead of arborio rice, it calls for Italian barley. This risotto recipe starts on the stove sautéing the squash and aromatics and then adding barley and vegetable broth. After that, it bakes in the oven for 30 minutes. It’s a hands-off way to cook risotto that doesn’t require standing at the stove and stirring.

Baked butternut squash risotto in a bowl.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

It is risotto without the effort. I love risotto, but it can be tough to be so focused on cooking one thing when you have an entire meal to make. You kind of have to baby risotto on the stovetop, gradually pouring in broth and stirring until the grains absorb it and become tender. Baking risotto minimizes the amount of work you have to do.

Besides squash, this risotto also has kale. I take advantage of the heat of the risotto right after it finishes baking and stir in greens. It is such a simple way to add another nutritious ingredient.

Barley is a great substitute for traditional risotto rice. Because barley is such a versatile grain that you can use in soups, salads and side dishes, you may find it to be more of a useful ingredient to have in your pantry than arborio rice. Also, it has a pleasantly chewy bite when you cook it.

What is Risotto?

Found in Northern Italy, risotto is a rice dish that is usually served as a course before the main dish. The rice grains become tender and creamy as you slowly pour in broth and stir. A good risotto doesn’t have actual cream in it to get that consistency. It’s from the starch that the grains release.

Typically, risotto calls for short grain, high starch varieties such as Arborio, Carnaroli and Vialone Nano rice. I like to break the rules and substitute with barley or even farro, cooking them risotto style. Part of the reason is because I am more likely to have them in my kitchen, and I like that they are multi-purpose, multi-recipe ingredients.

The Ingredients

Ingredients including barley, butternut squash, onions, veggie broth, spices, kale, olive oil, garlic and parmesan.

This is what you need:

  • Butternut squash: The recipe calls for a medium butternut squash peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. You can buy squash that’s already cut if you are interested in a shortcut.
  • Barley: Use pearl barley. Because the husk and the outer layers have been removed, it cooks faster than hulled barley.
  • Kale: Either lacinato kale or curly kale will work. Just strip the leaves off the stems and chop them.
  • Onions: Sautéing white or yellow onions in olive oil is the starting point for the aromatics in this recipe. 
  • Garlic: As written, this risotto recipe calls for 1 minced clove, you can add another one if you want more garlic flavor.
  • Red pepper flakes, salt & pepper season the risotto.
  • White wine: Pouring in a half cup of dry white wine after you stir in the rice deglazes the bottom of the pan. The alcohol cooks out, and it adds nice acidity and sharpness to balance out the richness of the risotto.
  • Parmesan cheese quickly melts into the cooked risotto adding to the creaminess and giving it that savory umami flavor.
  • Vegetable broth: Always use low-sodium broth, so you can control the seasonings. You can substitute with chicken broth if you don’t need the risotto to be vegetarian.
  • Olive oil: For the best taste, use extra virgin olive oil.
  • Parsley: For fresh herbs to finish the dish, I sprinkle on parsley. Fresh sage leaves are often used in butternut squash risotto recipes, and you can stir them in too. Sage has a much stronger flavor and will command more attention in the risotto.

How To Make This Butternut Squash Risotto Recipe

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

1. Warm the olive oil in a large ovenproof saucepan or dutch oven and sauté the butternut squash. Stir frequently and cook the squash until it softens, about 6-8 minutes.

2. Sauté the onions with the squash. Give them 2-3 minutes before you stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. The squash and onions will become fragrant in about 1 minute.

Sauté the butternut squash in a dutch oven. Then add the onions, garlic and spices.

3. Add the barley. Sauté the grains for 1 minute. Then pour in the white wine, letting it bubble. Stir everything in the pan. The wine will deglaze the bottom lifting off all the tasty caramelized bits.

4. Pour in the vegetable broth. Bring everything to a boil. Cover the saucepan. Bake the risotto until the barley is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 30-35 minutes.

Stir the barley into the butternut squash and onions. Pour in the vegetable broth and bring to a boil.

5. Add the kale and parmesan to the baked risotto.

6. Stir the risotto letting the heat quickly wilt the kale and melt the cheese.

Add the kale and parmesan to the baked risotto. Stir the kale and Parmesan into the risotto.

What To Serve With Risotto

Salads and sautéed vegetable side dishes both work well with this risotto. I like to choose ones that don’t require the oven in order to keep it free for the main dish.  You can make this arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette, a classic house salad or this Italian chopped salad. For a vegetable side dish, try quick sautéed brussels sprouts.

Leftovers & Storage

You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Warm them on the stove in a skillet over low heat, stirring the risotto. You can also warm them in the microwave. The grains will become softer as they sit and when they are warmed again.

Recipe FAQs

Can you use arborio rice? 

Yes, if that’s what you have in your pantry, you can use traditional risotto rice and use this baked risotto method.

Is it ok to add more kale?

Of course. If you want to bump up the amount of leafy greens, you can stir in more than the recipe calls for. I recommend adding 1/4-1/2 cup more at a time. Fold them in, let them wilt slightly and then see if that’s the amount you would like.

Is this risotto recipe gluten-free? 

Barley is not a gluten-free grain. If you need to avoid gluten, use arborio rice instead.

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Butternut Squash Baked Barley Risotto

5 from 12 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings: 4
With minimal stovetop work, this baked butternut squash risotto is an easier version of traditional risotto without all the stirring. It also has chopped kale.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • In a large ovenproof saucepan or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Sauté the squash for 6-8 minutes until it starts to soften and become tender.
  • Add the onions and sauté until soft and translucent about, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, sautéing until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add the barley and cook for 1 minute until opaque. Pour in the wine, letting it bubble and be absorbed by the barley. 
  • Add the veggie broth and bring to a boil. Cover the saucepan with a lid and transfer to the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the barley is tender.
  • Stir in the kale and Parmesan, letting the kale wilt and the cheese melt.
  • Divide into serving bowls and garnish with chopped parsley and shaved Parmesan before serving.



To make the recipe gluten free, use arborio rice instead of barley.
You can stir in chopped fresh sage with the kale.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3 days. Warm the risotto on the stove in a large skillet over low heat, stirring it. Or warm it in the microwave. The grains will soften more the longer you store them and when you rewarm them.


Calories: 363kcal | Carbohydrates: 67g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 710mg | Potassium: 886mg | Fiber: 13g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 20644IU | Vitamin C: 47mg | Calcium: 184mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Italian
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Hi, I'm Paige.

Welcome to Last Ingredient where you will find simple seasonal recipes with plenty of fruits and vegetables, all for the home cook.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Can I use quick cook farro in place of the barley? If so would the recipe stay the same just take less time to cook?

    1. The barley that I use for this recipe typically cooks on the stovetop in 10-12 minutes. The grains take longer to get tender in the oven than they do on the stove. I think you should be able to just substitute the farro for the barley. If you are concerned it will overcook, I would check the grains after they’ve been in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

      1. 5 stars
        Wow!! Just wow. This is amazing. Tastes like risotto but better and healthier. I used the quick cook farro from Trader Joe’s since they don’t carry barley anymore but it was perfect! Thank you so much for this fabulous recipe. I will definitely be making this as a thanksgiving side dish. Hats off to the chef!

  2. 5 stars
    I made it tonight. It was delicious. I added a can of rinsed drained cannelini beans before I put it in the oven. I also replaced the kale with spinach, because I had some spinach that needed to get used up.

  3. 5 stars
    This is so easy and delicious! I had a butternut squash to use up and wanted to find a recipe I could use for some meal prep. This fits the bill and is definitely a keeper!

  4. 5 stars
    This was great! Even my husband who doesn’t like butternut squash packed the leftovers for lunch! Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Yes, you definitely can substitute and use sweet potatoes instead of squash. Peel and dice 3 medium sweet potatoes.