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Lentil-Kale Risotto [Vegan]

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Many new athletes are understandably concerned about what they should eat to fuel the "big workout." The definition of a big workout will vary depending upon the athlete and the sport. For a runner preparing for a half-marathon, it may be the eight, nine or 10 mile training run. For a beginner triathlete it may be the first solid brickworkout.

Your instinct may be to worry about what to eat or drink a few hours before, as well as during the workout (both valid concerns to be explored). My own approach, however, is that I don't want much on my stomach during the workout, but I want enough energy to support my effort and still feel light on my feet. Therefore, for more moderate "big workouts," I rely on the reserves my body has stored from meals over the few days leading up to the workout-- especially my last meal.

Here's my favorite pre-"big workout" dinner of choice: A hearty beans, greens and grain dish.

Lentil-Kale Risotto [Vegan]


4 - 6


  • 1T + 1t olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup pearled barley (dry)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 2 cups brown/green lentils, cooked**
  • 2 cups firmly packed kale, chopped
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup nutritionalyeast
  • 2 t veganParmesancheese
  • 1 t sweet basil (dry)
  • Salt + Pepper to taste


  1. In a pressure cooker, heat olive oil and saute onion, garlic and jalapeno.
  2. Add barley, vegetable broth, water salt and pepper. Stir and cover.
  3. Bring to pressure and maintain pressure for 18 – 20 minutes.
  4. Use the quick release method to reduce pressure (hold the pressure cooker under cold water until pressure is released).
  5. Slowly remove the pressure cooker lid, away from you, and add remaining ingredients to the barley and simmer on low to desired risotto consistency.


Quick Lentils: In a rice cooker, add 1 cup dry brown lentils, one bay leaf, one clove of garlic, minced, and 2 cups filtered water. Cook on the "regular/white rice" setting for 45 minutes. Stir in 1/4 t sea salt.

This hearty meal is delicious and is packed with nutrients:

Cooked Kale: Low in saturated fat, good source of Protein, Iron and Magnesium and very good source of Vitamin B6 and Calcium
Cooked Lentils: Low in saturated fat, good source of Iron, Vitamin C and Manganese.
Pearled Barley: Low in saturated fat, good source of Carbohydrates for energy.
Nutritional Yeast Flakes: Low in saturated fat, good source of Protein, Magnesium and a very good source of Vitamin B12.





JL FIelds: Post-40 JL Fields became a marathoner and triathlete, changed careers and transitioned from vegetarian to vegan. She now writes about vegan cooking (and wine!) and fitness. JL is a community college administrator and teaches nonprofit management at a local university. She holds a B.A. and M.S. and is currently enrolled in an advanced graduate program on Adult Learning. JL lives in metro New York City with her husband and two cats. You can find JL at JL goes Vegan: Food & Fitness with a side of Kale and on Twitter and Facebook.



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5 comments on “Lentil-Kale Risotto [Vegan]”

Click to add comment
Mary Kate
6 Years Ago

My pressure cooker specifically says to not use pearled barely because it could potentially clog the steam vent? Is this specific to my brand or is that just overly cautious advice?

JL Fields
16 Oct 2012

It must be the PC maker because I have found tons of recipes for pearled barley or the pressure cooker and have never seen any type of caution.

Miriam @ Sometimes I Veg
7 Years Ago

Looks fantastic, any recommended cooking times for those of us who are without a pressure cooker?

JL goes Vegan
13 Jun 2011

Hi Miriam! Farro takes about 20 - 30 minutes stove-top. I would probably cook them separately and then stir together. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, perhaps add the lentils to the farro in the last 15 minutes? Would love to hear how the dish turns out for you!

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