Love and Olive Oil
Beet & Barley Bowls with Beet Green Pesto

Beet & Barley Bowls with Beet Green Pesto

Beet & Barley Bowls with Beet Green Pesto

I like to call these vegetarian power bowls. Vegan even, if you skip the goat cheese. Me, however, I’ll never skip the goat cheese.

We set out to create a unique pesto recipe using KitchenAid’s new mini food processor, and these veggie-friendly bowls were the perfect vehicle on which to smother it. With a base of hearty protein-rich barley, sweet roasted beets and savory roasted mushrooms, all tossed with a waste-nothing batch of beet green pesto, these bowls are both filling and flavorful, and downright awesome.

Beet & Barley Bowls with Beet Green Pesto

The beet green pesto uses the otherwise-wasted beet greens as the base, resulting in a super-flavorful twist on an classic Italian pesto sauce. Blanching the greens first removes any undesired bitterness, and adding a handful of basil and parsley gives the pesto a nice herbal brightness and counteracts the overt earthiness that often turns people off of beets and beet greens entirely. With a touch of orange zest, vinegar, and honey, trust me, it does not taste like dirt in the least.

If you can’t find beets with greens still attached (which you need for the pesto), know that swiss chard is the closest flavor-wise, but you could also use kale or spinach or even straight up basil for a more classic pesto. My philosophy is you can pretty much make pesto with anything green.

How to make pesto from beet greens

We like to roast our beets in foil packets, rubbed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. After about an hour (more or less depending on the size of your beets) the skins will practically slide off with little effort on your part. So much easier (and less messy) than trying to peel and chop beets beforehand.

While we used a mix of red and golden beets (because they’re just so darn pretty!) you can certainly use a single color as well.

Beet & Barley Bowls with Beet Green Pesto

This Mini Food Processor from KitchenAid is seriously one of my new favorite things. Not only is it basically the cutest thing ever (and that color!) but it is the ideal tool for small batches of pesto (something I have long lamented has never been possible in a full size food processor). I also love how light and easy to transport it is, since I always hate lugging my big ol’ food processor out of the pantry when I need to use it. This one I can lift with one hand (literally).

Beet & Barley Bowls with Beet Green Pesto

It amazes me sometimes just how much flavor you can coax out of seemingly boring vegetables. The mushrooms are key, I think, to adding a richness and umami that would otherwise only be found in meat. Roasting them to the point where they are almost crispy is not only easier than sauteeing them on the stovetop (simply stick the sheet pan in your oven and work on other things) but it also adds some truly unique flavor and texture to this recipe.


Beet & Barley Bowls with Beet Green Pesto

These vegetarian power bowls are full of plant-based awesomeness, including hearty barley, sweet roasted beets and savory roasted mushrooms, all tossed with a flavorful and economical beet green pesto.


  • 1 cup pearl barley, cooked according to package instructions (you can also use quinoa or bulgar or whatever base grain you’d like!)
  • 1 bunch beets with greens (3-4 medium beets, any color)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces mixed wild mushrooms (such as oyster, shiitake, etc.), trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • crumbled goat cheese, for topping (optional)

For Beet Green Pesto:

  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted, plus more for topping
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position two oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven.
  2. Cook pearl barley according to package instructions. Drain and set aside to cool.
  3. Wash and trim beets; set greens aside. Place beets in the center of a piece of aluminum foil, two beets per square of foil. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and rub all over beets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Gather foil around tops of beets to form a packet, with the opening at the top to prevent leakage. Place packets on a cookie sheet and roast for 50 to 60 minutes or until beets are fork tender. Carefully open tops of foil to release steam, and let cool for about 10 minutes. When beets are cool enough to handle, rub skins off using a paper towel. Slice into 3/8-inch slices and then cut slices into cubes.
  4. While beets are roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut thick stems out of beet greens and discard. Blanch greens for 30 seconds until bright green, then transfer to an ice bath. Drain, squeezing out as much liquid as possible from the greens, and place in the bowl of your food processor along with basil, parsley, garlic, pine nuts, honey, orange zest, vinegar, and salt. Pulse 3 or 4 times to chop. Scrape down sides as needed, then add olive oil and pulse a few more times to combine.
  5. Toss mushrooms with 1/4 cup olive oil, fresh thyme, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once, until mushrooms are golden brown and nearly crispy.
  6. To assemble, toss barley with about 2/3 of pesto mixture. Divide among serving bowls. Top with cubed beets, roasted mushrooms, crumbled goat cheese, and a sprinkle of pine nuts if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature with remaining pesto alongside.
All images and text © / Love & Olive Oil

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  1. Rating: 5

    Great recipe- perfect for a hot summer evening!

  2. Takes a little forethought to prepare, but really good. My husband just joined me as a vegetarian, and he liked the complex flavors. Will certainly make again. By the way, roast vegetables in the morning – it’s a great way to jumpstart prep.

  3. In addition to the pesto and roasted beets, these bowls amp up the flavor with savory roasted mushrooms, which, when you’re trying to create a hearty and satisfying vegetarian main dish, mushrooms are about as meaty as they come.

  4. I looooove beets AND barley but don’t eat either of them nearly enough! This bowl, however, is the perfect combo of the two – plus you used the beet greens! Can wait to put this on my menu next week. (pinned and shared on FB!)

  5. Oh my! What is there not to like about this bowl? Sooo colorful and full of delicious ingredients! :)

  6. Wow! These bowls sound and look absolutely amazing Lindsay! Beets and goat cheese are total wins for me, and how adorable is that mini food processor!

  7. This salad is most definitely my lunch tomorrow! I love beets!


  8. This sounds absolutely wonderful, I LOVE goats cheese :)

    Rachael xx.

  9. I LOVE beets. Most people don’t seem to share my love of them (p.s. I found some new to me beet chips at trader joes I am really digging, no oil, no salt, just dehydrated beets) but I could sure go to town on these beets of your! Love that you made use of the greens too! And mushrooms, my other favorite. I eat them every day!

  10. So colorful! I’ve been working on adding in more colorful veggies and this recipe just might need to be next.

    ps. I’m with you, I would never ever skip the goat cheese ;)

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