Seaweed Risotto Recipe

A seaweed risotto recipe inspired by a trip to Chile. This version calls for dried nori seaweed, pearled barley, lots of finely chopped spinach, and a blend of cheeses.

Seaweed Risotto

Last August when I was in Santiago, Chile I enjoyed an exceptional risotto made with fresh seaweed, or as my Chilean friends call it - cochayuyo. My Spanish is bad, and after a lot of hand signs and a bit of show-and-tell, Chef Raimundo Tagle communicated to me that it has long been used in peasant cooking, and unfortunately because of that, not many chefs were using it in the fancier restaurants in Santiago. The delicate flavor and toothsome texture of the cochayuyo was a perfect pairing with the creamy risotto in front of me, and it got me wondering why we don't see more fresh seaweed preparations here in the United States - particularly within our coastal communities. Chef Rai slices the fresh seaweed tentacles into rings half the width of my thumb, sautés them a bit, and then combines them with a rice-based risotto along with asparagus, walnuts, and freshly-grated cheese. I realize that finding fresh seaweed is going to be a challenge for a good percentage of the people who visit my site, so I decided to do a variation on the general theme using dried nori seaweed (which just about everyone can track down), pearled barley, lots of finely chopped spinach, and a blend of cheeses.

Seaweed Risotto Recipe

I used chopped spinach in this recipe for a couple of reasons. I like the vegetal flavor and nutrients it delivers, but I also like the bright green flecks it brings to this risotto. It counter-balances the green-brown of the toasted seaweed nicely, lending a fresh, appetizing appearance. The toasted walnuts lend a good amount of earthy crunch, and the lemon gives a kick of acidity to counter-balance the creaminess. A pinch of of smoky-smoldering merken pepper (think of it as the definitive Chilean spice) would be the perfect finishing touch. I'm pretty sure Whole Foods Markets now carries it nationwide in the spice section.

101 Cookbooks Membership

Premium Ad-Free membership includes:
-Ad-free content
-Print-friendly recipes
-Spice / Herb / Flower / Zest recipe collection PDF
-Weeknight Express recipe collection PDF
-Surprise bonuses throughout the year

spice herb flower zest
weeknight express

Seaweed Risotto Recipe

If you can't find mascarpone, feel free to substitute creme fraiche, or even a bit of grated gruyere. You are after something to give the risotto that creamy body (which normally comes from the Arborio rice). Also, I call for a relatively modest amount of dried seaweed here, and nori itself is relatively mild in flavor, but if you think you want a more pronounced sea vegetable flavor - feel free to increase the amount to 1/2 ounce - or add it to taste. Also note that if you end up with leftovers, the flavor develops some overnight as well.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 medium shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 cups lightly pearled barley or pearled farro
1 cup good-quality dry white wine
6 cups water or lightly-flavored vegetable broth
1 lemon, zest and some juice
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 ounce dried nori seaweed, toasted
1 1/2 cups finely chopped spinach
1 cup walnuts, toasted

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add the onion, shallots, garlic, and salt. Saute, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften a bit.

Add the barley to the pot and stir until coated with a nice sheen, then add the wine, and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes, until the barley has absorbed the liquid a bit. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle, active simmer.

In increments, add about 6 cups of water (or broth), 1 cup at a time, letting the barley absorb most of the liquid between additions. This should take around 40 minutes altogether - sometimes I only end up using 4 or 5 cups of water, it really depends. Stir regularly because you don't want the grains on the bottom to scorch. You will know when the barley is cooked because it won't offer up much resistance when chewing (it will be chewier than Arborio rice though). I like my risotto on the brothy side, so don't worry if there is a bit of unabsorbed liquid in the pot.

When the barley is tender remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest, mascarpone cheese, and most of the Parmesan. Then stir in the seaweed, and lastly the chopped spinach. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed, adding a bit of lemon juice too if needed. Serve topped with walnuts and the remaining Parmesan.

Easily serves 6+.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

Comments are closed.

Apologies, comments are closed.


I've just been craving seaweed lately. Can't wait to try this!


This recipe looks very good, i am Chilean and is very hard to find heidi´s ingredients, but cochayuyo and merkén are very common here. You can get some cochayuyo while you are swimming in the beach, and merkén is a dried pepper, made by Mapuches, natives of the south of Chile.


Heidi, I was just wondering the other night as I was making rice pudding, and this reminded me, whether there is such a thing as brown arborio rice. I thought you, if anyone, might know :] Thanks! Amber

Amber Shea

Great recipe. Can't wait to try it. How do you toast dried seaweed. Help!


Yummmm!!! I agree--please, more sea-veggie recipes! I'm really getting into 'em lately (may need to join Kelpaholics Anonymous soon :) ), and while I know how to do many of the simple, traditional Japanese things with nori and kombu, and even have a West Coast friend who sends me fresh kelp, I doon't have near enough modern Western recipes like this. Vegetarian Times had a good article on seaweeds awhile back, but other than that, recipe mags seem to ignore this wonderful gift from Mama Gaia.


Thanks for a great recipe, Heidi! Unfortunately, I have to eat diary free, so this recipe probably won't work for me. But I loved hearing about another way to add seaweed into our daily menu. Because of it's incredible health benefits, I have been experimenting with seaweed recently, so it's great to have some new inspiration. :-)

Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet

This is a totally new way to use seaweed. We've really never seen it outside of Japanese food...and of course it's usually nori. But this sounds very healthy and filling!

The Duo Dishes

More seaweed recipes, please! I've been thinking about incorporating more seaweed into my diet -- hijiki and arame in particular, with dark leafy greens and grains. Great post, Heidi, thank you.

Liz @ OddKitchen

You are brilliant. I love how you balance everything; taste, texture, color, and nutrients. Your work is an inspiration for the home vegetarian cook. Thank you.


I like the idea of this recipe, will have to give it a dairy-free makeover. I am curious -- what is your preferred method for toasting nori? A quick run over a gas burner? And, do you just tear up the nori sheet by hand, or do you slice it into shreds? Thanks. :)

Dawn in CA

whoa, seaweed and CHEESE???? i've only had asian preparations of seaweed & i'm an adventurous eater & i've loved the sound of every recipe on your site, BUT i don't think i could do this. (traditionally, isn't seafood & cheese verboten?)


As excited as I am about the combination of seaweed and risotto, it's your addition of walnuts that really gets my appetite going. I can just imagine the mix of textures and layers on flavours: crunchy, chewy, smooth, salty, rich and toasted. A truly amazing looking dish.

Dallas from Bitchin' Kitchen

It looks yummy! Thanks.


Heidi, This looks great...will be on our dinner table tonight and another wonderful reason to use the oh so cute cocottes that I promptly purchased after your spinach dip posting. Thanks for keeping me consistently inspired on a healthy front! Patty


Wow, this looks delicious!


Heidi, This looks great...will be on our dinner table tonight and another wonderful reason to use the oh so cute cocottes that I promptly purchased after your spinach dip posting. Thanks for keeping me consistently inspired on a healthy front! Patty


Such an interesting idea! I weirdly I think I actually have all of these ingredients in my kitchen at the moment. Well here's tonight's dinner then!


This is an interesting combination! Looks really delicious!


What a great recipe - seaweed is so good for you too! I love making risottos. I bet this would be really good with some shrimp or other seafood in it as well. Thanks!

Lauren Denneson

Heidi, Thank you so much for this lovely recipe. I'm constantly looking for ways to incorporate seaweed into dishes, and this sounds fantastic. I think I may try those delicate little tendrils of wakame or arame. Your mixtures of nutrient-dense, colorful foods are always so refreshing.

Kylie of Thin Crust, Deep Dish

Comments are closed.

Apologies, comments are closed.

More Recipes

101cookbooks social icon
Join my newsletter!
Weekly recipes and inspirations.

Popular Ingredients

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of its User Agreement and Privacy Policy.

101 Cookbooks is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Any clickable link to on the site is an affiliate link.