Recipe: Breakfast Barley Bowl with Mango, Coconut, and Banana

published Sep 13, 2015
Breakfast Barley Bowl with Mango, Coconut, and Banana
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(Image credit: Megan Gordon)

I’m a sucker for a good whole-grain breakfast bowl. In many ways, I consider it the perfect breakfast; grains are a great vehicle for seasonal fruit, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and yogurt. While I tend to stick to cooking grains with water or broth when making dinner, in the morning I like to get a little creative and cook them with something other than water. Lately my go-to has been coconut milk, and this tropical barley bowl is evidence that it can be a pretty delicious move.

(Image credit: Megan Gordon)

For those of you who love barley, you know it’s not a quick-cooking grain. So while I adore this recipe, you will likely want to prep it the night before if you want to have it for a weekday breakfast. That being said, the time required is largely inactive time, so it’s not at all a difficult or tiresome recipe.

(Image credit: Megan Gordon)

And for those of you who might not cook with barley all that often, I love it because it has some of the highest fiber content of all whole grains and has a really nice, nutty flavor. If I have a bowl of barley to start the day, I’m set until early afternoon — it’s filling in the best possible way.

This particular bowl is a recent favorite because it’s not too sweet and feels sunny, light, and decadent all at the same time. I cook the barley with a little extra liquid so it feels more like a porridge and add a vanilla bean for some subtle sweetness. Then I top it with sliced banana and mango, toasted coconut, and toasted almonds.

The best part? This breakfast will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to five days. Keep keep the mango and banana separate if you’re doing this. The mango can be sliced ahead and stored on its own, but wait to cut the banana until just before serving so it doesn’t brown.

While I’ve been loving this breakfast in the warm, late summer mornings we’ve been having, I’m sure it’s going to be a most welcome pop of color during the darker winter days. Regardless of season, I hope you like it as much as I do.

(Image credit: Megan Gordon)

Breakfast Barley Bowl with Mango, Coconut, and Banana

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 1 cup

    unsweetened shredded coconut

  • 1/2 cup

    sliced almonds

  • 1 cup

    pearled barley (see Recipe Note)

  • 1 1/4 cups


  • 1

    (15-ounce) can coconut milk

  • 2

    tablespoons natural cane sugar (or regular granulated sugar)

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1

    vanilla bean, split (or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)

  • 1

    large mango, diced (1 3/4 cups)

  • 1

    banana, peeled and thinly sliced


  1. Place coconut flakes on a small baking sheet and toast at 300°F until fragrant and just golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes (depending on thickness of your coconut flakes this could take a bit longer, so just keep an eye on them). Scoop onto plate to cool and set aside. Meanwhile, place sliced almonds on the same baking sheet and toast until golden-brown, about 5 minutes.

  2. In a heavy saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the toasted coconut, barley, water, coconut milk, sugar, and salt. Scrape seeds from the vanilla bean, and add both the seeds and the pod to the pot. Cover, and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until barley is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 40 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking.

  3. Once finished cooking, remove the vanilla bean pod. Remove the pot from the heat. Fold in most of the toasted almonds, reserving a few to top each bowl.

  4. Spoon into bowls and garnish with the remaining toasted coconut and almonds, diced mango, and sliced banana.

Recipe Notes

When you shop for barley, you'll see "hulled" and "pearled" barley in the stores. Hulled barley (whole-grain barley) has just the very outer shell of the grain removed, whereas pearl barley has much of the outside of the grain sloughed away, making it quicker-cooking (and a bit less nutritious). I always use pearled barley because it's widely available and still boasts a great deal of fiber.

I happen to like full-fat coconut milk, but you could also use the lighter version instead.