From Barley Kale Salad to a Leek and Barley Bake: 7 Delicious Barley Recipes

(Image credit: Anjali Prasertong)

I taught a whole grain breakfast class in Seattle a few weeks ago, and my favorite dish of the morning surprised me. Was it the more elaborate kale quiche? How about the seasonal baked risotto topped with toasty hazelnuts? Those were all great, but the star of that morning for me was actually a humble pot of morning barley. I left class thinking, “It’s about time barley got its day in the spotlight!”

We often think of barley as a nice, plump grain to toss into a pot of soup. But this ancient grain actually boasts an incredibly high fiber content, has a wonderfully creamy texture, and delightful nutty flavor. If you’ve made quinoa and experimented with other whole grains like farro or wheat berries, it’s time to pick up a little bag of barley and get cooking!

One quick note on buying barley: I like to buy my grains in the bulk bins because they tend to turn over more quickly than the bags you see sitting on store shelves for awhile. When you go to buy barley, you’ll have a choice between pearled, semi-pearled or hulled (or whole-grain) barley. Don’t let the distinctions throw you off. Pearled barley is what you’ll most commonly find in the grocery store and it’s what I generally buy. It has been processed to remove most of its bran, giving it a squattier, rounder appearance, like a pearl. It’s quick-cooking and I find it to have a creamier flavor. Hulled barley (whole-grain barley) has a really long cook time and is tough to come by.

What’s your favorite way (besides soup!) to use barley in your cooking?

Try a Recipe:
1. Chickpea, Barley and Zucchini Ribbon Salad (pictured) – The Kitchn
2. Cilantro-Lime Veggie Kabobs with Barley Kale Salad – Naturally Ella
3. Meyer Lemon Risotto – 101 Cookbooks
4. Barley Salad with Basil Pesto – Eat This Poem
5. Ratatouille Barley Salad – Sprouted Kitchen
6. Mushroom, Leek and Barley Bake – Good Things Grow
7. Bacony Barley Salad with Marinated Shrimp – Eating Well