Springtime Barley Salad

Try this Fresh Springtime Barley Salad

(HealthCastle.com).  After trying a colourful, tasty barley salad at a good friends house, I was sold.  Barley wasn’t part of my usual cooking repertoire before but it is now!  Barley has a nutty taste and slightly chewy texture that I love.  It is super easy to cook and can be found at most bulk sections of the grocery store. 

The barley we buy and eat is either pearl (pearled) or pot barley (also called Scotch barley) – both are polished, meaning the outer husk and part of the bran of the whole barley kernel has been partially removed. Pot barley is less polished than pearl barley, leaving more fiber and nutrients, and is considered a whole grain.  

In ½ cup of cooked pearled barley, there are:

  • ~100 calories
  • 22.2 grams carbohydrate
  • 1.8 grams protein
  • 0.3 grams fat
  • 1.0 mg iron and
  • 1.9 grams fiber (Source eaTracker)

This last year, Health Canada declared a barley fiber health claim stating that eating barley helps to reduce blood cholesterol, a well know risk factor for heart disease.  This is because barley has beta-glucan, a kind of soluble fiber.  Other nutritional pearls of this tasty grain is that it also has insoluble fiber, a quality that will promote “regularity” and a healthy digestive system. 

Did you know that Alberta produces the most barley of all provinces in Canada?  As well, it is the third largest crop grown in Canada after wheat and canola.  This is local food!  More good reasons to try this ancient grain.

Cooking Barley is Simple

  • Cook 1 cup barley in 3 cups water. 
  • To maximize flavor, I like to toast  barley in a pot on medium-high heat, gently shaking until fragrant.  Then add water (or broth) and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered or uncovered for 45 minutes. 
  • Drain any excess water, transfer to a bowl and let cool.  You will have about 3.5 - 4 cups of cooked barley to work with. 
  • I bag half of it and put in the fridge or freezer for another day.  It keeps very well!.  
  • Use a similar method to cook pot barley, but note that the cooking time will be longer because it has more of the whole grain left.  Some recommend to soak the pot barley in cold water first (change it before cooking) and then cook, which helps to lessen the cooking time.  Without soaking, it takes longer to cook pot barley (up to 2 hours - definitely watch your pot).  As with all grains, watch your pot - there's nothing worse than cleaning burned grain stuck at the bottom of the pot. 

Complement barley with a legume such as beans or other pulses, for a satiating meal.  Doing this creates a complete protein source (containing all 9 essential amino acids) that provides bulk and nutrients to your main dish.  

When working with barley, anything goes.  One way I like to use barley is as an entrée salad.  I like black beans best as they are easy to use and add color contrast to your barley dish.  Through experimenting, I’ve discovered that anything goes in barley salad.  At the end of the week, I pull out all the leftover food I have in the fridge and create something yummy, aiming for color and variety!  Here is a recipe idea for using barley and a rainbow of vegetables and fruits.

Springtime Barley Salad sil vous plait ...

  • 1 cup legumes such as black beans, rinsed and patted dry.
  • 2 cups cooked barley, cooled
  • mixture of colorful vegetables and fruits (see below)
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup lime or lemon juice
  • 1 tsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1-2 garlic cloves

1) Combine 1 cup black beans with barley in a large bowl.

2) Add a rainbow of vegetables and fruits to your salad.  Chop whatever you choose in bite size chunks and add to the bowl.  Check your pantry and freezer for vegetables as well!  Toss to mix.

Rainbow of vegetables, fruits and other ingredients:


  • Red peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Dried cranberries
  • Red apples
  • Strawberries
  • Prawns


  • Slightly steamed carrots
  • Mango
  • Orange chunks
  • Mandarins
  • Cheddar cheese chunks
  • Dried apricots


  • Yellow peppers
  • Corn


  • Spinach
  • Snap peas
  • Celery
  • Zucchini
  • Kohlrabi
  • Crunchy green grapes
  • Cucumber
  • Green pepper
  • Green onions
  • Avocado
  • Peas
  • Parsley or cilantro


  • Blueberries


  • Purple onion
  • Purple grapes
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Raisins
  • blackberries


  • Apple or Pear chunks
  • Feta cheese, gouda, havarti, cheddar, goat cheese
  • Scallops


  • Leftover chicken chunks
  • Cooked sausage or cut up meatballs
  • Nuts (pecans or roasted nuts)

3) Add your favorite vinaigrette! Mix oil, lime or lemon juice, honey or maple syrup, cumin and garlic.  Mix to combine.

4) Cover and chill until ready to serve.  (When ready to serve; add a handful of roasted nuts and/or soft cheese chunks, toss and enjoy!)



Written by Calgary Dietitian, Kristyn Hall MSc, RD, Director and Dietitian with HealthCastle Calgary, and Calgary Dietitian, Heidi Piovoso BSc, RD, Associate Dietitian, HealthCastle Calgary


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