This healthy hearty grain-based barley salad is made with both pearl barley and black barley, as well as spinach, feta, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, and mint, all tossed in a lime vinaigrette.
Nutty, chewy barley shines in this simple salad that’s packed with wonderful textures. The contrasting hues of the cream-colored pearl barley and the purplish-black barley make for a beautiful play of colors. I like this barley salad served both warm and at room temperature, and I always make enough so I have leftovers for the next day.–Marcus Samuelsson
☞ Table of Contents
Barley Salad FAQs
What is za’atar?
Za’atar is one of our favorite spice blends. North African in origin, it has citrusy notes that add a bright jolt of flavor. Look for premixed blends in African markets, spice shops, or online. Curious about other uses for it, or more history? This za’atar article tells you everything you need to know.
How long will barley salad keep?
Stored in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, this barley salad should keep for 5 days.
How can you tell when barley is done cooking?
When barley is finished cooking, it will have expanded and absorbed the water in the pot. The cooked barley should be soft but still slightly chewy. For this recipe, make sure you cook the pearled barley and black barley separately, as they have different cooking times. Pearled barley will take 30 to 45 minutes to cook, while black barley will take 50 to 75 minutes.
- 1/2 cup pearl barley
- 1/2 cup black barley
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic crushed and peeled
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon chopped jalapeño chile seeds and ribs removed
- 2 cups roughly chopped baby spinach
- 1 tablespoon za'atar
- 2 tomatoes chopped
- 1 cup chopped scallions white and light green parts
- Juice of 2 limes
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cup diced feta cheese
- 1 cup finely diced cucumber
- 1 red onion diced
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chopped pitted kalamata olives
- 2 tablespoons chopped mint
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Rinse the pearl barley and black barley in two separate strainers under cold running water for 5 minutes. Pat dry and keep separate. Fill two separate pots with 1 quart salted water. Add the black barley to one and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Add the pearl barley to the other and cook for 45 minutes, or according to the directions on the package. Strain each and set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, pine nuts, and jalapeño and saute until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach and za’atar and cook until the spinach has wilted, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Combine the remaining olive oil, the pearl barley, black barley, spinach mixture, tomatoes, scallions, lime juice, parsley, feta, cucumber, onion, vinegar, olives, and mint in a large salad bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This barley salad will be my new standby for healthy, portable lunches. All of these ingredients naturally play well with each other and can often be found in similar salad-y recipes, but this one is special because of the combination of the nutty, vinegary, and fresh citrusy flavors. While looking for black barley (which I couldn’t find), I meant to pick up pre-made za’atar, which I forgot. So, I made my own, according to some recipes I referenced. The salad is still plenty colorful, even without the black barley. Delicious.
This barley salad is absolutely delicious! It’s very easy to put together and the flavors are fabulous. I didn’t have black barley so I just used double the amount of regular barley. I also didn’t have spinach but had lots of arugula so I used that. I like spicy food, so I didn’t remove the seeds and ribs from the jalapeno. The heat wasn’t overpowering. The different textures and flavors make this a salad I’ll cook again and again. You might want to double the recipe if you’re making this for more than two people because chances are you’ll want leftovers. Great for take-to-work lunches.
Originally published December 7, 2009