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This barley salad is irresistibly fresh and tasty! Pair the whole grain with crunchy veggies and cover in a lemon and olive oil dressing.

Barley Salad

Here’s a unique grain salad that you won’t be able to resist: try Barley Salad! To be fair, barley isn’t often the star in a salad; typically trendier grains like quinoa and farro rein supreme. But this whole grain is absolutely ideal: its chewy texture and nutty flavor are the perfect contrast to crunchy veggies, garlic, herbs, and lemon olive oil dressing. On first bite, we were both smitten…and a bit surprised, honestly: it’s weirdly delicious! It’s our new favorite for cookouts, picnics, and make-ahead lunches.

Ingredients for barley salad

This barley salad is a Mediterranean-style salad featuring crunchy veggies, herbs, feta cheese, lemon and olive oil. It’s quick and simple to put together, with the formula: make the grain, chop the veggies, and add the dressing. You’ll need about 30 minutes and these ingredients to put it together:

  • Pearl barley: see below for more about types of barley
  • Garlic
  • Shallot
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Bell pepper
  • Fresh herbs: we used parsley and basil
  • Feta cheese crumbles
  • Lemon juice and lemon zest
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Types of barley

There are two types of barley you can use for this barley salad: hulled and pearl. The difference is similar to white rice vs brown rice: like brown rice, hulled barley has less of the grain removed. We like using pearl here because it cooks faster, but some people prefer the nutritional profile of hulled. However, the nutritional differences between the two aren’t very significant! Pearl barley is still a great source of protein and fiber.

  • Hulled barley has just the outer husk of the grain removed, so it has more fiber than the pearl variety. It’s darker in color and takes about 1 hour to cook.
  • Pearled or pearl barley is the more common form that has the outer husk and bran layers removed. It takes less time to cook, about 30 minutes. It’s still very nutritious.

How to make barley salad: a few tips

This barley salad is quick and easy to mix up! There are just a few things to know:

  • Spread the cooked barley onto a baking sheet to cool. Spreading out the grains in a single layer makes them cool faster. To speed up the process, you can pop the sheet in the freezer for a few minutes to get the grains to come to room temperature.
  • You can also cook the barley in advance. Simply refrigerate 1 to 2 days until you’re ready to make the salad.
  • Use fresh herbs like parsley, basil or other. The easiest is to use all parsley: but you can also use a mix! We used parsley and basil. Other good options are dill or mint.

Storage info

This barley salad keeps well, so it’s perfect for make-ahead lunches or picnics! Store it refrigerated for up to 5 days. The flavor is best right away but tastes great after refrigeration; you may need to revive the flavors with a pinch or two of salt.

More grain salad recipes

Love a good grain salad? Here are a few more ways to make a tasty salad with whole grains:

This barley salad recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free.

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Barley Salad

Barley Salad with Lemon

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6 side dish servings 1x


This barley salad is irresistibly fresh and tasty! Pair the whole grain with crunchy veggies and cover in a lemon and olive oil dressing.


  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced into quarters
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (or 1/2 yellow and 1/2 red)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or mix of herbs (we used parsley and basil)
  • ½ cup feta cheese crumbles (omit for vegan and add more salt to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus zest of ½ lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Fresh ground black pepper


  1. Place the barley in a saucepan or pot with 3 cups water and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer 25 to 30 minutes (or 45 to 1 hour if using hulled barley; you can add more water if the pan becomes dry).
  2. Drain any excess water. Place the barley in a single layer on a baking sheet and allow to cool for a few minutes (pop it in the freezer for 2 minutes to speed up the process and get the grains to room temperature).
  3. Meanwhile, mince the garlic and slice the shallot. Slice the cherry tomatoes in quarters. Dice the bell pepper. Chop the dill and mint.
  4. When the barley is done resting, place it in a large bowl with the chopped vegetables and herbs. Add the feta cheese crumbles, lemon juice and zest, the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Mix gently to combine.
  5. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 5 days (flavor is best right away but tastes great after refrigeration; you may need to revive the flavors with a pinch or two of salt).
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Barley salad

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you’ll want to make again and again.

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  1. This salad was delicious! The barley gave it a nice chewy texture next to the crunchy veg. My only addition for a bit of extra flavor was a little oregano. Thanks so much!