This is a variation of our grain salad base recipe. Barley is a whole grain that not a lot of people use, but we think that it’s so delicious! It has a nice chewy texture and holds up well in soups, stews, or grain salads. We combine barley with other Mediterranean flavors to create this light and flavorful Mediterranean barley salad. Give it a try; we think you’ll be pleased!
Three Must-Know Cooking Skills
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Culinary Tips for the Best Mediterranean Salad
Quick-cooking barley speeds up the cook time, but leftover cooked barley makes the recipe come together even faster! For added nuttiness, toast the barley in the pot before adding water.
Be sure to toast the almonds as indicated in the recipe. It really improves the flavor!
Be sure to drain and rinse the beans well.
- Barley: any whole grain will work, but we recommend against using oats. Choose intact whole grains that keep their shape like brown rice, farro, quinoa, and spelt. Refined grains like white rice can be subbed, but the salad won’t be quite as nutritious.
- Garbanzo Beans: any variety will work, but navy or cannellini would make the best Mediterranean substitute. You can use sodium-free canned beans instead of low-sodium. However, from the culinary perspective, beans taste better when salt is added during the cooking process as opposed to afterwards.
- Bell Peppers: any color will work, but red, orange, or yellow are preferable over green. Green bell peppers are not quite as sweet.
- Fresh Italian Parsley: substitute regular curly parsley, but note that Italian parsley is more flavorful; curly is better for garnishing. Other fresh herbs such as basil or dill can also be used, but they have stronger flavors, so use according to your taste preferences. We don’t recommend using dried herbs in this recipe; fresh herbs add a brightness that can’t be matched.
- Nuts: any nut will work; just make sure they are sliced, slivered, or chopped and toasted.
- Dressing: any store bought or homemade vinaigrette dressing can work. If using store bought, choose one with ingredients that you can recognize and pronounce. Refer to our ingredient guide for more direction. Pesto would also be delicious in this recipe.
We love getting our oil and vinegar from Enzo’s Table. Click on the picture below to try out dozens of different oils, vinegars, and more!
Want a vegan grain salad? Leave out the feta cheese.
Love fresh garlic? Add a minced clove. Diced shallot or red onion would also be delicious in this recipe.
Need some grain salad recipe inspiration?
Use our grain salad base recipe as a guide, or check out our other grain salad variations!
Use these kitchen tools for culinary success!
- Cutting Board
- Chef’s Knife
- 2.5-quart Saucepan
- Liquid Measuring Cup
- Dry Measuring Cups & Spoons
- Mixing Bowl
- Storage Container
Are Grain Salads Healthy?
This grain salad features nutrient-packed ingredients that are found in the Mediterranean diet: barley, garbanzo beans, red bell pepper, and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
Whole grains like barley are good sources of fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. Fiber is important for digestion, satiety, stable blood sugar, good cholesterol, and healthy gut bacteria. Phytochemicals work as antioxidants to help fight off diseases and keep us well.
Beans of all varieties are a great source of plant-based protein. They are also high in complex carbohydrates and fiber.
Red Bell Pepper
Red bell peppers are a great source of disease-fighting phytochemicals and vitamins A & C. Different colored vegetables provide different phytochemicals, so consuming a variety of colors is ideal.
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
A healthy vinaigrette dressing made from extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar adds flavor and nutrition. The fats and oils in vinaigrette help your body absorb certain nutrients in the salad, so avoid fat-free varieties. For optimal nutrition, make the balsamic vinaigrette yourself.
Served cold or warm, this Mediterranean barley salad can be a light meal on its own, or a side to another dish, like baked pesto salmon or simple turkey meatballs.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days.
Want more Mediterranean-style recipes?
Check out these easy, healthy recipe ideas!
Mediterranean Lentil Salad with Roasted Red Peppers
Mediterranean Barley Salad
- 1 cup barley, quick cooking
- 2 ½ cups water
- 15 ounce can low-sodium garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 medium red bell pepper, diced (~1 cup)
- ¼ cup chopped, fresh Italian parsley
- ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
- ¼ cup toasted, slivered almonds
- ¼ cup homemade or store-bought balsamic vinaigrette
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Place barley in a pot and add water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat.
- Reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Drain excess water, fluff with a fork, and transfer to a large bowl. Allow to cool slightly.
- Place garbanzo beans, bell pepper, parsley, feta cheese, and almonds in the bowl with the slightly cooled barley. Add vinaigrette. Using a spatula, fold until well-combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!