Recipes > Lunch/Dinner > Mediterranean Barley Salad

Mediterranean Barley Salad

Served cold or warm, this Mediterranean barley salad can be a light, plant-forward meal on its own. It also makes a great side to another dish, like baked pesto salmon or simple turkey meatballs for a beautiful Whole Life Plate.
mediterranean barley salad

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 deserves more recognition! It has a nice chewy texture and holds up well in soups, stews, or grain salads. We combined barley with other Mediterranean flavors to create this light and flavorful Mediterranean barley salad.

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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; it really improves the flavor! If using whole almonds, toast in the oven, then chop. If using sliced or slivered raw almonds, toast in a skillet on the stovetop.

Drain and rinse the beans for best flavor, nutrition, and appearance.

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Barley: any whole grain will work, but we don’t recommend using oats. Choose intact whole grains that keep their shape like brown rice, farro, quinoa, and wheat berries. 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 make the best Mediterranean substitutes. Sodium-free options can also work, but from a culinary perspective, beans taste better when salt is added during the cooking process.
  • Bell Peppers: any color will work, but red, orange, or yellow are preferable. 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, chives, or dill can be used, but they have stronger flavors, so adjust to taste. We don’t recommend using dried herbs in this recipe; fresh herbs add a brightness that can’t be matched.
  • Almonds: any nut will work (except peanuts). 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 recognize. Refer to our ingredient guide for more direction. Pesto would also be delicious in this recipe.

Recipe Variations

Want a vegan grain salad? Leave out the feta cheese.

Love fresh garlic? Add a minced clove in with the dressing. Diced shallot or red onion would also be delicious in this recipe.

Want some grain salad recipe inspiration?

Use our grain salad base recipe as a guide, or check out these tasty variations!

Grain Salad Base Recipe

Pesto Quinoa Salad

Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad

Warm Farro Salad with Spring Vegetables

Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

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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.

Barley

Whole grains like barley are good sources of fiber, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Fiber is important for digestion, satiety, stable blood sugar, good cholesterol, and healthy gut bacteria. Phytonutrients work as antioxidants to help fight off diseases and keep us well. 

Garbanzo Beans

Beans are one of our favorite foods because they are packed with high quality nutrients: plant-based protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients promote gut health, decrease risk of developing heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and promote a healthy weight. All of the world’s longest lived populations consume beans daily.

Red Bell Pepper

Red bell peppers are a great source of disease-fighting phytonutrients and vitamins A & C. Different colored vegetables provide different phytonutrients, 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.

Learn more about health benefits of different foods and ingredients in our book, To Your Taste!

Serving Suggestions

Served cold or warm, this Mediterranean barley salad can be a light, plant-forward meal on its own. It also makes a great side to another dish, like baked pesto salmon or simple turkey meatballs for a beautiful Whole Life Plate.

Storage Recommendations

For best quality, store leftover salad 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

Hummus Base Recipe

Mediterranean Hummus Pizza

Vegetarian Lentil Burgers

mediterranean barley salad

Mediterranean Barley Salad

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 deserves more recognition! This simple whole grain Mediterranean barley salad features the flavors of the Mediterranean: garbanzo beans, red bell pepper, parsley, feta, and balsamic!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course, Side
Cuisine Mediterranean
Servings 5 cups

Ingredients
  

  • ¼ cup balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1 cup quick-cooking barley
  • 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
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • If making your own balsamic vinaigrette, whisk ingredients together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  • 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 or until barley is al dente. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Drain excess water if needed, fluff with a fork, then transfer to the bowl with the vinaigrette.
  • Place remaining ingredients in the bowl with the slightly cooled barley. Using a spatula, fold until well-combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Notes

For added nuttiness, toast the barley in the pot before adding water.
 
Be sure to toast the almonds. It really improves the flavor!
Keyword Simple Mediterranean Barley Salad

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